Get Disciplined, Not Motivated

The Challenge

It’s hard to stay motivated day in and day out. There are days when I feel pulled in 42 different directions, I’m lethargic, my neck hurts, and I start to think “Is this worth it?” My subconscious starts building this defense that maybe I should remain working for someone else and staying the course. It’s not so bad. It’s certainly less stressful.

There are other days when I see others so much farther along. I observe my boss pitching a new client with ease and finesse, knowing nothing but the name of the guy he’s speaking to. I see a guy I went to college with on CNBC selling a drone that recites your day’s to do list to you while trimming your hair. My younger brother calls to tell me he’s just been promoted and is making more money than me. My subconscious re-emerges to tell me, “You can’t get to where they are. You’re too far behind. It’s not ever going to be enough.”


Motivation works against you. You wake up feeling energized and determined to control the day, and, almost in an instant, you realize you’ve let the day control you. In order to make motivation an ally, to keep your motivation always on your side, you have to achieve discipline. Without discipline, there’s no drive, there’s no ambition, and there’s certainly no motivation.

Depending on who you are, you can train yourself to be disciplined in a multitude of different ways. For me, my discipline is driven by my to-do lists. I’ll digress for a second with this quote by actor Ben Feldman.

“Goals aren’t enough. You need goals plus deadlines. Goals big enough to get excited about and deadlines to make you run. One isn’t much good without the other, but together they can be tremendous.”

This quote reminds me that your goals are nothing without a plan. That plan has become my discipline.

The Process

I begin each year, rather than with New Years Resolutions, with goals. I then break those goals up until quarters (deadlines). Each quarter, I have a manageable amount of goals I hope to accomplish. These are either baby steps towards a bigger goal, or the big kahuna staring me in the face telling me I must make it happen within the next 3 months. Then, at the beginning of each week, I write my personal goals for the week on a post-it note. This post-it note will be transferred onto each of my daily to-do lists for the week. My daily to-do list include tasks for, you know, my actual paying job. But that post-it note is always with me throughout my day, staring me in the face, challenging me to make things happen for myself as much as I make things happen for my company and clients. This week, that to-do list told me to write this blog. Mission accomplished.

There is nothing quite like crossing something off my to-do list. I think I might like the action of sliding a line through a bullet point more than actually accomplishing the goal.


The Success

This quarter, I had to accomplish a goal I had been dreaming about for at least five years. I wanted to be published in the Huffington Post. I had researched the process last year (within one of my quarterly tasks) and this year I was determined to make it happen. And this quarter, I accomplished that goal.

When I received the email saying my article would be published, it was a Monday morning and I was sitting in my office ready to take on another workweek. Instead, I became a child. I silently fist pumped onto my legs, squealing inside. I couldn’t believe that I had accomplished my goal. I was smiling for myself and myself alone. I did it. Of course, the accomplishment took motivation. It took determination, considering I had emailed editors a few times with no response. It took a timely, interesting pitch, one that came to me out of nowhere when I saw what a recent editor had written. It took passion, passion for the piece and passion for the goal. But ultimately, all these things would be nothing without discipline. The discipline it took to follow editors I related to. The discipline to write on others’ articles on a consistent basis to understand the tone and structure of the writing. And, ultimately, the discipline to achieve this goal on deadline.

Now, while this process may seem trivial, time consuming or confusing to you, it works too well for me – so well that I was actually impressed with myself (which doesn’t happen often). I am disciplined to deadlines and to-do lists. Without them, I lose motivation.

The next step

Now, it’s time to ask yourself – What drives your motivation? What part of your process needs discipline? How are you most encouraged? How are you motivated to work? Some people need a drill sergeant, some need an accountability coach, some just need personal time. Start with figuring out what will make you more disciplined. Once you’ve determined that, you’re ready to go for the goal.


Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill


Think and Grow Rich, written by Napoleon Hill, is considered to be a modern day classic that refers to the experiences of more than 500 affluent men throughout our country’s history. These experiences are used to justify the premise that, “If you think it, then you will become it.” Originally written in 1937, Hill provides a step-by-step process for developing the mindset for the pursuit of wealth and, in turn, receiving wealth. This ranges from using everything from desire and faith to processes and self-analysis, with justification from stories about men such as Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie. This book can be considered both a personal development and self-help book with a primary focus on achieving wealth.

think and grow rich

The Pro:

Considering this book was first published in the 1930s, it is quite interesting to read tactics and strategies on pursuing wealth that are still applicable in today’s technology-driven economy. It proves that the stories and experiences from great businessmen like Carnegie and Ford shouldn’t be taken for granted, as they have the ability to improve our business sense and mindset throughout our lifetimes. This proves that the concept and the stories told are true stories for the ages.


The Con:

This book was by no means an easy read. Although interesting at times, there were other moments that seemed to drown on. It is not a book you can read before bed, as it requires you to be alert and focused. Given its initial publishing date, the language is eloquent and lacks a conversational tone. It took me a significant amount of time to get through, but proved to be worthwhile.


