Marine Corps Lessons About Life and Perseverance

In 1998 I was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines.

We were stationed in 29 Palms California, 141 miles east of Los Angeles. Right smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

I was a fire team leader in an infantry platoon. I had only been out of my basic training for 6 months and already felt like I had learned everything there was to know about being an infantryman.

There’s only so much you can learn about setting up L-shaped ambushes and digging fighting holes. So when the opportunity to try out for the sniper team came up, I jumped at the chance.

I showed up with my buddy Chris Pratt at the appointed place and time. 8 pm at a small building near the edge of the base. There were approximately 40 Marines there to try out.

The tryouts are called an “indoctrination” or Indoc for short. When you do an Indoc they don’t tell you anything. Not even how long it will last. All they give you is a gear list along with when and where to show up.

The Indoc started with a basic Marine physical fitness test consisting of a 3-mile run followed by max pull-ups and sit-ups.

As soon as we were done with the first test we ran a second. Another 3 miles, more pull-ups and sit-ups. It was clear from the start they were going to mess with us mentally.

It was close to 10 pm when we finished. A few people had quit already but most of the 40 who started were still there.

They loaded us onto 5-ton trucks and drove us out into the desert. I have no idea how long we drove for. All I can remember is struggling to stay awake.

Finally, the trucks stopped and we got off. It was so dark all I could make out was the silhouette of the man in front of me. They formed us into lines and we started to march.

I was exhausted. I could barely see straight. I wondered when they were going to feed us. I assumed they would have to feed us something.

Every hour or so we would stop to let the stragglers catch up. At each stop, I considered quitting. Remember I had no idea where we were going or how long this forced march would last.

But each time we took a break I would regain enough strength to keep going.

I’d tell myself, “I’ll go one more stop, then I’m done.”

Then at the next stop, I’d tell myself the same thing. This went on all night.

It wasn’t until daybreak that I got a glimpse of what had happened that night. 40 men had been reduced to 6. Myself, my friend Pratt, and 4 other Marines. Everyone else had either quit or been dropped because they fell too far behind.

But that was just day one.

For the next four days, we did not eat or sleep. On the third day, 2 more Marines quit leaving 4 men. Myself, Pratt, Wakanabo and Miller. Men who would become my closest friends.

On the 5th day, we were taken into a room where one at a time we were told we had been accepted. I had lost 20 lbs in 5 days. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Sometimes All You Can Do Is Go One More Stop

In life, we rarely get the chance to see the results of our actions in advance. Most of the time we’re making the best decisions we can based on incomplete information.

Results rarely come all at once. Most of the time we don’t see the effects of our actions until months or years later.

I’m reminded of this cartoon of two men mining for diamonds.

How close are you to the success you’re looking for? The universe never tells us.

What’s worse is that life isn’t fair. Results are often distributed unequally, sometimes indiscriminately.

You can go on 100 bad dates and never find a decent partner while your friend meets the love of their life waiting in line at the DMV.

Business is like that. You work for years just to make enough money to pay your bills while everyone around you passes you by.

Sometimes the best you can do is just go one more stop. To take the next step in what you hope is the right direction.

Whatever you’re struggling with right now, just remember; The payoff is worth it. Having the opportunity to live a life of true fulfillment, even for a little while, is worth all the pain and struggle you’re going through right now.

To be continued…


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