In June of 2002, at the tender age of 18, I shipped off for boot camp in the United States Marine Corps. Amidst a vast ocean of learning experiences on which I was about to set sail, I never would’ve guessed, that in the subsequent four years of my life, I would be receiving preparation invaluable to my performance years later, working at a start-up company. The following is my all-star list of lessons still benefiting me on a near daily basis.
- No pain, no gain.
If you want to, you can find that rare mettle deep within yourself, it is there. Not without digging deep though, redefining your limits, refusing to quit, all while reinforcing yourself with greater confidence every time a trial is successfully endured.
- You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and this applies to the weakest link
This saying often gets misconstrued as “failure is the fault of the weak link in the chain”, but a highly decorated sergeant, a thrice-toured combat veteran once gave me far more valuable insight into the maxim while I was preparing to ship out for the first time. You are the only source of strength your teammates have to draw from. Weak linkage will altogether disappear in the presence of unshakable cohesion. It is only when we forget this simple acumen that our team is at risk of falling short of the mission.
- Nothing can substitute for battle tested troops.
Although a dramatic way to phrase it, it is nonetheless poignantly accurate. When looking for employees, contractors, or consultants, experience is of far greater value than training. There is a reason 30-year master gunnery sergeants get to tell second year 1st lieutenants what to do with impunity.
- One’s focus is best exercised when applied to making you immediate superior successful.
The chain of command in an effective unit functions upon the philosophy that whatever your job, complete it with the success of your immediate supervisor in mind and you will create an environment for optimal achievement. Even in instances where personalities or management styles clash, if you are recognized as someone who prioritizes the success of the person you’re working for, you will also be viewed as indispensable.
- Always recognize commander’s intent.
When dumbed down military style, ‘commander’s intent’ really just means ‘what the boss really wants, even if they forgot to say it’. This is best attended to by checking in, asking any questions that might be useful, which is pretty much any question that you might have at any given time.
- Situational awareness, situational awareness, situational awareness.
It’s like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Situational awareness means maintaining your bearing and composure so as to never miss the crucial little details by which you are then able to surmount the potential ambuscade of annoying obstacles that somehow always manage to show up at the most inopportune of times.
- Never eat the wrong piece of candy.
This is not a metaphor. Ask any Marine and they will tell you the exact name of this candy, which will be left unnamed here for several hopefully obvious reasons. This candy can be found in certain MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and will, according to legend, lay a curse upon the eater resulting in, well, every gross, spooky, or funny consequence a corps full of jarheads can cook up. Nevertheless, I have not eaten this particular candy while working at this start up thus far, and thus far, business is going swimmingly.
Jedd Lanctot, the author of this post is a Marine Veteran. If you have any questions for him, shoot him an email at Jedd@ralliBox.com. Thank you to all our veterans for their service.