I woke early this morning to a very vivid revelation about the true impact military service had on my personal and professional life. Surprisingly, it was also a truth about leadership that I’d never been able to put into words until now. Here it is:
Joining the military was my first important lesson about leading myself. With God’s help, that lesson became the foundation for more lifelong lessons and decisions, and it contributed to all the good things in my life today.
You see, as a 17-year-old high school graduate, I had been accepted to multiple educational institutions, and a military academy. When it came down to it, I really didn't understand where to start with the financial aid process and had no one to help me. At that age, I also couldn’t imagine committing a whole six years of my life to active military service after graduating from that academy.
I decided to enlist in the Army instead, but my Mom initially refused to sign the consent papers. I was determined though, and decided to wait until I turned eighteen if necessary. Thankfully, my wonderful Mom changed her mind, and I began basic training within two months of my enlistment.
In "just" 5-1/2 years of active-duty service, I learned to value these timeless, irrefutable leadership qualities: self-discipline; respect for others; servanthood; and emotional intelligence.
And, no, I also never abandoned my desire to pursue higher education. Throughout my military service and life as a military spouse, I plugged away at non-traditional higher ed often one class at a time. Thirteen years after high school graduation I finally obtained a bachelor’s degree, followed by a master’s degree another eleven years later. Yes, it's true; the Army had also taught me to have a “can-do” attitude. Hooah!
I still get “a rush” when I think of that first important self-leadership lesson. To pay it forward, I coach and train others to understand themselves, root out the dream busters, and pursue their own unique paths.
I’ll end with this truth and encouragement. Leading starts from within. While the pursuit of your dreams will likely come with setbacks, staying the course will ultimately lead to something great. So, hold your head high and believe in yourself - you’ve got this!