Monday, October 31, 2016

Who Am I? 161031

It was the Greek philosopher Socrates who said, "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing." The irony of that statement is, I am not completely sure he even said that; I just know that is what I was taught. 

The famous French philosopher and mathematician RenĂ© Descartes, also known as the Father of Modern Philosophy, said the words "I think therefore I am”. Again, while I also agree with this famous quote, I am not sure he said that.

So at this point, I know I am because I think; I am convinced I know nothing; and, I have no idea who really said those things first.  

Don't miss this.  I am at a juncture in my life as I transition out of the Marine Corps where I have to figure out who I am and what I am all about. 

What I know about the world is completely changing.  My very identity will be altered as I become Mark again. 

I have learned 24 years worth of life in the Corps and 18 years worth of life as an Air Force dependent.  I have been in some sort of military life for all but 7 months of my life. 

That said, I am more than the sum of my experiences, my mistakes or successes. 

I have also always been taught to put others first.  I am a servant at heart.  Serving others, taking care of them and living up to their expectations is very important to me.  I set my thoughts, actions and therefore habits up to ensure I am living up to those expectations.  Is that how I am supposed to live, to please others? 

Leave it to me though to take things to the extreme.  Having spent nearly all my life trying to live out the expectations of others and basing my identity on either expectations or my profession, I have lost who I am.

When I am not a Marine, a dad, a stereo-typical 'good-wholesome-guy', who am I?  Do I really want a tattoo or a drink of beer or a cat?  Finding myself in all this stuff is more important to me at this point.  Who am I really?  Do I like to bake or fly planes or fix cars? 

I realize most of that stuff is normal, but I haven't done any of that because I am trying to make everyone happy... live up to their expectations... serve them better.  Is that what I should do?  Should I care what you or anyone else thinks?

I do realize that my actions or inactions have consequences.  I know that just because I care or don't care what people think, doesn't mean they won't react to what I do.  The question goes back to do I care. 

I don't mean to offend you, but this isn't about you.  I don't mean to ignore your input, but I need to listen to my own input and the input of my God.  If you want to be a part of who I am when all this is said and done, just support me in this healing process and love me through it. 

I am challenging a lot about what I believe and what I value in my life right now.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Double Standards 161027

We silly humans seem to have a lot of double standards. 

In some cases, we feel others should do things we don't feel the need to do.  Every time my kids turn the car I am paying attention to the turn signal they did or didn't use.  That said, I know I don't use it nearly as often as I should. 

In other cases, we hold ourselves to a higher standard than the one to which we hold others.  We feel that we shouldn't make the mistakes others get a pass on.  We demand perfection from ourselves or families while good-enough is ok for other people.  Some parents absolutely require "A's" on their academic report cards. 

Watch a volleyball game.  When a player misses a pass or ball, you know that inside their heads they at least scold themselves about how they should have done something different.  Their team-mates immediately come over and encourage them in order to help them shake off that feeling.  The shorter their memory, the easier it is to recover from that error. 

Their team-mates don't hold them to the same standard as the player does themselves. 

These double standards often exist because we know what "right" looks like and for one reason or another, it wasn't achieved.  Sometimes the reasons are beyond our control.  There are antagonizing forces that produce results that are not favorable to us. 

When my football team loses, sometimes it is that they didn't show up. Other times, it is simply the credit of a really good opponent. 

I know Marine leaders that hold themselves accountable for every single loss from their units; they don't hold other Marine leaders accountable for the same losses from their respective units.  It is as if, they expected perfection from themselves but understand that someone else's unit would take combat losses.  Count on the fact that there are no Marine leaders that set out to take a loss. 

All you can do is all you can do.  If you have done all you can do, you may need to consider outside influences. 

In cases of combat, there is an enemy whose mission is to kill you and your Marines.  Sometimes gear fails or malfunctions causing fatal results. Sometimes accidents cause fatalities.  Stuff happens.

