Discipline is Required for Freedom

By | June 18, 2022

[June 18, 2022]  The piano is a beautiful, complex, highly artistically useful instrument.  Some of the greatest songs of civilization are played on it, pushing our imaginations to new heights as its music touches on something ancestral in the deep recesses of our minds.  We are all free to play the piano and create these melodies, but we do not.  Why?

The answer is that we cannot take advantage of this freedom.  We cannot play the piano.  We do not know the chords and the scales (at least most of us cannot).  If we were to learn the specific skills to play it, we would become infinitely richer than if we never learned to play the piano.

Before you can be someone who can play the piano (beyond re-playing old songs by rote), you have to obtain the necessary disciplinary skills.  And to obtain those skills is a long, painful process of repetition and hard grinding work.  This is what psychologists call the sacrifice of the present for the future.  Once those skills are managed to a critical point, things start to open up.

Nearly everything we learn of value is like learning the piano.  For example, it is very, very difficult to learn to write.  And, there are arbitrary rules to follow and bind yourself to.  It takes a long time of practice and development, and study.  And, yet while learning those hard-won skills, the odds you have any creative writing freedom to speak of is small.  You are a base beginner who can barely put together a sentence, much less a great writer of great deeds and heroes.

Interestingly, whatever creativity you might have before playing the piano, writing, or anything of import will be stifled during the learning process.  Yet, once you have passed through that narrow window of difficult learning, something massively important opens up on the other side.

Disciplinary institutions like universities are places of guidance and where people are encouraged to develop the discipline necessary to exist beyond the discipline.  You must first narrow yourself in the crucible to training and effort and work, and only then can you broaden outward.

This action is the process of maturity, the sacrifice of many potential childish paths to a single, adult path (that is the noble path if we have the proper guidance and focus).  You can then apply those skills creatively; along the way, you now have the freedom to do something new and exciting.  Discipline then is required before you can have freedom.

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Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

15 thoughts on “Discipline is Required for Freedom

  1. Xerxes I

    Great article, Gen. Satterfield. Discipline is for those who can learn the necessary skills to accomplish difficult tasks and who have the guts to take reasonable risks to get the job done. That, my dear, is the definition of a real leader.

    Reply
  2. Bryan Z. Lee

    Gen. Satterfield, I like the way you work in the example of playing the piano. I play and can understand it. I wanted to be someone who could create great music because, well, I just had it click in my head. Only after years of mastery of the piano instrument did I fully become aware how much the discipline mattered to my freedom to compose real heart-warning music.

    Reply
    1. Janna Faulkner

      Wow, nice Bryan. I too play the piano and it has become like an extension of my personality. Music works and it is also an ancient behavior that cannot be fully explained. You got to feel it.

      Reply
  3. Emma Archambeau

    Great Satterfield quote, “This action is the process of maturity, the sacrifice of many potential childish paths to a single, adult path (that is the noble path if we have the proper guidance and focus). You can then apply those skills creatively; along the way, you now have the freedom to do something new and exciting. “

    Reply
  4. Greg Heyman

    Excellent article, Gen. Satterfield —— made me think!!

    Reply
  5. Laughing Monkey

    Wow, I sure enjoyed this article because it is exactly what I’ve been telling my lazy cousin Sidney. Sidney is the kind of kid who curses you if you want him to work but then whines that he has no freedoms. Better words here by Gen. Satterfield. Thanks!!!

    Reply
    1. JT Patterson

      Yep, I got you. Young folks today don’t understand freedom because they reject discipline. Thus, they will never be truly free.

      Reply
      1. osmodsann

        I hear ya, LM. Your lazy cousin may one day figure this out on his own but you telling him will not work. The new young wokster generation thinks we are a bunch of old foogies. I for one can understand that thinking but it’s still wrong.✔

        Reply
  6. Maureen S. Sullivan

    Excellent article, Gen. S. ….. got me to thinking. The quotes from Jocko Willink too by my friends here certainly are on point too. This is why I love this leadership website so much. We should put Gen. S. in for an award or something for his work.

    Reply
    1. Emily Baker

      Gen. Satterfield is not interested in awards. He is interested in influence.

      Reply
    1. Yusaf from Texas

      My favorite, “The more you practice, the better you get, the more freedom you have to create.” Jocko sure knows how to hammer home the point that discipline matter most of all if you want freedom.

      Reply
      1. H. M. Longstreet

        This idea of freedom and discipline and that they are inextricably linked is not a new idea but a very old, ancient one.

        Reply
  7. Anya B.

    Right, discipline is freedom. Gen. Satterfield nailed it with this article.

    Reply

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