Discipline Equals Freedom may as well be called “Jocko Willink’s guide to life.” If you’re not familiar with Jocko, he’s a former Navy seal, a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt and now a corporate consultant that helps CEOs manage their companies the way he used to manage military personnel.
Since then Jocko’s popularity has exploded as he’s become known for his no-nonsense, no excuses style of personal development. He derived the name of this book, Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual, from his personal mantra, so it’s fitting that the book expounds on both his philosophy and approach to living a disciplined life.
The first half of the book focuses on the philosophical – it’s dedicated to helping you cultivate the right mindset. Jocko shares his thoughts on motivation, dealing with hardships, perseverance, and other elements that affect the way you feel about yourself and your ability to perform tasks that you know will make you better.
In the second half of the book, Jocko shifts his focus to putting his philosophy into practice. Here he focuses almost entirely on the value of fitness and nutrition and offering advice, including extensive workout plans that range in intensity from beginner to intermediate.
Cuts Through the B.S.
One of the best things about Jocko and his message is that it’s so straightforward. Yes, it’s one of self-improvement. But no, this absolutely isn’t fluffy, new age, nonsense feel-goodery.
His message is clear: you can be a better version of yourself, and you probably already know how: wake up earlier, work out more, remain true to your values and work to achieve your goals. The tricky part, of course, is in the execution.
The promise of this book, and of Jocko’s brand in general, is that he can help you do it. And he delivers.
Inspiring and Motivational
I can honestly say that the first half of this book is, easily, one of the most inspirational texts I’ve ever read. If you’ve ever listened to Jocko’s podcast or heard him speak, you can probably understand how and why men would follow this guy into war.
He has an almost mythical commitment to improving the lives of both himself and others, and hearing (or in this case, reading) about the lengths to which he goes in order to accomplish those twin missions is incredibly motivating.
Jocko’s example and encouragement will light a fire under your ass and make you want to better yourself. Don’t think you can wake up at 5 a.m.? Read Jocko’s book. Struggling to start a workout plan? Read the book. Want to start eating clean? Guess what you should do…
Authentic Self (Improvement)
The reason that I find Jocko so motivating is that his message seems to stem from a place of honesty. By all accounts, Jocko really does wake up at 4:30 each morning, hit the gym each day, train BJJ frequently, etc.
And his message is simply that if he can do it, you can too. You have more willpower and discipline then you give yourself credit for – you just have to train yourself to tap into it more often.
As self-help messages go, this is about as simple as it gets; you don’t have to believe anything that’s not based in evidence, or subscribe to any ideology or nonsense.
There’s a lot of power in relentlessly pursuing simple but fundamental goals like working out frequently and staying true to your mission, and Jocko presents himself as evidence that people – even mere mortals like you, me, and yes, Jocko himself – can do it.
Unsurprisingly, I’m not the only one who appreciates Jocko’s authenticity:
Workouts Aren’t Detailed
No book is perfect, and while the philosophy/mindset stuff that Jocko shares is unquestionably powerful, the second half of the book, in which he provides fitness and nutrition advice, is less robust.
He provides three different workout series that stem from his strength-building philosophy: one for beginners, one for advanced exercisers and one for intermediates.
While he does describe the number of sets and reps to do for each move, the descriptions of each move can be a little vague, and unlike fitness magazines or blogs, there are no photos or illustrations to help clarify.
My other gripe about the workouts is that he doesn’t indicate when to do each one. Presumably you would start with the first beginner workout and then do one each day, but he doesn’t make that clear.
Not Much About Nutrition
One of the most important lessons I learned while editing a fitness magazine was just how important nutrition is to your overall health and fitness goals.
Jocko is certainly aware of this and mentions the importance of eating well multiple times throughout the book, going on a helpful discourse about just how damaging sugar can be.
But it would have been nice if he had included some meal plans or other nutritional advice to complement his recommended workout regimen.
Surprising Number of Typos
This one obviously has everything to do with style and nothing to do with substance, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
God knows I’m not perfect and have no doubt left typos strewn all over this blog. But when I published my first book I not only poured over it a hundred times myself, I hired a professional book editor to do the same to make sure it was error-free – and that book was self-published!
This one was published by a professional New York publishing firm, so the fact that I found so many typos is a bit of a mystery.
Can this book help you build confidence?
I’m not sure if discipline equals freedom, but it definitely equals confidence.
As I noted above, the number one message of this book is that you have more willpower and discipline then you might think, you just need to tap into it.
A huge part of getting better – in fact, arguably the most important part – is getting started. Whether your goal is to workout more, dress better, polish your people skills or literally anything else, reading the first half of this book will light a fuse under you and make you want to stop reading and start working toward your goal.
Personally I’ve yet to try the workout plan Jocko recommends in the second half of the book, because I’m pretty happy with my own. But if building strength (or more accurately, building the habit of building strength) is something you’ve struggled with, then you should get a lot out of the second half, too.
Overall it’s a must-read for guys who want to stop doubting, and start doing. Click below to pick it up on Amazon and take control of your discipline.
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Further Reading (and Watching):
- Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink | Book Summary – Wolfsuka
- Book Review: You Are a Bad Ass by Jen Sincero – Irreverent Gent
- One Simple Question to Help Boost Your Willpower – Irreverent Gent
As the founder of Irreverent Gent, Dave shares smart style advice that helps guys look sharp, and smart-ass jokes that make them wish he’d just stick to advice. When not blogging, he loves working out, obsessing over the MCU (#ILoveYou3000) and pretending to know about wine when his wife takes him somewhere fancy.