Book Review-“Discipline Equals Freedom” Authored By Jocko Willink

After I posted my last book review around a week ago, I went on the hunt to decide what to read next. My wife, sensing my internal struggle, decided to gift me one of my Christmas presents from under the tree early. Excited for what book she got me because she gives the best gifts, I couldn’t wait to see what book was going to take me a month or so to read and review. Again, that was maybe a week ago and here we are, book review #2. This book was one I had just recently put in my Amazon Wish List. Side rant: If you don’t do Amazon Wish List for gift giving, you’re missing out. It takes 99% of the stress out of figuring out what the other person wants for whatever gifting holiday. I say 99% because husbands, we know there still has to be that one thoughtful and straight from the heart gift she needs. I have the secret weapon for that also. Men, hit me up on Twitter @randyfisher84 and I’ll give the secret. Can’t be throwing it out here all willy nilly.

     Anyway, this review will be on the book “Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual” by Jocko Willink. I think I’ve mentioned him or some of his material in a blog or two back, but can’t remember for sure. If not, Jocko is a retired Navy Seal and was a #1 best selling author of Extreme Ownership and Way of the Warrior Kid. He also wrote an extremely popular book The Dichotomy of Leadership which I have read in the past. He hosts a top-rated podcast called Jocko Podcast. He has tons of YouTube content. He is also is a cofounder of a premier leadership consulting company called Echelon Front.

     I’ve been following Jocko now for about two years when my sister in law got me the Dichotomy of Leadership book. If anyone has not heard him speak or understand his philosophy on life, I probably won’t do it justice. If you have listened to him, and I haven’t done it justice, please comment to help support anything I have missed. 

     Now, as I am writing this, I am sitting here contemplating my words carefully. I know how some people will react to what I’m about to say on why I follow and learn from him. I know how some people view individuals like me for the reason I listen to him. And subjectively, I follow him because he aligns with how I view and tackle life. Jocko, for all intents and purposes, is a motivational speaker. He is not labeled as one and will never call himself that. He’s a combat leader that holds onto an optimistic outlook on life and has deep insight on multiple topics. I listen and read his material because he simply understands leadership and he challenges my mind, routines and discipline to push me to be better today than I was yesterday. I give you that background so you can understand the overall basis of what’s going on. I’m sure I’ll be reading more of his content in the future, so I won’t have to give the back story every time. This isn’t a review on Jocko, it’s on his book. So, let’s get started.

     As I stated earlier, I had read this book in about a week, which is a record for me. When I opened the book, it wasn’t written like a standard book. After I quickly looked at how it was outlined, I could see what was going on. And I liked it. Maybe some of you with a church back ground or certainly some without, have seen or read through the little booklets of “The Daily Bread.” This booklet is filled with little blurbs on a topic and packed with insight and wisdom. This is how he outlined his book. Which for me was awesome, because each topic was one to three pages. They were quick, direct, to the point, and insightful. Each topic is written how he talks. Since I have listened to many of his podcasts and YouTube material, it helped me read to his tone and demeaner and solidified the information. 

     There are probably 30 or so topics he talks about (don’t quote me on that). Some areas include procrastination, weakness of the mind, hesitation, remaining vigilant, motivation and his favorite topic DISCIPLINE. Now, as I had started reading through these, I had heard some of this before, almost word for word, in his media. But it was nice to have the book so I could read it, ponder about it, and I had sticky notes where I’d write my thoughts and stick it to the page for reference. He also has some information on his view of nutrition and working out and gives some sample workouts he uses.

     Here is an example of his material on the subject of “Staying Motivated:”

     “Don’t worry about motivation. 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. So, 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.

     You know what you have to do. So, make yourself do it. You do that with discipline. Everyone wants some magic pill-some life hack-that eliminates the need to do the work. But that does not exist. You have to do the work. You’ve got to hold the line. You’ve got to make it happen. So. Dig in. Find the discipline. Be the discipline. Accomplish it. That’s it!”

     In the Army we have a saying “false motivation is better than no motivation.” It may be a military thing actually. Not sure, but we say it all the time. I said it to my Soldiers constantly as a Drill Sergeant because that’s what we do I guess. But that made me think about how we treat motivation. I know I say things like “yea just trying to get motivated” or “I have to get motivated tomorrow to do…” It is fickle! Why else would we have that saying in the Army? Why don’t we say “yea just trying to get disciplined” or “I have to get disciplined tomorrow to do…?” I think it’s our excuse we all use to pass on the opportunity to get done what we know we need to do. Here’s what I think discipline does and why we don’t call on it often enough and make it a part of our lives. Discipline holds us accountable. It requires responsibility. It allows people to judge us if we glide off the path of discipline. Who wants to put that on themselves?  Obviously the answer is we all should.

