So no shit, there I was …
Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 16:04
I can't count how many times I've heard a soldier say those words and then follow them with some yarn, half woven with truth and half with ridiculousness. Story-telling is part of the American military experience. It is a modern oral history of deeds done in support of our nation's Constitution and people. Some tell stories of bravery, stupidity, great leaders, poor decisions, but most commonly, the girl from the bar last night, or more recently, playing XBOX 360 and "pwning newbs" on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
I've sat with WWII, Vietnam, Gulf War I and Gulf War II veterans; we all have the same stories, we all know the same people, the only differences are the names, places, circumstances and dates. There are no record keepers, no original thoughts, and few new experiences. But every story, even with the girl from last night, carries a lesson. Sometimes you have to search for the lesson, but it's always there. Spend enough time in the military, or around it, and those lessons are ingrained in your soul.
Whenever someone says, "So no shit there I was," no matter who it is, I take a break and give them a listen. You never know what you might hear, and there is no shame in taking the story, twisting it here and there and even retelling it. If it is a great story, I want everyone to hear it. If I think I learned something, maybe I can share it.
But not every story is great, and some are boring, and you lose your audience half-way through. Whenever this would happen, a friend of mine from ROTC would end his story abruptly with "and then I found five dollars." That was the signal that you accept that your story was not as nearly awesome as you thought it might have been and you wish you had never said, "So no shit there I was," in the first place.
As I mentioned, there are no original thoughts. About a year and a half ago, when I was contemplating my future in the Army or in the outside world, I met with several employers here in NYC. I was given offers at JP Morgan and Citigroup based solely on my military service. Nobody even asked for a resume. That struck me as odd, and dangerous for business. So I asked why. What I discovered was that the finance world loved military members for a few reasons: 1) many finance people are Republicans, 2) military members have highly-developed decision making skills, and 3) military members tend not to complain.
Over the next few issues, I will attempt to illustrate how the American military experience translates into value for a business. Many of us Stern folks will someday occupy positions of influence within businesses and will compose teams. I want each of you to know exactly what you can expect when you pick a military person. You should know what you are buying, and how to use it. Military service does not instill any "absolute" advantages to its members, but that long storied history and experience create some "comparative" advantages. Then as leaders, you will ideally learn to make those advantages your own, and make the disadvantages disappear. And please, take everything I write with a grain of salt. If I thought the military was perfect, I probably would still be in. Instead, I decided to leave and try a new career, which led me here and then I found five dollars.