I am quitting…
I am quitting. I am quitting the Army, after 25 years of service. I have always joked with my Soldier over the years when they talk about getting out of the Army to “Never quit the Army” which always gets a good laugh. In all reality, everyone that serves has to take the uniform off at some point.
For me, this has been a HUGE decision. I recently found out that I had made the promotion list to Major and was selected to attend Intermediate Level Education at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. It is a tremendous honor to be selected as only the top 50% of officers are selected to attend this 10-month course. I had to weigh the cost associated vs benefits associated with attendance. On one hand, it is an amazing experience where you can earn a master’s degree with the program. The most significant cost to me was being away from my children during some very formative years. This is time that I can never get back, so I have made the decision to retire. This decision has been daunting and weighing on me heavily and far more emotional than I expected.
You see, growing up I had a very unhappy childhood filled with physical and emotional abuse. I chose to join the Army, out of necessity to escape the world I was living in. I saw the Army as a place where I be a part of something greater than myself and to be part of a team. I wanted the discipline, the leadership, and the challenge. You remember the old jingle: “Be, all you can be… in the Aaaaaarrrrmyyyyyyyy!” Ultimately, when I joined the Army at 17, I closed the door on a dark chapter of my life.
With the decision, I felt a lot of emotion. Emotion that I am sure many transitioning veterans face or anyone that has been doing something meaningful for so long and then making the decision to take a different path. For me, the Army has been the handrail of success for me. As I reflect on my career, it has been amazing. I have met so many wonderful people, from all walks of life and from every corner of the world. I feel the Army has prepared me for the uncharted waters ahead.
Why am I telling you all of this? This is my way of burning the ships.
What does “Burning the Ships” mean?
According to legend, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés issued an order to his men as they began their conquest of the Aztec empire in 1519 for their treasure. The Aztecs were significantly outnumbered. Some of his men were scared and weren’t going to be able to win. Some of the men were even starting to plan a coup so they could take over the ships and sale back home. Cortes heard about this. As the commander, His order was simple: Burn the ships.
The men looked at him with bewilderment. Are you serious? Burn the ships? How do we get back home?
His intent: He wanted his men to realize that they had no opportunity to retreat, so they had to give this fight everything they had. Failure was no longer an option and winning this battle just became that much more important. The ships were burned and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Cortez pointed to the Aztecs and said if we are going home, we are going home in their ships. We now have no choice—we win, or we perish!
For Cortes it was ALL IN. Win or Perish. His men rallied, fought the Aztecs. They won.
Often times in life we take the safe path and we end up short changing our life from who we could ultimately become.
Making the decision to retire from the Army and take the path of coaching and consulting is me burning the ships. I am wading into the unknown but have the confidence to succeed. In regard to this decision, the safe choice was for me stay in the Army. I know how much I am getting paid; I know exactly how much I would receive in retirement benefits, and pretty much identify when I am getting promoted and the pay raises associated. In my new venture, I am in uncharted waters.
I was listening to a podcast last week with Tim Ferris and Jim Collins, author the “Good to Great.” A question he asks himself regularly to ensure he is on the path of Clarity is this:
“If I only had 10 years to live, what would I STOP doing?”
This is a good question. Not what would you start doing, but what would you STOP doing? We often load too much on our plate as it is. I feel that our purpose in life can change in various stages of life, and I feel that when I look at my life I am at a point where I can serve in a different capacity. A common pitfall for most people, and I am no exception, is that over time, we allow obligations in our life and do things that aren’t in alignment with who we are or who we want to become. We do busy work, but not our life’s work because we don’t spend the time getting crystal clear on what we are supposed to be doing. We begin to drift from our purpose and calling. The further we drift away, the more out of aligned we become. Eventually the gap widens to a point where we become unhappy and ultimately miserable.
At some point in our life, that 10-year question becomes a reality. We don’t know if we are within that 10-year window or not but eventually we will be. So I challenge you to ask yourself and ponder:
I am excited for the next chapter of my life. I want to create a life where I am in control of my destiny, and I can serve at my greatest capacity. I want to have more experiences and connect with people on a deeper level. Well thanks for reading the transcript to my Ted talk today! I hope you have an excellent Wednesday and the rest of your week.
Do Hard Things,
P.S. We are expanding the "The Forge," a mastermind community focused on personal growth and development. If you want to level up, grow with a community of like-minded people, then I invite you to hop on a quick 15-minute call with me. Schedule here: https://calendly.com/jay-tiegs/20min
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