‘Get Your Act Together’ is Good Advice, but …

By | November 10, 2019

[November 10, 2019]  On a few occasions here at my leadership blog, I mentioned that as a young man, I had difficulty following orders.  Several times, caring NCOs took me aside to provide me with the sage advice that good NCOs do with those in their care.  ‘Get your act together’ was a common counseling point but the problem with that advice is that it is not very clear.

Leaders ensure they take the right steps to guarantee they communicate clearly.  Great leaders not only communicate well but ingrain important messages when they speak.  While ‘get your act together’ seems good advice, it is vague, and that is why I want to clarify what it means.  This advice doesn’t apply only to those in the military but to everyone in all walks of life.

First and most important, ‘get your act together’ means adopt the responsibility due to you.  Life is not about being happy or having happiness as a goal.  The point of life is enabling yourself toward doing good in your family and community.  Only through the pursuit of responsibility can we live properly and obtain some level of satisfaction that we have a good life.

Second, ‘get your act together’ means to build yourself into something you can respect.  Life is not easy, and it requires a certain degree of sturdiness and intelligence.  Our job is to “see” and to “think” and by doing so we can avoid corrupting ourselves with bias and remorse.  Through our respect we can bear the difficulties of life and not lose hope.  Once you respect yourself, others can then respect you.

Third (and there are more, of course, but I will stop here), ‘get your act together’ means to acknowledge that we live in a peaceful place and to humbly accept our good fortune as we look outside at war and destruction that goes on around the world.  That is why we must get our own house in order, to make sure that we can care for and assist those less fortunate and be thankful for what we have.

I tell others if they cannot see where to begin, start by telling the truth.  The truth is how we take the first step to finding and adopting responsibility.  Make your bed in the morning (rhetorically) so that we gain just a little bit of stability; built upon more and more over time.  The U.S. Military Academy1 cadet honor code is “A Cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”  This is what we mean when we say ‘get your act together.’

On a side note, happy birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps.  They celebrate 244 years of honor, courage, and commitment.  You might find the message from the USMC Commandant to be eye-opening (link here).


  1. https://westpoint.edu/scpme/SitePages/Honor.aspx
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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

15 thoughts on “‘Get Your Act Together’ is Good Advice, but …

  1. Greg Heyman

    I very much enjoyed today’s article Gen. Satterfield. I look forward to reading your articles every day and sharing your life’s lessons with my family and friends.

  2. Max Foster

    I agree wholeheartedly that such advice is not just valuable but goes to the heart of what makes of good (versus mundane) people. Without picking up the responsibility needed of us, telling the truth (and not like some crazy film Liar Liar), and acknowledging how good we have it today, we are doomed. Colleges and universities today are teaching us that this is not just untrue but counterproductive to our racist/sexist/homophobia/etc. society. Those professors and administrators in institutions of higher learning are the pide piper of Hamelin leading us rats to our deaths.

    1. Kenny Foster

      Excellent point, Max and hard-hitting as an analysis of where many of our young are being lead. I’ve worried about this a long time. But, I see many pre-college aged kids are seem to be revolting against this PC ideology of the left and are embracing again hard work, responsibility for their actions, etc. I think better times are coming.

  3. Eric Coda

    Gen. Satterfield, great article. It brought back memories (good ones at that) of my time in grade school. Teachers used to tell me that all the time but never really gave advice on HOW to do it exactly. Eventually a good friend of mine since we were 4 years old, gave me some ideas like studying, taking out the household trash, etc. I didn’t like it at all in the beginning but eventually adapted and like myself better. Teachers slowly stopped telling me to get my act together.

    1. Georgie B.

      Thanks for sharing your story, Eric. Maybe they stopped giving you the advice because they figured you were doing your job correctly.

    2. Karl J.

      Funny thing, they told me the exact same thing. General Satterfield, thank you for bringing back memories of my past and good memories at that.

  4. Army Captain

    I’ve been told this so many times, I wish I had a nickle for each time. I wouldn’t be rich but I would have an idea that others were telling me something important.

    1. Darwin Lippe

      Yes, good point Army Captain. I had a football coach back in High School that used to tell us “maggots” to “get your sh** together.” Had a great time, enjoyed the game and my teammates, the crowds (mostly parents), and the excitement of the play. Loved it.

      1. Mr. T.J. Asper

        And this is why we have sports in High School. How else to balance the wackiness of our liberal teachers who think our society is built upon slavery and homophobia. Strange people to say the least. ?

    2. Tracey Brockman

      I was never in the Army but I find this phrase to be rather common. And, yes, Gen Satterfield is right that what it means is not just unclear but also confusing.

  5. Eva Easterbrook

    Very good article this morning and very appropriate too.

    1. JT Patterson

      Yes, Eva. I like coming to Gen. Satterfield’s blog each day to get just a little does of reality. I like it when he has articles like this one that gives me a new perspective on life. His recent articles – over the past year or so – have trended more to the fundamental understand of folks than on pure leadership. That, I like.

    2. ZB22

      Yes Eva. I think this leadership blog from General Satterfield should be expanded. Perhaps others can help get the word out on its value.

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