20something profile: James
My young adulthood has been defined by the Global War on Terror. I joined the Army immediately out of high school and deployed twice, first to Iraq for fourteen months in 2006-2007 and then to Afghanistan for a year in 2009-2010. I was present for the “surge” in both countries, and saw a lot of what soldiers detachedly refer to as “action.”
I decided to leave the Army in 2010 for a number of reasons. I wanted to go to school. I wanted to get married and actually be around to get to know my wife. I wanted to take a break from the constant rotation of training and deployments and military schools. Most of all, I wanted to get away from the war.
That has proved easier said than done. I learned a lot of things in the Army — how to jump out of planes, climb mountains, clear buildings, fight and kill with a variety of weapons, conduct reconnaissance, plan missions — but none of those things are very useful in the civilian world. There are no roadside bombs in American cities, no snipers in our suburban communities, no weapons caches in our national parks. There is no need for a soldier’s trade in a land of peace and plenty.
I did learn one thing, however, that still applies. I learned how to lead. I learned the intricacies of human nature, and how to form and lead teams under conditions of extreme physical and mental hardship. And I learned to love it. I learned to love the responsibility of caring for the men I led, and planning for their needs, and training them to face the rigors of their difficult profession. I learned to love leadership, and being a leader.
Someday, somehow, I want to teach and train leaders full-time. What form that will take I do not know — perhaps as a business consultant, university professor, author, or speaker. What I do know, and act upon everyday, is that the success I dream of for the future has its roots in my actions today, now, in this present moment. I pursue it, then, in everything I do, by every avenue of approach I can think of.
I finished my undergraduate degree in business administration in 2010 and immediately began an MBA; I’ve written a book (to be published later this year) about the journey people go through as they become leaders; I read voraciously about everything I can find related to the topic, from psychology and history to philosophy and economics; I post almost every day on my blog about leadership in the Millennial generation, thesixelement.wordpress.com. I work to prepare myself so that when my time comes, I am ready.
“The future,” said Mahatma Gandhi, “depends on what you do today.” We cannot know what the future holds, though I have fond hopes for it. The economy is unpredictable, and employers seem almost skittish when it comes to hiring. What we can know, what we can control, is what we are doing to pursue our dreams.
Perhaps someday soon I’ll run my own consulting firm, where every day I have the privilege of coaching and teaching the practice of good, ethical, effective leadership to the very best of our generation. But in the meantime I’ll dream, and I’ll keep pressing forward. We are only given today, and I want to make the most of it.