Words like loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity, and courage are thrown around often these days, but military service actually gives these words meaning.
These core values are ingrained in each soldier’s mind during Basic Combat Training. From there, soldiers learn how to implement these values in their daily lives.
As someone who served 9 years in the Army National Guard which included a 17-month deployment to Iraq, I know these values well. And even though I’ve been out of the military for many years now, I still cling tightly to military values that taught me how to be a man. I would even argue that, over time, these same values helped me become a better businessman and a stronger entrepreneur. Here’s how.
Army Value #1: Loyalty
For much of my life, I was a rebel. I spent my high school years listening to alternative music and feigning an interest in “grunge” to be different. In a lot of ways, enlisting into the military was a rude awakening. Instead of doing my own thing, I had to do whatever the leadership commanded.
While I resisted at first and hated being yelled at, I quickly realized the drill sergeants who sometimes incited misery were committed to helping us become ideal soldiers. They might yell in our faces, make us do push-ups until our arms fall off, or keep us awake, but they never, ever gave up on us or the commitments that brought us together.
At some point, something clicked in me that made me realize there were people in my life who could serve as mentors. Through their years of experience, they could help me become better.
Later in life, this lesson translated into the business world – giving me the ability to trust leaders and seek out relationships with entrepreneurs who had business skills I didn’t have.
Army Value #2: Duty
As a kid, I got into trouble all the time. Worse, I usually blamed whatever I was doing on another kid. As I got older, I recognized that casting blame or deflecting responsibility was not the mature thing to do. And through my service in the military, I learned that I had the duty to be the best I could be – and to take ownership when I made mistakes.
As a business owner and entrepreneur, you’ll quickly find out that you’re going to screw up a lot. Maybe a plan didn’t work out the way you wanted, and you’re left eating your own words. Or, perhaps you really screwed up and left a client or customer in the lurch.
There have been numerous times where I just flat-out screwed up. In those times, it’s almost embarrassing and even sickening to admit fault. However, it’s essential to do so. Learning to accept responsibility for my own actions has without a doubt made me a better entrepreneur.
Author of “30 Days to $30,000” Tom Morkes, says his experience was similar. Being an officer in the U.S. Army taught him that, despite his humanity, he had a duty to serve and right all wrongs. And really, the duty of serving in the military made the struggles of daily life seem insignificant, if not easy.
“At 22, I was responsible for the lives of my platoon (35+ people), and the soldiers and supplies of over 100 convoys we secured while in a combat zone,” explained Morkes of his military service. “When things get tough in business, all I need to do is reflect and realize: business and life aren’t all that hard.”
Army Value #3: Respect
Even though the Army reinforced this, I have to give credit to my grandmother for teaching me respect at a very young age. “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” she would often say. Fortunately, I almost always listened.
As an entrepreneur, respect means more than showing up each day; it means respecting your customers, respecting your co-workers, and even respecting your competitors. Even in situations where I have been wronged, I don’t stoop to a lower level or compromise my values. Why? Because the Army taught me that, no matter what, I had to hold myself to a higher standard.
Army Value #4: Selfless Service
Sir Richard Branson is a savvy business magnate, philanthropist, and investor. He’s well-known for his interests in land, sea, and space travel, and for launching more than 200 successful businesses in 30 different countries.
But for all his successes, one of his biggest secrets is his selflessness and his support of others. A good example: When Branson’s Virgin Airlines sued British Airways and won, Branson invited the chairman of of the British airline out to lunch. “We put a bad moment behind us and it was definitely the right thing to do,” said Branson. “And I find that people who take that attitude are that much happier for it.”
Branson is notorious for collaborating with employees from all levels of his business empire. He’s known for taking note of what people say, no matter who they are and where they came from. And yes, he is known for his generosity – not only to his employees, but to charitable endeavors he feels strongly about.
Often times, it’s this “high road” mentality – this selflessness – that helps entrepreneurs really succeed. While the money is the most evident proof of their success, it’s often the way they treat others that helps them level up.
