The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was founded shortly after the State of Israel was established in 1948. It ranks among the most battle-tested and highly-trained armed forces in the world. The IDF’s security objectives are to defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the State of Israel; deter all of Israel’s enemies; and, curb all forms of terrorism which threaten daily life.
Serving in the IDF is mandatory for all Israeli citizens both men and women, you join the military when you turn 18. Israel is the only country in the world with a mandatory military service requirement for women. Women serve two years, man serve three years.
At the age of 18, many teens around the world finish high school and transition to their joyful life in college.
Serving the military at that young age forces you to obtain discipline, take responsibility and learn the system. In your early days (at bootcamp) you spend time learning Krav Maga and training at the shooting range, instead of studying for exams and drinking at the neighborhood bar.
Instead of having a college graduation ceremony, you have a weapon swearing-in ceremony.
Though it has always been outnumbered by its enemies, the IDF maintains a qualitative advantage by deploying advanced weapons systems, many of which are developed and manufactured in Israel for its specific needs. The IDF’s main resource, however, is the high caliber of its soldiers.
At the end of the day, to run a smooth organization, the IDF relies on the discipline of its soldiers and a working system.
“Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another.” George Washington, general orders, Jul. 6, 1777
Becoming an entrepreneur means creating something pretty much out of nothing. The business begins and ends with you. While that can sound pretty awesome, it also means you have little guidance. You have to create the map, the directions to get there and the destination. It’s easy for doubt to creep in.
In order to stay motivated and find order in the chaos – you have to develop discipline and put systems in place, so you can run your startup more efficiently and reach milestones faster.
Examples: IDF Bootcamp
Discipline and Systems
I remember my first day in the bootcamp of the IDF, where you stand with other soldiers in a row with your hands behind your back.
The commander yells at everyone to put their hands in a diamond shape behind their back above the belt line. You just put your hand behind your back with one hand on top of the other, “who cares how my hands are set, I did what they asked, put my hands behind my back”.
Well, if your hands are not set in a perfect diamond shape above the belt line, the commander starts screaming at you to put them in a perfect diamond shape and doesn’t leave you alone until you do.
At that moment, you truly learn how fucked you are for the next few months, and what attention to details is all about ☺.
Establishing good systems requires attention to details and discipline. It’s not easy at first, but then as you get used to it, it becomes second nature and an unbeatable competitive advantage.
When you are in the bootcamp, the schedule is very strict. I remember we had a schedule for everything: morning wake up, breakfast, morning training, learning, gun cleaning, etc. If you are even one minute late to any of the sessions, you and your entire troop gets the blame and is yelled at by the commender. You learn to be accountable and plan your time — to be on time.
As an entrepreneur, since you are the one who sets your tasks and schedule, it’s very easy to get distracted and surrender to different temptations during the day. It doesn’t help you accomplish your tasks, and causes procrastination.
You have to train yourself to be your own commander, so each day you can complete the tasks you set for yourself.
- Create a list each day for the tasks you want to accomplish and prioritize them. Look at your list during the day to mark off the tasks you already completed, and the ones that you still need to work on. Make sure to create a new list at the end of each day, to get yourself ready for the next day.
- Establish hours for work and for rest. Since as an entrepreneur you work all the time and don’t have defined 9am-5pm, it’s important to create a daily time frame and hold yourself accountable to it.
- Write down your ideas. As entrepreneurs we have awesome ideas come to us when we least expect them (driving, showering, in the restroom). Try to record them at the first opportunity you get. It’s very easy to get distracted when something else comes up and that cool idea that you just had a minute ago suddenly slipped your mind.
When you feel lazy at times and want to cut yourself some slack, remember this quote: “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.” — Jim Rohn
When you receive a weapon in the bootcamp, you have to ‘own’ it. Be responsible for it 24/7. Which means you are required to always have it in your sight. When you go to sleep you hide it under your bed, when you go to shower you take it with you and put it just outside the shower. You develop a habit of thinking about it and keeping track of it, it becomes your “precious.” It’s a lesson in responsibility and it trains you to always be prepared.
As an entrepreneur, your product is “precious”. When you are building it, you have a responsibility for creating the best possible product you can and be prepared to adjust to feedback. It’s important to know that if it’s a consumer facing product, you want your users to develop a habit of using it.
Which means that you should look closely at habit-forming mechanisms. Personally I like to follow Nir Eyal’s blog Nir & Far.
By Nir’s system, a product needs to have an experience that is designed to connect a user’s problem to the product’s solution with enough frequency to form a habit. The system has these four basic steps:
A trigger, an action, a reward and an investment.
If you train your team to pay attention to those mechanisms, it will become easier to recognize what works and adjust functionality to increase engagement and retention.
Customer Service and Feedback Loop
As your customers use your product (say it’s an app), you want to maintain a system to stay top-of-mind with them.
Sending emails on a regular basis with clear, concise communication is a great way to keep your users in the loop and make them feel updated with the product’s and the company’s latest news. It develops trust.
Asking for feedback is also great for customer service — you let your users know you care about what they have to say and at the same time you learn about their needs to better enhance your product.
The mechanism for that is pretty straight-forward; if it’s a mobile app, have a Send Feedback screen. Make sure the emails are received by you or someone on your team who can respond quickly. If you receive an issue from a user, make sure to solve it fast. If it’s a suggestion, make sure to reply with a thank you. If you can send over some sort of a perk like a t-shirt or any other swag, it will hold some serious wow factor for that user, and it will go a long way to increase your word of mouth.
The magic is in the details. Remember, if you have an opportunity for a conversation with your users, you have a chance to delight them! If you do, you’ll spread good karma and strengthen the awesomeness of your brand.
Be disciplined. Put systems in place. Be the leading soldier in your own [startup] army.