5 Lessons from the Military
There are a tremendous amount of life lessons that can be learned from the military. The United States of America was founded by a group of people who wanted to be free from tyranny, free from being controlled by a government in a different world. Despite all odds, the young nation of pioneers won the battles over and over again to gain their freedom. The United States of America is now a nation of various cultures, religions, beliefs, industries, and more. We live in a time where companies across the nation are growing. Intelligence is increasing. Human connectivity has reached beyond what was thought possible, and it’s improving. Corporations are bringing their business within our borders. All this is because of the freedom and order that has been created by thousands and thousands of inspired and hard working individuals. These people have Transcended the world through their actions.
The order and culture of the military are a product of those years of our nation’s evolution. These lessons from the military are not just for those who honorably served, they are for everyone who call themselves an American. They are for anyone who enjoys making themselves a better person.
We are a nation of individuals. When we join together as a group we are stronger. Loyalty is about working together and trusting each other despite any issues, arguments, or problems between you. It is holding true to a set of values agreed upon by a group of individuals.
When you Transcend simple loyalty you are able to remove yourself from the situation. When you remove the selfishness, you can think and act for the group. In the military, many heroes have given their life to directly save one of their brothers or sisters. This is a fundamental trait that can be learned from our Military. When you remove yourself from the equation, you remove your worries and your doubts.
2. Find Joy In Trials
It was a rainy and cold week in Ft. Leonard Wood, near freezing temperatures. I was in charge of 1st Platoon, the Nightstalkers, for Bravo 1-48. We had our rucksacks packed with gear and were marching in a spread out formation most of the day. We arrived at our camp and began setting up wall tents and small sleeping hooches using our ponchos. The rain never stopped and neither did we. We trained and prepared all day long. We grew in our knowledge and our ability to work as a single unit.
Near the end of the first day the rain increased. We thinned out our border and roving guards so we could take shifts sleeping in the 2- 16’x32’ wall tents we had. I was on 2nd guard shift from 2200-2330(10pm-11:30pm). During my guard shift, roving around the camp in my old and leaking rain gear, I was having the time of my life. I embraced the unique moment I was in. I had my M16 in my hands as I hid next to a tree while looking for any unusual activity. I also knew I had a nice dry spot just big enough for me, a duffle bag, and a sleeping bag to go back to after my duty was over.
At the end of my shift I returned to the cold tent to see that the wood stove was installed incorrectly, causing smoke to fill the tent full of over 50 men. I could see a couple of soldiers were gathered closely around the stove to feel what little warmth the wet wood provided. I happily found my dry sleeping mat at the other end of the tent. I had asked a friend to keep people off of it so it would remain dry. I grabbed my duffle bag, pulled a dry shirt out, and removed all my soaking wet clothing at the foot of my mat. Using my duffle bag as my seat, I carefully pulled out my dry sleeping bag so it wouldn’t touch the damp ground between our mats. I kept the bag rolled up while I proceeded to search for dry sleeping clothes. I noticed some water on the ground near the foot of my mat, then the sides, then all around my mat. Quickly the water began spilling over my mat and onto my bare feet. In the matter of about 30 seconds, the ice cold water started to soak my bags. I started to wake up the people around me as I heard moans and groans from the other men in the tent when they realized the situation we were in.
A flash flood. The water continued to rise as I stood on my mat with water over my ankles. My bag was soaked. I had on dry underwear and a dry t-shirt I had just put on. Everything else was completely soaked. The water remained at about 4 inches as the rain continued. I sat there on my duffle bag, with my feet in the cold water, using my t-shirt to keep me warm while pulling my knees to my chest. I was shivering, coughing, and not the only one. The packed full tent was quite a miserable scene.
I really thought about my situation and how unique it really was. Where else in life would I ever get such an experience? This was a huge mental growing opportunity. At that point my friend said to me with a smile, “hey, at least I kept your mat dry for when you got back.” He and I let out a sincerely happy laugh and then my watch beeps midnight. I look down to see that it is October 30th, my 20th birthday. I smile again. I said then and it still remains true today that I will remember that birthday more than any other birthday in my life.
I was positive, nonetheless it was a rough night as you can imagine. When morning wake up time came at 4:45am, the water had subsided down to an inch, just barely on my mat surface. I put on my soaking wet clothes and went to formation. Almost everyone in that tent had to go to the hospital the next morning. The combination of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and cold temperature was enough to keep 40 people out for 3 days. I had no energy and my feet were numb for the next few months from sitting in cold water all night. I was in charge of 1st platoon and decided to stay. Despite feeling like I couldn’t go on, I honorably led what was left of my platoon. I knew I was an example to the others and made the choice to remain that role model.
That experience helped keep me on a pattern to embrace the trials in life. In my unit, the term we always used was “embrace the suck”. In life, you have to embrace the trials that suck. If business is hard, you can’t quit, you keep developing and keep moving forward. If a relationship is hard, you don’t just leave, you keep developing and moving forward, and when you embrace the gold that is your trials, you will get through it much better off. Trials carve a deeper groove in your life and character than most other experiences so spend that precious time wisely.
3. Don’t be too serious
The military often has some very serious tasks to carry out. The world is full of alot of great and wonderful people, more so than it is full of bad people, but there are bad people in this world who want to limit freedom. There are even those who want to do harm to America and spread chaos. To defend freedom is a serious business when people are planning to kill you and even thousands of others. If that was all that our military focused on, we would be in big trouble as a country.