This selflessness – this mentality of giving – is also something you can learn during military service. When I started as a financial advisor, I did everything I could to service my clients – often putting their needs above my own. In some cases, I would meet with them at their kitchen table at 7:00 p.m., or on a Saturday morning if they had to work.
I also carried this selflessness over to my blog, Good Financial Cents. Started as a way to help potential investors make informed decisions about their financial future, the website has morphed into a real resource for families over the years. The thing is, I made almost no money with my website for years. But since I served others first, the money eventually showed up.
Army veteran John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur On Fire says learning how to serve others in the military has also served him well.
“To serve others, I asked what they were struggling with most, and the answer was in setting and accomplishing goals,” says Dumas. “This led to my launch of The Freedom Journal: Accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days.”
With over 14,000 copies sold, Dumas says his book has been instrumental in helping others achieve their dreams. But remember, it all started with Dumas asking how he could serve and help others.
Army Value #5: Honor
When you look at all the military values, none are as important as honor. In the military, honor translates into every aspect of your work – from how you treat your comrades to how you treat your enemies.
Once I graduated from military service, I made a vow to let military-grade honor bleed into every aspect of my business. It’s an honor to live out Army values every day, whether the day’s activities include loyalty to my clients or my duty to do the best job I can. It’s an honor to demonstrate how important these values are, not just as an entrepreneur but as a man.
Army veteran and founder of OrderofMan.com Ryan Michler, says that, once you serve in the military, honor begins to permeate every element of your life from the way you show up in your family to the services you offer your clients.
Michler says he learned two key lessons about honor that translate well into the business world. First, “you can’t always be the best but you can always do it right. ”
Second, he says, ‘because I said I would’ is the only reason I need to live up to my promises. This all boils down to honor, he says.
“These two principles are the foundation for building a thriving business and success in every facet of life,” says Michler.
Army Value #6: Integrity
Founder of analytical psychology C.G. Jung once said that, “you are what you’ll do, now what you say you’ll do.”
This is a quote that explains military life perfectly, but also one that I’ve shared with my children.
I run into so many people and entrepreneurs that say one thing and do the other. In the military, however, you learn that your word is everything. Remember, actions speak louder than words – and they always have.
The more choices you make based on integrity, the more others will value you, and the more you will value yourself. You learn this in the military because, unlike civilian life, your word could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Fellow veteran Ryan Guina of TheMilitaryWallet.com feels similarly about integrity helping his role as an entrepreneur.
“My business is built on integrity,” said Guina. “To me, integrity means doing the right thing, all the time, even when no one is looking.”
To Guina, integrity means he treats his business as though customers were family. “If I wouldn’t recommend something to my family, I wouldn’t recommend it to our customers,” he says. “It’s as simple as that.”
Army Value #7: Personal Courage
In case you haven’t realized this, being an entrepreneur comes with risk. Having personal courage means you have the guts to take that giant leap into a new business venture – a new idea.
I was terrified at the idea of joining the military at first, even questioning if I had what it takes. Just picking up the phone and calling my recruiter took every ounce of personal courage that I had. From there, it took personal courage to get through basic training. Then it took personal courage to become a squad leader and lead my guys during combat in Iraq.
Thanks to the Army, I was able to carry that personal courage into my business life. It took personal courage to leave the only firm I knew to co-found my first investment firm, then even more courage to leave that firm to become the CEO of my own wealth management firm. It also took courage to write my first book, Soldier of Finance, and pitch it to publishers without any knowledge how the book industry works. For every ounce of courage I have, I credit my time in the military.
While military training is geared at creating the perfect soldier, the very same lessons can create the ideal entrepreneur. When you learn loyalty, service, duty, and other Army values the hard way, they become so ingrained in your mind that you know no other way.
So, next time you see a soldier, thank them for their service, but also ask them about their dreams. Any time a soldier can translate their Army values into the business world, they have the opportunity to become unstoppable.
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