Seek Out Experience

By | September 24, 2020

[September 24, 2020]  I’m of the old school that says experience is the best teacher.  And, while that is debatable in some philosophical corners, it nonetheless rings true.  Sadly, experience is not transferable; we all must take a given path to see what it may bring.  The very best leaders have something in common and that is they seek out experience, for they know it teaches best.

During our preparation for the Iraq War in 2003, military Engineers were thrown into a frenzy to find out all we could about the geological and climate of the country.  Understanding the geology meant we could determine if and where materials could be found for construction of roads, bridges, and buildings, as well as the location of water sources and drainage issues.  Knowing the climate (like rainfall, temperatures, etc.) meant we could build to suit those conditions.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus, ancient Greek philosopher

We called upon the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to provide us with some basic data and advice.  The school is one of the best for the study of geology.  We also called upon professors at the University of California at Berkeley because of their environmental/ecology program expertise.  After many weeks, we had what amounted to a mountain of information to use.

Traveling on the heels of combat units, we were immediately met with a number of unforeseen engineering problems.  When the highways were strewn with hundreds of thousands of mines, we had to find a solution quickly.   This had nothing to do with construction at all and our studies were not immediately useful.  Once again, we had to rely upon our experiences with shifting, unexpected problems.

The countryside through us a number of curveballs, each had to be solved fast and with ingenuity.  When the “rainy” season arrived in October (not April as we thought), it came with triple digit temperatures, dark skies, and the air thick with a grey mist.  The average rainfall annually is about six inches.  What we didn’t know was that it often arrived in one or two rain events.  This caused flooding and that made our living conditions unhealthy and vehicles got stuck.

There is a lesson in all this and it’s simple.  Do not wait placidly for experience to come to you, seek it out, but with careful and well-considered judgment.

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.

24 thoughts on “Seek Out Experience

  1. José Luis Rodriguez

    Excellent article. Real leaders do this, those that are not lazy and are serious about making themselves better leaders. You can instantly tell a great leader by working with that person for a few days and observe their personal philosophies on leadership. One of the attributes is wanting more experience.

  2. Dennis Mathes

    Only good leader, “real” leaders seek out experience. They go out of their way because without the relevant experiences, they know they will not be able to make the right future decisions.

  3. Tony B. Custer

    Another spot-on article so thanks. I would like to briefly point out a small point you made but that I caught. It was that your unit prepared as much as you and others could but still there were major events that you ran into. This shows how complex and confusing the world can be. But, you overcame. That is the point, I think, that should be emphasized here. The best leaders improvise, adapt and overcome.

    1. Kenny Foster

      Hey, I remember that article from last year. It’s the US Marine Corps slogan.

  4. Lynn Pitts

    More excellent work, Gen. Satterfield. Would you bring in one of your regular guest bloggers for us? I’m a big fan of Sadako Red and Edward Kennedy III. They are my favorite. Oh, and thanks for adding the tab with a short bio of all the guest bloggers. Well done!

    1. Sadako Red

      Lynn, Gen. Satterfield has already reached out to me. I also follow his blog regularly and see that you and others are requesting our input on daily affairs. My specialty is the stupidity of Baltimore’s city govt. They are stupid in so many ways that it makes for easy pickings to write about. However, now Portland (or maybe Seattle) are topping Baltimore as the worse run city in America.

      1. Georgie M.

        Oh, “RED”, great to see you on. I’m waiting with baited breath for your next article here. What will it be about? 😊😢😢😢

      2. Stacey Borden

        I’m a huge fan of yours Sadako Red. When will your article be out? What will be the subject? I recommend you write about Portland and how stupid their city government is and how it can be fixed.

    2. Joe Omerrod

      I agree with you Lynn, it would be great to have any of these back on these pages. Let’s not forget Army Vet. I particularly like his ideas about kicking the butts of socialists and communists in central and south America.

  5. Max Foster

    Let’s all be very clear, the main lesson of this article is that “experience” is vitally important, that it is NOT transferable to others, and that without it you will fail miserably. That is the core point(s) so let’s stay focused on it. The story told here brings it into focus for me and I hope for others reading this article as well. That is why I love reading so much of Gen. Satterfield’s blog and I do so daily. For those in the comments forums, learn from those of us with experience.

    1. JT Patterson

      You’re right Max and thanks for making your point so eloquently. You and I are long-time readers of this blog and I do believe we think very much alike on the idea that leadership is a difficult road but one that provides satisfaction in life.

      1. Maureen S. Sullivan

        Yes and exactly why I’m a regular reader of this blog. Max and JT are some of the stars here, along with Eric Coda and Yusaf from Texas. Stay on top of it boys! Ha Ha Ha. I mean it, keep up your great analysis.

      2. Billy Kenningston

        Experience matters only so much as it can be used to predict those leaders who might do better in the future. The past for a leader is only good for predicting how successful they will be in the future so let’s not focus on their past directly but only as a means to now and the future.

        1. Ronny Fisher

          Good point, Billy. I overlooked this point so appreciate you pointing it out.

  6. JT Patterson

    I like your combat stories because they bring into reality the ideas you present. I’m especially interested in our wars on terrorism becuase they are recent and those who fought there are still here to talk with and discuss what their thinking was at the time.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      You got that right, JT. Several vets are in my neighborhood from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and they are pretty open about their experiences, for the most part.

    2. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      JT, you pointed out something important and that is the use (or non use) of stories in my articles. The storytelling is designed to help us remember.

      1. JT Patterson

        Thank you, sir. I’m honored you would comment on my words.

  7. the ace

    Excellent article and educational. Appreciated! Thank you Gen. Satterfield. I’ve not been on your website that long but find it now as part of my daily reading. Keep up your work here.

  8. Forrest Gump

    I’m of the old school too but that is just the way humans are, they have to learn many lessons thru experience.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Yeah, and so it should not surprise anyone who sees our politicians with their foot sticking out of their mouths (no pun intended) to see that they have not learned the basics of talking (listen first, think second, and only then put your mouth in gear). Otherwise, our politicians are just ordinary people with a bit of gravitas thrown in.

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