Friday, April 23, 2010

Bonds

“Welcome to basic training. Look to the soldiers at your left and right. From this moment on everyone in this room is family. Your battles are my battles. Your enemies are my enemies. Together we will stand shoulder to shoulder and annihilate our foes with righteous slaughter.” The first day of basic training with Drill Sergeant Heekin

By being a leader you form a permanent bond with the people that you mentor. Whether it is done consciously or not, the influence you exert on each and every follower’s life will echo into everything thing they do and everyone they meet. In my experience it is the single most significant exchange that can be undergone by a human being and not one to be taken lightly.

Every teacher I have studied from, be it the kind hearted April Monegan to the indomitable Drill Sergeant Heekin, helped shape who I was when they were a part of my life. Because their influences were part of how I saw the world, their lessons shaped who I am today and who I will become in the future.

Think about the people you have influenced during your life time. For good or ill, your family, friends, and co-workers have all been influenced by your presence in their lives. The world has changed by your everyday influence. Each person on the planet does this in ways both overt and subtle whether they realize it or not. Leadership comes into play when you make this constant influence and conscious and deliberate action.

Most of the time you will not be able to choose with whom you form this permanent bond. Life is random and unfair, and will thrust that responsibility onto your shoulders when you least expect it. Ultimately it is the follower’s choice if you meet their standards for leadership, and will most likely not have a flashing neon sign with them to notify you of this life changing decision. Being in authority position such as teacher or squad leader is a dead giveaway that eventually you will influence a person’s life to a profound degree that it will forever change them into something greater. Other times it will be the random act of kindness or cruelty that you commit without a second thought to the consequences. You will never know.

Consider this, that every interaction you have with another human being has the chance of profoundly influencing their life. The unexpected complement you give the lady who bags your groceries could be the one that gives her the small boost she needed to go out and get a better job, or it might set into motion a chain of disastrous unintended consequences. For someone like me who is prone to anxiety, trying to second guess every one of my actions and the potential consequences would only result in adding to my already impressive collection of grey hair. The best policy I have found is to not sweet the small stuff and do the best you can with what life throws at you.

Burden

Your quintessential guide to becoming a dark lord and beyond.

“The rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.” - Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

I’ve thought a lot about how to format this manifesto. Outline, rigid structures, none of them have fit because life lessons do not adhere to such overbearing demands. Life blindsides and you and the scars left by the experience remind you to be more wary for the next ambush. There is no perfect format to life therefore there is no perfect format to this manifesto. It will meander, it will ramble, and it will definitely rant. You have been warned.

This Manifesto will be taking a blogging style approach. My philosophy is rooted in stories and experiences I have acquired during my brief lifetime. If this thread takes on any structure, it will likely mirror the chaotic myriad my creative education.

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I don’t bullshit people. Bullshitting is like waving a red flag to karma and taunting it to take its best shot. Karma is the all seeing bitch that doesn’t give you an inch of slack on your leash. I will not put one word of bullshit into this manifesto due to the absolute metaphysical certainty that it will come back to bite me in the ass. Hard. Everything written here is something I’ve taken to heart and try to employ in my everyday life. If it has proven useful in a combat zone, it is likely to be useful everywhere else.

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People naturally look to people in authority for advice and guidance. I can assume by reading this manifesto that you want to learn more about becoming a leader and dark lord. By making the decision to become a leader you accept the responsibility that one day people will look up to you and seek out your guidance when they are in need. It is by your strength of character that you will either stand tall in the face of adversity or be crushed under the awesome responsibility that people place in you.

“I never asked for this.” David Roth, my high school Marching Band Director.

When I joined the high school marching band in my freshman year I was a skittish and awkward teenager terrified by the thought of having to meet a new group of people. On my first day Mr. Roth dispelled those fears be welcoming me into the organization with open arms as though I had always been there. He accepted me for who and what I was no questions asked.

Like any kid who grew up without a present father, I sought out father figures. I grew to respect and revere Mr. Roth for his outstanding leadership ability. I wanted to return to the organization the great amount of confidence and pride I had learned as his student by aiming to become the Drum Major. It was an arduous process that took over a year of dedication and study; not a simple task for a fifteen year old boy.

