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Leaving a Legacy

It means being willing to mend broken fences and rebuild some wells that have been long overgrown with weeds.



It’s been said the best way to live today is to think about what you want to be remembered for after you’ve died. Question: When you leave this Earth, how will you be remembered?

A Tale of Two Lives

Three years ago I spoke at my Mothers memorial service after she died at 87. There were a small number in attendance made up of friends and family. Keep in mind many of her friends and family had already passed on before her. My Mother loved her God, her family, her friends and her community which she demonstrated a thousand different ways. Even on her death bed, she would share Jesus with her attendants. Mom and Dad were married for 63 years demonstrating true love and fidelity. Overall, my Mother had a lifelong positive impact on me and those she came into contact with.

35 years ago I attended the memorial service of Jack, an Elder at the church I was a member of. Jack was a retired welder who spent his time assisting and mentoring those around him. I spent many a day in Jack’s home soaking up his wisdom. Jack took a close friend of mine and taught him how to weld to the point he went on to become a certified welder. He ended up opening his own heating and cooling company.

Jack’s funeral was attended by nearly 300 people with standing room only in our little church building that day. The service lasted three hours as one person after another shared how Jack had supported him or her along life’s way. When I left that day, I had two thoughts: First, was how grateful I was to have known Jack. Second, was I want my funeral to be the same as his knowing my life had a positive impact on those I come into contact with.

It was the deaths of those two very special people, where the desire to leave a positive legacy was born.

Leaving a Positive Legacy

When you leave the company you’re currently working for, what will you be remembered for? Will you be missed or will your coworkers be happy you’re gone?  What about the friendships you’ve cultivated over the years will these friends be sad at your passing? Or will they remember all the turmoil you brought them through? What about your children? Will they miss you or will they feel as if they were robbed of not really knowing you?

My contention is most of us don’t spend enough time determining the legacy we want to leave behind. Like it or not, we leave a living legacy of everyone we have ever touched for the good or the bad.

With this in mind, why not begin right now and determine to live out a positive, Godly legacy. Start with ridding yourself of anything that detracts from being a person of integrity. Get rid of habits that keep you from operating at your full capacity. Get rid of attitudes that prevent you from seeing God’s will.

It means being willing to mend broken fences and rebuild some wells that have been long overgrown with weeds. It means being a servant minded person and not a hard hearted person who sees people as a meal ticket.

Sometimes leaving a positive legacy means standing against the evil being foisted upon you by politics, religion, business, media and peers. Taking a stand is not a popularity move, it’s a Godly move. Standing for what is right takes courage and fearlessness and has a cost to it but one well worth paying. Even if you’re the single candle in a dark cave you bring light and that’s power!

Action Steps

1) Call your parents and tell them you love them or at least you are grateful they did their best to raise you and take care of you. Even if you come from a very abusive background, acknowledging them as humans will go a long way in healing your broken heart and not passing the bitterness onto your children.

2) Call three friends you haven’t talked to in 6 months or longer and tell them how much you are grateful to have them as friends.

3) Listen to your co-worker or your employee the next time they are hurting and they need a shoulder to cry on.  Don’t pass judgment just listen.

4) Hug your children and tell them you love them and demonstrate it by spending more time with them.

5) Hug your spouse and tell them how much you love them and that you are grateful to have them as your partner and friend.

6) Thank your clients for doing business with you.

7) Be a mentor, teacher and demonstrate ethics in all you do.

8) Stop procrastinating and launch that long dreamed about venture.

9) Stop the pity party and get on with life before it passes you by.

10) Don’t give into tyrants, but resist them.

11) Create an A-Team of trustworthy friends who will have your back

If you apply some of these ideas and add your own, I know for certain you will leave a positive legacy and be fondly remembered at your funeral.

Here’s to leaving a positive legacy.

Steve Johann

P.S. Feel free to email me how this article impacted you and the results of your actions after reading it. Contact me at and use the contact form. You can also find my work on my YouTube channel under Steve Johann and soon other digital outlets.

About: Steve Johann is a follower of Jesus, father of 3 God fearing sons and husband of their beautiful mother of 30 plus years. He operates Steve Johann Productions, has been Podcasting since 2007 his show is lastly he is passionate about educating, inspiring and motivating people through his God based teaching and writing.


You Are What You Reflect

It is odd at times how life can take you down turns you would not expect…



By: Ukrainian Bear

This article was first printed in our very first issue of The Beartaria Times Magazine, Origins, A Revealing of Legends

Ever since I was a little boy, I had been a curious little hobbit. Always getting lost trying to find something, whether it’s a wooden sword at a toy shop or a game of chess played by a couple old guys at the beach while my family frantically searches for me. I’ve always been searching, curious to look farther, and walk further. I think we all do this, to one degree or another. 

