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.