[May 18, 2020] One of my Fort Benning Basic Infantry teammates was notorious for his lack of body cleanliness. When you live side-by-side with someone, you get to see and smell their good and bad side. We told Christopher to keep his clothing, gear, and room clean. His poor performance in school was a reflection of a messy mentality. My advice to all leaders is simple; keep your shirt clean.
Dr. Jordan Peterson, the well-known psychologist from the University of Toronto, has gained considerable notoriety for giving depressed people similar advice. “Clean your room,” he says with a severe look, and with complete confidence, this bit of behavioral change will make a massive difference in how others see you. And how you see yourself. An 8-minute YouTube video of him discussing it can is here (see link). Others may have heard similar advice called “make your bed every day.”
One of our instructors at Benning gave us several small lessons for our large group of brand-new Second Lieutenants. During our second week of administrative training, he told us to keep our desks orderly and avoid clutter. The reasoning made sense to me. He believed how we order things in our possession will determine how our commanders will see us. If we have a cluttered desk and unorganized gear, then our commander will see us as cluttered and unorganized leaders. That is, of course, a bad thing. Regardless of how well we perform, this is how we will be viewed and also remembered.
We all paid close attention and absorbed as much advice as we could get. Note that our class, all from ROTC programs, was the class immediately before the class from West Point arrived. Why this was an issue was because the Point rigidly drilled into their cadets the capacity to keep things in order, neat, clean, and well maintained. We didn’t want to be caught up in what many of us thought was a waste of time. Too much order and discipline were getting in our way of graduating and finding the right women to date on the weekends.
At the time, I thought all that thinking about an orderly, uncluttered desk was a bunch of BS. We had other things to do. Study a reasonable amount, account for all our gear (you paid for lost items), stay in good physical shape, hold yourself upright, demonstrate respect, and keep our uniforms clean and neatly pressed. Second Lieutenant Christopher did not believe he had to go by those rules.
During a three-week training event, Christopher went the entire time without washing his undershirts. And, to make matters worse, he only had two that he rotated daily between his cargo pocket and his body. It is unbelievable how much stink can exist when a sweaty t-shirt is kept in a warm, dark, humid location. Later, we convinced him to change his ways by showering him with green kitchen scourer pads.