I am a great admirer of the past, even though I don’t remember as much of it as I would like. I believe that the past carries with it messages for the future, messages that not all of us can put into the context of how we live our lives in the present. Tonight I was reminded of my past, from a man who I had not seen since March of 1970-in Viet Nam.
So now you know that this is a post about two things-the past as seen through the eyes of a very green 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Infantry in Viet Nam as well as the eyes of a business consultant in 2008. And you’re thinking to yourself-how the hell is Schaber going to pull these two time periods together? I really hope (and believe) that you will enjoy this but it is not your standard 400 word post so be patient with the nostalgia.
Between 1968 and 1971 I was in the military. This consisted of basic infantry training, advanced infantry training, airborne training, ranger training, six months in Office Candidate Schools, four months with the 82nd Airborne Division stateside in North Carolina and one year in Viet Nam. They were painful, enlightening, lonely, joyful, sad, educational, mind-boggling, spiritual, denigrating, physically demanding and a whole lot more.
I was reminded of these adjectives when I received a call tonight from a man who was in my platoon at Officer Candidate School in Columbus Georgia in 1969. I won’t go into the details of the conversation (how boring would that be!) but as I listened to “Mike” talk about that time I was struck by his reference to those years as his “base-line” reference for the rest of his life. Say what? As twenty something year olds we were debased, ridiculed, physically intimidated, and stretched to our educational limits unlike our brethren at West Point who had four years to learn what we needed to learn in six months. How could these years be a reference point?
Our tactical officers pounded into us that our lives and the lives of our troops were dependent on us learning how to lead, discipline, listen, understand tactics, plan, research, think ahead four steps and generally be on top of any situation that we would potentially face. All of this “learning” happened during a 2-3 year period “before” we went to Viet Nam. Were we prepared? Yes and No!
But our preparedness is really not the point of this post but you knew that didn’t you? What happened to us then was that we learned about our limits of endurance, our expectations, our expectations of others, the difference between busting our ass and just passing, the difference between thinking ahead and winging it, the absolute joy of winning, the complete distaste of finishing second, the joy of risk, learning why we failed and the knowledge that our past experiences paved the way to our future successes.
Now be honest, did you really think that the military did all that? Yes, it did! What made the conversation tonight so memorable was that “Mike” used the phrase “base line” as it pertains to value. right and wrong, responsibility, and the other words I used in the previous paragraph. The question everyone should ask is what are your base-lines for how you sell and/or manage people? Do you have etched in stone your selling philosophies, which state how you will conduct yourself as a sales professional? Do you have a strong belief in people and how to influence them in order to bring out their best?
If you do not have “base-lines” find them! They are the foundation for how you conduct yourself as a leader, parent, spouse, professional, son or daughter, coach, teacher. Without the foundation you will flounder and flounderers are poor in spirit, confidence and financial strength.
The Final Thought: Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, that is way great spiritual giants are produced.” Swami Vivekananda