What is the goal of life? In general, what is it for which we search? Some search endlessly for more money, while others search for the love of their life. No matter what “it” is that we search for, one thing holds true; it is human nature to be in search of something. There are numerous theories that attempt to explain this search. After researching it in college, I became a fan of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. If you’re not familiar with Maslow’s theory, I suggest you look it up and read it. He believed that each person has differing levels of needs, not being able to move on to the next level until they feel the first need is satisfied. For instance, his theory states the most basic human need is physiological (air, water, food etc), once met people crave the next need level in his theory, which is safety.
This concept was on my mind while I was driving this morning. Those of us who write can attest to the fact that an idea, or subject to write about, pops up at the oddest of times. I can’t count how many times I’ve mentally written a poem at 2am while trying to sleep. Sadly, those poems never made it to paper. How about the thousands of million dollar ideas you have while in the shower? I’m sure that’s something we’ve all experienced. While I was driving and listening to music, suddenly my mind went from the music to asking myself what people search for in life and how that affects us. While having this one person debate I decided my simple answer is to be a better person. I think everyone, in one way or another, strives to be a better person. The changing variable from person to person is the “what”. What is it that you are striving for, which would make you better? Those who know me understand that I rarely think about these kinds of things on basic levels. I am not having these thoughts to simply answer that question for myself, I sit thinking “what is it we are missing?” The “we” is in reference to people, the human race in general. In this process I came to the conclusion that I believe what I search for is the same as what everyone else is searching for: to be better.
So what is missing? The answer to that, in my opinion, is personal development. Sounds simple enough right? But, I knew this can’t be the answer. It can’t be that simple. I kept driving and kept having my self-debate. What is personal development? The answer to that too is different for each person. Some people will look at education as personal development. Education is a development process. It is applying yourself to something to make yourself better, but I do not think education is personal. While I chose my degree program and major based on something I thought would interest me on a personal level, as I am sure most people do, my rationale for saying it is not “personal” development is based on the fact that there were classes I had to take, which were of no interest to me at all. In turn, there were classes I loved and although I wanted to be fed more of that information, it was time to move on based on class schedule. I always hated it when we would have a class debate on something and it was very interesting to hear other people’s ideas and thoughts and suddenly, debate over, turn to the next chapter. Personal development implies that I personally have control over that development and in a university setting I do not.
The above example serves to emphasize the word “personal” in personal development. I also had to ask myself “is it just about educating yourself?” Is personal development nothing more than reading or possibly watching some YouTube videos of your favorite speaker? No! Absolutely not. I began thinking about people in really good relationships and asking, is there personal development there? I think there is. I actually had to laugh a little at this point of my driving self-debate because at this point the famous line from Jerry McGuire came to mind. No, not “show me the money.” The other line…”you complete me.” I laughed because I thought to myself how ridiculous that is. I know it came off as a very romantic moment in that movie and I know some will say they feel that way about their significant other, but I just don’t feel as if another person can complete you. They can fill a void, there’s no doubt about that, but to say they complete you says more about your insecurities then it is a flattering to them. If time and history have taught us nothing else, it’s that we are never complete. Using a word such as “complete” implies “finished,” but if we strive for personal development we are never truly finished.
I could go on and on with analogies and examples and they, just like other more educated people’s theories, would be nothing more than opinion. That’s what I love about studying a theory. You can agree or disagree and either way, you’re not wrong, so long as you’re able to back up your opinion.
