Discipline is remembering who you are.

I go to the gym twice a week. There are scores of ways to retain or improve fitness. The program I subscribe to involves working on about seven machines per visit and doing each exercise until exhaustion, which is typically two or three minutes per exercise.

At first, I scoffed at the notion that one could get muscle failure in less than three minutes. It quickly became obvious that the trainer would increase the weight until the client had spent all their muscle reserves on that machine at that weight in a short period.

Cheating by Accident

Recently I was working on one machine, trying hard to increase my time before failure. The trainer fussed at me because my form was imperfect. This was not a matter of aesthetics.

I had unconsciously shifted my body, so my secondary muscles helped with the load. My body was trying to cash the ambitious check that my ego had offered. The trainer graciously reminded me that the strategy behind the system was to push each set of muscles slightly beyond their capacity. Science shows that muscles grow faster when they are tasked with assignments beyond their current capacity.

Cheating on Purpose

If you win by cheating, it’s a hollow victory. That’s true whether you cheat accidentally or on purpose. I may squirm a little on the exercise machine, but I don’t cheat on purpose. I make mistakes, but I aspire to excellence and integrity, both of which are opposites to cheating.

Building Capacity

Vince Lombardi said that “fatigue makes cowards of us all”. He was famous for pushing his teams to build their capacity. Like John Wooden he wanted his players to run their opponents into the ground, to outlast them. That’s now standard practice for most winning coaches.

This is not limited to sports. Hanns Lilje was a German Bishop who spent time in Hitler’s prisons. His prayer and meditation and reading built the strength and faith that enabled him to endure. He once told a young man, “When they come for you, it is too late to prepare.”

In life, whether it’s physical or mental, at performance time you can’t utilize nonexistent capacity. We prepare in advance to develop the capacity which we might need in a critical situation.


Discipline is vital. You build capacity one day at a time. There are no shortcuts. Discipline is never fun, but to prevail in life and competitive situations, discipline is vital.

One of my health goals is to have the fitness to enjoy half marathons and triathlons.

By the time you read this, I will have finished another La Jolla half marathon. Allegedly, it’s San Diego County’s top marathon for views: ocean, state park, Torrey Pines golf course, bioscience campuses, UCSD, and then finishing at one of best beaches. Just for fun, it includes the hill in Torrey Pines State Park.

You’ll never learn how long it took me to finish. My notion with half marathon is I don’t mind if I am the last in my age group to finish but to last till the finish. I exercise and prepare to make that possible.

My hope is that your exercise form is perfect. Let’s both remember that the point of disciplined preparation and exercise is to strengthen that muscle group, skill, or character trait that we aspire to. May your discipline enable you to succeed in your worthwhile ventures.


Now it’s your turn. What lessons have you learned in your effort to regain or maintain health or achieve excellence in life?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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