In the United States Navy, and by extension, the other military services, an individual has fairly equal opportunity to rise up the advancement ladder, and to qualify for challenging assignments. Leadership, as practiced by some I have had the great fortune to be mentored by, has been recognized by their being awarded positions among the highest authority and responsibility in that service. By mentorship I mean, demonstrating integrity, fortitude (in spite of personal hardships), a commitment to excellence and encouraging others to reach beyond “comfort” in doing.
“Every Sailor has the potential to lead. I don’t care if it’s a seaman recruit or someone higher ranking than myself. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. ” (All Hands Call, Norfolk, VA 01 May 2007)
“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other in dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself; while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”
– LTG John M. Schofield, 1879
Ask people whether they have a dream visceral enough they want accomplished. Material possessions, security, education, or a deeply-committed and loving marital relationship. Then ask those same people if they were willing to do whatever it took, in terms of work, being sleep-deprived, learning difficult lessons, memorizing, practicing, enduring criticism and overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams. Fewer might push on. Of that reduced number, how many would endure whatever life handed them in the pursuit of that dream, as days became weeks, and weeks became months, and months became years? Fewer perhaps. In an article in Forbes, a contributor has published eight traits to predict future success. These include delaying gratification, being seriously motivated and organized, believing that they make the choices which affect their outcomes, and having fortitude during adversity. Predictably, past success leads to future success.
To achieve “success”, whatever that may be in terms of the dreams one has, requires steadfast devotion. Integrity. Mental and physical toughness. And determination that there is no “giving up or giving in”. It may be an enlisted member’s goal to become an Officer or senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO). For others, it might be to earn membership into the ranks of the SEALs. The few Navy warriors who complete the BUDS training to become SEALs achieve their first qualifier. Training continues from there. Other services have their special forces as well.
But it can also be the single mother who is raising three young children, in school for a professional certification, who then cares for her children, studies all night, and maintains the family chores all at the same time. And excels. Or it can be the aging sailor with a dream to become a Chief Petty Officer who commits to every training session, early morning fitness challenge, seeks, finds and puts into practice the guidance from others with decades of leadership expertise.
“Success” can be the married young engineer, father of two, one a newborn, who spends time with his children and wife at those critical “family-building” times. Yet he is working early or into late hours, and finding innovative and productive solutions to technical challenges simultaneously.
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[a] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. – Matthew 19: 28 -29 (NIV)
And then there are the spiritually-rewarding opportunities that define “success”. The young graduate of a university with a business degree, sought by several businesses, who voluntarily goes to aid the victims of a natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina, and the Haitian earthquake), as an unpaid volunteer for a charitable organization, finds a mission and a calling that becomes a career.
“A business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better.” –Richard Branson
Many of the most-recognized entrepreneurs today did not find instant reward and acceptance when they began. Whether it was Ray Kroc and McDonalds, or Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple, or my company’s CEO, Mark Dankberg and his team, it took determination, confidence, a pursuit of excellence, and vision for the people they attracted, and the customers they served. But each built multi-billion dollar, world-changing enterprise.