Discipline Is Destiny by Ryan Holiday - Book Summary

Last updated: Mar 18, 2023

Important points, quotes and summary of the book Discipline Is Destiny by Ryan Holiday.

The summary is not complete, there are much more chapters and information in the book. These are just highlights of some interesting points from the books, so that you can make a picture for yourself of what this book is about.

If you like what you read, buy the book and support the author!

Avoid the Superfluous

By stripping away unnecessary and excessive items, we are left with what is important to us. Living below our means and being frugal can lead to greater independence and freedom, while a dependence on material possessions can make us vulnerable.

It is important to ask ourselves if what we desire is truly necessary and if it will improve our lives or simply create more dependency

"Do you look back at those younger years, when you were striving and struggling, as somehow lacking? As something you’re bitter about? Not usually. These were happy days. We almost miss them. Things were simpler then. Cleaner. There was more clarity."- Ryan Holiday

Quit Being a Slave

Dwight Eisenhower quit smoking in 1949 after a lifetime addiction of three to four packs a day.

Quitting an addiction is a battle of willpower and can be harder than conquering an external enemy.

Richard Feynman gave up drinking to avoid anything having that kind of power over him.

Self-mastery is about instinctively reacting against anything that "masters" us.

Seneca believed everyone was a slave to something and the first step to freedom is recognizing and getting clean from your addiction or dependency.

Habits or dependencies may seem harmless, but they create a need or thirst that is the source of suffering.

The cost of indulging in habits can have personal and shared consequences, from undone feats to unfulfilled potential.

It's important to question whether you would engage in a habit or addiction if it was introduced to you for the first time today.

Coping mechanisms may comfort us, but they are not our friends and can eventually dull our edge altogether. 

"Everyone, no matter how powerful, has some bad habit they’re wrestling with, but also that it’s never too late to come back and beat it. Eisenhower was fifty-eight years old." - Ryan Holiday

"If alcohol was introduced to you now, for the first time, with all its determinants and risks known, would you still take a drink? Knowing how much time you spend on it now, would you still download that app if it launched today?" - Ryan Holiday

Clean Up Your Desk

Robert Moses was a powerful and effective man who accomplished many projects in New York City.

One of his secrets to success was having a clean desk, which he preferred to work off a large table for better workflow.

Keeping a clean and organized workspace can lead to increased productivity and less stress.

It's important to understand what kind of environment helps us function at our best.

Having an orderly workspace can free us to focus on creativity and other important work.

Establishing systems of orderliness can lead to audacious invention and success.  

"Once the systems are in place, once the order is established, then and only then are we able to truly let loose to turn ourselves over to the whims and furies of creativity, to pushing ourselves physically, to audacious invention or investment." - Ryan Holiday

Just Show Up

The key to success is not necessarily brilliance or imagination, but rather showing up consistently every day, putting in the work, and putting your ass in the seat.

Even Thomas Edison admitted that most of the credit for his inventions belonged to the power of consistency rather than sheer brilliance.

Lou Gehrig's success in baseball was rooted in the fact that he didn't miss many days of work.

Consistency and day-to-day willpower are incredibly rare and therefore can be considered a superpower. The ability to endure the dawdly days while sticking around for the next at-bat is the first step to greatness.  

"The most important thing a young ball player can learn is that he can’t be good every day. You don’t have to always be amazing. You do always have to show up. What matters is sticking around for the next at bat." - Ryan Holiday

Sweat the Small Stuff

Coach John Wooden, one of the winningest coaches in the history of sports, started his first team meeting each season with a lesson on how to properly put on shoes and socks.

While it may seem basic, this attention to detail highlights the importance of sweating the small stuff.

By focusing on form and mastering the little things, we make ourselves stronger and better equipped to tackle bigger problems.

Ignoring the details and basic fundamentals can lead to vulnerability and failure. The devil is in the details, and greatness requires self-discipline and attention to the little things.

As the proverb goes, for want of a nail, the kingdom was lost. Save the world by getting the little things right.  

"Because of a blister, the game was lost. Because the little things were ignored, because discipline lapsed, everything was lost. Save yourself. Save the world. Get the little things right." - Ryan Holiday

Hustle, Hustle, Hustle

"You may lose battles, Napoleon said, but never lose a minute to sloth. Few of us hustle as much as we could. Are you someone whom colleagues and clients can count on to be there when they need you? Or will they have to prod? Will they have to beg? Will they have to repeat, again and again, the urgency of the situation?" - Ryan Holiday

Slow Down . . . to Go Faster

The concept of festina lente, or making haste slowly, is exemplified in the rise of Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar and the military strategy of General George Thomas.

