Let me tell you a story about how learning by failing can make you a successful Veteran Entrepreneur.
In Afghanistan, my best buddy Jerry saved my life after I got blown up.
The military trained him in what to do, to keep his men alive while executing the mission. In training, every single day we practiced first-aid while in stressful situations. We practiced it until we got it. We then practiced different scenarios once we got it right.
Everything I had learned in my liberal arts education was about debate and discussion, an examining of different ideas. In training, we learned there was no for discussion or debate, only action. The military taught me complex situations must be made simple so you can act and act immediately or people would die.
Everything we did, we rehearsed for the worst case scenario. So when you saw it you knew what to do. It got to be that the “worst case” scenario was no big deal. We drilled for the “worst case” scenario over and over again.
The “worst case” scenario was the day I got blown up. Ironically, we had practiced for this and Jerry was ready. He saved my life, the life of Truck Commander (TC) and he tried to save the life of my gunner.
I learned a valuable lesson: The best skill set that the military taught me was failing is how we learn. And so you cannot become a successful entrepreneur if you are scared of failure.
The reason most people are not successful as entrepreneurs is because they don’t fail enough. Think of a baby who says, “I failed once when I fell down, so I can’t walk anymore.” The military is the best training ground in the world to become a successful entrepreneur. The military teaches you how to be successful by failing.
Before the military I never experienced the effort I put into something and the outcome. Consequently, I never thought I really had much of chance in the adult world.
Joining the Army
I joined the Army because I wasn’t sure of what else to do after high school. The military is a place that prepares America’s troops to fight wars.
The military is a place that constantly gives you challenges. It lets you fail at those challenges, it examines why you failed. You take the lessons learned and apply that new knowledge to new challenges
The military coaches you on how not to fail next time. It reinforces the identity of serving others through teamwork and leadership based on values. therefore, the entire process of learning by failing in the military is designed to build character, wilfulness and problem-solving.
The military taught me a lot of the non-cognitive or soft skills that you don’t even realize you need until you become an adult living on your own. Things like how to iron a uniform. How to prepare yourself for work in the morning. How to shave properly. You need these little skills to be a successful adult.
Veteran Entrepreneurs must have vision, adaptability, and grit to succeed in a digital world with analog human beings. One essential element that never changes, and the military teaches, is leadership by example. Applying what we learned in the military to build a successful business is what being a Veteran Entrepreneur is all about.
Leaving the Army
Leaving the Army for civilian life was one of the toughest transitions of my life. I left a culture based on honor and values to one based on monetary gain. Either I had to compare and contrast two very different cultures and value systems. In the military, we had a clear chain of command. Soldiers base their values on team-over-self.
These clear ideas once so black and white are now muddy and distorted. Making the leap from soldier to civilian and later to Veteran Entrepreneur was the toughest transition I ever had to make.
Every day my mission was spelled out while in the army. My leaders had an honest, no-nonsense style that I relayed on and appreciated. It took me a few months after I got out to realize that military training shapes lives and supports entrepreneurship.
The training, discipline, and leadership skills that I learned in the military could be leveraged for huge success in the civilian world of business. I just had to decide on what my “New Mission” was going to be. My “Next Mission” was to apply what I learned in the military to being a Veteran Entrepreneur.