Back to my driving self-debate: there I was driving along, using up my gas, my music nothing more than a muffled noise compared to my thoughts. All of these theories and ideas floating around and I was thinking; how can I possibly explain this in the simplest way possible. That was what I wanted to gain from this. I wanted to have one analogy, one simple way I can explain a life in search of continuous personal development. So here it is –
Look at life as one huge jigsaw puzzle. That’s all it is, one humongous, never ending, impossible to complete jigsaw puzzle. If you’ve ever attempted to complete a large jigsaw puzzle you can attest to how difficult it is to find the pieces you need. You dump the box and have this big, messy, pile of pieces and have no idea where they go. Some people start with the corners, others sort all straight edges while another goes recklessly forward by starting with whatever pieces they find that fit together. All the while, there’s still that big pile of pieces to sort through. As you start to complete sections you see the picture coming together. That’s a chapter in your life but, there’s still that big pile of pieces. You can complete sections and you can see the pictures forming but this puzzle is never ending. There is always that big pile of pieces and those pieces represent personal development. As you grow as a person, you find the next piece that fits. You meet someone and there’s a piece. You read a book, there’s a piece. You fall in love, add a piece. Pieces are added and pictures come together but this puzzle will never be complete. Even in death it is not complete because we have passed our puzzle pieces (through knowledge and love and memories) to someone else. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying my puzzle and look forward to adding the next piece. I added one today during a simple drive from which sparked a self-debate. Life is personal development, day in and day out. Make yourself better today and enjoy your puzzle.
Birthdays and holidays have always been “different” for me. I can’t recall when it all seemed to change but at some point during my Marine Corps career, I just stopped viewing them as a special day. I would volunteer to stand duty on holidays so that those Marines that were married and had families could be home. I never made mention that it was my birthday because I felt no need for the Marines to go out of their way to do anything. Don’t get me wrong, they usually did and I was appreciative. I just stopped looking for it or expecting it and honestly felt uncomfortable with gifts or a cake. I viewed my mindset and actions as an act of selflessness. The problem however, is over time I became cold towards not just holidays but, towards just about everything. Now, as I celebrate my 43rd birthday today, I still feel somewhat the same way like “just another day” but I have also opened up in order to enjoy things more often. I don’t regret viewing things the way I did in the past because, well, me being that way allowed a lot of Marines to be home with loved ones. I think my cold-hearted view towards birthdays and holidays followed me into retirement simply due to habit. Those who serve understand the word “institutionalized” all too well. We become that way because it is what we are comfortable with; it is routine for us and vital for success and survival.
Today I sit, being 2+ years removed (retired) from the beloved Corps and I look at how much my life has changed. Six months into retirement my outlook was vastly different. I missed my brothers and sisters in the Corps but not so much the daily headaches and politics I dealt with consistently. The problem was that my focus was more on throwing shade on what I disagreed with vice thinking of the green blooded family members I missed. Now when I look back, I think of all the great memories and friends/family I made along the way. I sit, as of today, a 43 year old feeling very accomplished and abundantly loved. Being a single dad, my world revolves around my daughter. She is the sole reason that, little by little, I have grown to really enjoy holidays and birthdays again. To see her excitement and the huge smile on her face as she hands me the custom birthday card she drew for me; that brings me joy. I cherish every second of the tight embrace of her squeeze as she gives me my birthday hug. The little things that at one point I did not have and later even still inadvertently overlooked mean so much to me now. What I realized recently is the reason why I am so accepting of love and affection and gifts when they are given is one simple thing; I have learned to love myself again. My 42nd year taught me a lot about life, friendships, business, money, family and so many other things. The most important thing I learned through my 42nd year- how to love myself again, to see my own value. I am thankful not only for all the smiles and blessings that have come my way but, for the hardships as well for they have taught me the most valuable of lessons. I am excited for the upcoming year and the things I plan to accomplish. Stay tuned - it will be one for the record books!
Inside your own mind lies the most dangerous caves and caverns of thought. Somewhere deep inside everyone’s conscience is a little voice that, for some reason, never has anything positive to say. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re not attractive enough.” “You can’t-You won’t”. Anyone who tells you they do not have this little voice is not being honest. That voice is there. The difference is, are you listening to that voice?
