Honoring Those Who Never Came Home

Just West of Cambridge, England on an immaculate slope of deep green grass surrounded by sprawling woodlands lies a powerful reminder of the tragedy of war. The Cambridge American Cemetery sits on more than thirty acres. The land was donated to the U.S. by Cambridge University. It remains the only permanent American World War II military cemetery in the British Isles.

As an American graduate student at Cambridge University and a U.S. Navy Veteran, I was drawn to this sacred place. During my time in England, I made many trips here to walk among the 3,812 white grave markers neatly arranged in a 90-degree arc, each one facing a large American flag in the center.

Every white cross and star of David represented a young American who died in the Battle of the Atlantic or in the bombings of Northwest Europe. As I walked the rows, I found myself reading the names, calculating their ages, and thinking about these heroes. These were young men and women who left their country to defend a place far from their homes.

These were young men and women who left their country to defend a place far from their homes. Click To Tweet

I was very close to my two grandfathers who both served in World War II. They each had a profound and powerful effect on who I am as a person. One served on a Navy Destroyer Escort in the Atlantic and the other was in the Army in the Pacific theatre. Both men survived the war, returned to their hometowns, and started families. They had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Each lived a long and happy life.

The heroes buried in Cambridge never had that chance. These brave Americans died young and never returned home. Their lives were cut short and they remain silent on that quiet slope of green grass in the British countryside. On Memorial Day, I always find myself thinking about those heroes on that hill.

These brave Americans died young and never returned home. Click To Tweet

As a veteran, I worry that Americans will forget about the men and women who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy. The declining number of veterans is part of my concern. In 2016, only 7% of U.S. adults were veterans, down from 18% in 1980. The gap between those who served and those who didn’t continues to grow. This could lead to Americans forgetting about those that sacrificed so much.

Today, Memorial Day has become a three-day weekend with sales, picnics, barbeques, vacations, and the unofficial start of the summer season but it didn’t start out this way. It was originally called Decoration Day and was dedicated to honoring those that died serving in the military.

After the Civil War, America was dealing with the loss of more than 620,000 soldiers. General John A. Logan, the leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for May 30th to be set aside “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.” The date was chosen specifically because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular Civil War battle.

On the first Decoration Day on May 30, 1868, former Union General and Ohio Congressman James A. Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery. His words were clear and powerful. He proclaimed that “We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For the love of country, they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

That day, more than 5,000 Americans showed up at Arlington to decorate the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. From that point forward, the tradition grew with similar celebrations throughout the country.

For more than 50 years, Decoration Day commemorated those killed in the Civil War only. It wasn’t until World War I that the tradition expanded to include American military personnel who died in all wars. Memorial Day, as we know it, became an official federal holiday in 1971 as Americans dealt with the effects of the Vietnam War.

Today, Memorial Day is an American federal holiday, observed on the last Monday of May. It’s set aside to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It’s a tradition to fly the flag at half-staff from dawn until noon and Americans are encouraged to visit cemeteries and place flowers or flags on graves to honor those who have died in military service. It is celebrated each year at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which American flags are placed on each grave and the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” which designated 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance. It is tradition to have either a moment of silence or to play “Taps” at 3:00 PM.

This Memorial Day, let’s remember these American heroes. Take time to find a local memorial service in your area. Visit a military cemetery or memorial. Watch the ceremony at Arlington. Share in a moment of silence at 3:00 PM. Spend time to think about the young men and women who left their country to defend our freedoms so far from their homes and let’s honor those that never came home.

What Does Success Really Mean to You?

I was a guest on a recent podcast and the host asked me an interesting question:

What’s my definition of success?

I actually had to step back and think about it.

For me, success has never been about money or fame – which are the obvious answers – but I’ve never actually ever thought about my own personal definition.

It’s actually a hard question.

To better understand what success is, I had to change the question around.

Instead, I asked myself this – When have I felt the most successful?

That was an easier question to answer and I could picture the exact moment.

It was the summer of 1992. It was 3 AM in the morning and I was standing watch on the bridge of a nuclear submarine in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. I was the Officer of the Deck in charge of one of the most powerful warships in the world.

There are two things I remember from that night.

First, there’s nothing like seeing the star-filled night sky at sea.