Important Takeaways:

“There is nothing, right or wrong, which belief, plus burning desire, cannot make real.”

“Success comes to those who become success conscious”

“The real employer of the future will be the public.”

“Be sure that you are worth more than you now receive.”

“All negative thoughts serve as stimuli to your subconscious mind, unless, you master these impulses and give it more desirable food upon which it may feed.”

“Mind control is the result of self-discipline and habit.”



I give this book a B rating. To be honest, throughout the entirety of this book I did not enjoy reading it. It felt like more of a chore to get through than anything else. However, when I sat down to review my notes, I realized that I had actually gotten a substantial amount of insight out of the book. The book largely talks about the effect your subconscious mind has on you and your future and the process in which you can begin to control it. While this was a concept I was already familiar with, the steps in which to take control of your mind were very helpful and informative. This, paired with the stories from our country’s most famous businessmen, made you feeling inspired and hungry. While it is not a book I would necessarily read again, it is still one I would recommend given the overall value I was able to take out of it. I recommend for future readers to write down every line or section that you find helpful, as to keep those specific pieces top-of-mind without having to re-read the book in its entirety.


Year of Yes

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes


The Year of Yes is about just that – a pact that Shonda made with herself where she would say yes for an entire year. In this book, you get an inside look at Shonda Rhimes, the person, rather than Shonda Rhimes, the founder of TGIT. Shonda the person is internally confident but externally afraid. She has all the characteristics of a writer, but lacks those of a creator and executive producer of some of the nation’s favorite guilty pleasures including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. As you learn about Shonda’s internal conflicts you, in turn, watch her fight through them due to her Year of Yes. During this year, Shonda sees how her life changes by accepting opportunities rather than running from them.

year of yes shonda rhimes

The Pro:

The book will make you feel connected with Shonda Rhimes but will also inspire you to get out of your own way and follow a path to success (ideally like Shonda, but realistically more like the climb from secretary to assistant director). It will open your eyes to the possibilities that come with taking advantage of opportunities. The book will give you a sense of guidance to becoming more focused and willing to succeed. With that, you also build a type of relationship with Shonda, as if she’s one of us. Shonda’s rationale behind always saying ‘no’ to the things that scared her is what makes this witty yet heartbreaking memoir so humanizing and relatable, while also making you love Shonda even more.

The Con:

With someone as successful and creative as Shonda, being a writer myself, I wished I had gotten a bit more of advice from her. Maybe some tips on how she got started in her career or any type of advice for reader’s who look up to her. The book is classified as a biography and, although it does give an overview on her past experiences and accomplishments, we really only get a thorough glimpse of her Year of Yes. This book is not at all a business book, but more of a self-help book written by one of the world’s best.

Important Takeaways:

“The only obstacle to your success in your own imagination.”

“Standing around like Wonder Woman in the morning can make people think you are more amazing at lunchtime.”

“I am not a person who can see a problem and not solve it. But I don’t mean that in a “heroic Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus” way. I mean it in a sad, control-freak “The toast crusts must be cut off to the same exact millimeter measurement every time” way.”

“No matter how hard a conversation is, I know that on the other side of that difficult conversation lies peace.”


As long as you don’t have the expectations of learning something tangible in terms of career or advice, this book is A+. Shonda is one of us. She’s insecure, she doesn’t always say the right thing, she struggles with friendships and relationships and, best of all, she doesn’t take it back. This is the type of book you won’t want to put down. It’s a quick, easy read that will give you the nudge you need to accept the opportunities in your life while also learning a lot about the woman behind TGIT. I would recommend this book to any woman in any industry. If you’re not a Shonda Rhimes fan yet, you will be after this book.

You can see how this book affected me in my Letter to Shonda (still anxiously awaiting her response).



Steps For How to (Try to) Figure Out Your Life

giana pacinelli

When I first graduated college, I had a major quarter-life crisis. I had enough experience to get me through three careers – but yet I didn’t know what path would get me to the one I loved.

I have always wanted to have a career, not just a job, so to not know the answer to such an important question crushed me. It was at this time that my mentor very easily stopped me from drowning in depression. If I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I needed to prepare to get the job I wanted – whenever I decided what that was. He gave me a list of books to read, had me answer specific interview questions, fine tune my elevator pitch and, best of all, he gave me a purpose. The most helpful tool he provided to me, and one that I pass on to my friends who are still stuck in jobs while looking for careers, was a simple excel spreadsheet.

If you don’t have Excel – grab an old-school piece of paper. Draw 4 lines down the page and one across the top to create headlines.

On the top of each column, make a list in this order:

  • What do I love to do?
  • What kinds of job let me do what I love to do?
  • What industries are these jobs in?
  • What companies have these jobs?
  • Who in that company has a job that I want?

