Living the Dream

By | October 8, 2019

[October 8, 2019]  It was sometime just after midnight when our base came under intense mortar fire from Shia militias pledged to fight for cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.  Our combat engineers had been on route clearance duty “outside the wire” looking for IEDs on the roadside.1  I approached one gruffy engineer Staff Sergeant who had been leading his men into the fight and asked about his mission.  He said, sir, living the dream.

This was not the first time I’d heard this expression in the military.  In fact, it was common phraseology to describe their feelings about what they were doing.  I never heard it said of garrison peacetime duty, driving a supply truck, or doing paperwork.  Every time I heard “living the dream” it was in combat or on a difficult training mission where the soldier/Marine/sailor/airman was performing under stress.

Uncomfortable weather, lack of sleep, difficulty of the mission, enemy action, or the threat of death would not deter that person from doing their job.  The phrase was an open admission that regardless of the trouble, those military members were in control of the situation.  Better to be in control than to be a victim.

This takes preparation.  Yesterday, I got a letter from a young soldier.  He had just won Soldier of the Year and was telling me about the work he put into the effort.  Learning technical answers about engineer and standard-issue military equipment, select Field Manuals, and various creeds including Army Values was not easy.  He was proud of the fact that he had worked so hard and the payoff was bragging rights with his buddies.  He told me he was living the dream.

I have found that those who adopt the greatest amount of responsibility are those who are most satisfied with their lives; happy, like what they do, and are reliable people.  These are the kind of folks we all like to be around.  Their approach to life can rub off on others around them.  They are, truthfully, living the dream.

Oh, that young engineer soldier who had just won Soldier of the Year is stationed in Syria helping support the Syrian local militias battling the Islamic State.  He is engaged in combat almost every day and yet he took the time to read and study to be a better soldier.  That is why I’m so positive on this generation of young men and women in our armed forces.


  1. These IEDs had indiscriminately killed many coalition military members and local civilians.
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.

30 thoughts on “Living the Dream

  1. Darwin Lippe

    ‘Living the dream,’ what a great saying. Never heard it before but I love it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and the fact that this is part of the military culture.

  2. Joe Omerrod

    As a soldier from the 1990s in the US, I found your article hitting right home with me and my friends. We served honorably. One of the things the senior NCOs taught us was a positive attitude. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I’ve lived by that ever since and my life is far better than those who claim to be victims.

  3. Ed Berkmeister

    Whenever I speak with older men (those over 50), I find that nearly every one of them have one single regret that sticks in their mind. They all tell me they regret not having served in the US military. This is not a do-over issue with them. They honestly wish they had at least served a few years to show they made a contribution to their country.

    1. Drew Dill

      Makes you wonder about what motivates us as human beings. I served in the U.S. Marines many years ago. You know what they say, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” True. No surprise to me that those who never served now regret it.

  4. Mark Evans

    If you’re not “living the dream” then you are not living.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      Right! It’s all about attitude (well, most of life anyway).

  5. Sadako Red

    In the scope of our lives, it is important (in my humble opinion) that we live it in a way that makes our families, our communities, and our societies better than when we came into it. That is why we live in a better place than our ancestors. That is what distinguishes us from the animals. It keeps us moving forward because if we align our lives with old, worn-out ideologies, then we will not be better but begin to fall into the pit of evil (just look at this in the past 20th century as an example of what should not be done).

    1. Eric Coda

      Super comment. Also, I’m one of your fans and would like to see another hard-hitting article by you.

  6. Willie Shrumburger

    Quotable quote: “I have found that those who adopt the greatest amount of responsibility are those who are most satisfied with their lives; happy, like what they do, and are reliable people. ”
    Pasting this on my refrigerator.

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      —- and I will be giving it to my students today.

  7. JT Patterson

    Enjoyed your article, this morning Gen. Satterfield. So, thanks for that. I would hope that you would write about other military adventures in the future. I find them especially enjoyable (?? maybe that is not the right word, but I like it when you present your experiences). This helps me remember the main ideas.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Yes, this is why these articles are so good to read. I enjoy sitting back in my ez chair and drinking coffee while reading on my iPad.

  8. Max Foster

    Entertaining article. Your combat experiences are very interesting and help drive home your point. A good attitude means a lot. It means you have the will power to carry on when everyone else is running away. These are the heroes. They are the ones who are brave and strong. They are those who we look up to; not those who claim to be victims of reality.

    1. Len Jakosky

      As usual, spot on comment Max. Too many weenies out there for my taste. Manly men are what helps the world go around, not some pansy like US Sec of State John Kerry. What a wimp that guy is. I’m glad he is still around and making comments. It allows me to see what NOT to do as a leader.

      1. ZB22

        Agree! It is a good way to compare ourselves to what we do not want to be.

  9. Gil Johnson

    Great article today, thanks Gen. Satterfield for giving us some insight into the US military and the way they do things and ‘think’ about and have a great attitude. Well done! This is another reason I keep coming back to your leadership webpage.

    1. Shawn C. Stolarz

      I agree. Maybe we could have an article on the US Marines. Now that would be interesting.

  10. Army Captain

    I love the phrase “living the dream.” I’ve used it only when things are looking really bad and things are going to hell. That is when you say living the dream; not when things are perfect.

  11. Albert Ayer

    I can tell you who is NOT ‘living the dream’ and that is the American NBA (see Gen. Satterfield’s Daily Favorites). Grovelling at its best.

    1. Bryan Lee

      You got it! What a bunch of pansies the NBA turned out to be. I never watch anyway, so to me they are just another sniffling bunch of dunderheads with nothing else to do but whine about how the world mistreats them.

    2. Nick Lighthouse

      If you get a chance, watch South Park mock the hell out of them. It is so obvious that the NBA leadership kowtowed to one of the most dictatorial countries in the world, tells you a lot about the lack of good core values. The NBA should be hiding their heads in shame.

      1. Greg Heyman

        Well, I thought the American Football professional leagues were a bunch of weenies. Now the NBA is giving the a run for the money (figuratively and literally). Thanks, Gen Satterfield, for another great article that touches on the main events in our lives.

    3. Yusaf from Texas

      Good point, Albert. You will find more of this as the fake media continues to report. But never take their writings/reports for the facts.

Comments are closed.