Success is a very clear cut concept in the military. If you succeed you live, if you fail you die.
This is why military units are very thorough in ensuring their training prepares a soldier fully for what they are going to face on the battlefield.
It all begins during recruit training, where nothing, not a single minute of the day is accidental.
Remember also that the military has had 10,000 years to perfect their training, so they really know what works.
Here are the 5 greatest lessons I learned about success in the military that you can use to hit a new level.
1. Pay attention to the smallest detail
Most people don’t sweat the small stuff, but the military is all about the small stuff.
From the way your clothes are folded to their position in your locker, the angles on your sheets when your bed is made, and your rifle being clean. It is all held up as incredibly important.
I’ve seen entire beds thrown out on the parade ground by instructors because it was made poorly. If you take pride in doing the small things right, it filters through to everything you do.
If a corporal can’t trust you to fold your clothes as you’re instructed, how can they trust you to follow orders in a war zone?
So many people let things slide like their workspace, their diet, their appearance, thinking that they just need to take care of their major goals. It’s the other way around.
Take care and have pride in doing the small things well and the bigger ones will follow.
” We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.” – Dwight D Eisenhower
Whether you’re going on a field exercise or deployment to a foreign conflict, lists are a big deal. You have your checklist of equipment, your mission objectives and rules of engagement.
Everything important is contained in a list so nothing is missed, so it can be referenced in a heartbeat if there is any confusion. In battlefield conditions you can’t remember everything all of the time.
Every day, you need a list of your primary and secondary objectives. Each night, work out what you need to achieve the next day.
The “must do” items are your primary objectives and they don’t get moved for anything. The “nice to have” items are your secondary objectives that can be moved around when other things come up.
This way you won’t be eating dinner and thinking “dammit, I forgot to call that client!”
Your list stops your day getting away from you and keeps your priorities straight.
When you’re out in the field you only have a limited amount of pack space and anything you do fit in there is going to weigh you down.
You can’t just put everything that would be nice to have in in your pack because you’ll never fit it all.
This means you have to decide what’s really essential to achieving the mission while leaving the rest behind.
Your budget, for example, is like a soldier’s pack. Is there room in it for an office? Is an office really essential to your mission at this stage or could that money be used for something far more useful?
Ask yourself what your major goals are and what you must have to achieve them.
Don’t waste money on anything that’s superfluous.
4. Adapt and overcome
The military is big on plans, but I think we all know that the lifespan of a plan ends when the first shots are fired.
Any plan needs to be refined to fit the situation at hand so objectives can still be met and people don’t die.
In the business world you may have a certain goal in mind and you’re determined to get there the way you have planned, but sticking to a plan when the battle conditions have changed is lunacy.
In war, if you lose or break a piece of equipment you have to improvise. Maybe your IT system goes down for a day at a crucial time, are you going to adapt and find a way to get things done, or will you just kick back and wait for things to solve themselves?
Being adaptable and responsive isn’t just a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity.
” I don’t fear failure. I only fear the slowing up of the engine inside of me which is saying, “Keep going, someone must be on top, why not you?” – George Patton
5. Learn to be good at many things
In the army you were considered a rifleman first, your specialty second, and anything else that came up after that.
Everyone was expected to be a talented generalist.
While I was a signals intelligence specialist; I could also lay telecommunication lines, set up and use radios, do basic troubleshooting on that equipment, and command troops.
Specialization can bring you big money, but if and when the market turns, you’re screwed if all your expertise and knowledge is in one basket.
Likewise if your specialty becomes redundant and can be done by a program or a machine, or someone can replace it with an app you have to start again from scratch.
People who have knowledge across a range of areas and can connect disparate ideas will be the most sought after in the coming years.
You wouldn’t put your life savings on a single number in roulette, so don’t do the equivalent with your career.
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The Guide to Staying Motivated While Working Alone
Working alone at home might sound like a nightmare to some, but as a fully signed up introvert, working alone at home is an absolute dream. No energy-draining small talk, no noisy distractions, just peace and quiet to complete deep and focused work. Well not quite. Working alone at home has more challenges than you might expect. Boredom, lack of focus and lack of motivation to name a few.
When you start working for yourself, you quickly realise that one of the biggest problems you face isn’t the job itself. Maintaining your motivation poses a potentially huge difficulty. Much of that difficulty stems from working alone, rather than in a traditional office setting. There is also the challenge of staying focused on the task at hand. With no boss or supervisor looking over your shoulder, social media can distract or cat videos interrupt you.
But the greatest problem by far is a simple lack of motivation. There doesn’t seem to be a pressing need to finish this project right now, making it far too easy to put it off until later. Left unchecked, a lack of motivation can cripple the work you are trying to accomplish. Over the past few years I’ve developed a few go-to tactics to improve my lone working motivation.
Here are some of the tools I’ve used to stay motivated and on-task.
These first few tips focus on using different tweaks in your personal work schedule to provide some variety and maintain your focus.
1. Include short breaks
My eye doctor once told me that for every 20 minutes of staring at a computer screen, you should look away and focus on something across the room for 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a chance to reset. Do something similar with the rest of your body; don’t just look across the room, walk, jog, or run across the room. Give your body a break, and try to reset your thoughts. If you don’t have the discipline to take regular breaks, use an app to remind you.
2. Block out an afternoon for social activities and networking
Set aside one afternoon a week for your social life. Friday afternoon works best for me. If you feel guilty about not working, think of it as a chance to network. Either way, be sure to spend this section of time with other people. Socialise and network.
3. View your personal schedule as your work schedule
A 9-to-5 job requires getting up every morning, preparing for the day, leaving the house, and commuting to your workplace. In other words, it requires going to work. You want to recreate the same rhythm at home. You may not actually need to leave your house in order to work, but try to stick with the schedule. Filling the old job timeslot with your new work helps to keep you motivated – you can’t clock out early!
These next few tips are little things you can do to trick yourself into staying focused!
This tip may sound cliché, but try listening to an upbeat song loudly whenever you feel unmotivated. It’s a simple trick, but a surprisingly effective one!
2. Have somewhere else to work for a change of scenery
When procrastination sets in, sometimes a quick change of scenery is all you need. If you work at home, going to your favourite café can be a huge help. Other freelancers I know have even gone so far as to hire office space outside the home, and rotate between the two to help stay on-task.
3. Love what you do
This is arguably the most critical point on the whole list. If you don’t love what you do, it will be hard to keep yourself motivated – particularly long-term. Sure, you may be able to push on through sheer force of will for a while, but sooner or later you’ll lose motivation entirely. Do something you genuinely enjoy, and you’ll find it much easier to stick with it for the long haul.
These last few tips are Industry-related!
1. Make sure you have fun projects
Not all of your work projects will be fun, but fight to make at least a couple of them fun. These might even be personal side projects, not particularly related to your main job. Or they might be in the same general field, but not your specific focus.
2. Attend industry events a couple of times a year
Nearly every imaginable industry has an organising body of some kind. Find the local branch, and use it to keep tabs on industry-related events. Attend some seminars, network, and maybe even glean some new tips and tricks from industry insiders.
3. Schedule at least one call a week to learn something within your industry
View this as an opportunity for personal development. At least once a week, try to learn something new about your industry. For me, this might mean calling a new tool provider to demonstrate their gadgets. Whatever your industry, try to expand your horizons a little bit every week. You’ll learn new methods and make new connections at the same time.
These tips worked for me, hopefully, some of them will help you out as well. Above all, strive to enjoy what you do, stick to a “work schedule,” and look for opportunities for constant self-improvement. With those ideas in mind, you’ll find staying motivated much easier to do alone or in a group!
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