My Three Rules

"I will have no No-Gos" ~ Drill Nickerson  

I like keeping things simple; Follow the KISS Principle, keep it simple, Stupid, was always our by-word in the Army.  An uncomplicated life is the way to go, and to that end, I have adopted three simple rules by which I live my life.  I didn't make them; they were taught to me by other people.  I will explain.

Rule #1: Be a the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform, doing the right things.

This is the Drill Sergeant Nickerson Rule. 

When I got to basic training at Ft. Jackson, I had, perhaps, the scariest man in the entire world as my Drill Instructor--Drill Sergeant Nickerson.  He got on the bus, mirrored sunglasses, Smokey Bear hat, highly starched green fatigues, spit-shined jump boots, Ranger tab, 101st combat patch, master wings, and combat infantry badge, definitely the most impressive soldier I had seen in my entire life. 

The First words out of his mouth were, "I Will Have No No-Gos."  Now, we had no clue what a No Go was, but we were all sure we were not going to be one, have one, or entertain one anytime soon.  The next thing he said to us was, "I have only One Rule.  You will be at the right place, at the time, in the right uniform, doing the right things."  This resonated with me.  It was very much like what I had been taught all my life by great parents--be on time, dress the part, do the right things and be a good person.  So, when Drill asked if we understood, I, like everyone on the bus screamed at the top of our lungs, Yes DRILL SERGEANT.  We were fast learners.

Following Rule #1 seems simple, and, for a Private, it is.  Privates are told where to be, what time to be there, what to wear, and what they will do.  As I promoted up in the Army, I found this rule became harder and harder.  Sometime I had to decide on and find the right place to be, I had to backwards-plan to get everything accomplished to get there at the perfect time, I had to decide what clothing would be appropriate and what equipment would be needed, and "Doing The Right Thing" meant knowing what to do, being tactically and technically smart...I had to know my job.

Luckily for me, I had a lot of Drill Nickerson's in my life.

Rule #2: You can't do it all, but you can do what you can do.

This is The Big Chill Rule.

Yeah, the 1986 movie, The Big Chill with Tom Berenger, Kevin Kline, JoBeth Williams, and Glenn Close.  I learned this rule years before, I had just never heard it expressed as clearly as it was in the movie.  The premise is this: Try as hard as you will, you are never going to make everything perfect.  Every system designed by man is flawed and subject to collapse, we can only try to prop it up as long as we can.  Trying to do everything yourself is counter productive, so trust, delegation of authority, and team effort are paramount to success.

However, you can work hard and try to make your Sphere of Influence as good as you can make it.  You can do what you can do to make things better.  The more you promote, the larger your Sphere.  The larger your Sphere, the more people you have to help.

Imagine then, an organization, business, school, any system, where everyone follows Rule #2.

Rule #3:  You're Fuckin' Up if You're not Having Fun

This is the Mike Kelley Rule.

In 1985, a C130 and an F16 collided while trying to land at Pope AFB.  The C130 landed safely, but the F16 crashed into a C141 on Green Ramp.  The ensuing fireball and shrapnel engulfed the Paratroopers on Green Ramp preparing for a Jump.  We lost twenty-three troopers that day.  Mike Kelley, the younger brother of one of the guys who went to Grenada with Scouts 2-505, was horribly burned as the fireball rolled over him.

At the time, I was first sergeant of HHC 2-505 and I was hating life.  I had just been talked into taking the Company and leaving Charlie Company, my dream job, where I had 120 Infantrymen and a great Company Commander.  In HHC, I had a menagerie of Clerks, Cooks, Mechanics, Staff Officers, and Truck Drivers that were more than I wanted to handle.

One day, as I stood looking out my window, feeling sorry for myself, around the corner of the building, down by Lindsey Field, walked Mike and his little wife.  Mike was on crutches.  He had no hair, he was missing most of his ears, he was wearing protective garments, and his skin was still a mess.  He and his wife were smiling and laughing.

I took a moment to do a quick self-assessment.   What did I have to worry about?  How could I be feeling sorry for myself?  If Mike and his little wife could laugh and find fun...

Learning to have fun, no matter the circumstances, is mental toughness.  It is up to you.  And...it is important to your people.  When the boss is not having fun, it rolls down hill.  Fun is infectious.  When you are having fun, your people have fun.  Fun makes the job go faster and produces higher standards.