[February 15, 2021] Success begins with a vision. The very best leaders are those capable of setting a goal, communicating that goal clearly, and acting upon it. Drill Sergeant Bryant from my basic training days used to tell us that you [recruits] can’t hit the target if, at first, you don’t take aim. He was discussing our marksmanship, but this applies to everything we do. Imagine what you could be, then aim at it.
In my many discussions with some of America’s best and brightest leaders, they all told me about their personal aims, trials, stumbling blocks, and how they came up with the motivation to overcome. It mattered not where they came from, the color of their skin or gender, what they looked like (pretty or ugly), but their imagination started them on their journey in life.
“Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson
Dr. Peterson’s advice is good. He warns us that taking aim is not so easy as we might initially think. We give us common excuses for failing to do so. Some of those excuses are:
- What if I aim badly?
- What if I do a lousy job?
- I can’t set goals very well.
- I will have to do it perfectly.
- I’m waiting until I have enough time.
He rejects all of these for what they are: impediments to success. His advice is just to do it, even if we set those aims badly and even if we do a little bit at a time. Sit down and imagine what you could be, and then discuss it with someone you trust. That bad first draft of your aim can be improved upon.
Literature is full of people who regret their past. When asked about it, most will say they are less happy about what they did NOT do, rather than about the mistakes they made doing things. That is worth thinking about. There is such an idea as redemptive mistakes; you improve by learning from your mistakes.
During the Second Battle of Fallujah, Iraq, in late 2004, I saw a Marine frozen in fear. Admittedly, this was a tough fight, and casualties were high. I’d never seen this before, so I reached for the man’s hand to find it gripping his M4 Carbine like a vice. He would not move. Later, I learned that his behavior shamed him, yet two days later, he was back in battle. This Marine saw his actions as part of his fire team; the team needed him, and he needed his team.
Do not fear that your aim will change. And, do not fear that sometimes your walk along that path will sometimes stop and reverse. At least you are making progress overall. Do not stand still; the world will move without you, which is the way to ensure failure.