Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you were in trouble?
It happened to me on my first day at Nuclear Power School. I found myself surrounded by graduates of top engineering schools like MIT, Stanford, and Georgia Tech. These were the brightest technical minds in the country assembled in one place for one reason – to become nuclear engineers in the U.S. Navy.
It didn’t take long to realize; I was in over my head.
Growing up during the Cold War, my dream was to one day become a Nuclear Submarine Officer. I was fascinated with the idea of undersea warfare.
The problem was, I needed to be technically strong to get into this elite service.
I did well enough in High School to get into a decent Engineering School. I had even graduated with honors, but there was a dirty little secret.
I wasn’t that smart.
All my academic achievements had come through hard work, perseverance, and stubborn persistence.All my academic achievements had come through hard work, perseverance, and stubborn persistence. Click To Tweet
I walked into the military’s most challenging technical school – one with a 40% failure rate – as a fraud.
This school was a place for the best and the brightest, and I knew I was neither. I was just a blue-collar kid with a big dream. I also feared that hard work, the one thing I had relied on for years, wouldn’t be enough to get through this challenge.
I started well. My grades were decent, and I began to think I could make it. But soon, the depth and pace of the training took its toll. My GPA started to slip.
It was clear I was in a fight for my life.
I consider the alternatives. What would happen if I failed?
For one thing, it would crush my dream. I would probably get assigned to some rusty, reserve frigate out of Long Beach, and spend my Navy career hunting for drug smugglers.
The Cold War was on, and I wanted to chase Soviet submarines.
I made a decision then and there – I would do whatever it took to get through this school.
Failure was not an option.
I doubled down on the only thing I knew, hard work. I studied my notes from every lecture and completed extra assignments every day. I sought out tutoring and spent my nights in the study room, ensuring I fully understood every concept.
I attacked this challenge with the same stubborn persistence I had used my whole life.
And it worked.
I graduated from Nuclear Power School, and I achieved my dream of becoming a Nuclear Submarine Officer.
It was the most formidable challenge I have ever faced, and I almost failed. I almost gave in to the overwhelming feeling that I didn’t belong there, I wasn’t smart enough, and I couldn’t do it.
I achieved my goal by not giving up.I achieved my goal by not giving up. Click To Tweet
I tell you this story because I recently had a guest on my podcast, Dean Bundschu, who talked about this concept.
He explained that military veterans are well-suited to become entrepreneurs because they display one crucial characteristic – consistent persistence. When things get tough, they work harder to overcome the challenge.
It reminded me of the Babe Ruth quote, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”
Whatever you face today, understand you can overcome even the most challenging situation through daily, consistent effort and refusing to quit.
Listen to my full interview with Dean Bundschu here.
And for more stories like this, pick up a copy of my bestselling leadership book, I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following here.