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A Quick Story on Failure
Also known as a thing in my life that I don't share that publicly.
I failed at some pivotal points in my career.
They didn’t quickly resolve into happy endings.
Life sucked for a meaningful amount of time afterward, but these failures did force me to get better. And that’s what got me on the right path.
A lot of what I write is about what I think is the right answer to different situations.
I don’t normally spend a ton of time talking how I developed my opinion of these things because
It makes the essays super long and
There isn’t usually an acute event that “taught” that opinion to me.
My opinions are generally developed over time after reading a lot and participating in and dealing with multiple versions of the situation on which I am opining.
But I have some stories that are different.
There are some no joke things I just got absolutely crushed by and if I can I’d like to help you avoid getting crushed by them in your life too. Here’s one of them.
Hot and Heavy in Ft. Benning
I commissioned as an Infantry officer in the U.S. Army back in May 2014. I was excited to graduate college, start my Army career, and go through the additional training I needed to start leading Soldiers. I had done very well in school, was in the best physical shape of my life, and was chomping at the bit to start my life as a Lieutenant.
I also had my military orders that said I would report to Ft. Benning, Georgia for my infantry training in October 2014. Over 5 months of waiting.
Not ideal, but I decided to make the best of it.
I would live at the beach. Relax. After four years of military school I would take a well earned break.
Then after a 6 weeks of taking a load off, I would work to get back to the cumulative peak I was currently feeling. 4:1 ratio of Work to Relax Time. Simple plan, made sense.
So I moved and had a blast.
I used every bit of that time to emphatically not prepare for the really hard thing I was about to do. Beers. Late nights. Laying on the beach. I really achieved what I set out to do (which was nothing).
And at the end of the 6th week where I was my absolute least prepared for doing anything of value for the military, I got a phone call telling me I was reporting to my Infantry Officer Course on Monday.
Things had changed. It happens. I knew it could happen.
But I had had all the information I needed to make a better set of decisions, yet decided I was pretty sure (without any reason) that I didn’t need to prepare because it wouldn’t happen to me.
And no amount of cleverness now would help me avoid the fact that I was fucked.
So I packed up my stuff, drove the 13 hours down to Benning and started the course. I made it 3 days. I barely passed my fitness test on Day 2 and then we started our first 4 mile run of the course that included rucksack/body armor/helmet/gear. Check this video out to build a mental picture of the crap we carried.
Probably 60 or 80 lbs to carry all in, 90 degrees, 100% humidity. 0% readiness level.
To my credit, I technically finished the run. But after we made it back, I dropped like a sack of potatoes. Unconscious.
I had a heat stroke. My core temp went up to over 105 degrees. I almost died tbh. Failed out of my Infantry Officer course in the first 3 days. Spent the next week in the hospital with an IV in my arm peeing out bourbon colored urine. I also think I sort of permanently damaged my kidneys? I’m not sure really because I never really asked the doctors out of fear of getting kicked out of the Army.
Anyway. I had just failed the first real test of my military career and it was 100%, no way around it, fully and totally my fault. It was one of the worst days of my life.
And the only way out was through.
It took about another month to recover enough to be able to pretend like I was ok to restart my training. I wasn’t, but managed to scrape through the first half of my course with a bit of luck from the weather staying slightly cooler, some squadmates that would help me out when I was truly sucking, and frankly, just the raw animal fear of embarrassing myself like that again. By the second half of the course, I was on the upswing and feeling much closer to my old, peak self, but it was a truly miserable journey to get back to that point.
So I learned an important lesson the hard way.
Preparation isn’t an activity, it’s a state of mind.
It’s an eternal process and you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse.
And somehow life always seems to figure out when you’ve showed up unprepared.
I hope this added value to your day.
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