How the military taught me humility

Rule #4 Never become pompous or arrogant. Adversity is not the enemy; stay humble.

Arriving at boot camp, you are completely unconscious of what’s around you. However, you do know you’re in a military system. So, given that fact, your first option should be to figure out what is a military system. That should take all of about two seconds, and once you realize it, then you have to quickly abide by it. You truly only get a day to figure the system out. You’re being observed from the moment you step off the bus until they make assignments of the leadership team within your company. You have to be smart, humble, and assertive all at the same time to be recognized as someone mature enough to take a leadership role at a very young age. I adopted Rule of the System # 4 at this time: Never become pompous or arrogant. Adversity is not the enemy; stay humble. The way their system works is that you have a short amount of time to prove your worth. If you fail, you get fired immediately and lose the opportunity to become a leader while in boot camp. Boot camp is a very fast-moving system and does not have time to nurture you. Either you instinctively have the wherewithal to show leadership and understand the military process or you don’t. If you don’t, that’s okay because then you are just put with the average folks in the company. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it just says you’re not ready for this particular system.

What I learned of the system then, I began to advance my knowledge of later, in my time on board USS Dixie.

One day, onboard Dixie, it was about 3:45 pm in the afternoon and almost time to shut down the shop and go home.                             

“Hey Maxwell,” my mentor called out.

“Hey what?” And the minute I responded that way, I knew my answer was wrong. “How about you go and get a vacuum cleaner and go down five decks below in the weapons magazine in the shop on the ship and clean out around all the scuttles within the hatches.”

I was horrified and upset. It was 3:45 pm and there was no way in the world I could get this done in fifteen minutes and he knew it and didn’t care. He said do it. So, I got the vacuum cleaner out and I went down five decks below and started at the lowest deck. I was beyond upset. Every level I cleaned I was cursing him under my breath and watching the clock as time ticked by. Oh, I believe by the time I was finished it was about 7:00 pm in the evening, too late to do anything. But guess what, McCoy was still there watching me. Finally, I completed my tasks.

“Hey mister smart-mouth,” he said to me. “I was calling to ask you to go out to dinner. Because of your flippant response you needed a lesson.”

Never become pompous or arrogant. Adversity is not the enemy; stay humble.

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