Work Ethic = Results: Diamond Dallas Page on FTGN

The one thing I do know is that The Rock, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Oprah, everyone of those power people, go down! They just don’t stay there. They feel it, and then they let it go and they start figuring out ‘how am I going to fix this?’

S2, E11: Diamond Dallas Page- The Power of Work Ethic – From the Green Notebook

When I first saw the graphic announcing that Diamond Dallas Page was going to be on an episode of the From The Green Notebook podcast, I literally laughed out loud because it seemed so outside of the norm of the folks who had been on the podcast previously – leaders like General (Ret) Votel and McChyrstal who spoke about leadership and Major General McGee who spoke about the Battalion Commander Assesment Program.

This seemed like a sudden departure – one that I fully welcomed. There is a tendency for military-themed sites and podcasts to become their own echo-chambers or an extended mouthpiece of “big army messaging” – this site not excluded. This was summed up nicely below:

The professionialization of military-themed sites (I don’t want to call it the military “blogosphere” anymore – because I think that era has passed) is a good thing. Sure there are things we are missing – like the raw experiences of soldiers that we saw in the last decade. But that stuff is still there, if you want it (Twitter/Instagram/Tik-Tok).

Going back to the podcast, it is absolutely a good thing to bring in folks outside of the military bubble. Different perspectives and experiences will keep us honest, and often offer insights we won’t get from hearing the same polished talking points from the same polished leaders, influencers, or thought leaders.

Like Joe, I was a wrestling fan growing up (huge NWO fan) and I knew DDP’s story. I also remember watching the Jake the Snake documentary years ago and being taken by the sadness of the wrestling industry and the way its superstars can fall into cycles of addiction and depression.

While this episode isn’t about DDP’s wrestling career, I found the parts describing the reality of that life fascinating. There’s what we see on TV – a well-lit, choreographed dance – and what happens in reality; broken bones, brutal work-schedules, all-day travel in a bus, petty professional jealousies.

Not very glamorous.

Below are the key take-aways and nuggets I got from the episode.

The central theme was the importance of work ethic. Joe and DDP talk about it on a few different occasions. DDP didn’t even get started in wrestling until he was in his thirties and he didn’t “make-it” until he had crested forty. I remember watching as a kid and thinking he seemed older than his peers. DDP credits his work ethic, stating “work ethic equals results” and later “work ethic equals dreams.”

This is something I’ve picked up on more and more over the years. There is a place for raw talent and genius, but for the rest of us, most success comes from hard work and consistency over time, with a little bit of luck and timing thrown in there as well. There’s simply no alternative to grinding through, happily.

On identity: there is a portion early in the episode where DDP and Joe discuss the fact that “this is all going to end.” If you’re a wrestler, you are going to get too old and hurt to keep going. Every soldier eventually takes off the uniform. There is a tendency in both professions to wrap ourselves up in the identity that comes with the profession. When that ends (which it will), it can lead to depression or a fall. As Colin Powell put in his famous rules – “Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.” Easy to say, harder to do.

“Don’t just think it, ink it.”

I’ve never heard this before, but it resonates instantly – and as a rhyming phrase, artificially holds more truth. Still,the practice of writing can be reflective and help bound you to your goals. Writing it down – somewhere – reinforces accountability and intention.

“It’s not about who you know, or who knows you, it’s about who’s willing to say they know you.”

Here, DDP is talking about people willing to put their names on the line for you. Mentors and mentorship relationships are great. But when things are going poorly, or you actually need some help, is there someone out there that is willing to put their name on the line? To pick up the phone and make that phone call? That is much more rare, and special.

On going to Iraq/Afghanistan: Nothing deep here, but as someone who has been in and around the military since the start of the GWOT, I’ve been fascinated by celebrity trips overseas. During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was a pretty common occurrence. What has struck me is how impactful those trips are, not for the soldiers (although that is important), but to the celebrities themselves.

Even though they may only spend a few days in a location, these trips seem to have a huge impact on them personally and you will often here it recounted in interviews as one of the most important things they have ever done. It’s a consistent theme I’ve heard over the years. It’s easy to be cynical, as some are, and chalk it up as self-serving, but I don’t think it is. Once you’re in the service, you can’t unknow it. For celebrities that make the trip, they really don’t know what to expect.

Lastly, I’ll close with the quote that opened the piece. DDP talks about the fact that everyone goes down at some point. “Going down” is different for everyone. It could be your job, your relationship, your mental health, your financial situation – whatever. There is going to be hardship. The important thing is to accept it, and as he says, “feel it,” and then begin moving on. This reminded me of Joe’s interview with Stanley McChyrstal where he talks about bouncing back from the Rolling Stone article – same story.