The auditions for Drum Major ended up being rigged. One of the other students had used her rich parents to put pressure on the school put to place band director’s job in jeopardy. His maverick teaching style had earned him the ire of his supervisors and presented an opportunity for his enemies to exploit. Mr. Roth yielded to their demands and allowed his principles to be compromised.

Mr. Roth violated the core principle that he had preached to the entire band. Family. I left the marching band as a result. Many of the more dedicated students who looked up to our band director followed as the story of Mr. Roth’s err in judgment spread through ranks. He had said it himself; a hypocrite was not to be tolerated.

Later, after the dust had settled and most of the talented musicians had left Mr. Roth had asked me why I had left. I told him my honest opinion. That I had looked up to him as a second father and believed in him, as he had taken a risk and believed in me. I poured out all my emotions of how I went from a scared child to my first steps as a strong and confident man because of family he had let me be a part of. When I found out that he had violated the principles that he had preached to every last one of my fellow band mates I felt hurt and betrayed as I questioned just how far the lies had been delved over the last year.

“I never asked for this.” was his only response.

This is the first and most important lesson. If you continue reading this manifesto, know that you will be faced with a choice one day. By being a leader you are given the burden of inhuman expectations. People will look up to you and ask you to guide them in their hour of need. They will demand that you be what they believe you to be, and as a leader you must be that person. You will never ask for that burden for it will be thrust upon you when you least expect it. It is by best preparing yourself for that day that you will either stand tall as the leader your people will need you to be, or be crushed under the weight you own failure.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Dark Lord of Denny's Manifesto

During my trip out to St. Louis for Fear the Con, I was given an elected position. After the first night of the con a group of gamers set out to sojourn over to Denny's for a late night meal. Before heading out they needed to elect a Dark Lord of Denny's for this year's convention. I was was dressed in all black and a dead ringer for a duster rocking gunman, and thus unanimously elected to the office.

The idea of a Manifesto came to mind. A doctrine on leadership and how to excel at it. So far it has become a pet writing project that has me cranking out a word document on a daily basis again.

I'm curious to see where this idea goes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Heading Out to DC

Tonight I'm heading out to Washington DC to go see my sisters. I figure now would be as good a time as any to start up the blog again to due something interesting going on in my life that's not directly war related.

I'll be honest. Spending months writing posts with little to no feedback was discouraging. I spent a herculean amount of effort into writing nearly six month's worth of posts and the rewards did not seem to warrant the effort at the time. Today was one of the rare good days were nearly everything has gone right thus far, and I'm hoping my good fortune will spill into my blogging.

My train leaves in a few hours. It will be the first I have ever ridden on for the purpose raveling across multiple state lines and with any luck will not end up crashing down in flames as most of my travel seems to find the time to do.

Monday, February 8, 2010

End of Deployment Posts

Ladies and Gentlemen thank you and goodnight.

At the moment I'm back in Ohio just finishing the archived posts from the second half of the deployment. I'm be honest, after Day 320 my responabilities as shift leader and the RIP period with our replacements monopolized my time and I was completely burned out on blogging. It was just one of many sacrifices I made to best serve my new squad in Iraq.

If I find the patience, I can go back and cover the last few weeks of the deployment. Know that I ordered a copy of Dragon Age: Origin and did something that actually made me happy.

Day 320: Preparation

The last few days have been spent arranging all the logistics for the big DRMO turn in. As part of the preparation to leave Iraq out battalion is trying to slim down our property books (the unit codex of stuff) in order to simplifiy al already horrendous cluster fuck.

Look around your room. I don’t care what room you are in, just look around and take note of all the stuff down to the last pen. When one company hands off their property book their replacement, every last item must be documented and included down the last pen. It only makes sense that the commanders would want to turn in all the broken and access equipment.

The downside is that my soldiers and I have to go through all the storage containers, inventory everything, and prep it for transport. TO quote the Internet, “This is the suck.”

Day 319: Swamped

Sweet merciful crap, where did all my free time go? Being in charge of the day shift is a new challenging experience, that while very rewarding, does monopolize all my free time. Perhaps stress is a factor or energy expenditure, because lately I’ve just wanted to collapse from exhaustion after I’m done with work.

I’m enjoying myself, I really am, but at the moment my duties are taking every ounce of energy I have to give.