Suck it Up and Move On

By | December 3, 2019

[December 3, 2019]  My first winter in West Germany was a difficult time for me after growing up in the warm Deep South of the United States.  Not only was winter cold and snow new to me, but in late 1974, Germany was experiencing terror attacks by the Baader-Meinhof Gang.  I was stationed at a nuclear weapons’ storage site, and the conditions were far from ideal.  My supervisor, a tough Staff Sergeant Dickerson, told us to “Just suck it up and move on.”

For my non-American readers, the expression suck it up and move on means to accept something bad, deal with it successfully, and get on with your life.  This idiom is widely used in the U.S. military, most often expressed as advice to those new in the service.  Some say it helps to understand the culture of the military.

Sergeant Dickerson had been an Army Private in the Vietnam War and was the kind of soldier you wanted at your side.  When trouble came lurking, Dickerson was there with a motivational word or two, a blunt-instrument solution, and a philosophy that said go to the next problem.  “Always look ahead,” he would say, “Stop dwelling on the past.”  I always liked the way he put things in such simple terms.

The years I was at my first duty station in West Germany were full of learning about the German culture (plus speaking the language), how to prepare myself for combat (this would come in handy later), and a new philosophy on life.  I gained an appreciation for combat soldiers like Dickerson and his friends, all who had served in Vietnam.

Learning to live a well-meaning life was a twist on what I’d grown up learning in church on Sundays.  Oh yes, I had been taught to treat others like I wanted to be treated.  I also knew various stories from the Bible.  What I didn’t know was that to survive and be successful meant to focus on your plan for the future and be prepared to sacrifice today for gain tomorrow.

This look to the future means building character.  And, yes, one can consciously build their character.  It takes some hard work and focus.  It will require help from others, like your battle-buddy and friends.  No amount of avoiding the issue will work.  No coddling, whining, or crying will work.  There are truly no free beers when you’re building up yourself.  This is no easy task.

If only I had a nickel for every time someone in the Army told me to ‘suck it up.’  I learned that what happens today may become part of me, but it will not define me unless I allow it.  Today, those entering the U.S. military have a different outlook.  They believe, in many cases, that they are owed something by society.  They are also less prone to let things go now or look into the future.

My advice to those new to the military, “suck it up and move on.”

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.

18 thoughts on “Suck it Up and Move On

  1. Darryl Sitterly

    I laughed when I read this article. Well done and thanks for bringing back some great memories of my time in the US army.

  2. Len Jakosky

    Shakespeare would likely have said the same thing – SUCK IT UP AND MOVE ON – but he said something else just as important.
    “From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered-
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
    ― William Shakespeare, Henry V

    1. Eric Coda

      As I learn more about leadership, I also learn that you can find hints of the secrets of leadership by reading the great writers of the past. Shakespeare was one of them. Highly recommended Henry V.

      1. Kenny Foster

        Agreed. Nothing like a little classical reading to help make us a better person. That is, of course, the first step toward great leadership — making ourselves better.

  3. JT Patterson

    Another spot-on article from Gen. Satterfield. Of course, we would not expect anything else. I’ve been a regular reader of this blog for many years and find it handy to fill in the gaps left by many other leadership blogs that like to get too fancy. This blog has a clean interface and makes it easy to hunt down articles on a particular topic. The fact that it’s been around now for over six years is extremely helpful when researching specific leader topics.

    1. Deplorable John

      Yes, and don’t forget the electronic books Gen. Satterfield has posted. They are FREE. They do summarize a great deal of this writing and worth a look.

      1. Albert Ayer

        Hi Gen Satterfield. Hope you and your family are well. As we progress into the holidays at the end of 2019, I recommend a short series on the Korean War. My dad fought there as part of 8th Army. He was killed defending a hill somewhere north of Seoul. Thank you for a great blog.

  4. Karl J.

    “Suck it up and move on” and while I heard this before, it was usually the first part “suck it up” but not the last part. I think that might be a military thing. Because in the military you have to keep going no matter what.

    1. Linux Man

      The military is not place for whining or making excuses. The job has to get done and you are responsible for MAKING IT HAPPEN.

    2. KenFBrown

      Same here. I was thinking the same thing, Karl J., when you wrote this. Why, as a kid, I only heard the first part? Oh well, now I know better.

  5. Army Captain

    If we are lucky as military officers, we have had a SSG Dickerson in our lives that help guide and mentor us to be a better leader. I had a SFC John Daillamouth who was a soldier who set me on the right path. I credit him with my successes as an Army officer.

    1. Wilson Cox

      Certainly good to hear that you and others have had Sergeant DIckerson-like soldiers in their past that made a difference to them. In the civilian world, we have similar people who may be crude but are extremely effective and willing to give the shirt off their backs for you.

    2. Eva Easterbrook

      Thanks Army Captain for validating this sort of person – usually a man – and telling us how important they are to you. I admit, even as a woman, that other women are not very likely to be like this Staf Sgrt Dickerson. ?

      1. Jane Fillmore

        Sadly, I have to agree with you, Eva. Women seem to not care about others because, I think, they are too focused on being “victims” of circumstances than worrying about others in the workplace. This is a feature of the new woman who works and doesn’t care about men or any one else.

  6. Dale Paul Fox

    Staff Sgt Dickerson must have been a great soldier with plenty of experience and insight into what makes for a real leader and real fighter.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Yes, we’ve all had a Staff Sgt Dickerson in our lives. The problem for most of us is whether we recognized him.


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