Saturday, 3 July 2010

Military Lessons in Life

There was a piece from the Washington Examiner's Gregory Kane this past week which stayed on my mind.

His basic suggestion? Require presidents to have prior military service. The heart of the piece? Gregory spent a couple of years in the Air Force and was impressed by the AF's discipline methods. As he kinda points out....you avoid screwing up because it's a bad thing. And Presidents need this skill.

Then came this quote: "Whip out a 341 form!".

The 341 form was tiny scrap of a paper that you carried in your pocket in basic training and it served as this disciplinary form to note things you'd done wrong. As you leaned by the end of the first forty-eight hours of basic....you really didn't want to give any of these away. It was a seriously bad thing you didn't want to see happen.

For around thirty-seven days of basic....I had walked around without losing a single 341. An evening came when I was door guard at midnight, and some night-shift instructor came knocking at the door.

I went through the sequence of challenging the guy and then signed him in. I walked through with him and then as he got to the point of leaving.....he asked for a 341. I stood in mortal fear of what I might have done wrong.

So I asked....where did I screw up.

He shocked me....a 341 could be noted as a positive because you reacted absolutely by the book....which I had. So I had a good comment written.

So I completed 42 days of basic without losing a single 341. It meant that I hadn't screwed up.

Gregory Kane is correct....there is this thing that the military gives you....about avoiding screw-ups.

I paused over this....considering the five lessons of life that I got out of the Air Force. While this act of avoiding screw-ups was in the five.....what were the other four lessons gained?

There is the act of protecting an individual or organization....and going to the ninth degree....simply because you know it's the right thing to do.

There is the behavior of thinking ahead....not just one step...or two or three....but perhaps even five steps ahead. You avoid accidents. You avoid stupid problems that trigger accidents. You avoid making a path to accidents.

Then there's the sense of humor that you need in dark times. You find these moments where things could be bad but you kinda laugh it off. You need this behavior to survive in life.

Finally, there is the nature of accomplishment standing for something that you can recognize. Small things count. You didn't have work for a massive project to find success.

In some ways, Gregory Kane is right.....you need these military lessons in life.....to appreciate some things.