How to develop better discipline that sets the tone for success

What sets highly successful people apart from others? Searching the internet for the secret sauce results in many characteristics and theories.

But a man who’s spent 50 years as an accomplished CEO and mentored leaders across numerous industries believes the common denominator is discipline.

“All the leaders I know are highly disciplined,” said Warren Rustand, the ForbesBooks author of “The Leader Within Us: Mindset, Principles, and Tools for a LIFE BY DESIGN.”

“Their success and structure can be attributed to their habits and rituals. They have healthy and intentional daily patterns that affect them in a highly positive way. When you correct your mind, everything falls into place. Actions are who we are.”

Rustand offers these tips to develop better personal discipline as a springboard toward success.

Create your own morning routine. When Rustand does speaking engagements about leadership, he asks people about their morning habits. He gets answers such as, “Walk the dog, check my cell phone, make coffee, turn on the TV.” And Rustand’s response is, “None of the things you suggested prepare you for success that day.”

Rustand says a morning routine that prepares one for success must fill them with positivity, so he suggests not starting the day with the TV news. For 45 years he has used a 31-minute morning routine he calls 1-10-10-10. The first minute is focused on determining his primary purpose for the day. He spends the next 10 minutes expressing gratitude. The second 10-minute period focuses on reading something inspirational. In the last 10 minutes, he writes in a journal, detailing lessons learned as well as positive experiences. Rustand said a morning journal also can benefit the person’s family when it is passed down through the years, inspiring and educating others.

“If you’re going to commit to discipline, then start by implementing a morning routine,” he said. “A good morning routine will lead to other healthier habits throughout the day and propel you toward success. Small changes really do turn your life around.”

Prioritize exercise. “The body needs at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three to four times a week,” Rustand said. “Research suggests that exercise in the morning is more valuable than exercise in the afternoon. Fatigue and focus over the course of the day can keep you from maximizing your workout performance.”

To maximize exercise, he suggests the following:

• Carving out consistent times throughout the week that fit around work and family schedules;

• Engaging in both cardio and weight training; setting goals in terms of calories burned, distance covered or time spent working out.

“Around your mid-30s you begin to lose lean muscle mass, and unless you’re rebuilding it you will continue to lose it,” he said. “It’s important to raise your heart rate regularly. Choose the exercise pattern that’s best for you and the activities in which you want to engage.”

Manage your time spent on social media. Rustand said that too often, people let technological devices like smartphones rob precious time from their work day.

“Often our instincts to use the device run in conflict with more important things we have to do,” he said. “The cost to corporate America is truly significant – both in loss of productivity and in workers being paid while they’re posting on social media, having personal phone calls, and responding to non-work-related texts.”

To practice better discipline in this area, Rustand recommends:

  • When starting your day, don’t check your cell phone until after completing your morning routine.
  • Don’t view or engage in social media during the workday.
  • Put the cell phone in your purse or pocket when working rather than leaving it sitting on your desk, tempting you.
  • Tell family members and friends to avoid sending you non-emergency texts  or emails until after work.
  • Add a message under your email signature, noting that you check emails only during a specific morning period and at the end of the workday.

“Many people struggle in their lives because they can’t figure out how to elevate what’s most important and push aside the trivial,” Rustand sayid. “When it comes to personal discipline, we control all of these elements. We simply have to decide what we want to achieve.”

About Warren Rustand
Warren Rustand ( is an entrepreneur, corporate leader, and the ForbesBooks author of “The Leader Within Us: Mindset, Principles, and Tools for a LIFE BY DESIGN.” Selected as a White House Fellow in 1973, he was a special assistant to the Secretary of Commerce and co-led the first-ever executive-level trade mission to the Soviet Union. Rustand served as Appointments and Cabinet Secretary to President Gerald Ford. A former academic All-American basketball player at the University of Arizona, Rustand has been the CEO of six companies and has served on the board of directors of more than 50 for-profit or not-for-profit organizations. Rustand is an author, educator, and well-known speaker and for 30 years led a public policy-private sector conference in Washington D.C. for CEOs. He is currently the Dean of Learning for Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Leadership Academy.