What I Learned While Dodging Pretend Bullets in Southern Idaho

Dodging Bullets in Idaho

The poignant words of a salty old combat training instructor still ring in my head…

“For good or for bad,
decisions need to be made.”

Playing War in Idaho

I was on a long training exercise in the middle of southern Idaho. Our combat communications unit conducted these exercises pretty regularly. A couple of times a year, we’d practice heading out into the desert, setting up our radar site, and developing a defense perimeter around it.

After we got things running, our defenses would be tested repeatedly by a team of pretend enemy combatants known as the “aggressors.” These agressors would act out certain scenarios in the name of “training.” To be frank, it was really no more than a crew of belligerent meat-heads who loved blowing things up and shooting M-16s with blanks in them, but I digress.

Under Frenemy Fire

One of these scenarios involved a diversion on one side of the site, while a sneak attack mounted on the other side. It all kicked off with a mortar explosion to the north side. Initially, our leadership responded well. They followed protocol and scrambled the appropriate response.

According to the aggressors’ plan, however, we started to get lit up by the aggressors on the south side, where I was in a foxhole that I had joyfully dug myself. Instead of responding to the developing situation, our leaders went frighteningly silent. Our frantic calls into the command center were met with confusion and a total lack of direction.

They had got themselves tied up in committee. Unable to reach an agreement, they left us out on our own. The result? I got to play dead for an hour on the hot Idaho sand in mid-July while a team of crotchety old combat instructors chewed us out.

Cue the opening quote…

What Happened?

The same thing that happens inside your head when you’re faced with a tough decision…

  • The struggle that leaves you waffling endlessly between two perfectly viable options.
  • The fear of making the call and potentially being wrong/looking bad.
  • The Resistance.
  • The sound of a window of opportunity slamming shut, never to be open again.

We had a command center full of “leaders” who were bickering about the finer points of standard procedure while their people were dying in the field. I was in a foxhole completely cut off from the rest of the site and didn’t know where to go or what to do.

I didn’t need the Air Force Regulation 37A response. I just needed a decision.

Melodramatic Much?

Yes, but I think you understand my point. In our lives, there come times when we just need to make the call and move forward. I’ve got nothing against due diligence. By all means, you should check your facts. What I am speaking against, however, is fear.

Fear will cause us to check our facts, check them again, check someone else’s facts, make up some new facts to check, chew on those, pretend to pray on them, and then wait until time and circumstances take the decision out of our hands altogether. In my story, the decision was no longer necessary once we were all dead.

I pretend-died so that some young’n out of the Academy could avoid looking pretend-bad.

You Can Do Better

That’s what’ll happen in your business and/or your life if you let fear keep you from making important, timely decisions. You’ll waffle around while your people and mission fall victim to your indecisiveness. Don’t let that be your story. Be a leader who takes responsibility.

A great leader understands that for good or for bad, decisions need to be made.

What decision do you need to make today?

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