Get more discipline without bullying yourself

The Nutrition School on maintaining good habits provided an interesting conversation about discipline and motivation. Many people know only one type of discipline: the stick / whip that you hit yourself to do that tiring / annoying / stupid / uncomfortable thing you have to do, because you want the result of that tiring / annoying / stupid / uncomfortable thing .
In this way discipline is a kind of coercion, you make yourself afraid of not doing it. You become kind of your own bully.
That brought me to a new insight that I want to share with you in this blog via a story about a bully manager in my TV years.

I have always experienced the company culture in the TV world (where I worked for 15 years), as quite brutal. Although not always spoken aloud, the unsaid words were: for you 10 others who want to have the job and who'll do what I say/want... even if that is not the integer thing to do.
In my experience, that was the style of many of my managers: fairly brutal. Still, no one wins from editor Harry [not his real name!] Who held the scepter over one of the two weekly broadcasts of a national current affairs show, where I worked for almost 2 years.
As long as everything ran smoothly, Harry behaved like a nice guy: made jokes, had good stories, helped with brainstorming and kept quiet while secretly Facebooking. In the two days that we had to make 'his' broadcast, that mood could suddenly change completely.

"Are you going to film?"

I can remember an incident when I had to make a piece about 'Orange streets' during the World Cup ... the approach was: people who did not like it and who were scared to speak to their neighbors.
The editorial staff had 'produced' a lady from The Hague (it's called produced, what it means is: this lady was in the AD newspaper with this story and they had called if the TV could swing by too).
When I entered her house with cameraman Peter, she pointed to the camera and asked, "Are you going to film?"
Eeeeeuhhhh: Duh! I'm from the TV ...
She doubted. Her husband did not doubt: he did not want his house, his street, his wife to be filmed.
It was 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the broadcast was at 8:30, I sat 100km from the TV station and stared at a 5-minute gap in our broadcast.
So I called Harry ... who was the editor in chief of the broadcast and therefore responsible for what would be in the program...

You allow that?

Harry screamed and cursed at me. A full 5 minutes. I really had to keep my phone from my ear so loud.
I looked mainly bewildered.
"You just fix something" ... were the last words before he hung up.
Cameraman Peter looked at me and asked: do you allow that?

The sad answer was not only yes, I allow that ... but the answer in myself was: yes because I'm used to worse.
No matter how false, mean, hard, irresponsible Harry was ... his roar was only a weak refraction of the language I used to motivate and discipline myself in that period of my life.
I was terrified of Harry ... so yes: I got up and ... I fixed it!


Both Peter and I are from The Hague... that was handy. After some brainstorming, we drove to the worst orange street in The Hague, in my recollection the Hoefkade or somewhere around there. There were people on the non-playing day of the Dutch Lions, still drinking beer in strange orange outfits on the street. We started with filming that, then we at least have something.
Did an interview (or something resembling an interview) including a scene with orange goofs jumping up and down in a bright orange living room.
Then I asked them if there were people living in the street who did not like it. They took me to a neighbor ... who told me that she had a huge burden of the noise of the flags that had been hung in the roof gutter of the house she owns. That she probably had to fix the gutter. And that she did not dare to say anything to her neighbors as a woman on her own... it became a fantastic item!
Harry took all the credits for himself in the Monday meeting: top report, thanks to his leadership!

Crying → binging

I remembered my enormous cry in the car of Hilversum when I was driving home,  to relieve all stress ... and oh yes, in the post-broadcast I had eaten a whole bag of chips, or better: inhaled. And I also remembered the guilt and shame that I suffered after that.

For years, I thought Harry was right. That if I would not have been so scared of him, if he would not have worked like that ... that I would not have made this piece. And that is a big mistake! GREAT THINKING mistake! (← so important that he must be in CAPS and bold).

Go for it, Bren!

Because what do you think I would have done if Harry would have said, "So that's a setback ... unfortunate, luckily you're in your own city ... we can think creatively together to see what we can do to save this story. Are there any other orange streets you can go to? Would you like to try that, then we will continue to think along with you, I will put 2 editors on it and if we can do something, anything,  for you, you call ... we have your back. Go for it, Bren, I have confidence in you "...

Then I would have made exactly the same story!
Then I would have done that with a positive feeling, without stress (well, less stress), without crying, without inhaling chips, without a hating my colleague with whom I had to work every week, without me feeling so damn lonely, without feeling worthless.

Which 'Harry' do you choose?

So the next time you need discipline or motivation, ask yourself what 'Harry' you let loose on yourself ... The result can just be the same ... the way you get that result is a world of difference! And that has an impact on your long-term result ...
You might hate the one Harry and on a day when you do not have to deal with him anymore, you will never want to see him again and you will unfriend him on Facebook.
The other Harry might be your friend for a long time and could be a support at times when you can use some motivation or he can help you find your discipline when you need it.
The choice is yours: Which Harry do you choose?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.