When I went to the military as a 19-year-old smart ass who could not deal with authority, yet, I embraced the harshness because I needed to know I could handle it. Partly, because my self-confidence was never very good. I played Baseball and Football as a kid and was horrible at both, so much so I was famous for it. I was always the kid who got picked last for sports.
When I got to Boot camp, the leaders were hard-asses and did not tolerate even the shortest hesitation in action, nor did they entertain any sort of specific calmness or ease at dealing with what they saw as bull shit. This was what I loved; Black and white, no guessing as to where I stand. I never had to wonder where I stood, I knew it 24/7! They were always brutally honest and the transparency was key to everyone not only knowing where they stood but that they all were an important part of the mission. The integrity of the Drill Sergeant is written in capital letters and it was comforting to be able to trust a person to do the right thing, not because they liked you, because it was the right thing to do. The importance of a leader possessing attributes like honesty, integrity and transparency would stick with me long after boot camp days were over.
I also remember my Drill Sergeant, a Viet Nam Veteran who had an ease about him but the rawness was on the surface when something was not going a certain way, I marveled at the self-discipline it took to turn into the mentor — not best friend — but a mentor, when the barking no longer worked or was needed. It showed me how much they really cared about me completing the mission and “making the team”. This is where the military succeeds as a business. It is the oldest business in the USA, I like to say. The don’t look so much at the person, but the focus is rather on the cohesion, mindset and being 100% selfless. Selfless in the fact that the mission comes first, your battle buddy second and then somewhere down the line, you also. It’s a rock-solid consistency of purpose, coupled with nurturing of individual integrity and values.
I picked up on the importance of things like integrity immediately, although it was always in me. I learned it at an early age through a strict and tough childhood, and I made it though and I came out a better person. I made it through not just because I had to, because I wanted to. And the same goes with my career. No one handed it to me or said do this or that, I simply willed my way into being successful. Sure, it didn’t come easy, I worked hard! It took until I was in the mid to late thirties, but considering I had gotten out of the military less than 10 years earlier, it wasn’t really a bad track record. But measuring success linearly is never a good idea anyway. I only measure against what I know I can do, my personal value and my aspirations. Any other measurement is finding an excuse to do less. If I measure myself against the best, I will never be the best, will I? I simply do not worry about it and do what I know I can do: I take on a mission and I make it successful…period. Pure will and lack of doubt.
I can honestly say in my time climbing the corporate ladder, that I did it with ease when it came to being the best or completing the mission, it was literally child’s play compared to the military. Unfortunately, I often left behind a scorched earth in my pursuits of mission success, too. My style was straight up military, the staff had a hard time dealing with me. They either loved me or hated me. I really did not give a damn who left because of me, because I knew what was important — the mission came first. And, as the years progressed, I noticed how certain key positions, meetings or retreats were held without me. I did not fit in, they only tolerated me because I was guaranteed for the bottom line, but they did not want me as a part of the senior team.
I decided to get my MBA at a top University to “prove” to them I am better than just a soldier, which is what they all called me, “the soldier”. So, during my education, I really realized what a different person I was compared to the rest of civilian leadership. I also realized how easily I could form teams, create cohesion and lead everyone to winning if I just held my ground and used that energy to ask questions as to “why do it that way?”, instead of simply saying “do it my way”. Little did I know, those were my first coaching sessions I had held, pure intuition led me there.
From that point on my days were filled with moments of going into closed rooms and screaming my lungs out and then going back to the team to continue in a calm, but very firm tone. I never got personal and I never went below the belt or got emotional ever again. People want to feel appreciated, listened to and they want to feel like they matter to the mission or at least to the team. This can be facilitated by a good leader who is a part of the team. Not only did this help my success, but also my mission! I no longer wanted — no longer needed — to have a job or mission from some corporation. Instead I wanted to knock out as many contracts as I could. I wanted to be contract turn-around and start-up assassin! So, that’s what I did. I took on the most impossible tasks, the strangest and those where people saw no future. Why? Because I learned in the military that nothing is impossible! That along with my belief that we create our own reality with our thoughts and actions. True belief is not faith it is the lack of all doubt. I would be unstoppable…and I was.