Chapter Reveal: ‘Going From Undisciplined to Self-Mastery: Five Simple Steps to Get You There’ by Harris Kern

self-mastery-198x300Genre: Non-Fiction

Author: Harris Kern

Publisher: Koehler Books

Amazon

Going from Undisciplined to Self-Mastery is not a clone of all the other self-help books in the marketplace today. It is the proof not the hype. This book, based on hundreds of successful case studies featuring people from all walks of life, facilitated by the author’s life coaching and organization performance mentoring business to give them the discipline they needed to overcome the issues the author dubbed as The Dirty Dozen:

  • Severe procrastination
  • Failed goals
  • No motivation
  • No sense of urgency
  • Disorganized
  • Lack of structure
  • Not focused
  • Not managing sleep optimally
  • Poor performance
  • Poor time management
  • Lack of energy
  • Inconsistency

The author’s business focuses on helping people and organizations achieve self-mastery.

A key component for a successful life is acquiring discipline. The author believes that self-mastery is the defining element in your life. With it. you can achieve almost anything; without it you will struggle to exist.

To reach a level of self-mastery you first need to develop your self-discipline, by learning how to overcome The Dirty Dozen. The Five Steps you’ll need to take are:

  • Institute Structure
  • Prioritize Your Life
  • Manage Time
  • Hold Yourself Accountable
  • Seek Perfection

The author not only mentors his clients using these principles but he has actually been practicing what he preaches for more than four decades.

Foreword 

I was contacted by Roger Bengtsson after he searched the Internet using the keywords self-discipline and mentor. He sent me the following email:

“I’m not proud about my self-discipline lately. Too much television, no regular sleep rhythm, and so on. I’m ashamed. Not long ago I had self-discipline and I felt fine and I probably had my best days in life. And now, back to zero again. No goals, no hunger for a new day.”

He had other challenges:

  • Severe procrastination
  • Slept too much—nine-to-ten hours
  • Wasted two-to-three hours lounging around in bed every day
  • No motivation
  • No sense of urgency
  • Not energetic

His career was going nowhere. He was a security guard in Sweden. At the age of  forty-two his life seemed pretty dismal. His only consolation—he wasn’t alone. Most people I meet have very little, if any, self-discipline. No matter how intelligent or creative someone is, without being disciplined it is almost impossible to excel in life.  That’s why the self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar gold mine. So-called experts know that very few people become successful just by reading a book, listening to motivational audios or attending a seminar on success.

Roger was no different; he read several self-help books and was constantly listening to audios for inspiration,  everything he tried was a short-term fix. He needed more than canned advice. He needed a mentor who walks-the-talk, has a time-tested process and who could hold him accountable for his daily routines. He needed a roadmap—not a lecture.

Although we lived on different continents, I felt that I could turn his life around. This book is designed to take you on a similar journey from being an undisciplined casualty of bad habits, like Roger had been, into a master of your own fate. It will walk you through the time-proven five steps needed to become more productive and enthusiastic about life. These easy-to-follow steps you’ll take on this journey will help you develop the self-discipline you’ll need in order to live the rest of your life in a constant state of high level enthusiasm and purpose. Once you master all five of these steps, you will be able to combat the top issues affecting many people in the world today—I refer to them as The Dirty Dozen:

  • Severe procrastination
  • Failed goals
  • No motivation
  • No sense of urgency
  • Disorganized
  • Lack of structure
  • Not focused
  • Not managing sleep optimally
  • Poor performance
  • Poor time management
  • Lack of energy
  • Inconsistency

Even though this may seem like quite a list, really it’s just the tip of a very large iceberg. Individuals the world over are struggling every day to do more with less.

For your benefit, this book is divided into three major sections.

  • The first section is an Executive Overview. It highlights all Five Steps with simple flow diagrams and brief descriptions.
  • The second section describes the Five Steps in detail.
  • The third section highlights The Proof not the hype to help individuals and organizations get structured by featuring:

─   Easy to-follow process flow diagrams of the five steps.

─   Case studies from dozens of one-on-one life coaching sessions and actual organization consulting engagements from Fortune 500 companies.

─   Multiple examples and exercises to help you get proficient in time management.

─   Exercises to help you train your mind to hold yourself accountable.

In the event you are wondering just who would buy this book consider the following.

