I started watching “Crown” on Netflix a few weeks ago, a drama about Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family. The fact that Bill Gates is a big fan of it intrigued me. I just completed up to Series 2 (there are 4 series in total as of now). I felt Bill Gates might have been comparing himself to the Queen because he is now a retired founder of Microsoft, who does not have any effective authority over the company decisions.
One thing that struck me in this drama was the extraordinary self-discipline of the Queen. Many British people, including my mother-in-law, describe her as a stoic person. Queen Elizabeth in Crown is not super smart, equipped with any professional skills, or beautiful. Among all characters of the royal family who are perhaps better than her in many aspects, the Queen is the only one who consistently acted on principles.
I know many other stoic and disciplined people, namely Marvin Bower and Mahatma Gandhi. One common trait of these people is that most of them are neither the smartest nor the most pleasing. In fact, I have never seen those who are both super-smart and super-disciplined; many disciplined people often seem to be dull. I need to contemplate the reason, but my current hypothesis is that acting on principles requires deep thinking, and that kind of thinking cannot be compatible with being quick-witted.
Their incomparable charisma comes from their self-discipline. Yangmingism, a Neo-Confucianism, claimed the same thing. It says, when you overcome yourself, the world will follow you. This “overcoming yourself” is not only about perseverance or grit but also about being detached from ego, selfishness, stubbornness, among others.
You can’t fool many people over a long period. One’s consistency and sincerity to her/his jobs and mission become evident when you keep looking at them. Most people cannot be that disciplined, and thus they are touched when you see these disciplined people. In other words, being self-disciplined is a source of influence.
When an organization’s future is at stake, people want to entrust the task to the self-restrained and disciplined rather than the brightest because they are more likely to do the right thing. Besides, these people are quite often surrounded by the right and brilliant people. I am still very far from that, but I hope to be such a person.