requently I’m asked, “what did you learn in the military that helps you today.” Here is a bit of what I say.
It starts when you get on that bus and get cut off from everything you have known your whole life. Then you find yourself in a chair where a retired staff sergeant, now barber, cuts away the rest of your identity. You start to become something else. This is all very intentional. I would end up spending eight years in the army. Two years of that training to become a member of US Army Special Forces, a Green Beret, and six years as part of one Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA).
That time would take me to the Middle East and Central Asia. Time with incredible people, cultures, and countries. Hard times. Easy times. Sad times. Joyous times. All 'good time.' It wasn’t clear to me then, but this time would teach me so much about doing good things with good people. Most importantly it would take me down a path of trying to be the best human possible for those around me. That journey continues today. We are all a work in progress.
Connecting, understanding, and finding common ground. Building rapport and finding a meaningful connection. There is something unique when it gets really deep. You feel different. You can be yourself. You both trust more. You both share more. You both listen more. The pretenses drop. The agendas drop. You love. You care. You will do whatever it takes to help each other win. You need people like that in your life when bullets start flying. Real or imagined.
Most importantly, I am 100% responsible for the relationships in my life. It's not 50/50. It's 100% on me to build trust, communicate, care, and commit.
It’s all about relationships; the rest is just detail
People suffer. That exists everywhere. That said, the amount of opportunity and support in the country I live in is incredible. The infrastructure, healthcare, and paths out of poverty are there. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard, but it is there. To be clear, I try to recognize my privileges and won’t pretend to understand everyone’s journey.
Go and experience places where those paths don’t exist. Places where people live in small huts built from mud with their own hands. Areas where there is no electricity and no heat. You'll find yak dung drying on the roofs of those same mud huts so it can be burned in the winter for heat. Freezing to death is a real risk. Where broken limb can be a death sentence or a sentence of disability.
There are usually worse things happening to better people
All of that said, I met some of the happiest and most satisfied humans ever. Often more at peace than people around me today. Their wants were few, and their love deep. They would give everything they had to help someone. So much to learn from them.
Don't Quit Because It's Hard
Special Forces - there was nothing special about us at all. We just showed up and did the work. And when it got hard, we didn’t quit. You might say we are special because we didn’t quit, but I don’t see it that way. It wasn't an option because people were relying on us. We made a choice—we, not me.
When it's hard, it usually means what you are doing will make a difference. And no matter how hard it gets, and if you slow down, you realize you have good people willing to do hard things with you. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Focus on helping others win and know nothing is permanent. What feels impossible or terrifying will end, one way or another. Just do the next best thing and remember you can do much more than you think. Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t cheat. There are no shortcuts. There are no free passes. When you are struggling, lose yourself in the service of others and do good work.
The best things in life are hard.
When it's the hardest, lean into your relationships, have the proper perspective, and remember you have good people ready to help you through hard times. Ultimately relationships, perspective, and work are just choices. They are like happiness in that respect - a choice. Let's honor those who don't have what we have, or didn't come home, with our choices each day.
De Oppresso Liber
1. Relationships Matter: It’s all about relationships; the rest is just detail.
2. Perspective Matters: Worse things are happening to better people.
3. Do Hard Things, With Good People: Don’t quit because it’s hard. Ask for help when needed. Do it better than anyone expected.
I'll leave you with some thoughts from others
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage."
"Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world."
"To each, there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour."
- Winston Churchill