Francis Kong disciplines over 2,000 willing and enthusiastic people

A new call for discipline and grit. (Photo by Hector Landaeta, taken from

By Anthony O. Alcantara

I know it sounds ridiculous. But that is the truth. Over 2,000 people even paid good money just to have Francis Kong discipline them. They practically begged Francis to do it. I was one of them.

Of course, we are not masochists, and I think Francis Kong is not a gleeful and eager sadist either. His seminar, held at the SMX, was titled “Winning Disciplines for Success.” If you look up the etymology of the word discipline, it comes from the Latin disciplina, which means teaching, learning.

So in that sense, discipline is not so bad. Francis certainly laments the negative connotation of the word. And yet discipline, he says, is what we need to succeed.

There are certain highlights that I would like to share, along with my thoughts. Some of what he said was really funny and insightful at the same time, but I won’t mention them here because it’s best to listen to him instead, if you have the chance.

It’s all right

Francis said right behaviors come from right thinking. Right thinking comes from right concepts. Right concepts come from right ideas. We know this already, but some reminders, especially for some high school students in the audience, are needed.

One idea he mentioned is the idea of retirement. I’ve written my thoughts on retirement before, and how it doesn’t appeal to me. Here’s Francis take on the idea: “Good people do not retire. They re-fire.” I love that. Indeed people don’t have to retire at all. They can always find meaningful and productive things to do.

He also showed us a video clip of a TED talk by Joachim de Posada on delayed gratification. De Posada thinks it is the “most important factor for success”. Here’s the link: (7.15 minutes).

The studies went like this: An experimenter is alone with a 6-year-old in a room. A tasty-looking marshmallow is placed on a table or plate. The experimenter tells the kid that he or she will be left alone in the room for a few minutes because the experimenter needs to take care of a few things. “If you don’t eat the marshmallow, you will get two when I get back.”

Yummy marshmallows

Because of this strong tendency of marshmallows to get into kids’ mouths, most of the marshmallows didn’t survive. Some kids, however, resisted the strong urge to eat the marshmallows. Years later, the kids were tracked down, and, voila, those who exhibited self-control were more successful in terms of grades and other achievements.

I don’t know if Francis knows about the studies of Harvard researcher Angela Duckworth, who found out that self-discipline is only part of the story of success.

You can watch her TED talk here: (18.38 minutes). If you haven’t seen this yet, I encourage you to take a look and let me know what you think.

Duckworth said the other more important factor is “grit”. She defined it as “sustained passion and perseverance.” She said it is necessary for “high-level achievement”.

Grit is it

This reminds me of novelist Haruki Murakami, whose book on running I recently read, and who I think exhibits unwavering grit. Grit, I believe, is also the reason for Francis Kong’s success. After all, he said he has a “PhD”, “Passing high school with difficulty”.

In any case, Duckworth’s video is a nice complement to De Posada’s.

Francis also said creativity is important. For him, the three most important people in business were Henry Ford, who was a consummate entrepreneur, Thomas Edison, who was a brilliant inventor, and Steve Jobs, who was a combination of entrepreneur and inventor. Steve Jobs had the mindset of an artist.

One thing I like about Francis’s seminar was that he invited other speakers to share ideas about discipline.

Jeric and Paul Soriano talked about the creative discipline, the creative mindset. Jeric, the director of the movie Hotshots long ago and who now directs commercials, proposed three steps:

1. Change the way you think.
2. Change the way you speak.
3. Change the way you react.

Words have power

He elaborated on the power of words, saying that we mainly use words to think. Coming from a director, it was unexpected, at least for me. I thought he’d say people think in pictures.

“When you hear words, pictures are being developed,” he said. I agree. But still, we do think in pictures. When we were babies we had no words so we thought in pictures, and also smells, feelings, sounds, Elmo, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

It was only later on that we used words. But yes, words pack a lot of power and we should use them to program our mental “software”, as Jeric said in the seminar.

And as for Paul, Jeric’s son and the boyfriend of Toni Gonzaga, he presented an interesting equation:

Your creativity (IDEA) + passion + heart + soul + body + desire = MAKING IT HAPPEN

Outrunning your doubts

Indeed he knows how to make things happen. He created the film Thelma, an inspirational movie about an impoverished young girl whose quick feet led her to national and international running competitions, and out of poverty. She outran obstacles and difficulties and self-doubts.

At first no one would support Paul. “Why is it that people would watch Petrang Kabayo and Praybeyt Benjamin but not something inspirational?” he said.

So he took matters into his own hands. He became director, producer and co-writer of the film, much like how Bruce Lee would do it. International audiences liked the movie, and they wept, according to Paul.

Sportscaster and former national tennis player Dyan Castillejo was also one of the speakers. She talked about physical discipline. The key take-away from her speech was the power of routines.

Routines, rather than discipline

She didn’t like to call it discipline because of the negative connotation of the word. Routines are somehow less daunting. So if you want to make exercise a part of your life, make it part of your routine. Schedule it. Make exercise as natural as brushing your teeth, or taking a bath.

And take your exercise equipment with you. Dyan brings barbells wherever she goes. I wouldn’t go that far though.

To wrap up this article, just a few more ideas from Francis.

He talked about intellectual, emotional, and spiritual disciplines. Intellectual discipline is simple. Francis said we should read and listen and expose ourselves to things that expand our intellect, things that enhance our creativity.

For emotional discipline, he said we should develop two things: confidence and people skills. He quoted a Stanford survey that revealed success is 87% people skills and only 13% product knowledge.

No wonder smooth-talking idiots can become millionaires. But seriously, it’s not all about  talents.

Change the world

And as for spiritual discipline, Francis reminds us of our spiritual nature, saying, “Don’t just make a difference in this world; make this world different!”

That’s it for now. I was supposed to include ideas from the speech of Butch Jimenez, the Retail Business Group Head and HR Group Head of PLDT. But I’ll have a separate article for that. You’ll know why.

In all, I believe discipline and, much more importantly, grit, can help us make a different world.



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