7 years in the navy. 3 in the Army as a chaplain. I’m noticing some trends. Sooner or later you can’t help but notice the following skills being encouraged:
1. Exercise Routine
Everyone in the military is technically given one hour a day to exercise DURING WORKING HOURS. This doesn’t always work exactly, but the culture has been established. It is no secret that exercise is beneficial for a number of reasons. It burns fat and stress. It builds confidence and teamwork. It requires discipline. It teaches you how to tell your body to keep going when your brain wants to tell it to stop. You have to work hard in the military TO AVOID EXERCISE. If you’re not in shape it may affect the effectiveness of the team regardless of what you are doing. If you are exercising regularly it is almost guaranteed that you WILL enhance team performance.
2. Concurrent Activity
One of the first leadership skills you learn is the value of concurrent activity. This basically means, “Why accomplish one task at a time when you can get three tasks going at once?” It means constantly planning ahead and it takes a little getting used to. You begin to look at a do-list and say, “Which one of these things will take the longest and can I get it started while also accomplishing something else?” For example, it’s your day off. You wake up and know that today you want to eat breakfast, have a coffee, do laundry and clean the floors. If you ever want to get to that book or youtube video then you’ll want to figure out that the laundry can go in now, followed by turning the kettle on for coffee while you enjoy your breakfast, and then the floors (which should be dry by the time your clothes are done in the dryer). A simple scenario but I think you get the point.
3. Always come with a recommendation
You learn quickly that time is precious and that supervisors have a lot to think about. They also don’t like doing your thinking for you but they always want to be in the loop. Whenever you have to go to a supervisor with a problem, it becomes expected that you will also arrive with at least a few recommendations of how to solve it. It saves time, it gives your supervisor options, and is usually followed by a “make it so”. It also may leave your supervisor saying, “That guy knows his stuff.”
General Patton once said, “A lack of orders is no excuse for inactivity.” It is easier to course-correct enthusiasm than to raise the dead. A good question to be asking yourself in a slower time is, “What can I be accomplishing right now?” What’s on my do-list? Is there some research I can do? Is there someone who needs help? Is there a good idea I can flesh out? Can I make someone’s day better?
5. Constant Training
The military wants its members always growing and developing. You are encouraged to take as many courses, sessions, professional development days as you can. This may be a little harder to organize in the civilian world but it bears fruit. Take the time to find out what is available out there that can advance your training and experience. Online courses? Presentations? Volunteer opportunities? Experts to interview? iTunes U? Community College courses? etc. If this one seems a little intense, see #4.
6. Spiritual Resiliency
Believe it or not, the military has figured out that we are spiritual beings. It knows that when we are spiritually fit we are more likely to be grounded and reliable. It has realized from experience that units function better when they are spiritually fed. Wherever you serve in the military you will have a military chaplain assigned to your unit. They will support and encourage you to explore and deepen your spiritual journey. This will help when life throws you curve balls. It will help when you are sitting in a trench at 3 a.m. in the rain. It will help when you feel alone (no one in the military should ever feel alone).
Do you feel like you are at peace with yourself and your life?
Does it feel like your faith will ground you when all around you things are falling apart?
Why wait until an ambush to begin figuring out what you believe and what it can look like?
Jesus said, “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
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