The Man I Am: 5 Unexpected Things The Military Taught Me (and 5 Contradictions)
This article was originally published on the Good Men Project on 27 September 2015.
I was a starry-eyed eighteen-year-old when I joined the Canadian Armed Forces. I was immersed in a culture that expected more of me than I thought I was capable of giving. It forced me to grow, quickly, and figure out what kind of man I wanted to be.
Below are five things that the military has taught me about being a man. And in proper military fashion I’ve shared a contradiction to each point. I’ve found these to be as applicable in my personal life as my professional life.
1. Give each task your 100%
Treat each task like it is the most important part of your day. Work until the job is done. It doesn’t matter if it takes 20 minutes or 20 hours. Don’t slack off. Multitasking is a myth and you’ll just waste time switching from one thing to another. If you can bring energy and skill to the smallest of tasks you’ll be ready when big projects come your way.
– but if you have nothing to do, don’t do it here.
There is always something else you can be doing with your time. Take a break when you deserve it, but don’t sit there and be the source of distraction. When you’re done a job don’t hang around looking for a pat on the head. Move on.
2. Communicate more
If there is a deadline you need to pass on, do it. Clearly say what you expect and when. Don’t assume people know what you are talking about.
– with less
More Hemingway, less Homer. Speak your mind, say what needs to be said, and move on. Don’t waste people’s time by being wordy or avoiding an issue. If you need to email someone get to the point in the first line. Don’t make them skim your message trying to figure out what you want.
3. Patience is a virtue
Don’t be upset when people are late. Check on progress but don’t complain. Not much has changed since kindergarten: no one likes whiners.
– but be ready to move
When it’s time, it’s time. Don’t drag your feet, don’t complain about how little notice you were given, just get up and move on. There’s nothing you can do about it now anyways.
4. Be ready to lead
When something needs to be done don’t wait around to be told to do it. Step up and lead the way. It’s often easier for people join a task when they see you starting it, rather than standing there and telling them to do it.
– but know when to follow
The President doesn’t work with a Co-President, he works with a Vice-President. Take a lesson from democracy and understand that there can’t be two people in charge. Be confident enough to voice your opinion but be courageous enough to work as a team member. No one appreciates the constant dissenter or the wannabe usurper. Learn when to move over.
5. Don’t walk away
If you see a problem, fix it. Studies show that as a group we tell ourselves that someone else is dealing with it. Be the exception; step forward.
– but don’t be too proud to ask for help
Pride can be a terrible thing. It can seem like confidence but eventually it works against you. Being a man doesn’t mean always doing it alone. You should offer and accept help when needed. If you’re struggling, whether it’s academics, fitness, or depression, you are doing yourself and your peers a disservice by not asking for help moving forward. It’s not easy, but no one said it was going to be.
Photo: Flikr/Kurt Bauschardt