My son, Azaan, recently graduated from the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Bootcamp, one of the most traumatic transformations of his life. I asked him about his experience and was delighted to hear some of the tips he learned while on Parris Island. These tips can be applied to all aspects of life, especially our work lives.
- Always give 100%.
Azaan was required to give his all at all times throughout the grueling 13-week transformation. While most of our work environments are not like the US Marine Corps Bootcamp, I am certain there are days when we all feel like giving up and quitting. At those moments, attempt to assess what is causing the duress. Once that assessment is made, you have the opportunity to determine if you can change the situation or if it is outside of your control. My son only had control of his attitude during Bootcamp and in many cases, our attitude is exactly what we may need to change to allow ourselves to give 100%.
- It's never just about you.
As a recruit, Azaan had to learn how to work with each individual in his platoon. He learned very quickly that what he was experiencing was not about him and that he had to factor in others with each decision and action he took. He also had to look out for anyone who was struggling. "No man left behind" was the motto he embraced during Bootcamp and still carries in his heart.
In our work environments, it usually is not just about us. Of course, there are those moments when we are receiving accolades for a job well-done but most of the time, we are to have an outward focus. What do our customers want? What are the expectations of our shareholders? What goals are being attempted by senior leadership? Those questions should influence our actions and approaches to problems. The moment we lose sight of this perspective is the moment we jeopardize the overall effectiveness of our companies.
- Don't be stupid.
Simple, somewhat crass and yet powerful. Azaan shared that he had to be mindful of every action and decision he made during basic training and his drill instructor reminded them regularly (and loudly) "Don't be stupid." One false move could have caused his entire platoon to experience an afternoon of extra PT (physical training). As such, he was careful to be deliberate and intentional with his interactions. There was at least one instance when my son was caught sleeping during instruction. He said he wanted to instantly disappear and did his best to recover from the embarrassment of waking up to find his classmates and drill instructor staring at him.
At work, we too should be careful not to be "stupid." Whether that means not responding to an email while we are angry or not intentionally ignoring a company policy, being mindful of our behavior is critical to our professional success.
- Pay yourself first.
When the recruits finally became Marines and were given Liberty, personal time, they were instructed to pay themselves first. Not necessarily monetarily, but with time for family and vacation time. I thought this was a novel idea because too often we find ourselves at work but not at 100% in terms of our mental health. We will put our companies, our families and our stresses front and center before we decide to take care of ourselves. Mental health is key and sometimes it is ok to simply take a mental health day. The benefits far outweigh any reason not to do so.
- Seek self-improvement.
Self-improvement is now a way of life for my son. He is regularly seeking ways to improve his time for the last mile he ran or the number of pull-ups he can complete in a designated timeframe. A little bit better is on the other side of initiating self-improvement.
Our approach to our careers should be similar. I understand that not everyone has the desire to be the "super employee" at their place of employment. I am encouraging everyone, however, to be aware of ways to self-improve. Even the slightest positive change can go a long way.
- Push yourself especially when you feel like you can't.
My son shared numerous instances where he believed his body had been pushed to limits he never thought possible. He described grueling marches which consisted of several miles in extremely warm weather. He highlighted the difficulty of dragging another platoon mate who was asked to "play dead" and how he thought he was crawling in the sand forever with the extra weight while the entire time thinking of going home.
There will inevitably be days at work where we want to pack up our items and go home. Or months when we feel as if we are not making the progress we desire in our careers. Or like my son, where we feel as if we are carrying colleagues who are like dead weight. Don't give up. Keep pushing yourself, especially when you feel like you can’t.
I hope these tips offered by my new Marine not only encourage you to be your best at work but also encourage you to be always faithful to your goals and dreams. #semperfi
Shatanese is the owner of Super Extra Ordinary Mom, LLC, an HR Consultancy that delivers leadership and development training with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.
Shatanese resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children. She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises. Shatanese's goal is to encourage others to find the extraordinary in everyday moments.