Growing up as a child in Ukraine it seemed that everyone could do everything.

My grandfather worked in a chemical factory, served in the Soviet Army, learned to fix elevators to get cheaper rent, ongoing he fixed his own van to transport church goers from village to village, put in plumbing and radiant heating in the church that he had built from the ground up. My father is a musician by trade, fixes instruments of all sorts, knows how to work with sheetrock, independently learned 3 languages apart from Russian and Ukrainian which he fluently knew, repairs tiny electrical work found in most audio and video instrumentation, alongside my grandfather built up the same church they had been working on for 20+ years. 

All the other members of the church I attended in Ukraine were just as talented. I guess I didn’t fall too far from the tree knowing how to use a medical ultrasound machine, take care of the handicapped, drive a tractor trailer, climb and take down trees with a chainsaw attached to my hip, learning to fix my chainsaws, tuning my own piano, and carving wooden bowls and little sculptures. The list will probably continue to grow, but I think my curiosity does have its limits. Even so, I didn’t come by my skills in one day and not without help.

Due to varying circumstances I had been living between America and Ukraine for a majority of my life. As such, I was able to come to understand the subtle and not so subtle differences between the cultures, as well as what makes its people what they are. In a high trust society, you can be certain a man will properly perform for a hired task, but in a low trust society you can only trust yourself to fix something, because someone is always looking to cheat you out of something, somehow.

Fundamentally, Ukraine is a low trust society where the people seem to have a wide range of skills. While they are poor, the low income breeds creativity with available tools. Low trust is created by the level of sin acceptance, which in turn creates struggle that is fertile ground for skill growth. It’s almost like a sine wave. The more sin acceptance there is in a society there will also exist an equal or proportional counter wave of skill necessity. 

To put it in other words, the more people give in to sin, the more there arises an equal need for those individuals who can compensate for the skills lost to indulgence. This is not to say that having an immoral society is a good thing because it breeds industriousness, but that there is simply a greater need for people to be able to survive in their created environment. The way I explain the difference in culture is this: if an American stops at a red light and no one is around, he will wait until it turns green to go, but a Ukrainian will keep driving through a red light even if there are cars around. Morality starts with daily small, insignificant decisions. 

After my mother divorced my father  for whatever her reasons may have been and then remarried an American, I went on to grow up in Virginia as an 8 year old boy. There I was taught that I should work for my money and not have it handed to me like the rest of my friends around me at the time. So, I decided to take my family’s push lawn mower around the neighborhood and cut people’s grass. I was fairly successful and the people I did the work for were happy. Nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass in the summer. 

When a very large snow storm hit Virginia and we had the week off from school. I took the opportunity to take all the shovels I had and recruit my friends to shovel people’s driveways. I just wanted people to have a clean driveway and spend time with my friends. We made quite a bit of money that day, but what I remember the most, even to this day, was how I was treated by the very last family that let us shovel their driveway. 

They were a very nice older couple and they had given both my friend and I a cup of hot chocolate. The steam coming from the cup on a background of white snow and shaky wet hands was the best time I ever had. Working with a purpose and being appreciated for it. It’s pure, simple, and true. Couldn’t hide or cheat your way out of a shoveled driveway. 

My teenage years didn’t lend themselves to having an abundance of diverse practical skills. Due to difficult circumstances in my mother’s life, she decided to send me back to Ukraine to live with my father and grandparents. I effectively didn’t know Russian or Ukrainian at that point, so having to go to high school right away, I had a lot of catching up to do. This difficult circumstance was just another opportunity to grow, and I did. 

In the Ukrainian high school I attended, I was taught to be a linguistics and history major focusing on the English language, Ukrainian history, and WWII. I went to school 6 days a week, had multiple college level courses in biology, physics, chemistry, and literature; and most of my nights were spent studying these subjects. Most if not all the people in my class would go on to be political analysts, working for embassies, or occupying some part of government. These are the things we were being trained for. 

After 5 years invested in strenuous studying, this seemed fine to me. My grandfather said I would make a good ambassador someday, because of my character. Dealing with people, paperwork, and time constraints is all I had been doing, so it made sense to me at the time. 

It was not until I returned to America, where I had spent a good portion of my preteen days, that I began to change my views on what I wanted to do with my life. While I wanted to make a positive difference in people’s lives, I found that working in politics was not the way I wanted to do it. 