It is the balance between hustle and measured exertion, between eagerness and control. Many leaders, including Grant, often mistake deliberate pacing for lacking urgency when, in reality, the careful preparation that comes with festina lente is what makes victory possible.

It is not about doing things slowly but ensuring that everything is done correctly, making it one of the most essential principles of leadership.

Practice . . . Then Practice More

Master swordsman Nakayama Hakudo practiced drawing his sword 2,000 times a day and once did it 10,000 times in 24 hours.

Practice over a long time turns into second nature.

Training from morning to night is necessary for samurais.

A thousand days of training to develop, ten thousand days of training to polish.

There is no greatness without practice, lots of practice, and repetitive practice.

Practicing scales in your craft is essential to progress.

Everyone needs to find their own ten thousand repetitions to become excellent in their field.

Only you know what to practice to reach excellence.

The burden of practice brings freedom, confidence and the pleasure of the flow state.

"Only you will know what you need to practice from morning until night, what to repeat ten thousand times. It won’t be easy, but in that burden is also freedom and confidence. The pleasure of the flow state. The rhythm of second nature." - Ryan Holiday

Just Work

Joyce Carol Oates has published an astonishing amount of work across many genres, including 45 short story collections, 12 poetry collections, 9 plays, and 6 young adult novels.

In contrast to her peers, Oates worked and taught consistently rather than attending parties, nursing addictions, and cultivating literary personas.

Oates has always loved writing and teaching and doesn't consider them to be work in the usual sense of the word.

The reward for this kind of labor is the work itself, which is both torture and heaven but ultimately a joy.

Doing the kind of work that doesn't feel like work is essential to making progress and achieving greatness, even if recognition is not guaranteed.    

Dress for Success

Angela Merkel's upbringing in East Germany discouraged standing out, especially in appearance.

As a politician, Merkel had to pay attention to her appearance, but preferred a simple and professional style. She used her appearance to make a statement about modesty and authenticity.

The Stoics believed in dressing like normal people, without needless luxury or silly fads.

Dress and style can be tricky to navigate in terms of temperance, but presentation counts in certain situations.

Cleaning up and dressing nicely can put us in the right headspace and improve productivity. 

"Shine your shoes . . . until you are the one glowing." - Ryan Holiday

Seek Discomfort

Seneca actively sought discomfort, even though he was a wealthy man, to toughen himself up and prove to himself that he could endure difficult circumstances.

He believed that modern life was making people too comfortable and risk averse, and that seeking out discomfort was important for building discipline and resilience.

By toughening ourselves up, we can prepare ourselves for the challenges that life will inevitably bring.

Seneca's practice of seeking out discomfort saved his life when Nero attempted to poison him, and it was also useful for Gandhi when he was thrown in jail.

All self-discipline begins with the body, and the best way to build toughness is to expose ourselves to challenging conditions and force our bodies to adapt.

Sleep Is an Act of Character

Floyd Patterson prioritized sleep before his boxing match and won because of it

The ability to sleep well and quickly is a matter of discipline and referred to as "sleep discipline"

Admiral James Stavridis treated sleep as an important part of a warship's functioning

Peak performance is not possible when exhausted

Good sleep habits can solve procrastination and bad decision-making problems

Discipline begets discipline and getting enough sleep is an act of character that affects other decisions and actions.

What Can You Endure?

Ernest Shackleton's arctic expedition got stuck in ice for nearly a year, with the crew powerless to change it.

The pressure from the ice eventually sank their ship.

Shackleton proposed a plan to find help by traveling over 700 miles with just a few weeks' supplies.

He and his small crew braved hurricane-strength winds and the open ocean in a twenty-foot boat.

He succeeded in raising funds and supplies to return to Elephant Island and rescue the men he had left behind.

Shackleton's family motto was "Fortitudine vincimus. By endurance we conquer."

Shackleton endured long winter months, days at sea, ran marathon after marathon.

Many great conquerors were labeled "Old Iron Ass" for their ability to endure.

Leaders, athletes, and philosophers have been tough and have been able to endure.

It takes sacrifices and pushing through pain and frustrations to endure.

Roosevelt refused to let his body decide who was in charge after being paralyzed from the waist down. 

Beyond the Body

Our bodies are mortal and require certain activities to survive and thrive.

Self-discipline and temperance are important for living well and prolonging life.

Our physical actions and health impact our mental and spiritual well-being.

We must control our bodies to prevent them from controlling us.

Disciplined behavior frees us from being slaves to our desires.

Choosing the hard way and practicing discipline is necessary for a fulfilling life. 

"Those who tell themselves they are free to do anything will, inevitably, be chained to something. Discipline is how we free ourselves. It is the key that unlocks the chains. It is how we save ourselves. We choose the hard way . . . because in the long run, it’s actually the only way."  - Ryan Holiday