Tough love

Tough Love

I spent the Summer of 2008 at Officer Candidate School down in Quantico, Virginia. It was a 10 week training program to become an officer of the Marine Corps.

During training one day, an “Officer Candidate” (that was our official title at least, the drill instructors mostly called us by our unofficial title, “little shits”) had taken a fall during a morning run and evident by his groaning and antics, he hurt his ankle pretty bad.

The entire platoon had to stop and while he was tended to, we were instructed to do calisthenics.

I’ll never forget the instructor for that morning, Gunnery Sergeant Miller, one the cockiest SOB’s I ever met. He was standing over the injured candidate with his arms crossed, clearly disappointed, offering these words of encouragement:

“We were having fun, and you ruined it.”

The needling continued with “I was warmed up…and because of you, now I’m not.”

And it capped off with this gem, “Why don’t you just be tough?”

I laugh out loud just thinking about that scene.

It would be easy to call the instructor an insensitive jerk but I certainly didn’t feel that way then and some 9 years later, I don’t feel that way now.

Gunnery Sergeant Miller, however “insensitive” his solution, at least offered a solution – just toughen up, stick it out.

It’s possible that my fellow “little shit” on the floor never considered that an option. Hell, maybe the reason he was in OCS in the first place was because he’s been a huge wimp all his life and he’s trying to change all that so what better place to do it? If you consider that possibility, then he just received great advice.

Generally speaking though, I think “just be tough” is a great solution anyhow that more people should revert to in times of challenge.

In your own life, in dealing with setbacks and hardships, why can’t you just be tough? Why can’t you just stick it out?

No mental breakdowns, no long leather couches and sure as hell no complaining about it, just be tough.

Tougher, I should say.

Because you already have a definition of “tough” and no matter how you define it, it’s the right one simply because it’s yours.

I guarantee my definition is different but that doesn’t matter because I can be tougher relative my definition and you can be tougher relative yours.

So do that.

The next time you’re neck deep in it, forget the motivational quotes and positive affirmations. Just put your head down and grind.

Appease the Gunnery Sergeant.

Just be tough.

You’ll be shocked at what you discover.

Daniel Aleksa


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