Clarity Through Camouflage

Last week I had the profound honor of speaking to the 414th battalion of the United States Army.  I looked into the eyes of these brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our country.  Their sacrifice enables us to start companies, create art, and build communities.

In the room where I addressed the troops, there was an enormous sign on the wall proclaiming the Soldiers Creed:

I am an American Soldier.

I am a warrior and a member of a team.

I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.

I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I am an expert and I am a professional.

I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

I am an American Soldier.

In addition to the chills down my spine, it got me thinking: If you swap out “United States”, “Army”, and “American” with the name of your company, aren’t these the exact same skills and commitment needed in order to win in the private sector?

As a venture capitalist, I interact with visionary entrepreneurs all day, every day.  The difference between the ones that win and those that stumble is often unrelated to their product or technology.  It all comes down to their ability to execute and their level of grit and determination.

You may have an abundance of cool ideas, but the real test is whether or not you stand tall during battle.  Building a company, family, or community is hard work. Without the willingness to do whatever it takes, your vision can easily fall flat.

Do you put the mission of your organization first? Are you physically and mentally tough?  Do you stand ready to deploy and engage?  Do you demand the highest standards of professionalism and expertise?

Unfortunately, I often run into childish wannabe’s that drop buzzwords and spew excuses instead of putting their heads down and getting the job done.  Their sense of entitlement and supersized egos prevent them from taking personal responsibility for setbacks.  Instead, they play the victim card and point their fingers at external factors.

At one point in my presentation, I got choked up while speaking to the American Warriors of the 414th.  While they all wear identical uniforms, every one of them is a leader.  They each have the maturity to leave behind drama and excuses and move on with defending our great nation.  I wish more entrepreneurs and artists embraced the commitment to precision execution that these heroes demonstrate every day.

I drove to our Army base to give back and help teach the soldiers.  As I left, I realized that I was the one who learned the most.  It’s time we all stop complaining that our lattes are cold or our Macs are running slowly, and get on with the real work of being a warrior.  Pursue your own goals with this same commitment, and you can achieve just about anything.

Now that is worth a firm salute.