While 24 years may seem like a long time, I assure you that time will pass in a blink of an eye. I’ve had the privilege of being around Marines for most of my life and fortunate enough to call most of them “My Marines”. As an OSO, I see my officer candidates in the same light as I did my Marines; you were my candidates and I only succeeded if you did. With that being said,
I wanted to take this opportunity to leave you with some words of advice that I feel will help you in your journey as a candidate, Marine, and just overall human being. I have been surrounded by some of the most phenomenal leaders on the planet. In order for me to begin sharing some of those lessons that I have learned and observed, it is important that you learn a little bit about my own journey.
July 8th 1996 is the date that I first stepped on the yellow footprints, scared as hell with the hope that 12 weeks later, I would have earned the title of Marine. I wish I could tell you a good reason that I enlisted but there is not. I wanted to earn a little bit of money, get some experience, get out after 4 years and own the world. To be honest, my first two years, I really disliked the Marine Corps; someone telling you what to do, standing duty, PT, etc. I came to work because I had to. There was no real drive there and I consistently came up with excuses as to why my goals never came to fruition.
A key point in my career came in October 2001. This is the year that I received orders to drill instructor school and shortly thereafter, I began my 3 year tour as a drill instructor. While I was a young man full of energy (23 years old), working 18 hour days, 7 days a week proved to be one of the most challenging times in my life. I cannot recall how many times I cried myself to sleep but I can assure you it was a lot. A surprising thing however, started to occur around the end of my first year. The headaches were gone, my feet were just numb, and I could comfortably operate on an average of 3 hour sleep (I’m not exaggerating, ask any prior DI and they will confirm). The weird part about it all was, that I was working even harder than before but the physical and mental pain was not there. I suppose that this was the first time that I discovered that our minds and bodies are capable of so much more than we realize we just have to continue breaking down and building up our mental and physical tolerance. This became evident during my follow-on duty station.
January of 2005, I checked into my new unit that was the first time that I remember thinking “What’s wrong with my peers”?
“Why are they more concerned about the weekend then being the very best version of themselves”?
“How can you be content not being the best unit on base”? I don’t want to give off the wrong impression here. I firmly believe that Marines operate at a much higher level than civilians do. However, in the echelon of greatness, there are multiple levels. While I am sure they were operating at a level of 6-7, I wondered why not a 9 or 10. I wish I could tell you that I was operating at that high of a level and truthfully, I do not know. What I do know however, was that I was consistently outperforming those of equal and maybe one rank higher and I was the one to be called upon when a task needed to be completed. If there is such a thing and I feel there is, it is during this time in my career that I believe that the fiber of my DNA changed. A competitive spirit began to emerge that was not driven by a reward/award but for a deep desire to be the best version of myself.
Feb 2007, I receive order to Tulane University as the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor to train midshipmen for Officer Candidates School. In 2009, I earned my degree from there. I put in for the 2010 summer OCC class office and guess what? – I was not selected. Up to the point I took pride in being the best Marine I could be. I was getting promoted ahead of my peers, doing all the right things and then to find out I was not selected, took the fire right out of my soul. The day I was not selected, I sat behind my desk pouting- if you will. I had orders to Miramar California and told myself “Being a Gunnery Sergeant in California is not a bad gig”. My mind began to put me at ease by telling me that it was “Alright”. It was alright for me not to achieve the goal I had set for myself. I worked for a Captain at that time by the name of Captain Chisholm. He stormed into my office after finding out I was not selected and immediately demanded that I re-do my package and have it on his desk in a week. I was pissed. How can he tell me what to do with my career? Did he not understand how devastating not being selected was and having to tell your own family that you suck and only to do it again? I wanted to be an officer but the path to get there was tough and difficult. Semi-reluctantly, I put my package together again but I lacked the excitement I had the first time though. Difference was, I was selected for the fall OCS class -OCC 205 on my second attempt at OCS.
My tour as an officer has been just as remarkable as that of my enlisted time.
I deployed as a 2nd Lt, spend time in the fleet, went to a career school in Quantico and shoot, 5 years as an OSO. I didn’t choose this duty to talk to college kids or to be a recruiter. To be honest, some of the best Jiu-Jitsu training is in Orange County thus I figured out a way to can as close as I could to the OC. However, I could not imagine a better tour to be my last. I have learned so much more from you than you will ever from me. While I am far from perfect, I hope that you took something away from our talks.
December 31st will mark my last day in the Marine Corps. While I will officially retire, I will depart happily knowing that always and forever be known as a Marine and I could not have imagined myself being anything but.
Perhaps in the near future I will document in detail some of my most difficult, happiest, challenging, and exciting times of my career with the hope that It will help those of you that will carry the torch once I am gone.
Being a Marine is the easiest and most difficult thing in the world. Easiest as there are only three things you need to do to excel. I promise, if you follow these three principles, you will be unstoppable. You will be known, and everyone will seek you for advice and all senior leaders will want you on their team. It is also difficult. While there are only three principles, many – most, are unable to follow them on a consistent basis. Easy in theory but DIFFICULT in practice. I want to leave you with these three things:
1: DO NOT, DO NOT EVER, DO NOT EVER QUIT!
Here is the deal with quitting and it is actually quite complex and not as clear cut as it seems on the surface. Humans in nature and prideful and hate to admit their shortcomings. Quitting, being in my opinion one of the worst shortcomings, is often disguised as the right choice. During one of my videos I described my own personal encounter with quitting but I wanted to give you a couple of more examples that will apply directly to you as you head into OCS; examples that have been prevalent as my time as an OSO.
