A reader had written in to comment on my post on commanding your body despite the pain with his own story of his time in the military. I asked him to share his story with me — and with you. So here it is – a great piece by Gund from New Zealand.
When I left school, as a know-it-all 17 year old, it was compulsory to enlist for a year. I had a Sergeant Major who pretty much resembled Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. He was a hard man whose mum never washed his mouth with soap as a kid. In retrospect, he was a misunderstood man and his oppressive regiment was not designed to break us down (although some kids did), but to make us exacting and predictable machines. He shared some wisdom with us over that year which pretty much shaped my thinking in terms of discipline.
Only for the first night did I think I would have trouble getting up at 5am for a full inspection in subzero temperatures. Only on the first day did I think there was no way I’d run a 2.4 before and after each meal of the day. If you are the kind of person who rolls over each morning and hits ‘snooze’ so you can throw away another 10 minutes of opportunity, this man had a practice grenade he would casually throw into your dorm to help you see the light.
In retrospect, although he didn’t say it, everybody was capable of everything with just the right motivation. If you failed, it was because you didn’t want it bad enough. And he was just the guy to make you want to succeed, no matter what. He didn’t wave a bigger paycheck, success or promotion in front of his platoon, such as the luxuries that are freely available to you now, his approach was the opposite – he would make you really want to not fail, at all costs. In his mind, there was no option but to continue, he lived on a battlefield and everybody was going to make it.
I am sure that if every leader who goes into battle will promise himself that he will come out either a conqueror or a corpse he is sure to win. There is no doubt of that. Defeat is not due to losses but to the destruction of the soul of the leaders.
The most vital quality a soldier can possess is SELF CONFIDENCE–utter, complete and bumptious. You can have doubts about your good looks, about your intelligence, about your self control but to win in war you must have NO doubts about your ability as a soldier.
In the excellent book Unleash the Warrior Within, former Navy SEAL Richard Machowicz explains a concept called “Advantage-Stacking”:
You want to stack so many advantages in your favor that, when the order comes, when the opportunity presents itself, you can’t help but win. Every successful person, whether they realize it or not, stacks advantages.
I love this concept. By incrementally improving various elements of yourself and your position, you can dramatically enhance your chances of success in whatever you’re trying to do. Here are a few ways you can stack advantages and win:
Commitment – How serious are you reaching this goal? Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to get the job done? A strong commitment is a powerful advantage.
Focus - Do you know exactly what you want or is it a more vague idea? Will you get distracted about other shiny objects? The more clear you are on exactly what you’re trying to achieve, the better.
Expertise – How much do you know about this domain/industry/practice? A deep level of knowledge and experience is a huge advantage against common/foolish mistakes and ignorant newcomers. Continue reading →
Sacrifice. Training. Bravery. Glory. General bad ass-ness.
I conceptually understand that Halo is just a video game and yet I really really love this video. Perhaps in part because a war against aliens is probably the purest moral war we can have. At least this alien war is.
“The Marine Corps’ style of warfare requires intelligent leaders with a penchant for boldness and initiative down to the lowest level. Boldness is an essential moral trait in a leader Initiative, the willingness to act on one’s own judgement, is a prerequisite for boldness. Not only must we not stifle boldness or initiative, but we must continue to encourage both traits in spite of mistakes.
Relations among all leaders – from corporal to general – should be based on honesty and frankness regardless of disparity between grades. Until a commander has reached and stated a decision, subordinates should consider it their duty to provide honest, professional opinions even though these may be in agreement with the senior’s opinion.”
Warfighting – Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1
Jason Shen is a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Smithsonian. He cofounded Ridejoy, a Y Combinator backed ride-sharing startup and his work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Outside Magazine, Lifehacker and more.
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