  • Every dieter, who can’t stick to a plan,
  • Everyone who wants to get into shape, but lacks the motivation,
  • Every college student going out into the world for the first time,
  • Every job seeker looking for that edge,
  • Sales managers who want to get more out of their team,
  • Real estate agents who need to remain disciplined through slow periods,
  • Companies that need to be more cost-effective,
  • Pretty much anyone or any organization that wants to be more productive.

Going from Undisciplined to Self-Mastery describes how to acquire the most important ingredient for optimal success in one’s lifetime: Discipline. Those who are willing to work hard to acquire discipline will not have aspirational roadblocks.

What does it look like? How does this system work? Here’s how we plotted a path for Roger.In the first half of the table below, I documented the actions taken to mentor Roger, and in the second half of the Table are the results attained from our one-on-one mentoring sessions.

Action Taken
1 I facilitated an assessment of Roger over SKYPE. I asked approximately one hundred questions covering every area of his personal and professional life. The first step was to understand his strengths, weaknesses and goals. Once I completed my discovery exercise, we reviewed my findings and discussed a strategy to move forward. After the evaluation we established three priorities: career, health and relationships (family and girlfriend).
2 I designed a strategy based on his goals and three new priorities. The strategy also included mentoring him to develop his self-discipline skills using the five steps highlighted in this book:

1.     Institute Structure

2.     Prioritize Your Life

3.     Manage Time

4.     Hold Yourself Accountable

5.     Seek Perfection

3 We established a new routine to help Roger be more productive. I wanted him to treat everyday equally. My objective was to eventually train his mind so he can hold himself accountable . The routine included:

  • Training seven days a week.
  • Writing thirty minutes a day.
  • Practicing English daily.
  • Following and maintaining his to-do list every day!
  • Maintaining structure throughout the day.
  • Reducing sleep time from nine hours a day to six.
  • Eliminate lounging in bed.
  • Wake up with a purpose.
  • Focus on daily milestones not his goals.
4 I continuously reminded him that it’s now or never, that the old Roger is dead and gone. He needed to quickly make up for the years of laziness. I wanted to instill a sense of urgency.
5 I made sure he created a to-do list each evening.
6 I held Roger accountable several times a day, even though he resided in Sweden, using SKYPE calls and email. We reviewed his milestones¾what worked and what didn’t work.
7 I trained him to follow the same routine, to-do list and constantly reminding him that he doesn’t want to go back to the lazy and unproductive Roger. We had many conversations throughout the week to ensure ongoing success.
Results
1 Roger is productive every day.
2 He trains each day.
3 Writes consistently, both blogs and books.
4 He holds himself accountable.
5 He makes every minute count.

·       No longer watches TV for hours at a time.

·       Doesn’t lounge around in bed.

·       Doesn’t procrastinate.

6 New goals are thoroughly planned with realistic milestones.
7 He’s always organized and clutter-free, which allows him to be creative and even more productive.

.

How it Started

My neighbor, Jim Jarman, was in his forties when I was thirteen. What a specimen: intelligent, handsome, exercised every day, great physique. I looked up to him.

On one of those typical warm summer California days, Jim was outside mowing the lawn with his shorts on and his shirt off. We would always be clowning around together, trading sarcasm. On this particular day, he said the five magic words to me that changed my life forever: “Harris, you look like shit.”  (As you can imagine, we were pretty good friends.)

I could tell immediately that he was serious. He was right; I knew it. At the time, I stood six feet tall and weighed 135 pounds.  If I turned sideways, you would not be able to see me. I was that skinny. It was a disgusting sight!

I looked at Jim and said that I knew it, but genuinely did not know what to do about it. I ate everything in sight but could never gain a pound. “Harris,” he said, “Eating massive amounts of food is not the way to approach your problem. Your body needs a major overhaul, and it doesn’t start with your mouth.” At thirteen, I did not understand what he was trying to tell me. How else do you gain weight?

“If you decide to follow my instructions to the letter than I will help you out.” I said sure, not having a clue as to what was forthcoming. “I want you here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after school. What time do you usually get home?” I get home at 3:45 p.m. each day. “Okay, on those three days, I want you at my house by 4:00 p.m., and don’t be a minute late. If you’re late, the deal is off—no second chances.”  This was Saturday, so we started that Monday.

I was really looking forward to my first session. Maybe, just maybe, I could obtain a body like his in no time.

What a rude awakening. He put me through hell! A very stern exercise program. What do I mean by stern? I mean three days a week of torture, always pushing me harder than the week before. There was weight training, running, swimming and most importantly lecturing me as we were exercising. He would always keep me focused on the exercise and our long–term objective. It was continuous badgering. There was no time or place for social talk.

He would also teach me not to rely on anyone for help. Why not? Is it not okay to rely on your friends occasionally? Not for acquiring Discipline. It is one hundred percent you and no one else. Athletes know that 80% is upstairs (in the mind), where it all starts, especially on those days that you’re too tired, or stressed out and not in the mood––that’s when you need to push yourself the most. He was training my mind more than my body, although I did not know it at the time.

Jim was like a drill sergeant. He was instilling me with Discipline. I figured if he was willing to give up his precious time to help me out, the least I could do was show up on time. Besides, after I agreed to do this, he actually dared me to quit or show up late. He tested me every day.

Looking back now, I realize what an illusory mind game this entire ordeal was. His tactic was very effective, scaring me into never being late. I did not know it back then, but he was training my mind, starting with the easiest form of Discipline: punctuality.

Do you realize how difficult it was for a thirteen-year old kid to pull this off? Think back in time to the number of distractions you had to constantly deal with as a young teen.  Yet I never missed a day.

Walking the Talk

There are many successful self-help gurus out there with many publications to learn from, however what sets me apart from the pack is the fact that I have walked the talk for decades and even now while in my sixties my passion to accomplish and excel is second-to-none.  For me, life ia sll about accomplishments and leaving behind a legacy.

I am highly successful and growing my legacy by leaps and bounds. My children and the love of my life Mayra are going to be the beneficiaries of more than just a hefty bank account. They will inherit prime real estate property and multiple businesses. They would also have a vast collection of books I authored in the family library and vivid photographs on the mantle to remember me by. In my mind, they would continue to abide by the morals their mother and I instilled in them. I also assumed they would adhere to the same top three priorities that I did  and continue to develop their self-discipline so they’d wake up every morning for the rest of their lives with a purpose. Just like their dear old dad, I wanted them to accomplish as much as possible every day. Faith, balance, and discipline would always be the catalyst for their own success.

Looking back over my sixty plus years of existence, there were plenty of major accomplishments to write home about. One of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that at the age of sixteen, I purchased, in cash, a brand spanking new car and paid for my own insurance. My disciplined mannerisms and tendencies manifested themselves at an early age. At the age of thirteen, I threw myself into the labor market with a vengeance.  I desired money and truckloads of it—quickly, especially after having netted approximately $700.00 in cash, checks and bonds and at my Bar Mitzvah in 1967.

To appease my never-ending hunger for money, I worked multiple jobs after school and on the weekends. There was no job big or small that I wouldn’t do; yard work, babysitting, delivering newspapers, filing brochures at a travel agency. At one time, I even worked at an auto junkyard pulling batteries from old clunkers. It was a dirty and dangerous job but someone had to do it. I’ll never forget the day that I pulled out a battery from a car right before it was being hoisted up for demolition. As I stood there and watched it being lifted by a crane, a large rattle snake fell out and scared me. That was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. I never went back after that.

These jobs were all performed between the ages of thirteen to sixteen, with one hundred percent of the income being deposited into my savings account. It was the only way I could purchase a new car by my sixteenth birthday. Growing up, I was mentored to be frugal and save money. My parents always used to tell me:“Never purchase small insignificant items like  records, beer, media paraphernalia, and knick-knacks at the mall. Forget all about the latest craze and  always eat at home.” Their sound advice has served me well throughout my entire life.

While other teen-aged boys were busy scamming for girls or getting into all kinds of trouble, I had already entered the corporate world. I was only eighteen years old when I accepted an entry level position in the Information Technology (IT) Department of a large company in the San Carlos California. Back in 1972, it was referred to as Data Processing and shortly thereafter as Management Information Systems (MIS). Removing the carbon sheets from computer generated printouts wasn’t exactly a glamorous job. Although it was a dirty job, it was the proverbial foot in the door that I needed to gain full admittance into the very exciting world of technology.

It was a full-time job, but I completed my duties in approximately five hours time. The rest of my day was spent helping out in other departments—learning, growing and striving to get on the management’s radar screen as a quick learner, efficient, and someone who had a ton of initiative. My goal was to be promoted out of that function as quickly as possible—the sooner, the better.  I had bigger fish to fry.

As long as I live, I’ll never forget what my dad said to me at an early age. “Son, if you rent an apartment or house it’s like flushing your hard-earned money down the toilet.” Needless to say, I took these words to heart. Living on my own became a goal of mine, one that turned into reality at the age of nineteen, when I purchased a home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My life changed drastically when I bought my first home without any financial help from anyone. It was a two-bedroom townhome about fifteen minutes south of San Francisco. I was scared to death of getting tied down to a mortgage at such a young age—it was nerve-racking to say the least. However, it was a fairly conservative strategy, putting down a larger down payment of 20 percent so the monthly payments wouldn’t strap me down. Investing in property at an early age was one of my smartest undertakings.  After two years, I sold it for a nice profit and moved to a nicer neighborhood.

After dabbling in real estate, I turned my focus to muscle cars. There were millions of nice muscle cars out there but I wanted to have so much more than just another fancy hot rod. What I yearned for was something wholly unique that would win “Best of Class” at all the premier car shows in the U.S. At the age of 21, my muscle car and matching speed boat were featured on the front cover of  the July 1975 issue of Hot Rod Magazine.

The top speed boat and muscle car with a matching maroon with flames paint job, which belonged to me, were showcased at the granddaddy of all car shows in Oakland, California. They won the top prize—best of show. I named the boat Dirty Harry and the car Sano SS. Winning “Best of Show” was the ultimate honor for the combo until I received a phone call from Hot Rod Magazine a few weeks later. A representative saw the car and boat at the car show and wanted to feature them in one of the magazine’s summer issues. Wow, what a great feeling when it hit newstands and stores in July of 1975. I’ll never forget driving in my award-winning muscle car to the lakes throughout California with matching speed boat in tow to water-ski. I made quite a spectacle cruising on the streets and highways.

Early on in my career, I knew that management was the right path to take. After all this is where the big bucks were along with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and character building challenges. Having good communication skills, always thinking strategically, possessing excellent leadership skills and being passionate about developing a highly efficient organization was my true calling. At the age of twenty-three, I was promoted to my first management position. From that point on, I climbed the corporate ladder at nearly a record-setting pace and went on to become Vice President of IT in my early thirties.

By the time I reached my 38th birthday in 1992, I was financially set—a multi-millionaire. One million dollars worth of equity in property and another cool million in cash constituted success for me, at the time. I invested wisely—mostly in property, worked hard, and never put all my eggs in one basket. I made it a point to make sure there was always a steady stream of income coming in several small consulting firms—just in case that big reduction in force happened.

In 1982, my corporate job of 10 years ended abruptly—everyone was given a pink slip, including yours truly. Being unemployed for the first time in my professional life was downright scary, but having a healthy savings account and multiple sources of income to pay the mortgage and living expenses for approximately two years eased the burden considerably. In a matter of a few months, I was recruited by a large Japanese electronics company in Silicon Valley.

Once I got back into the corporate world, my goal was for the name Harris Kern to become synonymous with IT and self-discipline.  At the time, based on my research, there were many one book wonders. But that wasn’t going to cut the mustard with me. I wanted an impressive bio that would clearly stand apart from the pack, which could also be used as my resume, one that would open up any door.

My first IT related book was published in 1994 by Prentice Hall and it quickly became a best-seller.  Shortly thereafter, the president of Prentice Hall called to congratulate me and he asked me, “When are you going to write another book?” Little did he know that my mind was already actively strategizing to write a series of IT management How-to books.

I was invited to attend a conference in 1997, which was facilitated by Prentice Hall in San Diego, California.. All of the top-level publishing executives  were in attendance, including my executive editor and his boss.  My objective was to get my own imprint of books named Harris Kern’s Enterprise Computing Institute. I presented my plan to them with conviction and they agreed. Over the next few weeks we worked out the contractual issues. The imprint published its first book in the series in 1997. It worked flawlessly with dozens of new books being published under my imprint on a regular basis. Overall, I published more than 40 books with Prentice Hall and a few other publishers as well. On the Richter scale of personal success, I considered myself to be a rock star as a management consultant, author, publisher, motivational speaker, and business/individual mentor.

What makes my recipe for life so wonderful is the way I live life as a process—with a philosophy for living.  I’ve had my share of hard times, disappointments and temporary setbacks. The way they’re handled really influence our ability to recover, move on and stay on track.  For me, Discipline is key.

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