Special Forces taught me that life is a series of mistakes, small victories, and an overall pursuit to get it mostly right, but not all of it. I hope this article isn’t a complete bore – but it’s just some thoughts on the nature of striving for perfection and why I think that’s a waste of your time.
At first, I felt like there were things I could improve. That maybe I wouldn’t make stupid little mistakes here and there. Then, years went by and I continued to be a human and made mistakes. Sometimes, the same mistakes – over and over again. I mitigated my old mistakes only to discover a whole new set of errors. Now, these errors were more high profile mistakes. Fixing the past mistakes in life, simple things, allow you to move to bigger mistakes. It’s a fine art but the army teaches you, how to kind of stop caring about that inescapable fact: someone thinks you think and you do.
It doesn’t matter what the industry or field – you aren’t perfect in your practice of it. Because we’re humans and this life is too short. Too short in fact, to take advantage of all the opportunities to live and truly be a master at one, niche thing. Although many do it, I have to think one might miss out on other experiences as a result. Those who stay in the same profession their entire lives they go on to become masters but navigating life requires skill, too. My favorite characteristic that the army gave me is how to feel comfortable in sh*t. How to adapt to mistakes and change. How to become, or embrace the idea of becoming, a master of chaos.
I’ve heard it a million times, and I’m hardly the first or the last to hear the phrase: “shitbag.” I have heard the Navy guys say “shitbird.” It’s all the same. In a highly competitive environment, everyone is critical of one another. But it’s in a humane way – it’s not meant to cast someone out but maybe to highlight deficiencies in your operating system. After all, you can’t self-correct and update to a new version if you’re unaware of what went wrong. It’s true for your job, your relationship – your entire life.
A life lived should be a never-ending stream of operating system updates until you die. As a Green Beret I was reminded that I suck, or wasn’t the best, on a daily basis. Maybe it was the brutal nature of our team – but we ate our own. It’s not a good thing for the long term, but I do think it’s set me up for some success. It did teach me how to just not care as much about things that I cannot control. Most importantly, that once I forgot something, made some mistake – it was over and I just had to move on. I know now you just have to wade through the turbulence of negative press to emerge on the other side. Regardless, it’s forward progress nonetheless.
Featured image courtesy of US Army