It is no secret that it can be difficult to stay positive all the time. Just think of all the things around you that are working against you obtaining your happiness. Everywhere you look there is a commercial, a billboard, a Facebook post, something that fosters negative energy and doubt. I could say you simply become a victim of these things but, that would not be true. What happens is you become a victim of your own self. You are the only person who may determine who you are or who you will become. Your value as a human being is not determined by anyone else on this entire planet! Aside from someone affecting your view of self-worth, there are circumstances we deal with that also affect us. I know from experience. As a matter of fact, I was caught up in thought today and it was thoughts about my personal experiences that inspired this post.
My personal experiences caused me to begin living within the limits of my own negative thoughts. I was in an abusive relationship and became a single parent over night after an altercation. I had just moved to a new area and recently checked into my new unit. I did not know anyone in the area and to top it off, I was on an independent duty which means I did not have the usual support structure of being on a Marine Corps base. I had yet to establish day care for my daughter and I did not know how I was going to be able to work everything out, or if my new command would be supportive. It may sound odd to be curious if a military unit will be supportive of such circumstances but, the variable was the type of unit and my new responsibilities. The entire purpose of me being selected for this duty station was to be the only enlisted Marine there to train, screen and evaluate university Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students for future service as Navy and Marine Corps officers. One person for the job and now I’m unavailable due to a family crisis. I did have support of those who mattered most. Lucky for me because over time I learned there was one person who was pushing to have me removed. I refused to let this happen as it would taint my career goal of accomplishing this prestigious duty and attaining my next rank. So, now I am constantly watching my back because of the person at work, on top of trying to prepare for multiple court dates in order to finalize my divorce and maintain custody of my daughter. Oh, and let me throw another wrench in the gears; I sustained a serious back injury and was told I could no longer train in the manner required of me. I felt like my entire livelihood was being taken away from me. Marines have to be physically fit! It is an absolute must! Now comes the struggle of physical therapy and building myself back to a level that several doctors told me I could no longer achieve. Well, I did it. I finalized my divorce, built myself back up physically and maintained my poisiton at the university for the next three and a half years. I also picked up my next rank of First Sergeant (E8); which was my career goal. Although there was one more rank to attain as an enlisted Marine, First Sergeant was always my personal goal. Now, you would think after coming through all of that, and things seemingly going my way, everything would be peachy; this was not the case.
I transferred from the university to a new duty station, another independent duty. This was actually a good thing because my body was beginning to fail me again. After checking into my new unit I began talking to the doctors about the many things that bothered me. Most of the focus was once again on my back. After about a year of more physical therapy, and more injections than I can count, the doctor suggested it was time for surgery. I was actually excited for this surgery. I know, how can I be excited for surgery? Well, my mindset was that afterwards I would be back on track to live the active lifestyle to which I was accustomed; things did not go as smoothly as I had imagined. My recovery was not going well, physical therapy was not as progressive as my body needed. I lost range of motion, “severe” (doctors verbiage) arthritis had set in, I lost feeling in my right side from just above my hip to mid-thigh. It was rough because I could not accept what was happening. Little by little I became a victim of self!
As time went by I began listening to the negative voice in my head. I started believing things like I was not good enough, not attractive enough, not strong enough, and not smart enough. You name it and I had basically convinced myself of the most dangerous of all thoughts – I CAN’T BECAUSE I AM NOT “________” ENOUGH. I had since retired from the Marine Corps so I was searching for purpose again. I had no clue as to where in this world I could fit in. I was no longer physically active. Going for a run or hitting the gym used to be my refuge, my release. Now they were things that reminded me of what I cannot do. I gained weight and hated how I looked because I had maintained such a high standard for myself. It was depressing. I was depressed. Then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me; it all came down to one word – FOCUS. With a new found focus I would make a change for the better.