Granted, sometimes it is the fault of the leader.  Sometimes the leadership should own their failure and then get beyond it.  That said, we should hold ourselves to the same achievable standard to which we hold others.

Semper Fi,

National Anthem 161027

Athletes and people at athletic events are in the news a lot lately for not standing or kneeling during the national anthem. 

People have asked me what I think of this as a Marine and patriot. 

Point 1: My brother's-in-arms (including the ladies I served with) and I have shed blood or died to give people the freedom to stand, kneel or whatever, during the national anthem.  They should have the freedom to do as they wish as long as it doesn't affect the freedom of others to do as they wish. 

Their freedom means I don't get to demand that they stand or sit or whatever. 

Point 2: That said, I have the freedom to say and do as I like as well, or in response to the actions of others.  

When I see them do that stuff, I am free to change the channel.  I am free to stop paying attention to them and their team or buying merchandise that supports their activities.  

Point 3: Just because they are a player of a team in a national level professional athletic league doesn't mean they are a patriot. 

At this point though, I would like to make a topic transition:  I have to remember that Firefighters don't milk cows; milking cows is the job of farmers.  I don't expect law enforcement officers to give financial advice or financial planners to enforce laws. 

Athletes are not paid to be examples of good morals or ethical behavior.  They are paid to play a sport.  If you are silly enough to put them on some pedestal on which they don't belong, then you are silly. 

Watch in awe as they make some one-handed catch behind their back.  You can use their sideline antics as teaching points to show your kids what not to do. 

If you want to make a positive difference, set an awesome example of how you want your kids to act.  Show them what reverence and respect look like.  Show them patriotism and courage and discipline and joy.  They will model your actions before they remember your words.  Live how you want them to act.

We Americans are free to speak, think, and do as we like.  We just need to be understanding when we are judged by people who are free to speak, think, and do as they like as well. 

This plays into the whole Black Lives Matter movement as well.  Yes I am going to go there, but just barely. 

Protestors, please protest.  If you have an issue, there are legal ways to protest and get your voices heard.  I respect you and your point of view. BUT, don't commit a crime.  Once your protests become looting or trespassing or assault or destruction of public / not-your-private property or whatever, there is an issue. 

You don't have to respect my point of view; remember you are free to think as you like.  I am choosing to respect your perspective regardless of whether or not I agree. 

Semper Fi,

Monday, October 17, 2016

Foundational Beliefs 161017

I had a running conversation over a few weeks with a very influential mentor in my life.  We discussed the five foundational beliefs that we hold in life.  How we approach these beliefs forms the foundation upon which we base our thoughts and eventually actions. 

Security / Safety: So if you believe you are generally safe, you don't think about making yourself safer; you focus on other things.  On the other hand, if you don't feel safe, you can take becoming safer to a dramatic extreme.  Becoming safe can become an invasive, emotional endeavor that completely overwhelms your thoughts. 

Control / Power: Do you have control over ... what you feel you should have control over?  Do you have the power to be productive and make changes where you feel they should be made?  If you answered yes to the above questions you are probably comfortable in this area of your life. If not, gaining control over what you think you should have control over can become an obsession.

Trust: Trusting yourself and others is another important foundation in your life.  If you believe you can trust yourself, you exude confidence.  It is easier to act without double-checking yourself.  If you trust others, you are not always looking over your shoulder, expecting someone to be plotting or acting against you.  It is much easier to befriend people if you generally trust them.

Intimacy: Speaking of befriending people, how close do you let people get when it comes to getting to know you?  Do you let them in on who you really are or keep them at a superfluous conversation distance?  It is absolutely healthy to share who you are with people you trust.  It is healthy for them to share with you as well.  Loving and being loved are critical to living a full life; and, being intimate is part of that love.

Esteem: It is also healthy to esteem others and yourself.  Lifting up people you respect honors them; you should hold yourself in a high esteem as well.  You are important as a person.  You are valuable and should be honored and esteemed. 

