It was only about 7 years ago when I was a cadet in the IDF Tank Commanders Course, going through what I still believe till today to be the most rigorous, and relentlessly most enriching times that I have gone through in my life. The amount of knowledge and wisdom that were pumped daily into my head and heart on issues spanning from how to give everything that I have to my soldiers, to the art of tank warfare, to loving my country, to never giving up, and to being a better person towards my fellow man, are still unparalleled in their effect on my life. But a few years have passed and so many things have changed, My military “career” cut short by a quite devastating injury during the Second Lebanon War, has also cut short my everlasting Love for those times when I was in a mode of 100% GIVING. I didn’t ask too many questions; I was simply doing all that I could to give all that I could. The olive green uniform of the Israeli Defense Forces, the routine of an average 20 hour work day (day in and day out), and dealing with REAL problems all of the time, are things that I long for so deeply in my heart. But besides the so many different situations that I have been though and learned from, the most amazing part of it all was that it felt so goddamn good! No matter how little I slept, how dirty, sweaty and smelly I was, no matter how long I was sitting in the HUMV for, and how many times my soldiers pissed me off… I kept quiet and worked because I knew that I was doing something extraordinary and important for my people; for my values; for the future.
Yesterday (5/9/12), I once again had the overwhelming privilege to make my way over to the city of Netanya in Israel, in order to facilitate a Leadership workshop that I do for the new batch of Tank Commander Cadets. I could see myself sitting there in the same chairs that I sat in, wearing the same uniform with the same pins, and the same shining black polished military boots. Their questions, comments, dilemmas, fears, excitements, and inside jokes shared between them are like a slam on the red button of a time machine, straight back to 7 years ago – except that this time, I have the incredible liberty to teach them to be better commanders and people. The main idea of the workshop is to constantly push forward the idea that we will be who we decide to be in our lives. Every single soldier clearly remembers who were his commanders whom he admired, respected and would follow through the battlefield through wind and fire; that commander who was the eternal role model of “who I want to be like.” And on the other hand, every single soldier also remembers those commanders who they never wanted to be like…
The key idea that I am there to help them understand is that it is merely their choice whether they will be that eternal commander who will lead and be followed to the deepest of valleys, or to be that know-nothing fool that no one wants to take orders from when the sting of battle arises. We come across these choices in life all of the time where we can simply choose whether we will not give up so fast, try a little bit harder, and push it till we get the job done… or just be dragged back to our comfort zone (that place in front of the TV, computer game, magazine, etc…). Nothing great in my life, your life, or the anything on the face of this planet has ever been achieved in a state of comfort. Those who win olympic medals, those self-made business tycoons, astronauts, and any human who is publicly recognized to be a legend or a hero, were all far away from their comfort zone. They were spitting blood and wiping the sweat out of their stinging eyes. And that is how life works – it’s the “human factor” within us all and our ability or inability to overcome it, which shall decide in which direction our lives shall go.
After a 3 hour workshop with every group, the great majority of cadets who sat intrigued and eager to sponge up every single word and idea that could come across their ears came to thank me for our long and enriching discussion. And if I could only tell them how envious I was of them to be able to answer the call to arms; to engage a full time job of productivity, silently and modestly; to be the humble spearhead of our society who live each day promising the future of my friends, my family, and my freedom; and to re-instill the corroded beliefe that there are extraordinary young men and leaders out there somewhere who shall be the sturdy backbone of my society. I would tell them this, but they wouldn’t understand it because they have more important things to worry about.
Although the great majority of the Cadets whom I spent the day with were awesome, even yet in this group of excellent individuals, there shall be the Legends and the Losers, who will no doubt impact the lives of many people in Israel – for better or for worse. The final questions that I asked them just before we ended our day together were, “Am I in my comfort zone? Do I have a comfortable life? Am I doing everything that I possibly can to further be proactive and help out my friends? Am I the person who others will want to follow with their heads held high? Or am I the person who is talked about behind his back? Am I letting my shallow desires for pleasure to get the best of me? Or am I overcoming every single hour of every day so that I stand victorious before myself? Am I on the path to be a Loser or am I on the path to be a Legend? Who Am I…? These are the questions which I ask myself every day and force myself into the dark corner where pleasure is faint, difficulty is high and the objective answers are hidden behind a wall of bias self-serving excuses. These are the questions that I asked the Cadets, and these are the questions that I ask myself about nearly every aspect of my life.
It’s our CHOICE