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Why Discipline is Destiny

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It’s next to impossible to know what kind of adversity or what sort of good luck will fall in someone’s lap.

Will they be able to handle it, whatever it is? Will they rise to the occasion or be corrupted or destroyed by it?

As it happens, this part is easy to predict.

Look at Marcus Aurelius. He was gifted all sorts of incredible things—power, money, great teachers. How did he manage to remain good when so many others, from Nero to Tiberius, had been broken by those exact same gifts? The same way that he managed to not be broken by the incredible adversity of the Antonine Plague. It was his discipline—his temperance, moderation, self-awareness, balance, and self-mastery.

When we say that, “discipline is destiny,” this is what we mean—that discipline is both predictive and deterministic. It predetermined that Marcus would not only be a great emperor, but a great man too. Just as it assured that the final chapters for the cautionary tales of history—Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, King George IV, and sadly even Marcus’s own undisciplined son, Commodus—would be marked by self-inflicted destruction.

So it goes for all of us. If you want to know why things are the way they are in your life right now…look to your level of discipline. It got you here, for better or worse. If you want to know how things are going to go for you in the future…your discipline will take you there.

It’s not merely that disciplined people do well and undisciplined people fail—we know life is more complicated than that. The maxim means that traits of discipline predict the kind of actions we will see.

The undisciplined person may succeed…but it will be an unstable, chaotic success. The unrestrained will end up unraveling the institutions around them. The lazy will end up missing some critical piece of information that costs them. The overly passionate will take it too far and pay for it. The arrogant will ignore the people and the warnings that could have saved them.

Who we are, the standards we hold ourselves to, the things we do regularly, our personality traits—in the end, these are all better predictors of the trajectory of our lives than talent, resources, or privilege. These tell us how we will respond to the future swings of Fortune, which, ultimately, is all we need to know.

“Most powerful is he,” as Seneca tried to instill in the rulers he advised, “who has himself in his own power.” Most powerful is he who is disciplined because…

Discipline is destiny.

The aim of Ryan Holiday’s newest book, Discipline is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control, is to teach you how to harness the powers of self-discipline.

The Stoics believed that we are all born to fulfill a great destiny. And while not everyone’s destiny is the same, everyone’s destiny is achieved with self-discipline and control. Discipline is Destiny is a book that will help you fulfill yours.

Because we’d like to encourage you to preorder Discipline is Destiny right now, we’ve put together some exciting bonuses, including a signed and numbered page from the original manuscript. You can learn more about how to receive them over at Dailystoic.com/preorder.