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Shoulder to Shoulder

When I was a street cop, the way the good officers judged whether another officer was a good partner, was not based on the other officer’s personality, gender, race, looks, cologne, or any criteria other than, will this officer backing me up, leave me in a fight?

 spartans batte formation

Over the years, as a cop, federal agent, and security contractor, I have been privileged to partner with many good men and women, standing shoulder to shoulder with me, facing any threat that came our way, and never leaving me during the fight.  I have also experienced many, many more folks that bailed out, and ran at the first sign of trouble.  Some of them, wouldn’t even show up and answer the 9-1-1 call if it sounded dangerous.  (Those folks, oddly enough, got promoted.)

The only true way to find out who is who, is to actually be in a fight.  It doesn’t have to be a physical fight, it might be financial, or emotional; it could be sickness, or a debilitating injury; it might be an issue affecting your children, your spouse, your job or a dear friend.  After 27 years together, Kim, my wife, has never left me in a fight (and in that amount time, we’ve faced some pretty tough fights).  On the flip side, I’ve never left her flank open.  We stand shoulder to shoulder, no matter what.  We aren’t looking to partner up with folks that turn tail and run at the first sign of trouble, either.  It turns out badly for everyone involved.

The ancient Spartans utilized what they called a “phalanx”, as their standby battle formation, to face any threat.  The warriors would stand shoulder to shoulder, protecting each other with their shields.  As long as the line was held, they would prevail in the fight.  If someone in the line cut and run, the whole line would collapse, the integrity of the protective formation disintegrate, and the battle was lost.  Be very selective of who you let into your phalanx.  Your success depends on it.

Boo Yah!!

Desensitize Yourself:

Trepidation To Trite 

Desensitize yourself

Back in the late 1990’s, I drove through the gates of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, in Glynco, GA. I was met by the security force (FLETsee 5-0, as we called them), and the horrid and putrid sulfuric smell of the nearby paper mill. WOW! The odor was like fermented rotten eggs on steroids with Brussel Sprouts on top (insert gagging here)! I’m not sure how long it took, but by the time I was bedding down that first night, I didn’t notice the smell any longer. Wind shift perhaps? No, desensitization. My brain had shut down sending the out the “foul odor signals” and allowed me to function normally, without the gagging and choking back down the rising bile and vomit it caused.

The same thing happens when eating that yummy special meal of your “favorite” food. Once you eat it so much that it no longer becomes special, it doesn’t taste that great. In fact, if that’s all you had to eat, every meal of every day, it wouldn’t be your favorite before long, and wouldn’t even taste good. It would become trite, banal, boring and downright blah.

Alcohol is the same. That initial drink that puts a teetotaler on his or her butt, with head spinning, has no impact on the seasoned-drinker that can hold his or her liquor. We humans quickly build up a tolerance for things, or put another way, are easily desensitized. When Elvis first hit the scene with gyrating hips, it was shocking. Looking back now, after almost 60 years of desensitization, his movies are deemed mild enough for preschoolers.

What if we deployed this phenomenon to our advantage? The Warrior Culture has been doing it for eons. First, we must take an honest assessment of what causes us fear, trepidation and anxiety. Once recognized, go and do the very thing(s) that you fear. Very quickly your trepidation will become trite, just like that favorite meal eaten over and over again. Panic becomes pedestrian.
During a family trip to the beach, I had my 16 year-old son drive the majority of the time. He was a new and inexperienced driver at the time. He had fear and trepidation about driving on I-95 for several hours, in the midst of beach traffic, thunderstorms and high-speed lane changes. After about an hour, he went from butterflies to banal. And after two more hours, from banal to bored, with the long, dull stretches of straightaways at same steady speed, mile after mile. We can do the same, and should.

I used to be terrified of any kind of “selling”. How ridiculous! I’ve made my living being shot at by bad guys the world over, and yet, terrified of someone telling me “No” in a sales environment. Well, businesses don’t build themselves, and if I wanted mine to succeed, selling was a must. I took on a project that had me making 50 cold calls each week. Guess what? By the second week, desensitization worked its magic. After 6 months, I stopped the project, having gained what I needed, trepidation turned to trite. I don’t fear sales calls, sales call fear me. I don’t fear taking calculated risks, calculated risks fear me.

Identify your trepidation. GO and DO it until it becomes trite. Desensitize Yourself.

Boo Yah!

Go Ahead, Hit Me

“I can’t teach someone how to take a punch.  That’s about internal fortitude, you have it or you don’t.”

Mike Tyson

 take a punch

Fortitude is the mental strength and courage that allows one to face pain, danger, adversity, difficulties, and even temptation, and not draw back.  Without the mental toughness to not draw back in the midst of harsh conditions, you have lost before you even start.

Growing up, I was the fat kid and a cry-baby, and therefore attracted the attention of bullies.  I was the king of drawing back.  I couldn’t take a punch, didn’t want to take a punch, and would cower at merely the thought of taking a punch.  Guess what? That mindset invited even more punches to be thrown my way, and not just physical punches, plenty of emotional ones as well, aimed directly at my core identity, “the guy who was easy prey.”

Everything changed once my mindset changed.  Once I learned how to “punch” back, and to do so in a strategic and skillful manner, taking punches equated to motivational stimulus, not pain.  The Warrior Culture of the Marine Corps, started out by teaching me how to physically punch back, but in the process, instilled a Mental Toughness mindset that took root and became internal fortitude.

Being able to take a punch might not be able to be taught, but the Mental Toughness mindset can be learned, and deliberately assuming that mindset, day in and day out, will eventually lead to an internal fortitude that is tougher than steel.

Mental Toughness is a process and a lifestyle.  Controlling your emotions and conquering your fears is a game changer, without it, I shudder to think how dreadful my life would have been.  I don’t go looking for adversity, I don’t go looking for a fight, and I don’t enjoy difficulties. On the other hand, difficulties don’t enjoy me either, adversity doesn’t much like me, and I actually like getting punched occasionally, it reminds me how much fun it is to win a fight.

Boo Yah!

11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

Cynthia Ozick

 veterans day

Today is Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, and Veterans Day.  In the U.S., banks are closed, the mail doesn’t run, and the U.S. Marines are shaking off the effects of the Marine Corps Ball.  Many, many grateful Americans have personally thanked me for my service as a military veteran.  “Thanks” which I awkwardly accept, but know is undeserved.  I didn’t enlist in the Corps for purely patriotic reasons, I knew I needed what the Corps had to give me, and it is the gift that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving.

It’s not just the Marine Corps, it’s the warrior culture.  When I was growing up in Australia, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we all stopped what we were doing for a minute of silence.  One minute to reflect and be grateful for the very things that most deserve it, the sacrifices of those who gave themselves for future generations.

I still like to stop, wherever I am and observe that minute on Veterans Day, sharing that short 60-seconds with my brothers-in-arms, in collective gratitude to those we never knew, the friends we have lost, and the friends that made it home.

Each year, at this time, I receive notes from those that have made it home, letting me know we are still connected by bonds that span time and distance.  To each Marine, sailor, soldier, and airman, whether American, Australian, British, Canadian, New Zealander, or South African, and other allied comrades; to those living today, or those that have gone on before me; I am grateful for you, your valiant service, and for the eternal fraternity, into the ranks of which you have welcomed me to be a part.

Boo yah!