Overcoming Life’s Obstacles with Consistent Persistence

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 workperseverance, 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.

I have the watch book

 

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.

The Forgotten Employee is your Greatest Asset

Did you know the most senior sailor on a nuclear submarine will back up the most junior sailor in an emergency?

It certainly was a surprise to my recent podcast guest, Jeff Akin.

When Jeff was a young sailor training to be a helmsman on the USS La Jolla, he heard something he would never forget. The Chief of the Boat, a man who had been in the Navy for nearly 20 years, told him:

“If it ever goes down and something bad happens to you, the first thing I’ll do is leave my post and take over yours.”

He said, “A submarine can operate without a Chief of the Boat, but it cannot operate without a helmsman.”

Jeff realized at that very moment how important his job was. His work was so critical that he would be replaced with the most senior watchstander on the boat if something happened to him.

On a submarine at sea, every sailor is essential to achieving the mission.

Even the most junior sailor.

This is also true in the business world. Every employee is essential to achieving the mission.

Every employee is essential to achieving the mission. Click To Tweet

But, unlike a submarine crew, most company managers don’t see junior employees as vital to their success.

Consider this.

Employees in positions like factory workers, customer service representatives, cashiers, and service technicians are mostly taken for granted.

They are often referred to as “headcount” or labor expenses. They are considered replaceable and non-critical. They are the first to be let go or automated away.

Very few companies see these employees for what they really are – critical to achieving the mission.

In fact, these forgotten employees are your greatest assets.

They are the ones interfacing directly with customers. They are taking orders, building components, making repairs, shipping products, and collecting cash.

In short – they are your company’s front line.

They are adding value to your products, your business, and your customers every day.

A company can function without a manager, but it cannot operate without front-line workers.

A company can function without a manager, but it cannot operate without front-line workers. Click To Tweet

So, the question is – what are you doing to support these critical employees? Are you showing them the respect they deserve, or are you taking them for granted?

Stephen R. Covey said it best, “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”

Today, take the time to remind your front-line employees how mission-critical they are. It may be the first time they have ever heard that from a leader.

Order the book: I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following

 

Listen to my full interview with Jeff Akin here and pick up a signed copy of my latest leadership book. It will teach you better ways to engage employees and achieve more remarkable results.

Radical Transparency

Have you ever sat through an annual performance review and had that awkward feeling?

Like your boss was not giving you true feedback?

Like they were just going through the motions?

Did it seem…Fake? Forced? Phony?

Maybe it’s just me, but when I worked in corporate America, I couldn’t stand the annual performance review process.

Once a year, I would get feedback from my boss.

The company had a policy – so he wrote up a review, we sat down together, and he checked the box.

The feedback certainly wasn’t timely but it also wasn’t very honest.

What do I mean by that?

The feedback wasn’t real. It wasn’t raw. It wasn’t a true reflection of what my boss thought of my performance.

Instead, it was a carefully worded document designed to keep my boss and the company out of trouble. It was almost like a legal document that stated that we met, we reviewed my performance over the past year, and it was generally good. Simple and safe…and irrelevant.

A safe, bland review to check the box and move one.

Contrast this with life in a small company.

I recently had D’Shawn Russell on my podcast. She is the founder and owner of Southern Elegance Candle Company.

When I asked her about leadership in a small, start-up company, she said something that stood out.

She said she practiced radical transparency.

When I asked what it was, she was very clear. She said, “I tell my people exactly what I think of their performance on a daily basis…If they suck, I tell them and if they can’t turn it around, they know I’ll fire them.”

I tell my people exactly what I think of their performance on a daily basis Click To Tweet

She added, “But if they’re doing good, I tell them that as well.”

In the bland corporate world of pale pastels, her comments stood out as bold colors.

I’ll admit, at first I was taken aback. I thought she was being a little too transparent with her employees but then I thought about this simple rule:

Feedback should be timely and relevant.

Feedback should be timely and relevant. Click To Tweet

I have no doubt that her employees always know exactly where they stand at any time. Radical transparency means honest and timely feedback. I know a lot of good employees who would prefer to get honest and timely feedback instead of the bland corporate review.

So think about the feedback you are providing employees.

Is it real? Is it timely? And is it honest?

Or are you just checking a box once a year?

Try practicing radical transparency and let me know how it goes.

Deep Leadership Podcast

Listen to my entire interview with D’Shawn here. It’s a powerful story on what it takes to lead a startup business.

For more stories like this, get my Amazon bestselling leadership book, I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. Signed copies are available here.