It was March 2005, and I was cold, wet, tired, and beyond miserable. I was in the “swamp” phase of Ranger school, and my fellow Ranger platoon-mates and I had ran missions non-stop for the last 24-36 hours.
Though the temperatures in Florida were in the mid-60’s, we were all shivering from the mental and physical exhaustion we had endured for the last 50-something days of the course — the sleeping for only 3-4 hours a night, eating just one or two meals a day, and the endless rucking, for miles upon miles, with 90-120 lbs of ammunition and equipment on our backs.
We only had a few more days until we would graduate from the “hardest 61 days in the Army,” but we still had a few more days. Right now, we were standing waist-deep in snake-infested swamp waters (chest-deep for me), in the middle of the night, with our weapons over our heads (to keep them from getting wet). The leader of the patrol was lost and was doing a “map-check” so the rest of us were just waiting to start moving again so we could warm up.
As we had been going non-stop, many of us were falling asleep standing while “pulling security” in the dead of the night. (I don’t think they even gave us night-vision goggles at that time because we were just students.) In order to try and keep each other awake, we occasionally turned to one another and checked in.
I turned to my Ranger buddy next to me and whispered, “Dude, this really sucks. Can you even feel your feet?” He slowly looked at me with his eyes half-closed, partially drooling, and randomly responded, “I just peed on myself so I can warm up.”
We started laughing silently, uncontrollably for the next few seconds. Here we were, in the middle of the swamp, both freezing our butts off and each carrying loads of 100 lbs of ammunition and supplies, giggling like little school children in the middle of the night.
As we quickly got control of ourselves, he then whispered,
“Embrace the suck. This too shall pass.”
And embrace the suck we did. About 80% of us had passed this final stage, and we eventually were able to don our coveted Ranger tabs. Now, about 15 years later, these are the memories we recall and continue to laugh about, as we were going through this period of hardship in our lives.
I know this isn’t a revolutionary new concept; you all know that each of us will go through tough times in our lives, whether personally or in business. If we can learn to embrace our difficulties, we will be open to learning more and better enduring our challenges. If you can minimize the time you feel sorry for yourself and rewire your brain to just embrace the circumstances you’re in, you can turn the bad times into unforgettable moments of learning.
Don’t b*tch about where you’re at; stand up, brush yourself off, evaluate your mistakes, and take action to move forward. You will look back at your trials and realize how much you’ve gained during these times.
For me, the last few years have been incredibly difficult, as I’ve gone through my first termination in anything, and then decided to launch a couple start-ups to find a way to impact the world just a little. Things always take way longer than what you expect, and I faced my adversity by being an entrepreneur.
I’ve chosen, however, to ‘embrace the suck’ with the help and support of the people around me. I didn’t feel sorry for myself when I was let go from my last job in Chicago. Or when I launched a boxing business [FIGHTribe] that didn’t end too successfully. Or the fact that it’s taken MilSpec Capital over a year to find the right careers to present to our Veteran candidates as incredible career opportunities. But with dedication, we are moving the needle!
There are thousands of Veterans who fall in this category, of facing adversity to overcome. And like me, they have decided to stay committed to overcome their circumstances and continue grinding to achieve their goals. These are the characteristics of people you want on your team. The dedication, commitment, and unwavering spirit to fight and win. They will make your organization better and cultivate a culture of continuous improvement and mission accomplishment.
To all my “Ranger buddies” in the past, present and future — thank you! You have made this “suck” bearable and even memorable. You have been my inspiration to put one foot in front of the other. I’ve been blessed with my network of friends, family, and mentors to help guide me, and I am deeply indebted to your kindness and care.
Let’s continue to crush our future “sucks” together!
MilSpec Capital is a boutique headhunting firm that connects High-Impact Veterans to our client companies in various industries. Our Veterans typically have 5-15 years of private sector experience, in addition to their successful track record of Leadership.