This last week I had the opportunity to view the newly released Hollywood movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Having followed the tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, I was eager to view the movie. The film tells the true story of four Americans killed, including our Ambassador, during an attack by Islamic jihadists at a US compound in Libya, as a security team struggled to defend the lives of several dozen Americans.
While there were several scenes and lines that stood out to me in the film, one in particular is the subject of my post today. The main characters in the story, Jack Silva and Tyrone Woods, were retired Navy Seals and long time friends.
In the relevant scene, the two are sitting on the rooftop of one of the building in the compound they are defending, following an intense battle in which they and their small team had just survived one of what was to be several waves of attacks from dozens of heavily armed Islamists. As Jack recounts his frustration with having left his wife and children behind in the US to sign up for another stint on the security team, he expresses his bewilderment at what drives him to continue to return to the battlefield. In response Tyrone explains that, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire.”
If one isn’t paying attention in the movie, it would be easy to miss this line that succinctly explains the behavior of these Navy Seal warriors. But the line, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire” is also a statement that bears examining for possible application to our lives.
No matter where you are in life, the concept of retirement is one that has crossed your mind. In our culture, it’s commonly accepted that all who work will eventually retire and begin a life of leisure. Typically the word retirement is tied to two variables: age and economics. And it generally looks like this. A person will work 40-50 years, create sufficient assets and related income, so that when they are 60-70 years of age, they can “retire” and live happily ever after.
The “happily ever after” can change from one person to the next, but for most it ranges from moving to Florida, playing golf several times a week, traveling, or a host of other R&R type activities.
But this “conventional” approach would seem at odds with the point Tyrone was making to Jack, that warriors just don’t know how to retire because it isn’t something that is taught, or perhaps more importantly, even contemplated. While becoming a warrior involves training and know-how, to be an effective warrior it also requires a certain type of spirit or mental attitude that never quits. A warrior understands that there is always another mission and his skills and know-how are not expendable; rather, they are desperately needed by others.
When thinking of your own circumstances, I’d like to challenge you to consider what you will do with your life once you are no longer gainfully employed. Many eagerly await that day, believing that punching out that last time will be the start of all things new and better, anticipating that the grass is greener on the other side.
But I’d suggest that if we are working today to simply stop working tomorrow, we are overlooking one of life’s greatest purposes. Despite our 21st century way of thinking, the world hasn’t always considered that when one reaches a certain age or economic status, he can then simply turn his attention inward, seeking to devote much of his waking hours at that point to his own fancies and pleasure.
To the contrary, I would suggest that at the point one leaves the office for the last time, it is then that one’s experience, wisdom and perhaps even passion have likely reached a crescendo. And if we believe the truth that “to whom much is given, much is required” then we will be compelled to share the wisdom and life experiences we have gained with others in need. Those “others” could be a young man who is just beginning his family and career, or a woman who is facing a difficult midlife challenge, or even an organization that is in desperate need of our expertise.
I have a friend who is an honorably discharged twenty-three year combat veteran of the US Army who beautifully exemplifies the idea that warriors don’t retire. Rather than head for the golf course or sandy beaches, Bob in his post-retirement years launched a new non-profit organization with a two-fold, synergistic mission: “To support military veterans by training and employing them in schools as classroom volunteers, tutors and mentors.” And today, Bob and his colleagues are making a huge difference in the lives of veterans and school children in my community.
So what about you? No matter whether you are in the first half of your career, or approaching those final years in your job or business, it’s never too early, or too late to be thinking about and planning for life after employment. I encourage you to seriously consider how you will invest into the lives of others in a way that will have deep and lasting impact for good… because “warriors aren’t trained to retire.”
It seems the popular thing to do these days is to declare oneself a conservative, at least, it appears that’s the aspiration of nearly every one of the Republican candidates for President. It’s also true that during nearly every Republican Congressional campaign, the candidates insist that they are the true conservative.
But is the Republican party overwhelmingly represented by conservatives, both in Congress and in those seeking the Presidency? Is it simply that easy: just assert one is a conservative and, voila, he or she is such?
Conservatism is not merely defined by one’s state of mind, feeling, belief or even a pronouncement. Rather, I would assert it is much more. Conservatism is ultimately defined by action which produces one’s track record.
Too often we see the electorate, politicians, and bureaucrats claiming conservatism. But is claiming such enough?
There is a verse that states, “by their fruits you shall know them.” There is not a more appropriate verse than this when discussing or wondering about a person’s true political convictions.
I am humored by the claims of so many Republican politicians that they are “dyed in the wool” conservatives. It’s almost as if it’s a badge of honor to claim such. But we can tell their true colors when it comes to the bills they champion (or fail to champion) and the votes they cast (or fail to cast).
The $1.1 trillion Omnibus spending bill that was voted on before Christmas is the most recent example of what conservatism is not. We should note that 150 Republican Congressman (including my own TN Congressman Chuck Fleischmann) banded together with 166 Democrats to fund this orgy of spending on nearly every conceivable program and agency across the entire range of the political spectrum. True there may have been some minor aspects of this 2,000-page bill that conservatives might have endorsed. But all in all, this was a horrendous bill that encapsulated all that is wrong with Washington.
There are plenty of articles from reputable sources that document the voluminous “sins” that are endorsed and funded by this latest fiasco so I will not take the time to reiterate them here. But suffice it to say that the December 2015 Omnibus bill is the poster child for all things progressive and the antithesis of all things conservative.
Following the vote by a majority of the Republican and Democrat delegations in both houses of Congress, Senator Ted Cruz from Texas criticized the legislation saying it “effectively forfeits our massive Republican victories of 2014 and cements Obama’s priorities for nearly the remainder of his term.”
