The most important lesson that the military taught me wasn’t starting off my day by making my bed which Admiral William H. McRaven has made so famous. That whole make your bed and change the world shit is ok, but I’ve started my day by making my bed and meditating every morning since I can remember, and the world has not changed nor am I a millionaire. For me, the military taught me a very different lesson.
I graduated high school in June of 1991 and by July, I was in Navy Bootcamp, headed for the nuclear power program, where I would ultimately serve aboard a Los Angeles Class Fast Attack Submarine. The most important lesson that I got from the military was how to be uncomfortable. That may not sound very impactful, just like making your bed, but I never realized how this one ability would separate me later in life from 99% of the population. It is the largest driving force in my life today.
Most don’t realize how enslaved we are to our desires and the constant need to bend our environment and people around us to satisfy our wants. And if things are not satisfying our desires, we don’t like that shit for a single second. If someone or something doesn’t meet four expectations we are put off. If someone we know, a stranger, or another driver in traffic has not acted according to our expectations we get upset. How dare they! This goes on and on, day in and day out throughout our lives, and stops us from experiencing the true joy of life.
From the moment you step foot into the military, you have someone hollering at you, telling you when to eat, when to go to the bathroom, how to talk, what to say, what to think, how to fold your clothes, everything!
I watched sailor after sailor around me fight it. You see, the military is not set up for your unique expression of individuality. It is not there to serve you; you are there to serve it and most people can’t deal with that shit. You must learn the military is there to train you on how to be part of a team. The ultimate team. A team environment you will never experience again in your life. You forsake your individual needs for the needs of the boat, mission, division, etc. You meld with your teammates, the other soldiers, or sailors into one seamless crew.
You really only have two choices, quit or learn to deal with it. I have to admit I saw a lot of sailors quit in my eight years of serving. For me, learning to deal with the constant discomfort is what has made my life so beautiful today. The commitment to stick it out and serve out the contract I signed changed everything.
I learned to stop trying to constantly let my desires influence my environment. I wasn’t going to fuckin die if I didn’t get my way, if I didn’t sleep for a few days, went hungry, worked months with no days off, was separated from friends and family. I was often uncomfortable. Nothing life-threatening, just uncomfortable. I mean hell submarine sailors bitched a lot and we had it good compared to our counterparts who were sleeping and working in the elements.
The military taught me that discomfort shouldn’t stop you from experiencing life. My time on the submarine taught me that I didn’t need a bunch of material things, to experience the beauty of a country or the beauty of the things around me.
So why is this so important and how has it really helped me? The underlying lesson is this:
“Discomfort only exists when you think things should be different.”
What does that mean? If you are depressed, the reason it sucks is that YOU THINK YOU SHOULD NOT BE DEPRESSED! What if you were ok with being depressed or sad or lonely or whatever the emotion? If you did not have any beliefs or expectations that your life should be any different than it is, then my friend you are aligned with life. You are open and free to experience yourself, as you are, life as it is.
HOLY SHIT, that’s a game-changer! Most people think I’m absurd, that this whole notion of accepting life for what it is is complete bullshit. If something doesn’t meet your expectation you must FIGHT to change it. Fight until the world and everyone in it aligns to meet your expectations. People assume that accepting your current life somehow means giving up, giving in, being passive, and letting yourself get walked all over.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. You can still take action to change your life situation, but accepting allows you to drop the victim-oriented story, tears, bitching, and whining. Take action from the empowered place of a creator, not the disempowered place of a victim.
Little did I know, that this lesson would foster the lifestyle that I lead today. Embodying this lesson allows me to thrive as a minimalist, to experience life as a full-time digital nomad, to be sitting on a farm in Honduras, where it’s a million degrees, humidity through the roof, with a thousand bug bites, cuts, bruises and chicken claw marks in my back. It doesn’t hurt my feelings a bit. I love this shit! Whatever experience comes my way is okay by me.
And those eight years in the military taught me to be uncomfortable through surrender. Surrender is not passive, it is not quitting or giving up, it is empowering. It empowers you to be strong enough to change what needs to be changed without the bullshit story.
When I surrendered to my life in the military, it allowed me to serve out my contract as a professional sailor, one who met his commitments, embraced whatever the world could throw at him, and a man whose happiness was not dependent upon his external environment. I am a powerful human being whose strength comes from a deep sense of self-knowledge and self-acceptance. Whether I lose money, gain money, lose clients, gain clients, gain subscribers, lose subscribers, in a relationship or not, it does not affect the way I Iove myself or how I love the world around me!