Life is meant to have enjoyment. Taking time to have fun and relax will help you accomplish the mission when it’s time to work. Many people in the military understand that there is a lot of sarcasm and joking that goes on continually. This is a naturally evolved cultural tendency that has shown some great benefits in keeping the environment fun and uplifting regardless of how serious the work is.
R&R, furlough, home time, fun team activities… however it is termed, the time that is spent focusing on other things outside the mission will boost morale and productivity. Reducing stress like this as a group builds team unity in a way that is otherwise not reached. The military knows this and continually builds morale and unity through fun activities together as a team.
4. Harder work equals better results
This lesson is pretty straight forward. If you work harder, you will get better results. This applies to sales work, physical work, sports, relationships, networking, and pretty much everything that you can think of.
During Basic Training you are placed out of your element and into the military life very abruptly. You have what the military gives you. To help hold you accountable and give growth opportunities, you are immediately assigned a battle buddy. This is a person you are almost always with. You bunk together, you train together, and you should always know where your battle buddy is. They lined us up in rows in our main training room and I was assigned to Private 2nd class Sean Lemoine from Louisiana. Drill Sergeants usually pair people together that will help push each other. Lemoine pushed me in a unique way.
Lemoine was about 5 feet 8 inches and had at least 200 pounds on him. We all were required to run a mile as fast as we could so they could assign us to running groups, A, B, or C. Group A was for the fastest runners so that when we went on group runs we wouldn’t have to keep turning around to help the stragglers. I was slightly above average at that time when it came to running a mile so I made it into the bottom of the A group. Lemoine was in the C group. When run day came up the next morning at 5:15, they told us to get in our running groups. I struggled to keep up but worked hard and stayed with the group through the 5 miles we ran.
After the run time I spoke with Lemoine and he said he was able to stay with his C group but it was hard. The next run day, the Drill Sergeants said that we could pick a different group if we wanted. Some people moved from A to B and from B to C. Then a few decided to move up a group. One soldier decided to move up 2 groups from C to A: Private Sean Lemoine. He was excited to run in A group despite his fear of falling behind. We ran and ran, and at times our whole group would do what we call a wagon wheel, where the entire group turns around and run back behind any stragglers to bring the group back together again. This allowed everyone to keep pushing themselves and remain together as a team. The first week or two we had to go back for Lemoine a few times. He never stopped running. He pushed and pushed and by the end of basic training he had lost a lot of weight and we never had to go back for him.
Lemoine Transcended what most of the other soldiers including myself viewed as hard work. He was working hard to keep up with group C, but he wanted more. So he worked even harder and got better results. He was winning the mental battle every time he set out to run. We all need to be like Lemoine and reach higher than what we are given.
Applying this lesson to business is seen by a supervisor or employee that goes above and beyond. We have our expectations of what we should be doing or what we are capable of doing, but we don’t have to let those expectations limit us. We can rise above those things and Transcend our life where we are at. It’s okay to do more than is expected and if you do, you get more results.
5. Be Prepared
The military is all about hoping for the best and being prepared for the worst. The majority of people in the military do not want to go to war or sacrifice their life, but are prepared for the worst. When you are not actively doing your job, you are actively practicing and preparing to do your job. There is a lot of time spent on training for every possibility. It was always a process of continual refinement.
When you are prepared you worry less, you have more confidence, and you excel at what you are doing. I was a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear specialist. I am extremely thankful that I only had to prepare for my job and not actually have to do it. There are some very horrible, deathly substances out there. We prepared by handling and decontaminating chemicals so toxic that a drop would kill you in minutes if it touched your skin.
I excelled throughout my training so much that I was quickly called upon to train my whole unit on decontamination. I prepared hundreds of men and women for something I hoped would never occur.
My success and growth in the military and everything after was from preparations that I had made before I began my service. I attended a leadership training that changed me. I was 19 years old in a class of men and women that were at very successful points in their lives. Doctors, businessmen, CEO’s, mothers, fathers and then me. I felt like I didn’t belong in the same group with those men and women. I was young and didn’t have the same type of life experiences and I started limiting myself. It was subtle so I didn’t pick up on it until a point came in the class where the other 14 people told me how they saw me holding myself back. Without hearing each others answers, 4 or 5 of them said that I was holding myself back because I was young. I thought I hid it so well because I was barely even aware of it, yet the people who were watching me picked up on it.
I finally realized that I needed to just push past all of the limitations and move into a higher plane of action. Don’t let any excuse or reason stop me. Later in the training I gave a speech to the rest of those great men and women and the conviction and power I spoke with was enough to inspire them in a lasting way. I decided I was going to move to that A group of life by taking action. That experienced allowed me to gain a higher set of knowledge from my military career and everything else afterward than I would have received otherwise. It was all because I decided to go for it and push myself.
It has shaped my life for the better and now I am happy to be at a point to recreate what I have been through to help others positively shape their life. We call it Transcend Alive. It’s a 2 and a half day training experience that will take you to a new level. I recommend anyone who is thinking about joining the military, in the military, a veteran, or any type of business or leadership position to take this course. When I was done with the training then and everytime I present it now, I feel Alive. I feel truly Alive. I see, hear, and feel what is around me. I cherish what I have. I embrace everything in my life and share that gift with others.
If these words have inspired you in any way, please carry this gift on and share it.
Help Transcend make a difference for thousands of people the way that it has made a difference for me. My goal is to make a real and sincere impact for people in their personal and business life. I know the course that we have is life changing.