“The first and greatest victory is to conquer self.” – Plato

This week I attended an award dinner for a well-known former public servant. During his acceptance speech, he said he relied on moral courage and character to persevere during the most challenging periods of his career.

That rang true to me! Those who have read Marathon War or scanned my blog posts know I found in combat – as in life – that competence, moral courage, and character differentiate a really superb leader from others. As I have written, I believe these traits are not inherent when we are born; instead, they are developed during life, and can and should be constantly improved.

But how? What are the building blocks to competence, courage and character?

Over the next few weeks of posts, I want to explore this question. Let’s start now with what I believe is the foundation: self-discipline. Call it self-control; self-mastery; regulation and moderation of one’s desires. Often in life it can mean doing the harder “right” thing rather than taking the easy path. I think of it as a personal struggle, the internal friction between trying to become better at anything versus sticking with the easier status quo. For me, it meant waking at 4 am to study before class in the military schools I attended or forcing myself to run a series of twenty-mile training runs for months prior to a marathon. It also meant reducing my drinking and shutting my mouth more and actually listening to others.

I still struggle with self-discipline, but as I am able to control more and more of my life, I find I enjoy work, pleasure, and life in general so much more. And that enabled me to work to be better at what I do (competence and moral courage) and be better at who I am (character).

“Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.” – Seneca



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