Discipline seems to have a Ying and Yang orientation to it.
For instance, to be good at something you need to practice. It takes discipline
to learn something because you not only have to practice it, which takes
energy, you have practice it with focus on a particular improvement.
Memorization is an example. Everyone, either to their delight or their dismay,
can remember going over the multiplication tables in grade school: 5 times 5 is
25, 5 times 6 is 30, so on. Or it might be dribbling a soccer ball and you just
run with it to increase your endurance while maintaining touch with the ball.
But simply practicing only makes you good, not great. So what makes you great?
Creativity. Once someone masters the basics, two paths usually unfold. One is
that the person wants to become superb at running the practiced routines faster
and faster. But the other path is that the person gets very comfortable with
their ability and begins to tweak the practiced routine. I once watched a soccer
game where a player drove the ball to the baseline and began to take the ball
to the goal. This is the practiced play, but the defender played the ball
handler very aggressively. The ball handler merely retreated back toward the
sideline and allowed the defender to continue to play up close. At a certain
point, the ball handler suddenly stopped, pivoted on the ball and completely
turned around, going back toward the goal. This wasn’t a practiced play. It was
a very surprising move to the defender who was now completely out of the play.
No goal was scored, but you can tell that the defender learned to respect the
ball handler beyond the normal practiced routines. Also, more scoring
opportunities presented themselves throughout the match because of the move.
Why do I mention the Ying Yang of discipline?
Because it seems to be happening in regards to outsourcing in the US. In an
article in the New York Times by Steve Lohr titled “At I.B.M., a Smarter Way to
Outsource” Lohr talks about the fact that rules based jobs are doing very well
in places like India. The education and training there produces people that can
do jobs that require lots of practice. This is the path where someone wants to
be superb at doing the routines faster and faster. As the work becomes more
commoditized, the problems that people face become more complicated and less
about the known rules. Frank Levy, a labor economist at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology is quoted as saying “People are doing more custom
work that varies case by case.” The end result is that people with the skills
to advance beyond the rules and get creative, have an advantage in this day of
outsourcing. So much advantage, that Tata Consultancy Services, an Indian firm,
is hiring US based personnel to fill this skill gap for them.
On more thought on this. One of the 20th
century’s greatest minds was Albert Einstein. He, according to a column written
by Thomas Friedman called “China Needs an Einstein. So Do We” was able to do
the work he did, not by just knowing the current physics, math, and logic, but
by using his imagination and creativity to see something that wasn’t already
known. One of the hardest things to do in this world is come up with a unique
thought. Most good ideas are cobbled together from other ideas. But what
Einstein did was remarkable because no one had that thought and the ability to
see it through like he did. Just like the soccer player, they each deviated
from their discipline to come up with something greater, but neither could have
done so, without the discipline in the first place.