submitted by Steven Mays

Keeping it Real

I often tell people that you need three things to succeed in any endeavor: honesty, courage, and talent. And talent is the least important of the three.

I define honesty as the ability to see the world as IT IS, not as it should be, not as you would like it to be, but the way IT IS.

Courage is the willingness to take the morally correct action to benefit others even at your own expense.

Talent is the knowledge, training, and skill to carry out you duties in an honest and courageous manner.

I cannot point to a single failure in my career/life that occurred primarily due to a lack of talent. All of the big errors were due to not seeing things honestly or not being brave enough to do what needed to be done. Let me share a simple, but powerful example.

Toward the end of my time aboard the USS Los Angeles (SSN-688), I was the gray beard (longest serving member of the original commissioning crew) but was always drawing the mid-watch OOD assignment. Being the most senior officer standing the OOD watch (other than the Senior Watch Officer who made up the watch bill), I was convinced he had something in for me. At least that was my impression of the "real world" at the time. 

So, I confronted him and demanded an answer to my question which was, "WTF, why are the junior guys getting the easy watch rotation assignments and I get stuck on mid-watch every night?" The SWO, (who later commanded the LA), said that was what the Captain wanted. Still not paying attention to the "real world", I asked how I had made him pissed at me. Fortunately, he took pity on me and gave it to me gently, "Because you dumbass, that is when he sleeps!"

It took a few seconds to sink in. Then the shock of realizing that I hadn't been honest about the "real world" hit me like a ton of bricks. My CO wanted me on the Conn when he couldn't be there. As I reassessed the "real world", I also found out I was the only OOD he allowed to come to periscope depth without first waking him up to give him a SITREP.

So, here I was all worked up because I wasn't being honest with myself about my situation. Fortunately for me, I got set straight before I did anything stupid and it really boosted my morale to know I was trusted by my CO. 

Scott Peck talks about having an internal map of the world that one updates as new information come in. I wasn't doing that. I wasn't being HONEST. It turned out OK with only my pride getting taken down a few notches, but it is something to remember each time you think things are bad and you want action taken to correct it. First check your TRUTH-O-METER.

HONESTY first, then COURAGE, and then TALENT.