Each of these beliefs are intertwined.  It is hard to be intimate if you don't trust.  It is hard to feel secure if you don't feel you have a sense of control over at least some of what is going on in your life. 

Over time, after events, through our experiences, our personal beliefs about these five areas can change....  So my 16-year-old daughter just got her drivers license.  I used to feel safe in the passenger's seat of a car... my belief of my own safety in that seat has changed! 

Seriously though, she is a great driver, but I never look at the car the same since she and her two older brothers started driving. 

When I first arrived at 2nd Intel Bn in April of 2004, I was in a unit of Marines.  We were a unit going to Iraq.  After 7 months in Anbar Province, supporting numerous combat operations and actions under fire, that unit came back EXTREMELY intimate.  We were brothers in arms with trust forged in the fire of combat.  We trusted each other far more after the deployment than before.  That said, we probably trusted others far less after the deployment. 

Take inventory yourself on where you are with these five beliefs.  Then challenge why you hold that stance on your foundational belief. 

If your reason for not trusting cars now is because you know my teenaged driver may be behind the wheel... remember she is only one of the hundreds of millions of drivers out there; and, most of them have far more experience than she does.  Challenge that belief; and, maybe consider changing the conversation you have with yourself about cars. 

Once you figure out where you stand on those five foundational beliefs, challenge each one and make healthy changes.  Adjust your beliefs and your thoughts and actions will change automatically.

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Leadership Responsibility Spectrum 161011

As a general rule, we as a society hold our leaders accountable. 

We hold them accountable for what happens during the time they were in charge.  We hold them accountable for what their organization does or doesn't do.  We hold them accountable for what their members do or don't do.

We simply hold our leaders accountable.

So where does personal accountability come in?  At what point does one start getting held accountable for their own actions? 

True Story: Two men are traveling from New York City to Jacksonville, North Carolina.  The driver starts getting sleepy, so he asks the passenger to drive.  About 30 minutes later, a state trooper pulls them over for speeding.  Who should be issued the ticket? 

The person driving the car at the time; and, he did. 

So the two men finally arrive in Jacksonville, NC.  The next day they go to work on Camp Lejeune (the one who got the ticket is a Lance Corporal and the one who was sleeping next to him was a Corporal, a non-commissioned officer, one rank higher than the Lance Corporal).  Who did the command, and by extension the Marine Corps, hold responsible for the speeding ticket. 

The sleeping Corporal got reduced in rank and fined two half-months’ pay.  The commander held the Corporal responsible for allowing the Lance Corporal to speed. 

So instead of just pushing through while tired and risking both of their lives, the Corporal has the licensed driver and rested Lance Corporal drive.  The Lance Corporal makes the decision to speed and the Corporal is punished by the Marine Corps. 

The Corporal was a higher rank, the leader of the Lance Corporal, and held accountable for his followers actions. 

This true story is just an example the Marine Corps assigning responsibility of a follower or unit’s actions on its leader.  This happens throughout our society.

The U.S. economy is always blamed on or credited to the president at the time… who often has very little to do with it.  Should they get the blame/credit even though they have little to do with the economy?  The economy has far more to do with the Fed, commodity prices, employment opportunities… even congress. 

Familial leaders seem to get blamed or credited for their kid’s doings, successes, failures… even years after they are out on their own.  Should they? 

At what point do we adults start acting like adults?  At what point do individuals start owning their actions and being held accountable for what they do?

On the other hand, at what point do some of us STOP taking responsibility for the actions of other individuals? 

Just because I am successful in my Marine Corps career doesn’t mean I should feel guilty because others won’t or don’t succeed.  Maybe, just maybe, their success or failure is because of, wait for it, THEM. 

Maybe the speeder should get the ticket; maybe the adult kid should get credit or blame for how they turn out; maybe the leader should treat adults like adults and the follower should identify their own short-comings, own them, and fix them like an adult. 

I think some things should be blamed on/credited to leaders.  Other things should not. 

More to follow….

Semper Fi,