I would estimate that less than 5% of OCS drops are official “Drop on Requests”. About a quarter of all drops are for “Medical reasons”. While there are undoubtedly candidates that genuinely get injured at OCS, those instances are few. I have seen both sides of the aisle. I have seen those that self-diagnose themselves with injuries and as soon as they get back home, are miraculously healed. On the other side of the spectrum however, I have seen candidates succeed with torn meniscuses, hamstring injuries, stress fractures, you name it and are now successful Marine Corps Officers.
This is the part where I am supposed to tell you that I am not an advocate for training while injured. I will not. Training at home for an event, then yes, you take a break heal, then get back at it. At OCS, NO. You push until you are forced out of the fight. While I am using OCS as an example, this is not about OCS. This about programming your mind to stop quitting at every opportunity that it begins to feel uncomfortable. While you may not think much of it during the moment, you begin getting comfortable with the process and it becomes easier to quit.
Take a room with 100 people and ask them “Raise your hand if you are going to successful”. Odds are that 95-100 will raise their hands. Factually, we know that this is not accurate since only a rare few are able to achieve their own version of success; reach whatever goal they set forth for themselves. Why is that?
PEOPLE NEVER REACH THEIR GOALS NOT BECAUSE OF TALENT OR WHO THEY ARE. THEY NEVER REACH THEIR GOALS BECAUSE THEY QUIT AT SOME POINT DURING THE PROCESS.
During my journey as a Marine, I have seen many quit but I have also seen the other side of it as well. I have seen those that have clawed themselves past challenges, despite the obstacles, to reach their goals. Be the one. Do not quit.. ever!
2: BE COMPETITIVE
With the exception of a few of you that already had the misfortune to experience this, let me share a lesson that I hope you adhere to. Outside of a really small circle that want to see your unconditional success, that is not the same for the bulk of your circle. People want to see you do well, just not better than them! People will have opinions of you, you will for certainty have naysayers, and you will have those rooting against you. As wonderful as it is to have support and how awful it is for those that wish you negativity, none of these should matter in your quest to be the best.
As you will soon experience as a Marine, the ONLY thing that matters are the results you produce. Opinions of others, whether good or bad, do not matter when you consistently produce results that exceed not only your peers, but results that far exceed what anyone has witnessed before. I want to share a personal experience that I hope will drive this point home.
October 2001, I checked into Drill Instructor School. Imagine an environment where 60 of the most motivated, physically fit, and intense Marines in the entire Marine Corps all competing to be the best. It was intense to say the least. I finished fairly well in DI school but the true test would come when it was time to train recruits. I pushed 7 cycles in total. My first cycle I struggled. I didn’t know how to pace myself, the demeanor wasn’t quite there yet, and I fell behind my peers pretty fast. My company 1stSgt didn’t want me, the company commander didn’t want me and all the other DI’s would snicker amongst themselves when I was around.
My second platoon, the light bulb came on and I started performing strong. My platoon of recruits was performing great, I was winning academics, drill, everything but guess what- all my peers and some of the company staff were still critical of my performance. While my peers would “turn it up” when others were watching and only performing when the spotlight was on them, I was consistent. I was hungry and outperforming them in every measurable metric that we used. My third cycle, I was promoted as the second in charge of the platoon. Funny thing was that while my peers continued to critique me and my platoon, while the 1stSgt and Company GySgt continued to dislike me, they could not affect the stats. Cycle after cycle, I would receive the best evaluation reports from my company commander. Nobody knew. I finished 7 platoons with 3 Honor Platoons- my last 20 events, I never finished less than 2nd place in any graded event. There was nothing anyone can do about it but watch. At the point of me receiving multiple awards and top evaluations reports, opinions didn’t matter. This tour laid the path for my remaining path in the Marine Corps. I was chosen for NROTC duty which in turn created the path for me to become a Marine officer.
While I have given you one example, understand that this will be your life, in everything you do. The moment you get the feeling that no one is competing against you is because you have fallen so far behind that you cannot see the pack anymore.
Every job, every task, every minute, be the best. Ask yourself everyday “How can you NOT be the best”? The moment you catch yourself hating Mondays, you have already failed. Do not give ANYONE the satisfaction of pushing you back in the race; they will try. There will be times where you will fail or feel like it. Understand that failure is always an option and an option most take. Be different, be better.
You will soon experience that the majority of people in this planet are driven by outside forces. A reward or bonus makes an individual work harder. Time off and free food are perks offered to employees to make them more effective. While this has proven to be an effective strategy, these individuals will never win. The race is won by those that are competitive because that is what their DNA is composed of; a warrior spirit that will not allow you to lose. No award or perk will make you do more because you give 100% of yourself every day during every task. Outside forces have zero influence on your success. Again, this is easy in theory but it will be difficult in practice. Do not worry about awards or evaluation reports, worry about being the best and you will see that your definition of success will always work out.
3: TAKE CARE OF YOUR MARINES
Once you get to know them, this is your “WHY”. Train them hard and fair, listen to them, and give them 100%. At times, you will need to suffer so that they won’t. This is fine and what you should do. If you do not come to love them as you do your own siblings or family members, immediately question yourself as to what you are doing. They are yours. Their family is counting on you. The country is counting on you. On the other side of this tough work however, are some of the best humans on the planet that will do ANYTHING you ask of them. That’s what Marines do. Their success should be 1000x more impactful to you than your own success.
Maybe now you can understand my passion in seeing all of you succeed in this program. I see my daughter and son in every single one of you and seeing you succeed was and continues to be the highlight of my time here. I am envious of you as I know first-hand on the journey you are about to take. Strap on enjoy the ride; it will be a great one. Only a few in history have earned the privilege of being called Marines and even less to lead them. My time has passed but it is your time to carry the torch and I can’t think of finer young men and women to do so.
Take care and know that I will ALWAYS be here for you.
IF NOT YOU THEN WHO?