Lesson # 7 from Starship Troopers

Today, we’re going to cover the seventh lesson I learned from the book Starship Troopers.  This is the seventh lesson in the mini-series.  If you haven’t read the previous post yet, please do so right now and try to follow it in order.

Lesson # 7: There is always an opportunity to do something great, even when everything is stacked against you. 

Quote: “It’s a lot easier to die than it is to use your head.”

My Take: My whole explanation of this quote, and the lesson I got from it, will probably be different than yours.  I don’t take the word “die” literally in this quote.  My analysis is that it’s much easier to follow along with the norm and do what everyone else does, than it is to think outside the box and think for yourself.

starship troopers bookI believe that the best military leaders (at least the ones I’ve served with anyway) were people who were individual thinkers.  When times got tough, they relied on their instincts, their intuition and their experience to guide them, rather than just following along with what doctrine says.

I’ve always admired leaders who could “turn shit into ice cream.”  Pardon my french and bad language, but that’s what I get from this message.  If you want to be a good leader, you have to be able to see the good in every situation.  Even better, you have to see the OPPORTUNITY in every situation.  The truth is, there is ALWAYS an opportunity to do something great, even when everything is stacked against you.

So when times get tough, when you get put in a situation (in combat or peacetime) that challenges you, look for the opportunity in the situation.  What can you learn from it?  How can it make you better?  How can you turn the bad situation into something good?

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know.

8 thoughts on “Lesson # 7 from Starship Troopers”

  1. From this series of leadership lessons it’s pretty obvious to me that you look for the opportunity to learn from every situation. Being open-minded is something everyone can benefit from, but I can see this advice being best offered to members of leadership, or those striving to rise in the ranks of leadership. There needs to be a balance between knowing when to follow orders and when to be innovative.

    1. I think you nailed a very important concept, Rachel, and that is to be open-minded. Solutions can come in unlikely forms sometimes.

      I would also comment on your comment about looking for the opportunity to learn from every situation. I think this is an important characteristic of leadership, but one that sometimes gets overlooked. Attitude is a big part of this. Do you look at challenges merely as obstacles, or do you look at them as opportunities to grow?

  2. Daniel Slone

    The problem with doctrine is that our field manuals are out there for the enemy to read, and believe me, he does. “Going by the book” loses a lot of its appeal when the enemy has read the same book. In Iraq in 2004-05, it was a constant struggle to be unpredictable and try to avoid reacting to situations the way the enemy expected. (A simple example: the insurgents learned that typical standoff from a suspected IED was 300 meters, so they would plant a second IED about 300 meters from a decoy.) Sometimes this led to some comical chains of thought along the lines of “he knows that I know that he knows,” but at the end of the day you can’t put your brain on autopilot and hope for the best.

    1. Good point, Daniel. One of the things that makes our military so great is that we seldom follow our doctrine. We leave it up to your small unit leaders to follow their intuition and use their experience. And I think this is one of the reasons we are so successful on the battlefield.

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