As I'm approaching the halfway point of my training at the Marine Corp's The Basic School in Quantico, VA, I'm left to ponder some of the things that I have learned on the journey thus far. A conversation that I recently had with one of my mentors here at the school really stands out to me. In essence it was to "expect greater things of yourself".
In a system like the military (and in life in general), it's easy to become complacent and to be ok with the status quo. It's easy to position yourself in the middle of the pack and stay there. Although, this may get you by, it simply isn't enough. Why draft off others in the middle if you have the ability to lead from the front or to blaze a new trail? If we don't put in our best effort and push ourselves to always improve (no matter how difficult it may be), we won't get much in return.
We need to challenge ourselves to be our very best self. We need to capitalize on every opportunity that we have. Rather than simple waiting for the next step, we need to live in the current moment.
A fellow 2nd Lieutenant told my platoon a story after doing some MCMAP (Marine Corps Mixed Martial Arts) last week. His story was about a skilled contractor...
This contractor, we'll call him Joe, was one of the most talented and skilled home builders in California. For 20 years, he had been traveling across the state and country for special projects on the best homes. Everyone knew his work was top of the line and he always delivered a great product.
One day, after a particularly time consuming project, Joe's wife asked him if he would be wiling to consider retirement in order to spend more time with the family. Joe thought about it, reflecting on the 1000's of hours he had spent mastering his craft away from his kids and agreed that it was about time he set aside his tools. So, when he went to work the next Monday he approached his boss and said that he was putting in his two weeks.
"Woah, you can't go!" Joe's boss exclaimed. He went on to say how the entire business was built on Joe's talent and how they wouldn't be able to stay afloat without his work. Joe expressed how he had promised to his wife that he would start phasing out, but his boss begged him to stay. Eventually Joe agreed to meet his boss in the middle with the condition that he would complete one more project.
The final project was going to be near Joe's current home and in a really nice part of town, so it wouldn't require a long commute. Also, Joe was given creative freedom on the project with a budget to whatever materials he needed.
Despite the projects potential, Joe's heart simply wasn't in his work and the remodeling ended up taking much longer than normal. As Joe couldn't stop thinking about being retired in a few short weeks, his work wasn't quite up to par with what he usually produced. Eventually, after more than one complication, Joe completed the job.
To his surprise, when he told his boss that the job was done with the house, he was told to keep the keys. "Really?" he asked his boss in a surprised tone. "Yep." the boss said. The boss went onto explain how he wanted to give Joe a final thank you for all of his hard work over the years, so all of the materials and the cost of the house was his gift. He said how he knew Joe had the best handiwork in the state and thought it was only suiting if his final project was his own to keep.
Now, Joe should have been ecstatic with the generous offer by his boss, but he couldn't help thinking of the half hearted work that he had put into the house and how he now would have to live with his lack of effort. He was embarrassed and disheartened, but couldn't say anything to his boss. He had no choice, but to take the keys and go on his way.
The story of Joe's house can be likened to our own lives and to expecting greater things of ourselves. At the end of the day, just like Joe, we're all building our own future. If we put in a half hearted effort, we'll be disappointed with the results. On the other hand, if we put in everything we can, we'll get amazing things back in return.
Life as a new 2nd Lieutenant has not been easy, as I'm sure many of the challenges that you are facing may not be, however, matter how challenging it may become, I know that one day I will get through and look back on my time with admiration. If I give my best and overcome the struggle, I won't regret the effort. On the other hand, if I were to give up and allow myself to fail, there would definitely be long-lasting negative consequences.
One of my favorite athletes Steve Prefontaine said, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." This is definitely something I agree with.
Anyways, there's your weekly post of motivation. God bless.