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The Discipline of Fun

David Sherry
2 min read

One of my favorite podcasts right now is Rick Rubin’s Tetragrammaton.

Not surprisingly Rick Rubin is an incredible interviewer, as he’s an incredible listener. I really enjoyed the episode with John Mayer, Rory Sutherland, and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold has become world-famous in 3 completely different disciplines: Weightlifting, Acting, and Politics. Anyone who is able to do something like that has figured out something deeper about motivation, learning, and discipline.

When Arnold was cast in one of his most famous roles; Conan the Barbarian, he began training for this role 3 years (!) prior to acting for the filming. Every week, he would train for 3-hours, three times a week with a sword master to learn how to use all different types of swords and weapons from ancient times.

He also rode horses every day, using horses as his mode of transportation to get to and from lunch or to and from his trailer. All of this was to prepare for his eventual on-camera time.

This type of training was a glimpse at how people who are great prepare to be great. But what he really taught me in this episode was what I’ll call “The Discipline of Fun.”

“The Discipline of Fun.”

The discipline of fun is when you genuinely are excited about something and enjoy it, you will spend so much time on it that it looks like hard work. While on occasion I'm sure it felt effortful to have yet another practice, early morning, or late night, I think he genuinely loved training with a sword master, and learning to ride a horse for the film.

I have a friend who I’ve mentioned a few times before who’s almost completely fluent in Chinese and yet has only visited China one time in his life. He listens to podcasts, trains with native speakers, and practices on video. From the outside, doing daily videos, weekly calls, and listening to hours and hours of podcasts looks like extreme dedication and discipline. It is.

Yet when you find something fun you actually want more time doing it, not less.

Suffering from "over-discipline."

There's another form of discipline that isn't fun, and doesn't lead you anywhere. This is when you are so disciplined that you forget and lose meaning as to why you're doing something in the first place.

This discipline for discipline’s sake leads to exhaustion.

When we believe we should be doing something because someone said that it was good for us we need discipline. Over-discipline comes from a lack of an internal sense and compass about what it is we want. Shame drives our actions forward without respite from fun or curiosity. This is how we can succeed and still feel like we're not making progress. As Tony Robbins said,

“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.”

Time Scarcity

I have traveled more this year than any year prior, with multiple plane flights still to come. Looking at my schedule and seeing how little I’ll be in LA this morning sort of shocked me, and put me into a state of “Time Scarcity.”

I caught myself having this story in my head that was saying, “I don’t have enough time.”

Then I remembered what I learned from Gay Hendrix (By way of Einstein), which is actually that we are the source of time. I make time, and I can make as much of it as I like.

Because of that...“I have more than enough time for everything I need.”

It was amazing how remembering this shifted how I felt, suddenly time expanded and my year opened back up to me. Yes, travel is taking up time but if there's something else that I want, I'll simply make time for that.

There are many ways to make your work and time work well for you. Many of them are a posture and way of being over any particular type of doing.