4 Things The Marine Corps Teaches You About Adversity

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4 Things The Marine Corps Teaches You About Adversity

I'm often asked if I enjoyed my time in the Marines. I usually say something like "not really." The truth is, like most grunts, I couldn't wait to get out. I rode a wheely on my motorcycle out the gates of Camp Pendleton, and it might have been the happiest day of my life. The next follow up question I get is usually something like, "do you regret joining?" and I typically answer with "I wouldn't trade it for anything."

On the surface, it sounds like a contradiction. It's not. Three deployments in 4 years was grueling. I lost many friends. I was away from my loved ones for 7 to 9 months at a time. We often didn't sleep for days. The food was terrible. We spent hours upon hours every day cleaning weapons in 120-degree weather. And to top it off, you always knew in the back of your mind that there was a real chance you wouldn't survive your early 20's.

It was stressful. It was difficult. And most importantly, it made me who I am today. 

If the Marine Corps teaches anything, it teaches you how to deal with adversity. The USMC mindset is THE best weapon the Marine Corps has in its arsenal. 

As you navigate these uncertain and challenging times, YOUR mindset will be your greatest weapon as well. 

The following mindsets borrowed from the USMC will help you navigate these challenging times.


1. Keep Perspective

It's easy to feel like these "unprecedented times" are especially tricky, that our challenges are unique, and, therefore, EXTRA scary.

As any Marine can tell you, about 1/3 of boot camp is Marine Corps history. I remember spending hours on end learning the details of the most significant battles in Marine Corps history and thinking, "shouldn't we be shooting guns right now?"

What I didn't realize at the time was that they were giving us perspective. Our drill instructors were teaching us that no matter what we faced in the future, Marines of the past had suffered even more difficult times, and they had overcome. 

This perspective gave us confidence during the darkest of times. It allowed us to see the forest through the trees. It reminded us that no matter how bad things got, they could be worse, and we would still win.

As you face these difficult and uncertain times, remember that we've been through worse, and not only survived but thrived. This, too, shall pass, and you will be stronger for it.

2. Focus on what you have

In moments of panic and adversity, it's all too easy to focus our attention on what we DON'T have or what we might lose.

It might be your business. It might be a vacation you've been planning for months, or it might be toilet paper.

The Marine Corps teaches you that if you're scared, you'll overestimate the challenge. Just like being overconfident will cause you to underestimate a challenge. Fear naturally triggers a scarcity mindset. The way you combat this is simple.


The support you DO HAVE.

The resources you DO HAVE.

The community you DO HAVE.

The people that stand by you no matter what.

Focusing on the things you have will allow you to navigate challenging times effectively and efficiently. Control the controllable and let everything else go. Odds are you have more than enough to deal with almost any challenge if you were to just focus on what you DO have.

3. Be flexible, be adaptable

Things that bend don't break.

Everyone has heard the old Marine Corps saying, "Adapt and Overcome."

Every battle happens in your mind. It follows that a strong mind will always be your greatest asset. Flexibility and adaptability are the most crucial qualities your mind can possess, especially during challenging times. So think of every obstacle you face as an exercise that WILL strengthen your most valuable asset, your mind.

When the government says to shut down your business, you stay flexible; you adapt, you overcome.

When you're forced to have your staff work from home, you stay flexible, you adapt, and you overcome.

When people panic-buy and you can't get the groceries you need, you stay flexible, you adapt, and you overcome.

Things are changing by the day. None of us know what tomorrow holds. The only thing we know for sure is that it will hold challenges and opportunities. Remember that this crazy time is an opportunity to become more flexible. You're being stretched, and if you work out, you know stretching is how you develop flexibility.

You have significant hurdles in front of you. This is your opportunity to become even more adaptable.

This crazy time is a REAL OPPORTUNITY to develop qualities that will strengthen you for the rest of your life.

4. Stay fit, physically and mentally

Even in combat zones, the Marine Corps maintains a strict physical training regiment. You even have to shave every day... in combat zones!

At the time, I thought this was the dumbest thing in the world. To be frank, I hated it. However, looking back, it was brilliant. Exercise kept our bodies strong, of course. But the real benefit was mental and emotional. It gave us a sense of normalcy, of control, of progress, of discipline, and of community, all of which are CRITICAL for accomplishing your mission and overcoming obstacles.

If you've been on house arrest, get out and get active. Get your family out and active. The benefits both physically and mentally will bleed into every other aspect of your life.

I'll let Marine Corps General A. A. Vandegrift summarize the purpose of this blog, he once said, "Positions are seldom lost because they have been destroyed, but almost invariably because the leader has decided in his own mind that the position cannot be held."

The battles you've faced and will face will be won or lost in your mind.

So remember that this crazy time is an opportunity. These four mindsets will help you to maximize the opportunity in front of you.

Just like my time in the Marines, you probably won't enjoy this, but with the right mindset, YOU WILL grow from this. If you can do that, I promise you, you'll look back on all of this and say, "I wouldn't trade it for anything."

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