[March 18, 2023] I had just finished a talk on the motivation of Soldiers. A young Sergeant came up to me and said that he had heard me discussing how to provide encouragement to our troops. He noted how much I said had really helped him, and then he started walking away.
I said, “Hold on, what’s your name?” I always ask people their names because as soon as you get their names, they know they are in a conversation. They know you want to talk. It’s an open invitation, and I do want to talk because I want to find out what I did and how exactly I helped this Sergeant. I wanted to know what worked because then I could do it again, repeatedly and to the benefit of many others.
The Sergeant said I had talked about knowing yourself, telling the truth, adopting responsibility, having a positive outlook on life, and helping others, and how this made a big difference in his life. That allowed me to get a little more personal and it shows that I’m open about his experience, and I truly wanted to know what I did to help this young man.
I asked him what he learned from me made the most difference in his life. The young Sergeant said that he learned to stop comparing himself to other people, berating himself for what he didn’t possess, and how to reward himself for making small incremental improvements. What he is doing is comparing himself today to who he was yesterday. And that is exactly right.
I thought to myself, great! That is precisely what I would like to see more of people get from life. As a senior leader, that is what we like to hear more about. This Sergeant was trying to orient himself to a better, more noble goal and succeeding. This is what all leaders seek from their role as mentors and teachers.
I’m consistently amazed by the absolute lack of encouragement our junior Soldiers have and how they are starving for this message on a massive scale. The consequences of the shortage of a pat on the back, a reassuring word, and the inspiration of young men and women are tragic.
My place in this world is to provide that encouragement.
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