Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual (Jocko Willink)

Former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink
Former US Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink.

On July 4, 1776, representatives from the 13 American colonies declared their independence from the British crown. That declaration took place during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) through which freedom was officially secured for the fledgling nation. July 4 is a day of family, fireworks, and fun. It is one of my favorite days of the year, and is intended to celebrate not only American history but America’s highest ideal: freedom.

Freedom is something that every human being desires, but few ever stop to define. In public discourse, freedom often gets reduced to democracy, religion, speech, and entrepreneurship. These things are important, yet millions live in societies that guarantee all of these things yet haven’t even scratched the surface of freedom. While certain external provisions factor into the freedom equation, freedom is ultimately a matter of internal processes. It involves things like material contentment, emotional health, strong relationships, and life purpose. Yet the prerequisite for each of these provisions is one and the same: discipline.

Discipline is required to achieve anything in life, and freedom is no exception. The fact is that freedom is hard work. It takes work to become emotionally healthy, fulfill one’s material goals, and build relationships with people. Discipline is the decision to put the work in whether we feel like it or not, with faith that it will benefit us in the long run. We often take for granted that everybody acts in their best interest, but a casual look around indicates otherwise. How many people engage in self-destructive behaviors or miss out on life blessings due to a lack of discipline? Discipline, it seems to follow, is a key to personal freedom.

Jocko Willink is a man who knows something about freedom and discipline. Willink is a US Navy SEAL, the most exclusive and prestigious branch of the US military, and current Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner. Willink is co-author of Extreme Ownership: How US Navy Seals Lead and Win and Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual. Below I present 10 of my favorite quotes from Discipline Equals Freedom that are worth meditating on.

What is your ideal of freedom? And, more importantly, how does one go about achieving it?


–> Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline.

–> NO MORE. No more excuses. No more: “I’ll start tomorrow.” No more: “Just this once.” No more accepting the shortfalls of my own will. No more taking the easy road. No more bowing down to whatever unhealthy or unproductive thoughts float through my mind.

–> Stop researching every aspect of it and reading all about it and debating the pros and cons of it … Start doing it.

–> Don’t fight stress. Embrace it. Turn it on itself. Use it to make yourself sharper and more alert. Use it to make you think and learn and get better and smarter and more effective. Use the stress to make you a better you.

–> With myself, I have to hold the line. There are areas within myself where I CANNOT compromise. I am going to work hard. I am going to train hard. I am going to improve myself. I am not going to rest on my laurels. I am going to own my mistakes and confront them. I am going to face my demons. I’m not going to give up, or give out, or give in. I’m going to stand. I am going to maintain my self-discipline. And on those points there will be No Compromise. NOT NOW.  NOT EVER.

–> Faster. Stronger. Smarter. More humble. Less ego

–> You have to BE VIGILANT. You have to be ON GUARD. You have to HOLD THE LINE on the seemingly insignificant little things— things that shouldn’t matter—but that do.

–> Humans can withstand almost inconceivable stress—and you can too. So that is your first step: Gain perspective. And to do that you must do something critical in many situations: Detach. Whatever problems or stress you are experiencing, detach from them. Stress is generally caused by what you can’t control.

–> Is this what I want to be? This? Is this all I’ve got—is this everything I can give? Is this going to be my life? Do I accept that?

–> Motivation is fickle. It comes and goes. It is unreliable and when you are counting on motivation to get your goals accomplished—you will likely fall short.


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