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 Problem with Career Complacency

In the past three weeks, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend.

I have been contacted by a number of people who have been let go by their companies.

Sadly, the global pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy and the job market.

But, it’s even worse than that.

The scary part is that the people who were let go are the best of the best. They are veterans, they have degrees from top universities, and they have decades of leadership experience. They are the last people I would expect to be looking for work right now.

It is a powerful reminder that none of our jobs are safe.

Unfortunately, I understand this situation all too well.

In 2014, I found myself out of a job through no fault of my own. I was the vice president of a major corporation and had more than 15 years of dedicated service. One morning, I came into work like every other day and by that afternoon, I was out of work.

No warning. No heads up. Nothing.

I was left shocked and confused. I couldn’t understand how a company I had worked so hard for could just toss me aside like that. Especially, with all my knowledge, education, experience, and a history of getting things done.

But that’s the thing I learned. None of us are safe!

That experience taught me some powerful lessons.

And, if you’re lucky enough to still be employed during this crisis, you need to pay attention. You need to understand that your company doesn’t care about you or your career.

Your company doesn’t care about you or your career. Click To Tweet

I’m sorry if this is a shock to you but you alone are responsible for managing your career.

So, here are four simple rules to manage your career in this crisis:

The first rule is this – don’t be complacent.

Don’t assume that your years of hard work and dedication will mean anything when they start making a spreadsheet of “heads” to be eliminated. You are not that special to them. You are a number on a spreadsheet.

The second rule is – don’t let your connections go stale.

Don’t be that person who only calls people when they need something. Stay in regular communication with your network. And, if you have a small network, you need to grow it…starting today.

Understand this – your next job will come from someone you know or someone who they know. You’re not getting a job by posting a resume on a job board.

Your next job will come from someone you know or someone who they know. Click To Tweet

The third rule is – build your personal brand.

When I was let go, I was a nobody outside my company. No one knew who I was or what I stood for.  Don’t be like I was. You should have a personal website and you should be writing regularly about what you know and showcasing your skills. Just keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date isn’t good enough anymore.

The fourth rule is – build multiple streams of income.

When I was let go, my salary was my only source of income. All my eggs were in that basket. Don’t do this. Use side hustles to develop other sources of income that you can turn to if things go belly up.

Who knows? One of your side hustles may be your next career.

One of the people who helped me through my career transition was John O’Connor.

He helped me step up my game in terms of networking and personal branding. I recently had him on my podcast and we talked about how to manage your career during a crisis.

Everyone needs to listen to this episode.

This global pandemic should be a wakeup call for you and your career. Don’t wait until you are out of work before you take action.

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P.S. I’m asked all the time if I provide signed copies of my book? The answer is yes. Click here and press the large orange button for signed copies.

Using Failure to Fuel Sucess

You’ve probably noticed the same thing as me.

There is success all around us and, as a society, we love to celebrate success. Think about social media. It’s really just a collection of everyone’s highlight reel sent out into cyberspace hoping to get a little positive affirmation.

We also love a good rags-to-riches success story.

Like J. K. Rowling for example.

She went from living on welfare to becoming the world’s first billionaire author.

We love stories like this because it helps us imagine that one day, if we get lucky, maybe we might become the next rags-to-riches story.

But, what about failure?

We don’t like to think or talk about our failures.

We purposely hide our outtakes and our blooper reel from the world.

We purposely hide our outtakes and our blooper reel from the world. Click To Tweet

We fear failure. It’s embarrassing and discouraging when we fail. We feel like a loser in a world where everyone else is winning.

The problem is that failure gets a bad rap. It’s actually more important than success.

Let me explain.

Consider this. Between 2004 and 2006, at the height of auto-maker Toyota’s success, it recalled more vehicles than ever before. They learned the hard way that success leads to complacency.

We need failure.

We need it to learn, grow, and to provide the fuel to propel us towards our goals.

We need failure to learn, grow, and to provide the fuel to propel us towards our goals. Click To Tweet

Even the great J. K. Rowling was rejected by 12 different publishing houses before Bloomsbury finally accepted her stories.

Think of this quote that is often attributed to Winston Churchill (although he never actually said it):

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” 

Failure is not the problem.

Our response to failure is. It’s the courage to continue that counts.

I recently had Colonel George Milton on my podcast and we spoke specifically about failure. He took a life of failure and built an amazing career in leadership.

He is a highly decorated combat Army veteran who barely graduated from high school. The story of his early struggles and how it provided fuel for his success is powerful.

He never let failure stop him and he was eventually inducted into the United States Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

Listen in to this episode and learn how to harness the power of failure.

P.S. If you haven’t followed me on Instagram yet, you should. You’ll get a little more “behind the scenes” view of what it’s like to lead a manufacturing business.