You’re not always going to hit your mark. You’re not always going to get it right. I mess up every single day and, without the ability for me to adjust along the way, the world would look a lot different.
I get a lot of message from men who have gone through some serious struggles (divorce, job loss, illness or disease, bankruptcy) and I get a lot of messages from men who may not have gone through anything extremely difficult but they feel like maybe they’re in a rut and unable to shake out of it. Either way, and wherever you fall on the spectrum of severity in your daily struggles, I think that sometimes the answer to all of it is to adjust fire.
I was an artillery man with the Utah Army National Guard (a redleg with those of you who are familiar) and then, later the Army during my deployment to Iraq. One of the principles that we learned early on when it came to engaging a target was the principle of adjusting fire.
I need to give you a little background on how an artillery unit fights a battle. I am not going to share anything sensitive with you and everything that I am going to tell you is common and public knowledge.
When I was in the military, I was in Fire Direction Control, which basically meant that I was the liaison between what the forward observers were seeing on the battle field and the guns (in our case howitzers) who were engaging targets.
The way this would work is that a forward observer team would call in coordinates of an enemy position or convey, etc. to us in Fire Direction Control. We would then take that information, analyze it, make some calculations, and send the pertinent information to the guns who would fire on that target.
From there, the forward observers would do their thing – observe – and let us know how we did. If we did it right, the target or threat was neutralized and then we’d go on about our business. If not – if we missed or only partially hit – the forward observer would then call for an adjust fire which, if you haven’t already figured this out, would allow us to quantify how far we were off from target and re-engage.
Obviously, there’s a bit more to it but you get the idea.
Now, how does this translate into civilian life?
We are now into March of 2017. We’re a couple months into this thing and, if you’re anything like me, you created some goals (I call them objectives) at the beginning of the year but seeing as how this is life and, I don’t know about for you, but nothing has ever gone 100% according to plan for me, you’re off track a bit. You’re not exactly hitting those objectives you have for yourself.
So, now you have a decision to make. Do you quit (which is what most men do) or do you adjust fire and re-engage (which is what you should do).
I have a lot of people ask me, “Ryan, when do I know when to quit? When do I throw in the towel?”
My knee-jerk reaction to that question is that, if you’re asking that question, you already have.
But, outside that, I don’t think a man ever needs to quit. I choose to reframe it as an adjust fire. Your priorities may have changed. Your target may have changed. You may have learned a few new things. There may be new information that causes you to think differently about any given scenario. But, none of that means you’re quitting. You’re simply adjusting fire.
So, let’s break this down into 4 simple parts:
Step one is to identify the objective. What is the target? What are you aiming at? What are you hoping to accomplish? I’m going to assume that, for the sake of argument, and time, that you’ve already done this. You know what you want when it comes to your relationships, health, wealth, and self.
If not, we’ll cover that in another post.
Step 2, you’ve got to do some computing. You have to figure out a way to get what it is you want from step one.
Note, I did not say the best way. I did not say the perfect way. I just said, “a way.” Chances are you’re not going to get this right. Chances are you’re going to be off a bit. Knowing that gives you the power to take action even though the stars may not be perfectly aligned.
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”— George S. Patton
And this is exactly what I’m talking about. Understand you’re not going to get the calculation just right gives you permission to move onto step three.
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”— Theodore Roosevelt
Do the best calculations you can. Enlist the help of other people. Anticipate obstacles that may come up and, at the end of the day, make your best educated guess.
Next, execute. Fire. Destroy that target. Do everything you can to make your mark. Leave an impact and let there be no question as to whether or not you accomplished your task.
If there’s one topic I’ve talked about at length in the last two years, it’s about the ability to execute, the ability to take action, the ability to do the work – whatever that work is.
Throw all your resources into making those calculations work in your favor. And, after all is said and done, there is only one reason for you to actually look up from the work you’ve done.
Which brings me to step four. This is where a lot of men get it wrong. There so busy grinding way at the task at hand that they forget to look up and see if it works.
And, if they do happen to stop and look up for a minute, and see that it isn’t working they give up way too quickly and abandon the target altogether.
I get questions all the time about my biggest takeaways from my time in the military. There are a lot but one of the lessons I cling to is that the decisions I made and my action or lack thereof could literally spell the difference between life or death.
If anyone of us made the wrong decision or, worse, decided to quit, that meant that another man might not make it home to his family. He might not make it to watch his son play baseball or his daughter dance in her first recital. It might mean that he doesn’t get to be with his wife again or that all his mom gets back is a flag and a casket.
That is some serious responsibility and one that a lot of men don’t ever experience. But, when you live life like that, you’ll never again question when is the best time to quit.
If you look up and you see that you haven’t made the impact you intended, you simply adjust fire. You tweak. You adapt. You change. And, you re-engage.
Gentlemen, that is what it takes. This is how you build a successful life whether you’re trying to re-connect with your wife, engage with you children, launch that business, get a promotion, lose that spare tire.
Life is a series of executions and adjustments. If anyone ever tells you otherwise, they’re lying or selling you something, or both.
Why is any man successful? Because at some point he had the balls to execute, lift himself out of the dust when he failed, and tried again.
Remember, identification, calculation, execution, adjust fire.
Do that enough – do that over and over again – and you’ll never be defeated.