As Ashton Carter, US Secretary of Defense announces the opening of all combat jobs to women, I find it ironic that the military, a symbol of rules and order, has awakened to the reality of competition. Best and brightest is the need. Gender should not be a consideration. But, it was not just a consideration. It was the rule. What we witness here is an example of a rule made to be broken. I want to take a moment to honor those women who gave themselves permission to get ready even though the rules said they were not eligible. Women like the first Navy 4-star admiral, Michelle Howard. Women like Captain Kristen Griest and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver, the first female army rangers.
Life is not about you as in you as the center of the universe. But, life is about your opportunity to create, connect, and influence toward something greater–something beyond you alone. Explore the origins of your feeling that you need to ask for permission. Who told you that you had to ask? Reflect on the responsibility you have been given. What are you on earth to contribute? Do not only lead. Be a captain. Sail in sometimes dangerous waters with the assurances of careful planning and faith in your crew. If you should fail, take ownership even then. Learn lessons that make the next challenge less daunting.
The Game and The Rules
Institutions need standardization in order to maintain their norms and behaviors. But, institutions are not the game. The game is individualization–the opportunity for you to be uniquely you. Keepers of the institutions will insist that the game can only be won by following their rules. They will then turn and celebrate someone who forged their own path. Realize that the game is to win. The rules are to be considered as the baseline. Your task is to develop beyond the rules.
Create new models. This requires an understanding of what the rules intend, the resources at hand, and the environmental impacts. Order and control were the functions of the rules, but the intention was to remove intervening variables and lessen unintended consequences. The resources you can muster must be invested strategically. This requires you to create a strategy from the beginning. Do this by beginning with your end and working backward to identify action steps. The resource needs become apparent. The environment does make a difference. Some settings are not viable substrates for your intervention. Fail quickly. Move on. You know healthy environments because you have yet to utilize all the opportunities. You know used environments because you are out of options.
Connect with a crew who embody both the belief in a shared vision and the fortitude to work. Shared vision is important to the outcome and the motivation. Do not make the mistake of thinking that vision constrains the how. Enable your crew to achieve in ways that are not prescribed. Rethink crews that require your permission at every step. Hold only one condition, that the goals are met sustainably–in ways that are consistent with the long-term vision. Work ethic is key. At some point, success boils down to putting the time into the action steps. Look for crew members that produce, refuse to make excuses, and keep strict time and reporting schedules.
Your connection to community is the influence you wield. Manage the influence on your crew and the influence of your permission on others. Realize that your freedom gives permission to others. It is an allowance that they did not know they needed until you evidenced it. Inform them by communicating how you knew it was time to take responsibility upon yourself. Sharing your moment of clarity and launch, with its fears and trepidation, allows them to know that they are similar. Sharing your struggles and disappointments teach patience and perseverance. Recognizing your supports reminds them that no one achieves alone.