It was time to believe in myself again. Prosperitas Leadership had been a dream of mine and something I talked about for years before I had retired from the Marine Corps. With all the things I had going on in my life, I had lost steam in making it a reality; I had lost my focus. Prosperitas is now a reality because of who I began listening to. I began listening to those friends who lifted me up and to the voice inside me that told me I have an indomitable will and can do anything in this world! The first step was taken and little by little things started to fall in place. Assistance came from places I never thought it would. I had a smile on my face again and began feeling better about who I was as a person. I accepted that I have value and I add value to everyone I come in contact with. My goal has and always will be to simply make a positive difference in the lives of those I encounter. It’s what I want my legacy to be long after I am gone from this earth. I want my daughter to know her father was a good man and did what he could to better the lives of others. Years from now I want her to smile as she tells stories of what we accomplished as I include her in as much as I can. It does not take a miracle to make a difference in your own life or the lives of others. It simply takes a change of focus.
You must wake up….no, why wait until morning….you must determine that right this very moment you will no longer listen to the negative voice inside you. Have the mindset that, that voice inside is not being negative, it is simply throwing out a challenge! Take that first step you have been so hesitant to take. If your goal is to run a marathon, get started by walking around the block. Walk your block every day and before you know it, you’ll be running and one day you will have a marathon medal on your wall to point to and say “I did that!” No matter what your personal goal is, understand that it is neither too big nor is it too small. You can make it happen and you will make it happen. All you have to do is change your focus and make yourself a promise – “I WILL NOT BE A VICTIM OF SELF!”
Teaching leadership through the years I have focused on the importance of basic traits and principles. As we mature it becomes so easy to overlook the basics. This usually happens because we become over confident in our abilities or, as mentioned in the previous blog; we get cocky. Success in all areas of life can most often be broken down into how well one performs the basics. The Marine Corps teaches 14 leadership traits. These 14 traits are the foundation by which true leadership can be built. You don’t have to join the Marine Corps to become a proficient leader. However, there is a great deal that can be learned from the way the Corps teaches leadership, which is by starting with the most basic leadership traits and principles.
The basics start at home. Let’s take the military aspect out and focus on something that pertains to all of us; home. Whether you’re single and live in a one bedroom apartment or a family of five living in a three thousand square foot house, leadership traits still apply to daily success. For example, initiative; is an important trait and a basis for developing a well-rounded leadership style. Decisiveness is another trait to be applied daily. There are important decisions to be made in any home environment. The outcome of poor decisions always have consequences. Being a single parent I know that on days I lack initiative it affects my daughter as much as it affects me. The leadership traits I display at home have a continuing effect on how I will perform my job. If you want to sharpen your leadership skills, evaluate who you are at home. If you can be a leader at home, you will be a leader in your profession.
First thing you should know as you begin reading this is that you must accept that you will be considered one or the other no matter what you do. The second thing you should know is; that is a good thing.
In leadership, you must always walk a fine line between cocky and confident. Your mission should always be, once you step away from a group of people you are leading, half of the group will think to themselves “That guy/girl is so cocky” – the other half should be thinking “He/she is so confident”. They will think this because you portray a little of each in how you give direction, how you carry yourself, your decision making ability, the list goes on and on. Being “overly confident” is simply a nice way of saying someone is cocky. Cockiness in and of itself will tear at the fibers of unit cohesion and eventually destroy morale and productivity. For this reason it is important not to cross over that line into the area of being labeled by all as cocky.
How do we do this? The answer is humility. Someone who is cocky will not admit their wrongs. They cannot accept their faults and therefore are limited in their growth as a leader. This is transparent to those they lead and precisely why their behavior tears down an organizations synergy. A leader who is confident possesses humility and is far more approachable. Humility is not weakness and should never be viewed as such. Humility as a leader is nothing more than being able to listen to those he/she leads for other ideas or points of view in order to devise a more complete plan.
As I mentioned in the beginning, there will be a percentage of those you lead who will always view you as nothing more than cocky. You have to accept this and not become insecure about it. Usually people in this group suffer from their own insecurities, lack humility and are stunted in their growth potential. Just make sure there is no truth in what they are thinking of you in this regard. A confident yet humble leader inspires those they lead. They feed off of that leader’s confidence while in turn admiring his/her humility. Walk this line and you will gain the respect of those you are leading. Once a group of people respect you in this capacity, they will follow you.