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In the spirit of Fathers’ Day I wanted to write a post about my father. My father has shown me by his example how to to live life honorably and with purpose, and I am forever grateful for that. I want to share one important lesson I learned from him.
When my father was in the 82nd Airborne as an Infantry Officer, he loved hard physical training (as he still does). He understood the value of toughness, especially in his chosen profession. He lived uncompromisingly by his own code, and he had a specific set of rules that he would share sparingly with those that would join him on his epic morning workouts, which he later shared with me.
“Krom has three rules,” he would tell you. For reference, Krom (or Crom) was Conan’s god from Conan the Barbarian. My father figured that this was his kind of god – not one for pleasantries or worship, or even one to actually help someone in their time of need. Krom sits on his mountain and looks out on the masses searching for amusement, which he finds in the form of human courage. If you do something courageous, if you take on some near impossible physical feat, you may, if you’re lucky, give him cause for a small nod of approval in your direction. That is all.
“The first rule is you never quit on a hill,” he would say. Not quitting on a hill can be hard, especially if you don’t know how tall the hill is that you’re climbing. But that was the rule. It was clear, it was simple, and if you wanted to train with him you had to adhere to it. He would have legions of young officers, soldiers, and NCO’s chasing him up hills throughout his career – not quitting – and in turn pushing themselves harder than they otherwise would.
Not quitting on a hill has a magic quality to it. It turns out that if you never quit on a hill, you probably won’t quit. And if you do decide to change course, it is a rational decision, not one fueled by weakness or self-doubt. If you walk away, you walk away after a small victory: taking the hill.
I adopted this rule – and apply it in tough workouts, but, more importantly, in other aspects of my life. When times are tough, when self doubt creeps in, that is the time to put your head down and drive forward. When quitting is not an option, you can accomplish more than you thought possible.
I think our competitors get this. It seems they learned a similar lesson somewhere along the way. This is one of the reasons I love the Endeavor Team Challenge so much. None of our competitors quit in a time of weakness last year. The first team to leave the competition realized halfway through the Crucible that they were not cut out for the 30 hour event. But they drove on, summited Mount Reba, swam across Lake Alpine, and finished the Crucible. Only then, with dignity, did they inform me that they would be withdrawing from the competition.
Throughout the event, teams drove on in the face of adversity. We had one competitor carry his teammate for miles on his back through the woods to complete the night land navigation. Afterwards, I heard the teammates arguing. The one that was hurt (with a broken ankle) was trying to convince the other that he could continue on if they just taped it up. You can’t make this stuff up.
The teams that we did have to pull off the course were either hurt, lost, or had pushed themselves to their absolute physical limit. And most of these teams have already registered again for this year. They plan to finish what they started.
I’m very excited for round two of the ETC this September. My father will be helping us run the event again this year. There will be plenty of hills, and we are excited to see our competitors conquer them all.
Happy Fathers’ Day!