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.

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.

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.