5 Things I Gave Up to be an Army General

By | February 4, 2020

[February 4, 2020]  There is an ancient religious idea that, with the right sacrifice, one will be saved in the eyes of the gods.  For example, in the Bible’s story of Cain and Able, the concept of sacrifice first appears.  I learned early in my military service, like in the biblical narrative, I had to make sacrifices if I were to succeed.

In the story of Cain and Able, Cain (the older son of Adam and Eve) works hard and makes sacrifices to God, but his gifts are less than adequate.  This unfairness frustrates Cain, and his bitterness manifests itself when he ultimately kills his brother Able.  These earliest of stories are repeated in many ways throughout the time of humans.  A sacrifice must genuinely be of something important; else, it will be unworthy.

“If you want to achieve what you’ve never achieved before, you have to become who you’ve never been before.” – Brian Tracy, in Maximum Achievement (1993)1

I also learned in the military that you get out of it what you put into it.  The U.S. Army and all the military services require hard work, integrity, loyalty, and selfless service.  But this effort is very demanding on one’s time and energy.  There are only so many hours in a day, and being a senior military leader means most of your day is consumed at work.

Here are five things I gave up to be a U.S. Army General:

  1. Negative Friends: We all have friends who are lazy, fatalistic, and have no plans in life other than partying, playing games, and having fun. It was not easy, but I had to tell them that I could no longer be part of their life.  They were dragging me down to their level.
  2. Television and Entertainment: I found myself wasting many hours per week on entertainment that served no purpose. Sitting in front of a box and looking at people do exciting things was not helping me.  Going to movies wasted my time.  I gained many hours back that I was able to use with family and my army job.
  3. Social Media: Like alcohol and drugs, social media can be highly addicting. It takes up many hours that could be better put to good use.  I closed my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I was never more pleased.2
  4. Shiny Objects: There are a few objects that most of us need to survive properly. A house or apartment, maybe a car, food and water, and clothing.  Other than that, we have little need for fancy trucks, boats, toys, jewelry, and such; we ‘want’ them because those shiny objects are fun to have and others have them too.  I learned to live a simpler life without them.
  5. Instant Gratification: I learned to live within my means, pay cash and never go into debt, avoid fancy-expensive clothes, resist fads and fashion, and learn to say no to what I don’t need. This kind of behavior takes discipline and is challenging.  It requires focus.  Plus, I didn’t have to spend time trying to figure out what the latest fashion statement was or what made me look better.  Discipline and focus are admirable traits that are associated with success and a good life.

Don’t get me wrong here with this list.  I’m no better than the next fellow, and I’m not smarter, better looking, or more righteous.  But I do work hard at sacrificing those things that do not add to the value of me in my military career and as a human being.  I have a great family, good friends, and wonderful people who I served with in the military.  These are the people that matter and helped me be a better person.


  1. https://www.amazon.com/Maximum-Achievement-Proven-System-Strategies/dp/0671865188
  2. Remember my story of the U.S. Air Force Lieutenant, who gave up on social media. He learned much of what I’m writing about today.  See this article “Social Media, a Pad of Paper, and Leaders” here: https://www.theleadermaker.com/social-media-a-pad-of-paper-and-leaders/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “5 Things I Gave Up to be an Army General

  1. Joe Omerrod

    Very well written, Gen. Satterfield. Many of us have no idea what it takes, personally, to give up what is so important to many of us. We must have priorities. Some say God, Country, Family. That is a great start and thank you for your wonderful, honorable service to our nation.

  2. Dr. William Blake, Sr.

    I’ve been enjoying your website now for a few weeks and like your style. Plus, you have a variety of subjects that are interesting and help point me toward ideas that I’ve not considered. Well done!

  3. Linux Man

    I chuckled to myself when I read your article this morning, Gen. Satterfield. I had to do something similar in my career. A great leader doesn’t work 9 to 5. Leadership is a lifestyle and it involves you day and night. That doesn’t mean we sacrifice everything that is interesting or fun. But it does mean that we work hard to make sure our family is strong and that we are all resilient, disciplined, have thick skins, and do the right thing all the time. Gee, what a concept?

    1. Crazy Dude

      Smart thinking, Linux Man. I was thinking along the same lines. But in our PC society today, that is looked upon as a knuckle-dragging behavior.

      1. Janna Faulkner

        Your view of this is spot-on. We have been taken over by fashionable “things” and “behaviors.” I we don’t toe the line, we are outcasts. Well, personally I like being an outcast.

      2. Greg Heyman

        I’m with you guys on this one. Some folks might say this list by Gen. Satterfield is nothing and very easy to do. But, I say just give it a try for a week and see if you can keep it up over time.

  4. Valkerie

    Excellent article General Satterfield. Great list of things we DON’T need, nor should we want.

  5. JT Patterson

    This is a pretty good list for any one who contemplates doing something great. Spending time on wasteful (but often very satisfying) behaviors is a loser in the long run. Playing computer games and watching tv will not be what we will be remember for. They don’t carve that on your tombstone either. Just take the television out of your home and see how much better you feel.

    1. Eric Coda

      Thanks JT for an interesting idea. I’ve heard this before. Most of us don’t have the discipline or, shall I say, courage to do it and be consistent to resist the pressures from our peers and family. I know I couldn’t do it.

  6. Yusaf from Texas

    “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The motto appears on plaques at many VA facilities across the U.S.

    1. Jerome Smith

      Yusaf, appreciate the quote. I have been a non-expert studier of Lincoln and his family for years. I admire his tenacity and smarts as a politician. He had a vision of a united country and took bold steps in a terrible war to make it happen. Today, our modern elites want to throw that away.

  7. Tom Bushmaster

    Giving up money was also one of them since you don’t get paid that well. Anyway, not compared to other senior level leaders on the commercial side.

    1. Eva Easterbrook

      No nation can afford to pay its military high wages and expect to survive. However, they can give something that money cannot buy and that is prestige and honor to those who do serve. I think that in the US we have done a pretty good job of it. Thanks for your service.

    2. Autistic Techie

      To honor and care for our veterans is how we will ultimately be judged as a society. Someone once said these words long ago. I think it was US PRes Lincoln.

    3. Lynn Pitts

      This is an important point and thank you Tom for making it. We don’t join the US military because we can’t do anything else (as John Kerry once infamously said) or that we are poor and know nothing else. Most join the military because they want to be part of a cause that transcends us, that makes us a part of something valuable. We just have serve our nation honorably.


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