#tbt — 90’s Discipline

The look of sheer determination - 2010 Iditarod Ceremonial start in Anchorage, Alaska / Flickr user Frank Kovalchek, Flickr creative commons.

The look of sheer determination – 2010 Iditarod Ceremonial start in Anchorage, Alaska / Flickr user Frank Kovalchek, Flickr creative commons.

So I finally put my finger on what – or who – was missing from my Happy Hour crew. Gordon Bombay. Setting aside this 90’s themed disappointment, what I mean to say is that discipline has fallen out of style. Whether the topic is running, healthy eating, essay writing, or sleeping habits, my pals’ and my outspoken-and-proud lack of discipline would rouse Coach Bombay to their feet with a fiery speech, flipping our table and our beers along with it. Instead, our lamentations of ‘blah blah blah, no self-motivation’ fall on silence before a change of topic.

After childhoods full of touching coming-of-age movies like The Mighty Ducks, The Big Green, or Little Giants, full of misfits rousing themselves into shape for the ‘big event;’ after years of quintessential montage scenes that chronicle zero-to-hero rises with dramatic music, conflicts overcome, and epic motivational speeches; Where have we gone wrong?!?Coming of age doesn’t happen on its own, we learned – or did we? Where have all the Gordon Bombays gone? What’s happened to us?

In case you need a reminder or three:

“Ducks never say die!”

“Those kids are never gonna give up the ball!”

“You want intimidation? I’ll show  you intimidation!”


What’s wrong with discipline? Did it short out with Y2K? Well, what do you think of when you think of discipline? My sense of ‘discipline’ often looks a lot like guilt and burden. Basically, discipline is ‘what I should be doing and I’m just a dutiful Sisyphus groaning and eternally pushing and rolling a boulder uphill, one that’s eternally destined to roll back down. Oof.

When my ‘self-motivation’ is a Sisyphus-like guilt, then my ‘discipline’ is always against gravity, a pessimistic and violent struggle against my will, habits, and thought patterns. Obviously unpleasant, I give it up ASAP. Game over. No cinematic victory. There’s gotta be another way.


How did Coach Bombay bring the team together? A cheesy animal metaphor (“Ducks fly together”). How can we reclaim discipline? Obviously with a cheesy animal metaphor. Don’t say you didn’t see it coming.


This is about motivation, about self-motivation. Gone are our adolescent days when our best motivators were external – the coaches, teachers, and grades. We’re adults now, it’s 2014, and motivation’s gotta come from within.

Instead of the whole Sisyphus thing, instead try to focus on hopeful futures; whether professional, spiritual, emotional, or recreational, tap into desires, hopeful desires that you have for yourself and give them space to run. These desires are your self-motivation, your inner Coach Bombay… …or, trusting in the timeless power of cheesy animal metaphors, these hopeful desires are now your sprinting sled dogs and – BOOM! – you’re straightaway down the first stretch of the Iditarod, the epic annual Alaskan race. MUSH!


These might be dogs from Scott Janssen's team / Flickr user Frank Kovalchek, Flickr creative commons

These might be dogs from Scott Janssen’s team / Flickr user Frank Kovalchek, Flickr creative commons

Paradigm shift! What does discipline look like now? Power. You’ve got the engine, the sled dogs, the hopeful desires. Your job is harness that power, to create the habits and routines that become the tow lines, riggings, and sled that hang on for dear life while the dogs run you on towards victory. Your job is to train them, to trust them, but then just to hold on! MUSH!


I pray for discipline. God hasn’t (yet) recruited Gordon Bombay to rile me each day, stirring my Mighty Ducks to a more consistent fitness regimen, prayer routine, eating habits or planning, but I think I’ve got something better: hopefuldesires. Moving past coaches, moving past guilt, what kind of habits can hope build?

We’re bringing 90’s discipline back – will you choose Sisyphus or the sled dogs? Hint: Always trust the cheesy animal metaphor.


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