If Something Can Go Wrong, It Will

By | June 30, 2021

[June 30, 2021]  I have always had the personal philosophy that if something can go wrong, it will.  There is nothing bad about it; the fact is the world is an imperfect place and, well, I like it that way.  Challenges are what make us better, force us to adopt responsibility to be more – certainly not less – satisfied with our lives.

Over the past few weeks, I finally put pen to paper and start writing about my first combat tour in the Iraq War.  The task at this point is not difficult.  Reading my notes from that time, back in 2003 and 05, I discovered many examples to support my philosophy.  How could so many things have gone wrong?

One example stood out.  Early in the war, Army Engineers were used for guard duty.  This is not typical. Indeed, the need for building up our bases and supporting offensive operations was crucial.  Why, then, were engineer soldiers underutilized?  Ignorance?  Yes, of course, it was.  Something had to be done about it, and the senior Theater Engineer did not do anything about it.  He probably didn’t even know it was happening.

We put a stop to that practice, but it took some convincing. Finally, I told the 1st Cavalry Division commander that he would not have his soldiers housed or feed properly if this practice continued.  Construction was everywhere, but the equality of it was abysmal.  Engineer soldiers were necessary for quality control.  Only by using them properly – for what they were trained to do – would we get our housing and feeding systems online, on time, and without fear a structure would collapse.

I discovered quickly, being new to Iraq, to never make an assumption.  “Doug always assumes everything will not work out,” my good friend and mentor, the Division Engineer, told me one day.  There is a different culture here, a rugged desert environment, and an insurgency that wants us out.  “You are standing on the edge of chaos.”

Even our Coalition forces worked against us … at least that is what it seemed like to me. First, there was the typical red tape: meetings and more meetings. Second, getting approval for any project was like pulling teeth, and on an approval board, non-Engineer officers would oppose a project because we did not convince them of its worth.

Priorities were established, and we were adamant that those priorities were correct.  We stuck by them.  Life was more manageable with our internal bureaucracy, but there was always the enemy.  I’ll save a few stories about that for later.

Remember, as a leader, expect everything to go wrong because it will.  Be prepared to deal with it with proper plans and prepare those who work for you.  And, don’t take it personally because that is what life is about.

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.

16 thoughts on “If Something Can Go Wrong, It Will

  1. New Mama

    Seems to be my life. But I am never a victim. Victimhood is a choice. I reject it unlike so many weak Americans accept.

  2. Max Foster

    Great article …. I always enjoy those that discuss leader philosophies. It helps me understand better the way leaders – I should say “successful” leaders – think. I also have taken Gen. Satterfield’s advice and started reading autobiographies about very prominent and successful men of the past. I get to read what they were thinking when things were going bad for them. And, it helps me reorient my thinking to their more successful ways.

    1. Gil Johnson

      As it should be, Max. Me as well. Makes me a better person by reading and adopting the methods of those who were successful.

      1. Colleen Ramirez

        This is completely contrary to American Democrats who just think that by adopting past-proven methods we are racists, sexists, homophobes, … name your phobe. Thus we are the ones who are failures. GO FIGURE. The world is upside down.

    2. Rowen Tabernackle

      Yes, we said Max. Read and follow those who are successful. Emulate them. Copy them. You will succeed.

  3. Army Captain

    Combat is, IMO, a tough place to be, period. To have to do construction and do it on a compressed schedule, without the typical support, quality workers or materials, etc., that must be crazy tough. I have always respected the engineers working for me. They are hard workers and have a great attitude. They will do whatever you want as long as they can get it done.

    1. Rev. Michael Cain

      Thanks for your comment Army captain. We are always looking for confirmation here. I’m sure you appreciated the engineers as well. But, Gen. Satterfield is talking in generalities here and his philosophy (which is mine as well), applies everywhere, at all times. If you are a college snowflake, however, you are just blind and will never live a good life, ever!!

      1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

        College snowflakes are simply not part of the equation of life. They will flame out eventually.

        1. Yusaf from Texas

          … and it’s fun to watch it occur. The problem is that they cause a lot of unnecessary trouble on their way down.

        2. JT Patterson

          Entertainment at its best. I am taking stock in popcorn as I watch them flame out. We’ve written often about these miseducated spoiled rug rats. My problem is about their taking others down with them. Why can’t we find a drug to calm them down?

  4. Randy Goodman

    I have the same life philosophy. My task is being ready to overcome problems. Simple.

    1. Bryan Z. Lee

      Me too, like you wrote, it’s simple … be prepared. Hey, isn’t that the boy scout motto? Yep, and they know what they are doing.

    2. Guns are Us

      Makes for a better life. 😊
      Makes for a happier life. 😊
      If you don’t believe me (or Gen. Satterfield), then you are on the wrong side of life.

      1. H. M. Longstreet

        You can always keep a gun with you and shot your way out. Ha Ha Ha Ha…..


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