Remembering what you want


Scott Robertson_WEBcolorBy Scott Robertson

Years ago I worked as a radio announcer at a small AM station in Southwest Virginia. It was not a job I should have kept for long, to be honest. But in retrospect, I was long on the desire to hear my own voice and short on ambition.

Still, I was fortunate to work in the same building as Winnie Quaintance, the very successful, now-retired former sales manager at Bristol Broadcasting Co., (WXBQ et al), and a woman I greatly admire. Winnie had on her office wall a framed quote attributed to David Campbell, founder of Sak’s Fifth Avenue: “Discipline is remembering what you want.”

I love it when someone can distill an important concept into very few words. Most of us, I’d say, could benefit from having the concept of discipline play a more important role in our lives.

Campbell’s quote takes for granted a couple of assumptions. For one, it presupposes that one actually has some long-term ambition – something worth wanting.

Before I went into radio, I worked at Waldenbooks with a young man named Ross. He was the most laid-back soul I have ever met. Ross sold books during the day, then, as often as not, went home, played guitar and smoked more pot than Cheech and Chong at a Willie Nelson concert. I once asked Ross what he really wanted out of life. He paused for a few moments, furrowed his brow and said, “I’d kinda like to have a Fiero.”

Ross needed less discipline than most because he had less ambition than most. The two traits fed each other. For all I know, when that store closed a few years back, Ross was still there, dusting shelves and daydreaming of his someday Fiero, but not too much.

Campbell’s quote also takes it for granted that you believe you deserve what you want. Just like “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is of less value if you don’t first love yourself, “remembering what you want” is of less value if you don’t really believe you should go after it.

If you’ve read this space for more than a month (thank you), you know I’ve been working on my own physical fitness of late. Turns out there’s nothing easy or convenient about it. Healthier food costs more, and is not available from drive-thru windows at every major intersection. Running shoes aren’t cheap. Going to the gym is a chore.

But discipline is remembering what you want.

I want to live longer, and to be better able to enjoy the process. So I deal with the inconvenience and the expense and I walk on, replacing Little Debbie cakes with apples and pizza with salad.

I must admit I’m new to the idea of real discipline as an everyday lifestyle choice, but I want to recommend to you a chance to hear from someone who isn’t.

She’s another woman I am coming to respect a great deal, Brittney Ezell, ETSU women’s basketball head coach. I haven’t had much of a chance to deal with Coach Ezell on a one-to-one basis, but she’s an impressive individual, even from afar.

What put me over the top as a member of the Ezell fan club was a press release ETSU sent out Monday. It has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with discipline.

According to the release, Ezell will be one of six speakers at the ETSU “Be Money Smart” event tomorrow, April 16, in Sherrod Library room 309, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Ezell will be lead off the financial literacy event, speaking on the topic of “Ultimate Goals vs. Instant Gratification.” That sounds to me a lot like “Remembering What You Want.”

Ezell is quoted in the release, saying, “I’m not a financial guru by any stretch of the imagination, and I don’t claim to have all the answers about the management of money, but I do know about sacrifice, goal setting and avoiding instant gratification in decision making. All of those principles serve people well in a multitude of life’s disciplines, including financial management.”

Preach it, coach, preach it.

Ezell intertwines discipline with education. It’s a shame we can’t clone her, but at least we can hold her up as an example to a region where some still see ambition as a vice.

I would add to Campbell’s quote: Discipline is remembering what you want. Success comes from maintaining the discipline to stay the course until you attain what you want.

Kudos to those in our community, like Winnie Quaintance and Brittney Ezell, who recharge our ambition, renew our confidence, and remind us to push past easily attained temptations – and to go get what we really want.


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