I got a lot more out of this episode than I thought I would. It’s short and worth the listen. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a wrestling fan or not – it’s a human story.

Lastly, FTGN is running a short essay contest (details here). The prompt is to write about the three lessons you’ve learned from any one of their podcasts. One of the key lessons I’ve learned from listening over the past few months is the importance of this writing practice (writing after listening) as a way of reflecting.

Congrats to Joe on the episode and I look forward to more surprises!

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Soldier’s Medal for suicide intervention?

soldiers_medal

I was thinking about medals the other day, probably because of the new medal for drone pilots or bloggers or whatever. Somehow I started thinking about whether one could be awarded the Soldier’s Medal for suicide intervention.

Obviously, the Army has a suicide problem. Last year, as many as 349 soldiers may have committed suicide – more than were killed fighting in Afghanistan. The Army has tried, tried again, and keeps trying to find ways to fight this, but nothing seems to be working.

At the ground level, there is command emphasis on the problem, usually in the form of a mention during a weekend safety brief or as part of quarterly training requirements (PowerPoint presentations on suicide). Most soldiers can rattle off the signs of someone who may be suicidal, and many even know what to do if they notice those signs. I think the missing point is actually getting soldiers to take the next step and take action, to intervene somehow, either by notifying the commander or simply trying to talk to the person.

What about awarding the Soldier’s Medal for suicide intervention?

From AR 600-8-22:

The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, including reserve component Soldiers not serving in a duty status, as defined in 10 USC 101(d), at the time of the heroic act, who distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. The same degree of heroism is required as that of the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. The performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy. Awards will not be made solely on the basis of having saved a life.

While the regulation clearly states that a person’s life does not need to be saved in order to receive the medal, in practice, that seems to be the case. Pulling someone out of a car wreck or running into a burning building to rescue someone, those sorts of things. A number of Soldier’s Medals were awarded for actions in response to the 9/11 attacks. I remember a soldier in my unit who pulled someone out of a car wreck just off of Fort Bragg. When we found out about it the next day at formation, we all instantly said “Boom, Soldier’s Medal.”

While a suicide intervention most likely won’t put a soldier at personal risk, it does result in saving a soldier’s life.

I did some Googling to see if the Soldier’s Medal has been awarded for a suicide intervention, and I was able to find one incidence of it, although the intervention was of a dramatic nature (the soldier jumped into a river to save a woman who was trying to drown herself after she drove her car into the water). This soldier obviously put his own life at risk.

A little more searching and I found this story about a basic training soldier who received an Army Achievement Medal (AAM) for intervening in a suicide. Again, this was an intervention of last resort. It was the middle of the night, and the soldier walked in on the suicidal soldier who was in the bathroom about to hang himself. While good to see a soldier being awarded a medal for this, the AAM is pretty much the lowest medal someone can be awarded in the Army. And this was another incidence of an intervention of last resort.

What about awarding someone for getting ahead of the problem, for noticing signs, and brining attention to a troubled soldier?

With suicide being such a massive problem in the Army, and the Soldier’s Medal being the well-known award for saving someone’s life (despite the regulation), would a successful suicide intervention not merit this award?

I understand the argument against awarding the Soldier’s Medal for non-life threatening suicide intervention. One, the regulation doesn’t warrant it. Two, it might “devalue” the medal. Three, soldiers shouldn’t need an incentive to intervene to save another soldier’s life. And four, how do you “know” that an early intervention actually resulted in saving the person’s life?

For the first argument, I agree. The regulation as written and understood doesn’t allow for the Soldier’s Medal to be awarded for this. However, I think given the gravity of the current situation, an exception might be warranted either through a rewriting of the regulation or a generous reading of the current regulation. An interesting experiment would be to put someone in for a Soldier’s Medal who intervened in a suicide and see what gets kicked back.

For the second argument, I’m not so sure. This isn’t the Medal of Honor. The Soldier’s Medal is the highest award given for a non-combat act. What can be more heroic than saving another soldier’s life?

For the third argument, I agree that a soldier shouldn’t need an incentive to save another soldier’s life. However, that is the reality we face. There is such a stigma that exists in the military regarding issues of mental health and suicide that maybe awarding an important medal for an intervention is actually what we need right now to start chipping away at a toxic culture that treats suicide as simple weakness.

For the fourth argument, I guess you can never really know if an early intervention really saved someone’s life. But geez – this is splitting hairs! Accept some freaking risk!

And yes, I understand that maybe another medal may be more appropriate. AAM? Please. An ARCOM? Eh. If you want to have impact, the Soldier’s Medal is the way to go.

Soldiers will do incredible things to earn a piece of cloth or a badge. If the Army really wants to change the culture surrounding suicide, incentivizing intervention might be one way to do it.

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