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Breaking Rocks to Marine of the Year

The transition from civilian to Marine is difficult for many who join. Luckily I had some great leaders who believed in me and set me on a more productive path. If not for SSgt Tate and General B. G. Butcher my life would be very different today. Here is my story how goal setting literally saved my life...

I was sent to C.C.U. or Correctional Custody Unit, Camp LeJeune because I was considered a "rehabilitatable" Marine. For some reason the Marine Corps frowned upon my being at an Officer's beach in Puerto Rico with a female in a government vehicle where we may or may not have been in the water sans clothing. Now this by itself might not seem like a big deal. However the military has very clear policies separating officers and enlisted (or used to) and each government vehicle has it's own licensing requirements and gets checked out with what is called a trip ticket. While I had a license for pretty much anything with wheels, my buddy had taken my jeep and left me with his CUCV (think military chevy pickup). The MPs showed up, and politely escorted me back to Gunnery Sgt Singer.

This by itself was not too bad but a few months prior I thought it would be a good idea to visit my home town of Wichita, KS on a 96, That's a pass for 96 hours - 4 days. Again, not a big deal right? Well... except I was in NC and there was a 250 mile area restriction on the pass. Whooops. KS to NC is approximately a 23 hour drive back then, oh and did I mention I was doing this on a motorcycle? Kawasaki 454 LTD. Needless to say I came back a few hours late.

“This is a program for re-education, refocusing and re-greening,” Field-grade officers can send persons given punishment at Article 15s, or nonjudicial hearings, to the CCU for up to 30 days. So away I went for 30 days. No one wants to spend their days picking up trash, wiping down walls, breaking large rocks into smaller ones. No one likes having to march everywhere in formation or having every waking minute carefully choreographed by someone else.No one likes being watched constantly, spending evenings being re-educated on fundamentals of being a Marine or spending long, lonely nights in the brig. It doesn’t matter that their infractions were minor and their time is short. The Correctional Custody Unit was a wake-up call: Shape up, or next time, you’ll be shipped out.

SSgt Tate was there to pick me up when I was released. On the ride back he asked me "What do you want?". "How about a cheesburger?" I said. Well, that went over like a fart in church. He slammed on the brakes and pulled the car over and barked the same question. I had no idea what I wanted.

Setting Goals

So SSgt Tate worked with me to identify what it was exactly that I wanted in life. He had me list what I wanted. Dreams. Big Goals. Challenging Goals. He said you get what you expect, so what do you expect out of life. This was not an easy process for a 19 year old hard headed Marine.

I hadn't graduated high school when I joined the Corps (Yes you would do that back then) so item one was to get my GED. He pressed me to think bigger. So back to the goals list I went.

Now I know that goals direct our attention. The more difficult goals cause you to unconsciously increase your effort, focus, and commitment to the goal, to persist longer, and make better use of the most effective strategies, thus increasing motivation.

What did I want to improve?

How would I get from where I was to where I wanted to be?

What were my strengths? Weaknesses?

What had I done successfully in the past to get to this moment?

What were my core values?

I earned my High School Diploma.

I took every Marine Corps Correspondence Course I could take.

I maxed every PFT.

I was an expert shot with every weapon I could get my hands on.

I did volunteer work.

I earned Marine of the Quarter (twice)

I earned Marine of the Year for Camp LeJeune.

I earned the city of Jacksonville, NC Marine of the Year.

I earned NCO of the Quarter.

I became a General's driver and body man.

I made the All-Marine Soccer team (twice).

I took the SATs.

I earned an Honorable Discharge from the Marine Corps.

I went to college to play soccer at High Point University.

I earned scholarships in Soccer & Track.

I earned All-Conference & All-District honors in soccer.

I earned Soccer MVP.

I was named two-time captain of the HPU soccer team.

I earned a professional soccer contract.

I earned Scholar-Athlete.

I earned All-Conference, All-District and MVP in track.

I earned competing in the National Championships in track all four years.

I graduated college in four years playing 4 collegiate sports (Soccer, Track, indoor Track, Rugby)

I've earned Sales Person of the Year in multiple jobs throughout the years and visited some amazing countries for free with these trips. I've earned Coach of the Year, Teacher of the Year, run the Marine Corps marathon, competed in a triathlon, ridden a century on a hybrid bike and a mountain bike, earned the highest coaching certificates in soccer, gone on to earn an MBA, earned a MS in Psychology: Sport & Performance, and ABD from earning my PsyD in Sport & Performance, to name a few goals I've achieved. Now keep in mind most of these are outcome goals, some would call them "secret" goals. Within these goals were big rocks, objectives, and lots of deliberate practice process goals. To learn more about this check out our goal setting workbook and videos.

The one that haunts me is the one I did not achieve, All-American in soccer. I punched a kid my senior season and was thrown out of school, accepted back, and suspended four games. I wonder "what if" I hadn't lost control in that moment and been able to regulate my emotions and handle my stress better? Alas, that is a lesson for another blog...

ALL of this is directly attributable to SSgt Tate for not only believing in me but teaching me to believe in myself. For teaching me how to set goals, create a road map to achieve them, tie them to my core values, and adapt when life threw me obstacles along the way.

I have used these experiences and lessons learned along the way to craft our goal setting process. Backed by science and honed through a few decades of research and experience.

A Few Types of Goals

Personal Performance goals.

Specific or SMART goals.

Challenging or unSMART goals.

Dream goals.

BHAG - Big Hairy Audacious goals.

Competition goals.

Process goals.

Outcome goals.

Mental skills are a key factor in achieving success. Individuals committed to achieving goals seek to understand themselves (self-awareness) and use other mental skills to stay the course with their goals and lead to enhanced performance.

Goal setting is critical in sport. Actually in life. Setting effective goals can increase motivation, confidence, satisfaction, and provide feedback as to how you are progressing (or not progressing). A clear plan can keep the individual on track when obstacles arise or life changes.

Of course SSgt Tate is not the only person along the way who helped but that list is far too long for this article. Thank you SSgt Tate. Thank you Gen Butcher. Thank you to my Marine Corps brothers. Thank you to my family. Thank you to my teammates and college friends. Thank you all for your help.

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