[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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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/