[February 16, 2021] You hear this a lot in the U.S. military. On my first day at boot camp, the Drill Sergeants had us running around the barracks, carrying our footlockers and screaming as loud as possible, “My feelings don’t matter.” They were about to teach us something important and that that sometimes your feelings don’t matter.
Of course, I look back on that time in Basic Training with some trepidation. Would I want to go through this primeval-like initiation into the U.S. Army again, nope! But, I’m glad I did. I think all of us would admit that basic was the hardest thing we had ever done, up to that point in our lives. Many in my class of recruits cracked under the mental pressure. They were taken away to never return.
Technically speaking, your feelings do matter … but only a little. Feelings can be a motivator and in that respect, yes, feelings do matter. Just like our opinions, Army NCOs that train recruits don’t care about recruits’ opinions, feelings, prior girlfriends, or where they came from. To the Drill Sergeants, we were ‘army green’ and they showed us how to be a soldier.
Learning this lesson – that your feelings don’t matter – is, at first, difficult to accept. We’ve all been taught that our feelings are important. Our moms were wonderful and we love our moms. As an adult, we can still love our moms and family but we should also learn that our feelings can and will eventually work against our success in the workplace.
Drill Sergeants have a way with words that hit home for many of us recruits. The young man standing next to me one day asked about getting a little time to “collect himself.” Standing there was the meanest looking man I’d ever seen. He scared the living daylights out of me. Drill Sergeant Bryant, one tough SOB, just stared at the man and said, “Recruit! Fill out a Hurt Feelings Report.” And, then the clincher, “Ladies, time for a five-mile run in full combat gear.”
Take that hill.
Our first squad-level exercise was about to happen and we were to be graded on our ability to take a hill away from the “enemy.” Basic Training was good for us. It taught us to be tough, detailed-oriented, and single-minded in getting our mission accomplished. At Fort Polk, it was Hill 937 (named after the infamous Battle of Hamburger Hill in the Vietnam War).
That day did not go well. Our “attack” to take Hill 937 was late starting and not synchronized with an adjacent squad. We miserably failed the exercise but what happened after was something to remember. Drill Sergeant Bryant was in rare form. I’ll just leave it there for your imagination. At the end of basic, my arm muscles were much stronger for doing thousands of punishment pushups.
Do your feelings matter?
No, your feelings don’t matter at all; at least not to all the adults in the room.