Leader Advice:  Get Used to Cold Showers

By | January 11, 2021

[January 11, 2021]  It was late Autumn of 1989 when my Infantry company was involved in one of the most extensive U.S. Army training exercises of the year.  After two weeks in the field, we were cold, wet, tired, and beat mentally.  Yet, our spirits were high as the exercise ended, and our unit was first to hit the barracks.  There we in for a treat; showers for all.  As the water ran cold, we did not care one darn bit.

When a soldier is on the front line, they understand hardships will come and go.  They know that their leaders – if those leaders are good at what they do – will stand beside them and experience what they experience.  In this military exercise, my company was directed to establish a “strong point.”  Essentially a strong point is a powerful defensive positive.  It takes a lot of manpower and resources to build it properly.

It is hard work and risky to build a strong point.  Nothing is taken for granted.  Combat Engineers were tasked to assist in building our new defensive position, and we worked around the clock to get it done quickly.  Fortunately, the weather favored us, and we were lucky all major tasks were completed on time.  What it took, however, was a well-motivated unit, engaged leaders, and the right resources.

Sometimes we say the happiest time to be in the Infantry is returning to “civilization.”  We mean that it’s time to take off the combat gear, clean our weapons, and complete all the chores necessary before relaxing.  This particular exercise was good for us.  We learned new tactics and fulfilled our orders without any serious injury or loss of equipment.

Getting back to the barracks, we knew it was time to joke around and have a little fun.  First was the showers.  For those unfamiliar with the military, taking a shower has far more meaning than civilians can imagine.  A shower means a moment to pause and smell the roses.  It means we are about to “hit the town” and look for some great places to drink beer, eat tasty food, and search for ladies.  A cold shower is a pivot point from work to relaxation.

For unit leaders, it means more work.  I too was happy to get a cold shower.  Being the commander, I was last to the showers.  My First Sergeant, a huge man with broad shoulders and the biggest neck I’d ever seen on a man, was ahead of me my a few seconds.  Our advantage was that the water was ice cold.  It woke us up and sharpened our minds.

Leaders must get used to cold showers.  I don’t mean that literally.  Getting used to cold showers means that we must get used to change.  And change is one constant that never goes away.  Preparing our soldiers (those who we lead) means we get them used to change as well.  In combat, this helps them to prepare mentally for the unexpected.  And that is why we must get used to cold showers.

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.

19 thoughts on “Leader Advice:  Get Used to Cold Showers

  1. To the Top

    Ha ha ha. ….. good one. I loved this article. Sent it to all my friends.

  2. Amanda Hartmann

    A cold shower === I don’t watch prof football, baseball or basketball any longer. They gave up patriotism long ago and threw their lot in with Marxists and college, no-nothing snowflakes. I for one am better off for their absence in my home. Next I cut my cable tv. And, last night I got rid of my Facebook page and Twitter accts. Now tat is better. Why? I’m a np free American. 🇺🇸

  3. Jerome Smith

    Hard work, staying focused, and honesty. That is what it takes to succeed in life.

    1. Harry B. Donner

      Yes, Jerome and very few of us actually practice it. We get more interested in things that don’t matter. Men collect toys, women collect relationships.

  4. Darryl Sitterly

    Another excellent article. Thank you Gen. S. I’m a big fan of your blog.

  5. Willie Shrumburger

    I think Gen. Satterfield should start a list of metaphors, like Dr. Jordan Peterson who he refers to often, that give advice so he can tell a story for each.

  6. Dale Paul Fox

    One of the shocks to me when I joined the Army many decades ago was that a cold shower was what you got when you were late getting into the showers. With so many guys rushing to get ready in basic training, there will always be those that are late. If you are late, you get something you don’t want… harrassed. Be good, be early, be focused, else you will get a cold shower to wake you up.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Yes, Dale, good one. I too was late to the showers and figured out pretty quick that by getting there a few minutes earlier, I would get a warm shower. Duh, some people just don’t learn…….

  7. Max Foster

    I’m afraid that we don’t get used to change. Change is constant. Change is good but also it puts us into chaos and shakes us up. That is all part of being human, of course, but it is not easy and is really really scary. There are those who would do anything not to be in a scary situation. That is why college snowflakes have safe spaces and teddy bears to calm them down. That is why dictators across the world have been successful — because people are afraid to act and do the right thing by demanding freedom.

    1. KenFBrown

      Teddy bear or freedom, which do you chose. Maybe we should ask incoming college Freshmen what they prefer. If you answer teddy bear, you should be told to go home, grow up, and come back when you’re ready to be in an adult educational environment.

    2. Pink Cloud

      So very true. Thanks guys! That sure answers my question. Gen. S. has another great article.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        == and that is why so many of us are big fans of this leadership blog. Pink Cloud (funny moniker BTW), we should all spread the word to others who have an interest in learning about leader traits and character.

  8. Jonnie the Bart

    Funny and excellent article. Much appreciated, Gen. Satterfield. Please continue to write these daily articles. I find them helpful and entertaining as well. 😊

  9. Tom Bushmaster

    Hmmmm, a big metaphor. Ha Ha Ha…. Well, a good start to 2021 for Gen. Satterfield and a smart look at how people think and act. Well done on this blog post. I like it. There are many folk who need a “cold shower” because their focus has not been on what is important but on those things that are trivial.

    1. Army Captain

      In the US Army we call it “taking your eye off the ball.” Something has to get your attention and just maybe, maybe a cold shower will “wake you up” and get you re-focused on the objective.

      1. Audrey

        Correct. I’m in full agreement with both of you – Tom and Army Cpt – and would like to add that many of our politicians are completely out of touch and in need of a wake-up call. The incoming US President Joe Biden wants a mask mandate for everyone. Simple and yet stupid. He should not be on this level. Get out of the gutter Joe.

      2. Janna Faulkner

        Thanks guys for a quick hit to the main point which is we all need to pay attention and do what is necessary. Otherwise we are no help to our families or community.

        1. JT Patterson

          … and so many of us will indeed miss the point. Funny how that happens.


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