Having watched both of the important men in my life work with their hands, it did not seem foreign or beneath me to go work for a fence installation company to meet certain ends. I worked for the company for a brief 6 months, in which time I learned to install different kinds of fencing material. I’m certainly not a professional by any means, but I can put in a simple vinyl or wood fence post. 

It is odd at times how life can take you down turns you would not expect. The very same man that hired me to install fences, guided me towards getting into the medical field. He told me that I should try it and that it would suit me, as it would have “been a shame to waste my intelligence” on simply putting up fences. After this I signed up for an EMT class at my local ambulance department where I eventually got my license. Having realized that I couldn’t earn much being an EMT, I decided to go to college and become an ultrasound technician (sonographer). Since I needed a steady job and wanted to pay for the program in full without incurring debt, I worked for a couple from my church that needed help with a family member that had several handicaps.

Thanks to the skills and license that I acquired prior as an EMT, I was able to get the job and have gained not only a steady income, but life-long friends, people that care and are good. To think back, it may have seemed that it was a waste of time to get my EMT license and I could have done something better with my time, but everything happens for a reason by God’s grace. As my grandfather would say, “There’s no such thing as just a coincidence”. Everything and everyone has their purpose. 

I worked a full year while going to college taking my prerequisite classes. Earned all the money I needed for the program and was off to the races. I got accepted into a Diagnostic Medical Sonography program, which only accepted 12 students every year out of 100 applicants. I continued to work weekends at my job and went to school interning at various hospitals as part of the program. I was offered a job my first year in the 2 year medical program, which was unheard of. I told my program director that I had an interest in becoming a Surgical Physician Assistant. Per her recommendation, I spent a semester in a cadaver course, where I figured out that my skills with the scalpel were quite good. My program director was well connected in the medical field and desired to help me achieve my dream. She certainly had the means to make my aspirations come true having worked for Yale and being the top OB/GYN sonographer in the state, if not in the country. She had all the connections necessary and I had the drive, as well as the talent, to achieve this goal I had in mind. 

The path seemed to be laid out before me. Go to college, study hard, preserver through late nights to come out the other end with a job that I could be proud of doing, because I knew that I was making a difference in people’s lives. Continue to work hard as a sonographer while saving money to pay for the next and final step, which would be the operating room, the pinnacle of American medicine. To be the man that could save another person’s life by sheer technique and comprehension of human anatomy. In my eyes this was a good path. 

Around the year 2016, I had begun to notice subtle changes in American culture and attitude towards life. It appeared more indulgent, more accepting of sin, and less accepting of the truth. People seemed to complain more than they acted. Almost suddenly it became acceptable to go through a red light when no one was looking. But someone is always watching, even if you don’t see or acknowledge Him. The penalty for sin is death. 

There had been many things that I encountered in the medical field that did not make sense to me. Why is it that even though America has the best healthcare system, the population is one of the unhealthiest? Why does a plastic (butt and cheeks) surgeon get paid more than a surgeon who can put together a leg that’s been ripped apart by a chainsaw? How can a doctor go from one room consoling a woman who just lost her 4th in vitro fertilization (IVF) baby, then go to another room where they plan the dismemberment of a healthy baby, as if the previous experience did not occur? The inconsistencies were all far too familiar. These things cannot last long under their own weight. I told several people whom I knew that there was a change coming to America. Most told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about, some just silently listened. 

Around this time I found the comedian Owen Benjamin, who was talking about all the things I had been seeing, while no one else was. Interestingly, it was also around this time that I had a chainsaw accident that would propel me into a better future. I had to take 6 months off from my medical program and it was during this time that I intensely studied how to properly operate and fix chainsaws. I also learned how to climb trees and cut them down with various rigging equipment.

I thought I might want to go on to be a lineman as I learned to climb and found that I needed a commercial drivers license (CDL) to even be considered for an apprenticeship at a local union. I signed up with a local CDL school, paid in full to get into a fixed rate, because I saw the value in this and knew changes were coming. I don’t know why I did all these things at the time. It certainly seemed insane to my family at the time. I just had a feeling that this was important and the right thing to do.

Then 2019 hit everyone like a ton of bricks. I realized that I had to let go of my dream of becoming a surgeon. It was painful because I knew I could do it, but at what cost? Where do you stop and when? This was it for me. I knew now was the time to act, because the times are changing and so must I. All the hours spent on YouTube learning to climb, cut, and fix had finally begun to pay off. My medical program was following the lead of everyone else in the medical community, turning away from logic and reason. I knew there was no going back and that I couldn’t, with a clear conscience, work in the field. 

