Major Lessons I Learned in the U.S. Army

By | October 4, 2020

[October 4, 2020]  Yesterday, I was a guest on the “Welcome Home Veterans” radio show on WIBG 1020 AM and WIBG 101.3 FM.  Joe Griffies was host of the show and this guy, wow, he can talk.  Tomorrow, I’ll give write about that experience and what he is doing to help veterans across our nation.  For today, I’d planned on giving a list of lessons I learned from being in the U.S. Army.

I thought it best just to list them.  Here are 20 lessons I got from 40 years in the military:

  1. Adopt all reasonable responsibility you can
  2. Tell the truth
  3. Be prepared (yes, this is the Boy Scout motto but it is especially needed in a difficult leader position)
  4. Show your men that you care about them (means help them become better men)
  5. Work Hard, Play Hard, Be Hard (physically and mentally)
  6. Learn how to get along with most people
  7. Accept criticism with grace
  8. Never complain1
  9. Be Loyal to a fault (read 14th century Dante’s inferno & his 9 Circles of hell)
  10. That pride and greed are serious character flaws.
  11. Practice, Practice, Practice; make what you do a part of your muscles, including your brain
  12. Read, think, write (train yourself to study, learn, and analyze)
  13. Understand your Core Values and stick to them (loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, …)
  14. Know your strengths and weaknesses, admit them to yourself & decide to improve
  15. Know your priorities: God, Country, Family
  16. Face your fears; have courage
  17. Know where you are going, plan on how to get there, set goals, and “go for it”
  18. Leadership is never a job or career, it’s a lifestyle. Fail to understand that & you will not succeed
  19. Do those things that have value
  20. I learned that we in the military owe a great debt of gratitude to the American people, so every day I thank them in my prayers.

Shortly, I will be writing another book on this very topic.  My thinking is that I have to get this list down to a dozen or so.  The hardest part of writing is not thinking of subjects to discuss but thinking of what not to write.


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.

14 thoughts on “Major Lessons I Learned in the U.S. Army

  1. Max Foster

    Here is the best one that surprised me “Do those things that have value.” I would like to see more from Gen. Satterfield on this topic. It seems obvious but knowing Gen. S and the way he thinks (differently and creatively), maybe he can share more insights. Please!

  2. Newtown Manager

    Work Hard, Play Hard, Be Hard (physically and mentally)
    My favorite on this list by Gen. Satterfield. But the entire list is something we should all contemplate.

  3. Greg Heyman

    Surprised me with today’s article. Great list, BTW. Thanks.

    1. Roger Yellowmule

      Yes, thinking the same thing. Greg, I learned many of these same lesson in the US Navy but long ago.

  4. Harry Donner

    Hey everyone, I assume we all know by now that President Trump has COVID19, along with his wife and several of his staff. I wish them a quick get well shout-out. But let’s also note that “be prepared” is something that all leaders should do. No. 3 on Gen. Satterfield’s list above. It works. I’m sure the White House was prepared that this might happen and had plans to the ready. Good that the Pres is still out there talking and talking to get his message of hope and good out to everyone.

  5. Mr. T.J. Asper

    I already printed and cut this list out, put it on my refrig in the kitchen and my kids are reading it as I write. I see smiles on their young faces because I’ve been teaching them these very things. They know now that I’m not the only person saying it.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      You are also teaching this in the High School you are working at, I do believe, right? Responsibility – tough to do but it is what our existence is about.

      1. Mr. T.J. Asper

        Yes, thank you Otto. I am teaching now (back 2 days per week in class and 3 days electronically). I can’t wait to get back full time in class. The teaching on Zoom is just not working out, in my opinion.

  6. Danny Burkholder

    Loved today’s article so thanks. My favorite is #1 on your list and I’m sure not accidental. “Adopt all reasonable responsibility you can.” This is the ONLY way forward to being both a better leader but also to be a better person. Let’s all celebrate the fact that the path is absolutely clear, follow it, it is hard, but follow it.

    1. JT Patterson

      You are right about this Danny. I hope our young people are reading what you wrote. It’s a lesson that if forgotten or never learned, will result in tragedy.

    2. Tom Bushmaster

      Danny, excellent points and thanks for your analysis. Accept responsibility and you will live well. The world will also beat a path to your door and give you opportunity after opportunity.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Yep, this is one of the reasons, I and many others, come to this leadership website ….. to get a daily dose of leader traits and suggestions on how to do much better. Good info can be had in just a couple of minutes AND to help more, this forums section also allows us to pick up a few more hints on how to be a better leader.

  7. Eric Coda

    GREAT list of lessons. Many of these, you’ve written about in the past but this is the first time I’ve seen them all in one place. Thank you!


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