Land Navigation is a huge component of military training for those individuals who have chosen combat MOS’s like Infantry, Rangers, and Special Forces. Cross country navigation with a map and a compass is an essential skill for soldiers who may find themselves leading a patrol in enemy territory. You have to know where you are and where you want to go, in order to navigate effectively with a map. One of the worst things in training was being in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the night, and realizing, “I don’t know where I am on the map!” I have a map and I know where I’m trying to get to on the map but I can’t locate my present position on the map. It’s hard to get to a desired endpoint, if you can’t identify a start point.
It was Mother’s Day a few weeks ago and I called my mom and I thanked her for what I believe is the greatest gift she ever gave me, The Truth. I’ve thanked her on many occasions for this and I will continue to do so. Specifically, when I was a very little kid (4-5 years old), my mom began to communicate something to me that I believe has had profound effects on my life, “Son, if you want to go to college you’re going to have to do well in school and earn scholarships because I won’t have the money to help you.” As I got older, I embraced that reality. I would ultimately translate her specific statement into a more general admonition about life, “Son, if there is something you deem valuable in life, something that you want, you must take personal responsibility for doing everything with in your power to get it.” I have gone on to apply this mindset to everything in life. This is where my 300% Rule originated: 100% Ownership, 100% Effort, 100% of the Time!
When I talk to my mom about this conveyance of critical information, I highlight to her how important it was that she told me exactly where I was on the metaphorical ‘map of life’. She has often explained to me how her peers at the time thought she was being too harsh to tell such a young child such things. After all, “He’s just a little kid! Let him dream! He’s got plenty of time to deal with those realities later!” I guess they felt as though I might break from hearing the truth. Hearing the fact that we didn’t have any money. Hearing the fact that we weren’t living the American Dream. Hearing the fact that I was going to have to start working my tail off to get better at academics. Surprisingly, I didn’t break. Why? I’m 5. I have no other reality to compare our lives to. I’m still trying to figure out how to tie my shoes, let alone be concerned about how other people are living. Did I want stuff like any other kid? Sure. Did I want name brand shoes like the other kids? Absolutely. Did I want to go visit amusement parks in the summer like the other kids? Yes. However, my mom made it clear that these things were not a part of our current reality and If I wanted my future to be different, step one was to get a quality education and that responsibility was on my shoulders.
Here’s the advantage of knowing the truth of what I had to do early, I could start failing early and making adjustments early. I was not a naturally sharp student. I am a very slow reader. I struggled with english and writing. I rarely understood concepts when they were first presented in class. If you met me in highschool you would say I was an exceptional student. I graduated highschool with a 3.98 GPA and I Graduated college with a 3.4 GPA as an Electrical Engineering Major. However, the reality is I’m not that ‘smart’ but I started applying myself academically, when I was 6 years old. I started the struggle to become a better student at a very early age. I took school seriously at a very early age. I started getting repetitions at preparing for a test, reading a book and writing a report, developing study habits. By the time I hit 5th and 6th grade I was acutely aware of what I had to do to succeed academically. Essentially, my strategy was volume. I had to look at things over and over again. I had to start on assignments early. I had to make sure I did homework every night. I here people talk about not studying for tests and still making B’s and C’s. That was ludacris to me. I had to GRIND in order to make A’s, B’s, and sometimes C’s. The key was the fact that I knew why I was working so hard. I wanted to go to college for certain. Based on everything I knew as a kid, college was a viable path to financial health. The more you do a thing, the better you get at it. I noticed patterns in my study habits. Factors that helped me retain information and strategies that were marginal. Test taking skills. I was never nervous about tests. My thought was, “I am as prepared as I can possibly be. The result is the result. There is nothing more I could’ve done.”
Doing well academically was one thing, but the mental toughness I developed from learning how to consistently put forth a maximal effort in my studies was even more valuable. Grit is becoming a popular word these days and people are trying to figure out how it’s developed. For me, school had tons of challenges aside from academics. There’s the teasing, there’s trying to lose weight, there’s social awkwardness, there’s loneliness from having no close friends. I can’t express how hard it was at times. Life in general was hard. I can’t express how mentally strong all this made me. Pressing towards a goal in the midst of adversity is what produces grit, in my mind. This has allowed me to do incredible things in my life (losing the weight, getting my degree, Green Beret, paying off debt – I’ll say it over and over). The thing that has always been common to these things is Mental Toughness. The ability to persevere. The ability to keep moving towards the goal when all hell is breaking loose around me. That ability started with my mom telling me the truth.
She didn’t sugar coat the situation. She didn’t allow me to believe something that wasn’t true. I’ve never had a problem facing myself and dealing in the reality of my own faults, insufficiencies, or shortcomings. I don’t hide from the truth.
Knowing the truth and acknowledging it helps me know where I am and this helps me navigate to where I want to be. My mother got me accustomed to dealing in reality. This might be the most difficult thing I see people struggle with today, as I try to help other people grow. People don’t want to face themselves and it keeps them trapped in a place they don’t want to be in. People tell themselves lies. They suffer in silence. They put on a front for other people. They regress in life because they won’t confront the truth.
With all the talk about Grit I believe step one is being brave enough to tell each other the realities of life. It kills me that some people in our society are still telling kids that a college degree is the only path to wealth in this life. If wealth amounts to thousands of dollars of debt, I guess. It’s not just that. It’s all the harsh realities of life that were never discussed when I was in highschool.
- You may get a degree and hate your job.
- Divorce is a real and Gut Wrenching thing.
- In 4-5 years of college people close to you may pass away.
- Debt is crushing and student loan debt never goes away (This was not common knowledge).
- If you sign up for the military you could be fighting for your life one day in a foreign country. Are you ready to take a life for your own and your teammates?
These things need to be articulated. If I inform you of future obstacles and you don’t prepare, that’s on you. If I know obstacles are coming and I make no attempt to prepare you, that’s on me. We know that being honest and forthcoming with the truth is an essential aspect of healthy relationships. Why do we hide reality from kids? Why do we hide reality from ourselves? Why are we so surprised at the level of mental illness among young people when we leave them to get blindsided by life?
The landscape of Life can be rough and harsh terrain for someone trying to reach for self-actualization. I’m grateful that my mother loved me enough to do the hard thing and be totally honest about where we were in life and what it would take to move forward.
This clip from the movie about Ray Charles’s life display’s it perfectly. Young Ray has gone blind and is getting accustomed to life without sight. In this scene he falls and cries out for help from his mother who is standing nearby. She stands by silently because she understands that he is going to have to struggle to figure it out. Earlier in the film, as he is beginning to lose his sight, she tells him that the world won’t take it easy on him. She delivers the reality of the situation early on. He works forward from there. We should love each other and ourselves, enough, to do the same.