     I mentioned earlier about how I know how others view people like me. “Who needs that self- help stuff? He must be weak-minded. What kind of a man listens to that crap?” I’ve heard it before. BUT. I will say, yes, I am weak minded. Yes, I need help in lots of areas of my life to get better. And yes, I listen to that crap. And guess what? You are weak minded also. We all are weak minded. We may be better in some areas than others. But if you truly are humble and assess yourself appropriately, we lack in a lot of areas of how we handle things. If there is someone who has wisdom and presents it in such a way that challenges you to receive it, process it, and either act on it or dismiss it, why not allow yourself the opportunity (spoiler alert, opportunity will be the topic of my next blog) to grow from it?

     There are lots of little gems and wisdom in this book. This is that type of book you leave on your desk at work and let an employee walk by and see it. Let them inquire about it. Let them take it home and read it. It may just improve some productivity in the work place. Or you save it for that moment when you observe someone having troubles in an area Jocko talks about. Not that you have to memorize and regurgitate what he says, but if it’s along the lines of what you believe, he gives you some additional material to think about and to present. I like to say and have little phrases and sayings that allow me to lay out my words in such a way that gets my Soldiers to think. To allow them the opportunity to hang onto those words to apply them in the future if that’s what they need. Whatever the reason for reading and having this book, I believe you’ll walk away at least assessing where you are in your daily disciplined walk, which is at least a start.     

I give this book a 4/5 rating. I dropped it down one point since I have heard some of this stuff before. And probably more appropriate, I’m not a professional book reviewer and most of my reviews will either be a 4 or 5 since it has to keep my interest to finish it. The pros say I should review it, so that’s what I’ll do. This isn’t a book you need to run out and grab immediately. Maybe ask for it as a gift. Grab it from a book store if they carry it and you’re in the area. Or snag it off the internet, but no need for rush delivery unless you really want to. In that case, then rock on! It’s a good little read for long trips in a car or while traveling by plane for the week. But when you do get it, read it with no distractions. Have a pencil and some sticky notes. Challenge yourself to write something on every topic. What do you think about it? How do you view it? Will you apply it? How? See what you come up with. It’s one thing to sit and read the words, but it takes discipline to sit down each time to write notes, study and analyze what you’re taking in. Make yourself a little better today than you were yesterday. Get some!

2 thoughts on “Book Review-“Discipline Equals Freedom” Authored By Jocko Willink

  1. Disciplined versus Obedient is also the challenge to understand the difference. We do a lot in the Army and life because we “have” too until they become the we “need” too, it comes with wisdom. If you do not know the difference you can start with looking at their definitions. Or this example of, a child will make their bed and clean their room when you tell them out of obedience. They will at some point do that chore on their own, without being told, because they understand why they do so, that is discipline. Jocko has a lot of realistic input and I value the way he is able to explain his knowledge. Thanks for the post Randy. Are we starting a book club? Hit me with some deep soul thought brother.


    1. That’s a great point between the meanings and actions associated with discipline and obedience. Might be something I dive into in later posts. Ive realized late in my career that the way of “you do it because I say so!” attitude is so toxic. Even though there is a time and place for that in a brand new Soldiers’ career if that style if fostered correctly. Where we go wrong in training our leaders how to be leaders is we don’t teach simply how to deal with people. How to get productive use out of our “employee”. We don’t teach how people respond to certain situations. I also think we over look how our actions can be the best leadership and how they can get our Soldiers and employees to respond. We have all the sayings and creeds that say it but we don’t believe it and live it.

      Treating people like humans. Thinking outside the box when dealing with correcting employees’ actions and when rewarding. Displaying our own confidence, charisma, and tactical and technical expertise, and taking care of the people in our bubbles is what gets the job done. A book I read like 10 pages of in SLC is “Leaders eat last.” But it talks about those things as leaders. That will be a book I place into my queue to read in the future and finish.

      This may be a little off topic. But it reminds me of a thought/saying for how people say this one sentence when they are told to work with us. It’s only one word change that changes the tone of the sentence. People will either say…

      “I HAVE to work with him.” orrrrrr “I GET to work with him.” We want to be the “GET”.

      As far as the book club, that could be something cool. Maybe do a book a month or every two months and we pick a day where we come on and discuss it? Could be a New Years Resolution?! We’ll see what we can get started. I’ve got two books I have in the chute I want to start after the current one is finished. I’ll post what that book will be later and set some guidelines how we can attempt this. Should be fun!


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