Does believing in something or someone make a difference? According to Jocko Willink in his book, Extreme Ownership, believing can make ALL the difference!
So it’s worth a few minutes of our time to figure out why belief is important, and how we’ll believe (because without the how we just have a nice theory with platitudes, but nothing concrete to act on).
So… why believe… in what… and how?
Belief in Ramadi – Jocko’s story
In his book, Extreme Ownership, Jocko relays the importance of believing in the chain of command. It’s not a blind, naive belief, but a belief born of questioning.
Don’t go off the rails here: Jocko is not saying to ignore the chain of command, but he is encouraging everyone to question missions and orders in a healthy way. And what’s the healthy way?
In short, to question until you understand why things are being done. When we understand why things are being done, we’re more likely to take the necessary risks to make things happen and we’re better able to convince others to give their best efforts. That sounds like a great recipe for leadership, whether in a team, a job, a family, or if you’re just trying to lead yourself.
For Jocko, this is a lesson born of experience in Ramadi, Iraq, 2006. When ordered to include Iraqi troops in every combat action his SEALs performed, he had some questions. Why would you put poorly trained, poorly equipped, and sometimes poorly motivated Iraqi troops with one of the most elite fighting forces on the planet? Great question! So Jocko asked.
And once he understood the answer, he was able to convince his team. His team was then willing to take the necessary risks to restore a city in chaos to a manageable peace. Want to know more? Get the book! (And read to the end of this series of posts!)
Getting Personal on Belief
Let’s take this out of the realm of theory and get real. Let’s talk about us.
Before I jump on the bandwagon of believing, I need to know what’s in it for me, and I need to see that it works. I need someone to show me. But I also need the freedom to question.
Let’s face it, many warriors have seen too much of the world to take things at face value. There’s a touch of cynicism in most… and it’s not necessarily a bad thing when you’re trying to survive in your operating environment.
How do we examine belief, yet leave room for questions? I ask these two questions:
- What has believing done for me?
- What has believing NOT done for me?
What has believing done for me?
I ask this question of many veterans and first responders I meet through The Xena Project. Their answers mean more than most to me, because they’ve seen some difficult circumstances and seldom come out the other side without being profoundly impacted (sometime for the better, sometimes for the worse). Either way, their answers are deep, rich, and hard-won. Belief in the chain of command and in their faith gives them:
- a sense of peace, even in chaos
- the ability to carry on in difficult circumstances (because they know it’s worth it)
- confidence to take risks and to step out and lead
- an ability to focus: they don’t have to control the outcome of everything
While this all sounds wonderful, let’s be honest: there are times when we’ve been let down. Maybe it was the chain of command, maybe it was our faith. If you haven’t been there yet, give it a minute. You will be. The question is, how will you deal with that let down?
This question is especially critical for warriors. You can’t just quit in the middle of a situation. You’ve got to have the strength to carry on, whether you’re in a firefight, a rescue call, or a fight against addiction. It’s a good idea to ask this question in advance to prep your spirit for the dark times that inevitably come:
What has believing NOT done for me?
I ask this question of my encounters as well. The answers are raw, intense, and real. These answers are not for the feint-of-heart. Here are some of the things I’ve heard in response to what believing has NOT done for warriors:
- it didn’t save my buddy (or my marriage)
- it didn’t make a difference in the big picture
- it didn’t accomplish the mission
I told you these were raw and real. But it’s essential that we address them, or we’ll find ourselves with a load of quit when what we need is to persevere. The stakes are high.
These are “reality questions.” These are the questions that keep us grounded, and keep belief real. We learn some vital things about belief from these answers:
- Belief does not guarantee a certain outcome
- Our perception is limited by our vantage point
- Even apparent failures have value
Chew on those for a second and I think you’ll find that believing is still more powerful than not believing. How?
Well… you’ll have to tune in to Part 2 of this post.
In the meantime, to quote a famous rock band from the 80’s: “Don’t stop… believin’…” You’ll find strength for your Journey (sorry, couldn’t resist) and you’ll renew your Warrior spirit!
– What has believing done for you?
– What has believing NOT done for you?