Following years and years of manipulation, deception and double-speak, it’s time for ordinary Americans to move beyond the words of politicians and look only to their actions and track records. Conservatism is more than a word. Most importantly it is action. And the most revealing action a politician takes is his or her vote. Their vote affirms who they are and what they believe.
The Omnibus vote this month separated the wheat from the chaff. And sadly, if chaff is worthless, the Republican majority in both houses of Congress is the epitome of worthlessness, at least until a new crop of true conservatives is elected.
Recently I was re-reading a story in the gospel of Matthew in which a Roman captain came to Jesus with a problem of grave concern. The captain’s servant was very ill and in dire pain. He had heard of Jesus and the miracles he was performing and he believed Jesus could heal his servant. In the story, we see six traits of a successful leader being demonstrated by this Roman warrior.
As a point of reference for the rest of my comments, I would encourage you to read this short recounting of the conversation between the captain and Jesus (Matthew 8):
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When Jesus arrived in Capernaum, a Roman army captain came and pled with him to come to his home and heal his servant boy who was in bed paralyzed and racked with pain. “Yes,” Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”
Then the officer said, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you in my home, and it isn’t necessary for you to come.If you will only stand here and say, ‘Be healed,’ my servant will get well! I know, because I am under the authority of my superior officers and I have authority over my soldiers, and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave boy, ‘Do this or that,’ and he does it. And I know you have authority to tell his sickness to go—and it will go!”
Jesus stood there amazed! Turning to the crowd he said, “I haven’t seen faith like this in all the land of Israel…”
Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go on home. What you have believed has happened!” And the boy was healed that same hour![/tagline_box]
1. Serving Others
Two thousand years ago, in an era when life had very little value and when servants were viewed as property of their masters, we read of this Roman warrior captain, approaching Jesus in search of a cure for his servant’s illness. Such behavior by a leader of great power and prestige was not only unusual but likely unheard of. The captain sought to serve his servant by looking after his health needs.
Fast forward to today and we at times see servant leadership in a business owner or manager who makes personal or business sacrifices due to his concern for the welfare of his employees. This principle is routinely touted in business books and conferences dealing with success and it serves to remind us that “…he who is greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matt 23:11)
So, do you want to be great? Start by serving others out of a heart of love and true concern for them. But be prepared for a change to occur in you. You see, as you develop the quality of serving others, you’ll soon learn that being great is no longer a driving motivation for your actions.
Being great does not have to be a prideful thing. But desiring to be great is always prideful. The Roman captain demonstrated his greatness through his humility.
Notice that when Jesus offered to come to the captain’s house, he was quick to acknowledge that he was not worthy to have Jesus in his home. As a Roman captain, he no doubt had been taught that Jews were subservient to him. Yet, this man reflected the leadership quality of humility in suggesting that the “lesser” was in fact the greater of the two.
One definition of the word faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” In the life of our Roman captain, we can see a mountain of faith in his life. By the mere fact that he approached Jesus he was demonstrating his faith. We also see that the captain acknowledged that he believed Jesus could merely say “Be healed” and his servant would be cured. There was no wavering in the belief of the battle hardened captain. He knew deep within his core that this was possible.
A leader oftentimes cannot fully understand how to achieve a goal but he will still reflect unfaltering belief that an idea or plan, with the proper actions and people, can and will come to fruition. He understands this truth and so he pursues that passion with solid determination. He is not halfhearted or tempered in his zeal to reach his goals but rather he fully anticipates that they will be achieved.
4. Affirm other Leaders
It’s interesting to note that this Roman captain, a man of great power and influence, did not come to Jesus demanding that he heal his servant. It would have been routine for the captain to speak in a condescending manner. Instead though, this leader recognized and affirmed Jesus as another leader. Note also that the captain did not feel threatened by Jesus, even though he clearly understood that Jesus possessed great powers Himself. Rather, the captain affirmed Jesus’ role, leadership and unique gifts.
As a business leader yourself, do you affirm your peers who are leaders? When you are around other accomplished men and women do you affirm them? Do you seek them out for assistance, input and counsel? Just as the Roman captain sought out a leader who could help him in his time of need, it’s wise for us to do likewise. Affirm other leaders by seeking them out, solicit their input and be willing to reciprocate that same spirit to others.
Too often we see leaders become accountable to no one. In their self-inflated egos they begin to think of themselves higher than they ought and they forget a principle that is true of all of us: we are all accountable to someone.
In the case of this powerful Roman captain, he stated to Jesus that he had servants, soldiers and slaves who all reported to him. Yet, the captain acknowledged that he was under the authority of his superior officers. He too was accountable to someone.
Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or the entrepreneur of your own enterprise, do you live out this truth? There is something about having to answer to another person for our actions, attitudes and plans that will cause us to be measured, thoughtful and considerate of both our own choices and in the treatment of those whose lives have been entrusted to us.
6. Action Yields Results
Perhaps the word that characterizes American business most today is results. Wall Street, CEO’s, managers and quarterly reports all have one thing in common: they are all measured by their results! But results flow from action, or in some instances lack of action.
As we wrap up our story of the Roman captain, perhaps the most significant truth that we can see from his life is that without action there would have been no successful outcome for the servant. The captain’s deliberate and decisive action yielded the desired results: the servant was healed and his life saved.
Likewise, in your business, once you’ve weighed out your options, do you take deliberate action to achieve the results you seek? Leaders take action which then yields results. Don’t hesitate or flinch. Take in all the relevant information to make your decision but then Act. It’s the only way you will ever achieve the results you desire.
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There are many other traits that good leaders demonstrate and we’ll continue to explore them in the days to come. However, as an entrepreneur myself, I have experienced the value of these six leadership traits in my business and personal endeavors. I trust that as you’ve read this you’ve been reminded of the traits you are mastering while being encouraged to consider some that might assist you in furthering the goals you have for your business and life.