Second, there’s nothing like the feeling of achieving a dream.

There's nothing like the feeling of achieving a dream. Click To Tweet

That was the moment I felt the most successful. I had achieved something I worked hard for almost eleven years to achieve.

Let me explain.

When I first realized I wanted to be on submarines. I was in 8th grade. I was fascinated with the stories of the WWII submariners and how nuclear submarines played a critical role in the Cold War.

I knew this was something I wanted to do. It was my dream to one day serve on these boats.

The problem was, I also knew I had to become technically strong if I wanted to achieve this dream.

I had to do well in High School and excel in Math and Science. I also had to get into a good Engineering School and do well enough to get accepted into the highly competitive Navy Nuclear Power Program.

Fortunately for me, perseverance and eight years of hard work were enough to get me a commission as a Naval Officer and get accepted into the Navy Nuclear Power Program. But that was just the beginning.

The year-long Nuclear Power Program was brutal. Many of my good friends were cut from the program because they couldn’t keep up with the pace. I was in over my head as well.

But I made it through.

And I persevered through submarine school and three more months of trying to get a medical waiver for an episode of kidney stones I once had in college.

But I made it through. And finally – I made it to the fleet.

Then I discovered this was just the beginning of another process. I needed to get qualified as a submarine officer before I could stand watch and achieve my dream. A process that would take almost another year.

But I made it through.

In April of 1992, I became a qualified submariner. I had the gold dolphins pinned on my chest. I had achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a submariner.

And that summer, at 3 AM in the morning, in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, doing the job I had dreamed of since I was a child – I felt the most successful.

So, what’s my definition of success?

I think it’s simple.

It’s about doing the hard work to chase a dream and then, one day, actually achieving that dream.

Success is about doing the hard work to chase a dream and then, one day, actually achieving that dream. Click To Tweet

What do you think? How would you define success?

Is it fortune and fame or is it more than that?

Reach out to me on Twitter and let me know.

Bosses Who Need the Most Help

I’m going to guess you’re a good boss.

How do I know this?

You’re reading this post.

And, more than likely, you’ve read my book, you follow my blog, and you listen to my podcast.

Like me, you probably regularly consume a steady diet of podcasts, audiobooks, and traditional books on business and leadership.

You’re a good leader because you’re humble and hungry.

You know you can always get better. There is always something new to learn.

You use that mindset with employees as well. You are humble when you are around them and you listen with the intent to learn – both how to be a better leader and to have a more successful organization.

Good leaders stay humble and hungry. They are always learning.

Good leaders stay humble and hungry. They are always learning. Click To Tweet

Bad bosses, on the other hand, think they know everything already. And they lack the humility and self-awareness to realize how bad they are as a leader.

The problem is – how do we reach these bosses when they are less likely to seek out new information?

Bad bosses lack the humility and self-awareness to realize how bad they are. They are less likely to seek out new information. Click To Tweet

It makes me think of the bible verse Luke 5:31 that says, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.”

So, how do we reach those bosses who need a “doctor?”

Let me suggest four ways:

Share leadership articles. If you see a good leadership article or blog post, send it to those that need to hear the message. Add a simple note like, “I thought this was interesting.” That’s all you really need to say. Let the reader figure it out on their own.

Share podcast episodes. If you hear an episode that really resonates with you and you think it would help another boss, send it their way. It’s easy to text an episode to someone that needs to hear it.

Share the books you are reading. After you finish a good book, lend it out to those that need to read it or send them a link to an audiobook you liked.

Follow up regularly. Find out what they thought about the information you shared. Check-in with them. Did they read it? What did they think? Let them know what you thought of it.

I want to see a world with better bosses and the only way we can do that is for good leaders to help all other bosses get better. We owe it to 70% of corporate employees who are currently working for a bad boss.

Another simple idea is to buy multiple copies of a good leadership book and give them away to those that need it. Many authors offer a bulk discount.

I have the watch book

Did you know you I offer a bulk discount on I Have the Watch? Enter the discount code BULK25 at checkout to get 25% off 5 or more books on my website.

I’m happy if you share my bookarticles, and podcast with those that need it but I’m also happy if you just share any good leadership content.

Reach out to me on Twitter and let me know some other ways we can help build a world with better bosses.