We all want it. Some are driven by it, while others find it unattainable. Success. People always want to know what the quick easy path to success is. They spend more time searching for that path than actually striving for success. There are a multitude of books, how-to videos and papers all telling you how to be successful. Time management. Exercise. TED Talks. Diet. Communing with the ancient Sphinx. Well, it doesn’t take all that, and it really isn’t all that complicated. What it is though, is hard work on four tasks. When I arrived at my first duty station HHC 2/327 INF “No Slack” 101st Air Assault Div, my very first 1st Line Supervisor, Corporal Kea, told me the secret to being a good Soldier. If I could mange the first three things, the Army would teach me the fourth. Simply put:
- Be At The Right Place
- Be At The Right Time
- Be In The Right Uniform
- Know How To Do Your Job
Be At The Right Place: Believe it or not, it is neigh impossible to do your job if you are not where you are supposed to be. For us in the military it meant something simple like being in formation, at the aid station, at the motor pool. It could also meant something more serious like being at a link-up point to provide security for a sister company’s movement or being at the landing zone to pick up troops performing a retrograde action under fire. Not being where you are suppose to be has consequences. The former examples may bring disciplinary action. Not being there in the latter examples could mean death. That’s well and good for the military and very understandable, but what about civilian life? It’s still the same thing, if you aren’t where you are supposed to be things can’t get done properly. Even with today’s electronic communication explosion you can be where you are supposed to be at least virtually if not physically. But in my opinion that is where the problem lies. Call me old school if you like, but having to physically be somewhere forces you to accomplish many smaller tasks before hand in order to be there. Tasks like dressing yourself properly, commuting to where you should be and ensuring you have the tools you need. When a person knows all they have to do is sit at their kitchen table, switch on a screen and login then you lose the thought processes and abilities inherent in going somewhere. Yes it’s convenient to do virtual meetings. Yes it’s cheaper on the budget. But I feel it is leading to slow mental decaying process that will only worsen with time.
Be At The Right Time: So now you are dressed, got your coffee without spilling it on yourself and are out the door. All that is for nothing if you don’t arrive where you are suppose to be on time. You can have the greatest business proposal of all time, but if you aren’t on time to present it chances are somebody else will get the job because they were there and you were not. In the military being late for combat operations is near tantamount to death. My early education in being on time came when I was a reconnaissance platoon medic for 2/327 INF. Due to some enroute “navigational issues” (read as “LOST”) our lieutenant got us to the helicopter pick up zone two minutes late. The result? After two weeks of learning how to creep and peek out in front of the main divisional effort, we were left to walk the twenty miles back to cantonment. We could hear the birds departing the area as we arrived. On time? You better believe I’m on time!!!
If you are late for a meeting with your immediate supervisor you are probably just going to get an ear full. Late for a client business proposal meeting where you are presenting? You will probably not be on the promotion list and more likely headed for the proverbial trashcan!! It doesn’t take a lot to be on time, but it does require some prior planning. Where are you going and by what mode of transportation? How long does it take to get there for this time of day? How you been to this location before and know the route? If not have you taken a familiarization trip to ensure you can find it? Do you know another way to get there? They may seem like over the top questions, but being a professional means knowing the small snapshots make up the big picture. Being late is a sure sign of un-professionalism. Yes, accidents happen and construction can pop up anywhere. Leave early enough to plan for those things and make sure you can contact somebody who is where you are going and stay in touch with them. A good early career mantra I learned to live by: “If you can’t be on time…be early”! It’s better you wait for them, than for them to wait for you.
p.s. Please don’t ask what happened to the LT…
Be In The Right Uniform: Monday morning, there I was standing tall in formation and on time. Then I started to notice a small difference between me and the rest of my platoon. Why did everybody else have their wet weather top in hand? Weren’t we just going to the motor pool? Well haha and boo-boo the fool on me!! Vehicle wash rack here we come!!!! Yep I was at the proper place at the proper time but it was a cold wet morning because I failed to have the proper uniform. That may be a little whimsical example but not being dressed properly can also have disastrous effects. In one of the most studied modern day operations Operation Gothic Serpent showcased what can happen when you don’t have the proper gear. No night vision devices, no body armor plates in back and very little water all combined to make a bad situation horrendous. They failed to follow the time tested procedures for the sake of comfort and over-confidence. This is not a beat up session but an example of what can go wrong. I was part of “hammer and anvil” operation and part of the blocking force. Our job was to insert by helo and walk to an over-watch position and wait for the enemy to be forced in our direction. The problem was the cursory map reconnaissance did not reveal that the spot would not afford good covering fires so when we arrived the decision was made to descend to a lower spot that was more suited. The spot was 50 feet below us. The problem: nobody had thought to pack ropes. The result: walk almost a mile down and back to get in place.
Of course you want to be dressed properly for the venue / audience you are going to be in but, proper uniform includes more than your shirt and tie or your heels versus flats. Do you have your phone, your tablet and physical writing materials (pad and pen). Yes you can take notes on your phone or tablet, but looking down at them may be perceived as inattentiveness or a disconnect. Writing on a pad shows that you are mentally present and interested in the proceedings and is always accepted during a meeting. It should go without saying but do you have a copy of the presentation or discussion topics? Going to put shingles on your roof and get up there and find out you have no hammer. Minor inconvenience if it’s just you but if it’s a business, again you’ll look unprofessional.
Finally Know How To Do Your Job: Out of the four, this is the only one where you definitely need outside help to get started in and even along the way as you progress. Once you get the basics though it’s up to you to refine them and do the best you can with them. No matter if it’s turning a wrench, building a flow chart or writing an application. It’s yours. OWN IT! Your work product has to speak for you. It has to say what type of worker you are. Sure, at the beginning it may take some tweaks or corrections, that’s to be expected. It should not continue because if it does, it may signal that YOU need some tweaks and corrections!!! Remember that you may not have the opportunity to speak for your work, but it will always speak for you. Operators in the community are known by the work effort and results that they get. Word travels good or bad. When the word about you takes off make sure it’s on wings of eagles and not the belly of a snake.
Success is not the elusive thing it appears to be. It takes adherence to four simple principals that seem to be so hard for people to accomplish these days. In a world where conveniences have made us lazy, our brains dependent and we seek to blame everybody else for our failings, the chance of success has indeed become elusive. Take responsibility for you and everything that you do. It is not the alarm company’s fault that you didn’t get up when the alarm went off. It isn’t the car manufacturer’s fault you ran out of gas. It isn’t the enemies fault that you didn’t bring enough bullets. And it isn’t your co-workers fault that you forgot to bring the business plan. It’s yours. If you want to be successful own what you do. Seek help and direction when you need it, but the end result is a reflection of you. Make it shine!!!
Products and equipment are only one third of the solution to survival. Training and Awareness complete the triad to help you keep safe. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for information on products, or training at firstname.lastname@example.org.