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The Drive to Win, February 17th, 2002 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: February 17th, 2002
"The Drive to Win" [permalink]
    keywords: winning, life, business, competition, military, U.S. Army, war
    soapbox #: 333
    written: March 3rd, 2002
    words: 1781

"The Drive to Win", an Essay

It's already been like half a year since I wrote about how I needed to use force and intimidation more in my daily life to take advantage of my natural abilities. Well, I wanted to expand a bit more on that now.

I play a lot of basketball, a game which has sort of become a rite of passage for a lot of boys growing up in today's day and age. That is, it's a way for boys to test themselves against other boys, and as they grow up and get better at the game, it brings out that competitive side and forges it into (hopefully) becoming a great player.

Basketball (and surely other highly competitive sports like football) has a large component of how you project yourself to others. For instance, one thing you learn quickly is that if you're playing someone you're not familiar with, if you defend them really hard and energetically at the beginning of the game, it will intimidate them either consciously or subconsciously such that they play softer the rest of the game. Whereas if you admit a weakness or second thought about having to guard that person, they'll feed off it.

And what you find is that the players who have been coached and who have a lot of experience don't fall prey to this sort of mind game as easily. They block it out easier and they learn how to feed off their own talents and abilities as they take control of games and hit big shots or whatever. But in general most people don't know how to deal with their emotions and so projection is important.

I've never really been taught how to pursue that burning desire to win that you see in the really competitive kids that try to go to top athletic schools or top Ivy Leagues or whatever. It's definitely something that has to be taught. Whether it's by grade school coaches, aggressive parents, or life's harshest lessons learned early, the will to win I don't think comes naturally.

I've gone through much of my life not really feeling as though the things I were doing were worth becoming the absolute best at. I don't really feel like a lot of things are worth doing anything to win at, sacrificing everything to be recognized as the best. Part of it I guess is a sense of realism (or pessimism, you decide) for what's truly important. Part of it is from little desire to acquire recognition or to show off. Part of it is just the lack of instilled sense of victory. I've always been one of those people who enjoys the journey more than the destination, and I probably always will be like that for the rest of my life. I've always thought that if you tried your best and then some, then that was as much as you could control.

While that's fine and all though, I really am beginning to think there is value in pursuing victory even in some trivial things. Not so much that it corrupts your morals or makes you unfavorable amongst others, but enough that it drives you to do more than you think you're capable of and to sacrifice yourself more than what you thought was reasonable.

What I think I can get out of basic training and service in the Army, in this respect, is a more competitive and powerful fighting spirit. To take more pride in myself and to push myself a lot more so that my internal goals rise over time.

Umm...and, now that I've said all that, after all that preparatory text, I feel that I don't need or want to say anything more about that. =P It gets silly enough trying to explain to people why I want to join the Army. I don't want to explain it anymore. I just want to go through it to make myself a better person in the long run. So when I'm 75 or whatever I'll know what it felt like. You know. Walking the path versus seeing the path.

Today I saw "We Were Soldiers" with my dad. Apart from the couple who decided this gory Vietnam War movie would be great for their small child, and the elderly couple next to me moaning and commenting on the harshness of it all, I liked it. When the movie was over, the old lady next to me grabbed my arm and told me, "Don't go to war if you have a choice." "Oh, and pray to God."

I hate crap like that. I'm sure she meant it in a nice and protective and well-intentioned way, but it assumes so much.

And what my feelings are on whether I should put myself in this kind of danger or not relates to what I read some journalist write in one of his articles. He said that he dodged the Vietnam War under the shield of going to college, like so many in his time. While he said he was in most ways glad he didn't go, and said he'd done his best to make up for his not being there, he said that since it wasn't him that was going, it was some other poor bastard.

Some other boy went in his place and might have been severely traumatized from the experience, or even killed. Some other boy's parents and friends and relatives would've mourned that boy's passing because this guy could hide in school, as he phrased his own actions.

I take it one step further, in what I hope is a quality that will make me a good officer if all goes well. How I feel is that if people have to go fight a war, and they better have good reason to go do it, then I'd rather it be me that goes, having confidence in my potential to protect fellow soldiers and to fight well, than some poor kid straight out of high school who had no clue what he was getting into or what he might be passing up instead to die what could be a meaningless death in the grand scheme of things. I feel that I could serve people better protecting them than letting someone else do it. Perhaps it's naive for me to feel that way since I have yet to really be tested, but I do believe that my mind can be a huge asset once I've been trained and disciplined. It's a desire for progression and excellence. For instance, in basketball, some players want to become the best so they can earn the most money or own the most cars or have the most women. Those who are truly the best, though, want to become the best so that they can play with others who are also the best, and to feed off of them and grow through them. Same in the military. The best soldiers want to be in the best groups not just so some 18 year old dumbass won't be the one watching their back in some green, undisciplined platoon, but also so they can have the most impact on achieving the goal, come the closest to danger and excelling in victory.

The reality in which we live in today makes the possibility of my death in combat pretty small. I'm trying to go into intelligence which is pretty low risk compared to, say, infantry. I haven't signed an exact contract yet so I can't say for sure, but intelligence IS what I want to do. And the US military suffers few combat casualties these days even in the most battlefield-active ranks. A lot of what the military does day to day doesn't even involve combat per se since we're for the most part on a peaceful earth. So when I get people telling me they disagree with US foreign policy and whatnot, even though they may be correct or justified in feeling that way, it rings a little hollow. Considering that the people who legislate laws that dictate foreign policy are almost expected to have served in the military (and are ridiculed if they skipped out on it), you wonder how people who disagree with US foreign policy ever expect to be able to have the power to do something about it. Oh well, I'm rambling.

Back to my point. I understand that there's a risk of me dying as a result of serving in the Army. Or being severely hurt either physically or mentally. I also understand that the US military is not very popular abroad or even in its own country among many, and that it's seen as the mindless killing force put into action by out-of-touch politicians who don't know what they're doing.

But I expect to live a long full life as well. Who knows how long people will be able to live in 20 years? 30 years? 40 years? Hell, they'd probably be able to keep me alive well past 100 by then. That's a lot of time. And I have a lot of things I need to experience if I'm going to be satisfied with my life as an old man. And serving in the military, which is and always has been a major part in culture and society, instead of actively ignoring it, seems like something that I must do at least for a bit. It's not the only reason for wanting to join, but I don't think wanting to become a better person is such a bad reason. Ignoring any possibility of working alongside or with the military could potentially in the long run be as much folly as refusing to step inside an art gallery, or refusing to study any religion beyond your own. (if you believe in one) How can you purport to be a member of mankind if you refuse to experience one big chunk, terrifying as it might be sometimes, of what makes man what he is today?

Maybe the people who don't want me to go will be right in the end. Who knows? I don't think I'll need to apologize though. All I know is that unless you've done it yourself, talking about it is merely academic. And since I want to pursue a life of experience and knowledge, it doesn't seem so unnatural for me to want to enlist.


 
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