The first column is going to be the easiest and also the most important. Write down everything you can think of that excites you and motivates you. I literally wrote down “express my opinions.” Envision your ideal workplace – the environment, the people, the day-to-day tasks – and list them here.

The next few sections take a bit of research, but the research is eye opening. If you’re not sure which jobs entail what you’re envisioning, look up “random job title” and “job description.” This exercise is where LinkedIn will become your best friend, especially if you’re looking for companies in specific areas of the world.

career goals

The most fun part of this exercise for me was finding the people in said companies with the jobs I wanted. If you’re getting exciting looking at stranger’s responsibilities at their job, that’s when you know you’ve found the job for you.

What’s more, my mentor suggested I actually reach out to these people in these jobs – not to get hired but to get knowledge. Ask them how they got to where they are, what they like about it and what they don’t like. Everyone has a story to tell and it is truly remarkable how many “too busy” executives want to find the time to bestow knowledge on younger generations. They may not have time to help you get a job, but they do have time to talk about themselves. And we all know knowledge is power.

Now, I’d love to tell you that after completing this exercise I was ready to begin my career. Unfortunately, I quickly ditched my spreadsheet and ventured off to NYC for what I assumed was my dream job.

Four months in, it was time to pull out the spreadsheet once again. This exercise is not one you do once and throw away. On average, Americans will change jobs more than 11 times in their lifetime. We are constantly changing as people and as a society and thus, what we “love to do” will change just as much. The second time I pulled out my handy worksheet, albeit less than a year later, it was interesting how much I had already changed. Since getting adjusted in the workforce in my first real job, I had a better idea of what was important to me in my next place of work.

When I got to the final section of my second worksheet, I had a few people to call. One of them ended up giving me a job, a job that I loved…until I didn’t.

I suggest keeping this worksheet each time you create it and watch how your interests evolve. Don’t get frustrated. Trust the process. It’s amazing what you can come up with when you devote the time to dissecting your own self.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with this exercise! I don’t expect this tool to be the secret to success – but I am always looking for ways to improve it. Please feel free to email me.

SKIRTS in the Boardroom

SKIRTS in the Boardroom by Marshawn Evans


This book utilizes the real-time examples of author Marshawn Evan’s full life – student, lawyer, sports marketer, consultant, Apprentice winner and motivational speaker, to name a few. Marshawn explains how to be a SKIRT in a man’s boardroom. SKIRT as an acronym for – Sisterhood, Knowledge, Integrity, Respect, Tenacity and Substance. The book is as empowering as it is knowledgeable as Marshawn breaks the book into sections of how to breed success – from attitude and communication to commitment and clarity. At the end of each chapter, Marshawn summarizes the chapters’ main points and provides a short exercise to apply what you read into your own life.

giana pacinelli

The Pro:

  • You are learning from an unbelievably experienced leader in a wide variety of industries – and she’s a woman. You believe in what Marshawn is speaking because it has clearly worked. While some chapters mirror topics you touched on in undergrad or in a masters program – some people have experienced neither, and can still be successful! For me, some things I read I already practice. That didn’t make me bored, that made me proud. It was very validating. While Marshawn’s career is relatable to few, the tone in which she speaks forces you to feel a connection with her. As if you have the potential to be like her as well – if you practice what she’s preaching. What better business book is there?


The Con:

  • While I am all feminist and a bag of chips – I felt like some of Marshawn’s lines were a little exaggerated and over the top. It was sometimes so “I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR” it made what she was saying less authentic.
  • The other slight issue I had was the exercises at the end of the chapter. Now, I definitely agree with applying what you learn. And it makes absolute sense for her to leave these exercises at the end of each chapter. If she left it all for the end, it would be took overwhelming and you would’ve forgotten a lot of the material. But most people are not reading this book in their bed with a pad and paper within arm’s reach. If you are looking to expand your business knowledge, you may be reading like I was – on my hour lunch break to “relax.” I didn’t have time to review what I had read and dig deep into my soul. I did go back and do the exercises – but after I had finished reading and throughout a few days. Hey, at least I devote an hour to reading!


Important Takeaways

“You may be in business for yourself, but you will never be in business by yourself.” 

“You wouldn’t let someone else spend your money – don’t let someone else spend your time.”

“It’s about how well you know ‘who you know,’ what the ‘who you know’ say about you and how much the ‘who you know’ trusts you.”

“It’s not what you do one day to create a personal brand; it’s what you do every day.”

“If a woman can raise a family, singlehandedly prepare a Thanksgiving dinner fit for a king and run a household she can run a corporation and still have time to get her nails done.” 


I give this book an A-. It’s not necessarily a book I think I could read again but it is definitely a book worth reading and a book I would recommend (and I also wouldn’t mind meeting the author). It sustained my interest, taught me a lot and motivated me even more. It realigned me with my convictions and my goals and gave me that push on the butt that we all need every now and then to remember where we’re headed and why. Again, what better kind of business book is there?