Thursday, August 15, 2013

Them's fighting words

Thanks to a visit from yet another motivational speaker, I've been thinking about what I would want to say to my graduating class on the last day of the timetabled curriculum.

As usual, this speaker's message is no different from the previous: it's all about delayed gratification. Kill yourselves for eighty days and enjoy life after.

I prefer a more realistic message:

Kids, you're going to look back upon these last two years and remember them as a holiday camp. Where you're going, life is going to suck so totally, sometimes you'll wonder whether it's worth getting out of bed and slogging it through yet another day. You may already feel like that now, but it's only going to get worse, not better.

You're in school now because you're in training. It's safe in here. Failure in training has fewer consequences than in real life. As long as you learn, you will fail; but as long as you fail, you will learn. The outside world is not so forgiving.

As it is in the military, you're going to cry for mommy while you're training in boot camp. But the reason you're being trained now is so that we can send you into the battlefield later. You're sheltered and protected when you're in training; out there in the rain, muck, blood, fuel, flames and cordite, you screw up, you die or get limbs blown off or worse, get someone else killed. You're being trained to go to war, not Club Med, so don't expect too much when you leave this safe haven of Junior College.

Why then should you bother to train so hard now, when there is so little to look forward to, out there? Look at it this way: would you rather go out there without adequate training? Because one way or another, you'll end up there anyway. If you weren't attending Junior College, you could be out there right now.

Training hard and training well means you're building instincts that just may help you survive another day. Knowing how to survey the lay of the land; learning skills, tactics and strategies for survival and victory; and developing the stamina, resilience and resourcefulness to see your plans to fruition; these are your rewards for working hard now, so that when you eventually take to the field you're not just cannon fodder, but rather in a position of command (even if the only squad you have to command is yourself).

Like it or not, in whatever career or vocation we find ourselves in out there, we all have one singular objective. To achieve it, our personal survival is a prerequisite. The end of the world is coming. Every passing day brings it a little closer. Our job -- I mean everyone's job -- is to fight on and delay that inevitability for one day more. Together, we're going to hold out until we hear the declaration, "Today we are cancelling the Apocalypse!"

Only then will we even think about "enjoying life" as a personal entitlement.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but better to hear the truth now than experience it first-hand for yourselves and become bitter and disconsolate over it. Loss of morale at that point is the first stage to getting yourself killed. Fat lot of good you will be to the cause then.

Chuck the big expectations of happiness. Work hard; train hard; fail a lot; learn a lot; survive and every day, will yourselves to fight on for just one more day. Go into battle with this mindset and every small victory, every simple pleasure will be that much more meaningful and enjoyable. Forget "delayed gratification"! Where we find true happiness is daily, in the small things in life.

Suit up, check your gear, it's time. Move out!

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