Wisdom is there for the Taking

By | July 12, 2019

[July 12, 2019] Just last week, I was talking to several U.S. Army Privates stationed in Hawaii. Both were in the service about a year but wanted to tell me the difficulties in learning about how to be better soldiers. Like the old advertisement, they wanted to be all you can be. What they did not know was that military wisdom is there for the taking.

The chain of command is designed to provide sage advice to all members. A formal mentorship program is also alive and well in all military services. NCOs and Officers are graded in their annual evaluations on how well their subordinates meet specific educational goals and mission requirements. Every incentive is there for more senior soldiers to pass along their hard-earned wisdom.

This was not always the case. In the recent past, the stovepiping of key lessons and advice was common. Why share this information, the thinking went, when a leader is competing against other leaders for faster promotions and better assignments. While today that may exist to some extent, this old method of passing along knowledge has fallen by the wayside. Today, any leader that is not proactive in educating his or her soldiers will not last long.

I suggested they realign their strategy to become better soldiers. There are some well-known methods; getting in great physical shape, volunteering for extra duties, studying military history, etc. But there are also parts of the military, especially in its culture, that is not found in books or even as common sense. For example, taking college coursework in their time off will show commitment and motivation for self-improvement; military leaders like that.

My advice was … just ask. They should ask leaders in their chain of command what they think is the best way to become a better soldier. Starting at the lowest level in the chain, they could request advice on how to get in better physical shape, be looked upon as highly reliable, be the “go to” person for a particular subject, etc. Other leaders outside their chain can also be asked. The solution, however, in each case, was to ask specific questions on how to make themselves better. The final step is to do it.

I find that young people today (and that applies to young folks in the military) are reluctant to ask for advice. They would rather “do it on their own” rather than get nuggets of wisdom from those who’ve gone before them. Others have suggested the same to me. Once they break free of this constraint, the world will open up for them, and they will begin to see greater opportunities everywhere.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Wisdom is there for the Taking

  1. Jerome Smith

    Thank you, Gen. Satterfield, for another informative and entertaining article on practical leadership. My wife has told me that these ideas you write about have helped her at work. Maybe now she will become a regular reader. Her favorites are those that include you working in jobs as a kid and what you learned from them.

    1. Eric Coda

      Not surprising but I’ve mentioned the same to others and received the same reply. The practical advice from this website is worth the 5 minutes or so, that I spend on it daily.

  2. Danny Burkholder

    As a boy, I refused help from others because I thought it would make me strong. As a young man I refused help because it would show I’m independent. As an older man now, I realize that I suffered greatly for that philosophy and wish I’d not gone down that path. My son, fortunately, learned from this as I told him of stories of how I failed repeatedly because I refused to ask for or accept assistance.

    1. Martin Shiell

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m afraid that this is an all too common way of living. Remember that life is a negotiation with others. When we attempt to cut others out of the picture (for whatever reason) we will likely fail.

  3. Harry B. Donner

    Great article. I never thought of it this way. Much appreciated.

    1. JT Patterson

      I find that all the articles here (with a few exceptions of some of the Guest Bloggers) tend to be on the positive, practical side and why I keep coming back to this leadership website. Thanks Harry.

  4. Drew Dill

    Gen. Satterfield, I’m sure your conversation with the two army privates was interesting. GIving out advice is a good thing, intrinsically. But it also helps others in ways that they don’t even know or understand. I wish others had done this with me. Today is a new time to be a leader.

  5. Gil Johnson

    “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. ” from the Bible, Matthew, I believe. We should all heed this advice.

    1. AutisticTechie

      Thanks Gil. Also, the idea that what we need is there means that often we don’t have to seek too hard but to have the right people around us who will help. That goes a long way toward the idea that we should surround ourselves with good people as much as possible and treat them well.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        Great comment. I would add that we should take care in our personal affairs and care for others whenever possible.

    2. Kenny Foster

      Tony pointed out, below, that the quote is from Matthew 7:7.
      We would all do ourselves a gigantic favor by listening and following the scriptures. They were not written as a joke but as an accumulation of human experience. There is likely no other single book that incorporates such a high degree of advice on the human condition.

      1. Joe Omerrod

        Well said. The Bible is a book even an atheist should read and heed.

  6. Army Captain

    Very good. Most of us don’t realize that until we are too far into our lives for it to make much of a difference. However, it’s never too late. Jump quickly and “just ask”.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      Good to see you on and to know you also agree. Thanks Army Captain.

  7. Max Foster

    Interesting take. I found also that if you ask for help or advice, most are willing to give it to you willingly and forthrightly. Ask and you shall receive; oh, someone else already said that.

    1. Anita

      College snowflakes today have no idea about this. Furthermore, if they ever asked me for advice, I would feign ignorance and NOT tell them anything useful. They have brought bad things upon this country and now they will reap the bad that will surely come down upon them.

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