Skip to content

Productive paranoia and a culture of discipline. Is this the secret to my future triumph over cookies?

Recently, I wrote a post about focusing on discipline when motivation is low. Driving to work this morning, still struggling with motivation, I thought back to another post and experiment I’ve been trying out. My own personal flywheel effect and how that process can’t progress without discipline either.

My personal Flywheel

For simplicity reasons I won’t go into the details of how I came about my own personal flywheel, you can read about it here if you’re interested in this powerful tool.

I came to this revelation about discipline perhaps being the missing link in my journey due to my recent re-reading of Good To Great by Jim Collins. In the book, the researchers found that a ‘culture of discipline was essential to companies that became truly great. The defining difference between good companies and great companies was that in good companies discipline was often imposed where in the great companies, discipline was inherent to all the leaders themselves.

Self discipline. The secret ingredient.

I suddenly realised that in order to keep pushing the flywheel I have to have a both long term, relentless commitment to achieving my goals, but also the self discipline to keep pushing the flywheel, every day, even when I don’t feel like it.

To add to this, I also have to take a lesson out of another Collins book, Great by Choice, which I’ve recently read and can highly recommend. In Great by Choice, the researchers coin the term ‘productive paranoia’. This is a proactive way of thinking about goals in terms of what could get in the way of achieving them and being ready for whatever happens. People with ‘productive paranoia’ are constantly making plans for what might happen, prepare themselves for things to happen and always have a back up plan. I had already started thinking about this kind of approach earlier this year and talked about managing setbacks in Why a plan is not going to be enough for 2019. Coming across a wider explanation of this concept in Great by Choice I was suddenly handed the formula on how to manage setbacks.

If I had productive paranoia about my goals I might practice doing my morning 5:30 am yoga session after deliberately getting less sleep for a few weeks to make myself more resilient. Right now, if I go to bed late, I tend to skip the 5:30 am start. I might also practice watching my family eat cake in front of me (without partaking) so that I have better resistance to random cake at work. Sound extreme? Research showed in Great by Choice that leaders that practised these techniques were significantly more successful that leaders who didn’t. Combining productive paranoia with what Collin’s calls ‘fanatic discipline’, these leader marched relentlessly towards their goals. The common theme with the ‘great’ companies in Good To Great, self discipline.

My conclusion is that successful, goal achieving people, no matter the particular goal have and practice self discipline as a matter of course.

This concept is actually a little frightening. I can’t say I’m thrilled about deliberately subjecting myself to physical and mental discomfort but unfortunately, the research is pretty clear and as an engineer and scientist, you can’t argue with the research, only test the hypothesis. Productive paranoia and self discipline, here I come.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: