Self-discipline is difficult to teach, but easy to inspire in children under the right conditions. I think back to my time in junior high and high school, and I was incredibly driven because I had a firm foundation of discipline.
This was not always the case for me. I remember in 4th and 5th grade, choosing to not read my books until the last minute, and then frantically flipping through pages the morning of, finishing maybe half of the reading and then taking the test. Eventually I had to learn that this would not work out for me.
My parents did a great job of identifying my brother’s and my interests early on and exploring them with us. For Justin, initially it was the military, so we went to West Point. For me, it wasn’t so clear cut. I knew I wanted to be the leader, and my parents worked hard to provide me with examples of great leadership. They also encouraged me to take on leadership positions at school. Because they exposed me to what it would take to reach my goals early on, I had a dream towards which to work and a clear idea of what I needed to do to reach it.
I'm not saying that a child should identify his career before junior high, but I do believe that identifying the child’s dreams and communicating the stakes of meeting those dreams will in turn instill a drive and an aspect of self-discipline that might not have previously existed.
All throughout high school we toured colleges, we competed, we were exposed to real life challenges, and it made me hungry for the life of a career woman. Once I had this idea in my head about what I wanted to be and how I could get there, I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way. My parents didn’t make this decision for me, but they opened the door for me to be able to make this decision for myself. They exposed me to many situations that some parents might not have, but it made me want to do whatever I could do to be successful. Now, as I begin my adult life, working in downtown Chicago, I'm still working towards the dream I had as a high school student touring colleges and experiencing vast opportunities. I will always credit those early experiences for the work ethic I have now.