I finished the program in 2020 and got that paper I had worked so hard for. But I was already looking towards where I was going next. I saw many streams of ideas, like streams of invisible ribbons laying above my head, which I could grab on to. All leading further ahead into an unknown future, but with faith I am less fragile and can stand against the persistent winds of trial.  Now I have my class A CDL and am currently clearing 3 acres of land for a friend of mine who wants to build a farm. This same friend also got me in contact with his brother who works for a crane company and I am in the process of getting a job there. Drivers and climbers are needed everywhere. There are plenty of open positions for the taking. All most people ask for is that you be honest, not drink, not do drugs, and show up on time.

While I was able to attain these skills and walk these paths, they would not have been possible without the generosity of people like my father and grandmother who sacrificed much of their time and money to put me through high school, my grandfather who spent many late nights talking with me about life and how a man ought to be, and the kindness of many strangers whom never knew me, yet shared their life with me. In a like fashion, I deal generously with what I have to others. It is better to give than to receive and it is good to help those you do not know, because even some have catered to angels. These acts are pleasing to God and such sacrifice He enjoys. 

For those seeking to find a skill or to grow, my advice would be to seek the truth. You will be provided the skills and tools necessary to walk further than those who are not. It is my sincerest hope to be a humble reflection of the light that is poured into me, for what is a man without God and Jesus Christ? I hope it is yours as well.

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Eleven Principles for Leaders

My troops knew that they would get credit for our success and that any blame for failure would land squarely on my own shoulders.



By: Woodworking Gunny Bear

In my previous writing, ‘Leadership, From J to E,’ I discussed the fourteen leadership traits. Those traits are the basic foundation on which any prospective leader can build. Without them, even a “natural born leader” will inevitably fail to lead even the thirstiest of horses to a watering hole.

For a good leader to become a great leader, they must continuously learn and grow. They have to find every opportunity to apply what they are learning, make mistakes, improve their techniques, and apply what they have learned again. This application of the leadership traits to specific situations can be guided by certain principles. If followed, many negative results will be avoided, and a leader can build on successes, while mistakes can be traced to their causes and corrected. The following leadership principles have proven to be effective in developing great leaders of men and are applicable both on and off the battlefield. (I studied these principles during my career in the military. However, wherever it says “Marine,” you can easily substitute the words employees, community, etc.)

The 11 Marine Corps Leadership Principles are:

1) Know yourself and seek self-improvement

At first glance, this principle seems like an easy one. In actuality, It can be the most difficult. Most people have a hard time being honest about their own weaknesses. I have seen a lot of “leaders” who admit that they need to be more physically fit because they can add a few more points to their physical fitness test to get a perfect score. It is more of a quiet self-compliment about their already adequate fitness level. What they never admit to themselves is that they tend to take the easier, less moral path as long as no one is there to see it. Improvement in the former area might make for a minimally better leader, but improving integrity will make for a significant leap in effective leadership. When seeking self-improvement, focus on those hard truths and areas where you stand to gain the most.

2) Be technically and tactically proficient

Technical proficiency is being good at your specific job. Tactical proficiency is achieved by knowing about other people’s jobs and how to best use everyone’s skills in concert to achieve a specific goal. A good example would be an experienced construction foreman: His construction plans are well laid out, he has gotten all permits prior to beginning a job, and all required supplies have been ordered. He has also scheduled inspections, deliveries, etc.

As the work begins, he keeps the concrete guys, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc., on schedule and out of each other’s way. He has an eye for detail and is able to make suggestions and adjustments as required. The result is a quality piece of construction and tradesmen who look forward to working for that foreman in the future.

3) Know your Marines and look out for their welfare

I had quite a few senior leaders during my career. Many of them have mostly faded from my memory (probably assisted by my many brain injuries), but there is one who I will never forget. First Sergeant Conover was an 18-year infantryman and was my senior enlisted leader during my first tour in Iraq. Within a week of joining our 100+ man unit, he knew every Marine’s full name, whether or not they had a wife or children, their general financial situation, as well as any other personal issues they might have. A week or two after that, he familiarized himself further and could tell you what each Marine’s strengths and weaknesses were. If you messed up, the punishment was swift and harsh but always fair. He never mistreated his subordinates and always ensured that they got their mail, chow, and pay. We were all willing to follow him because we knew that in addition to being harder than woodpecker lips, he was GENUINELY concerned with our welfare.

4) Keep your Marines informed

I have never liked leaders who answer questions with, “Because I said so.” I am also in staunch disagreement with the “There’s no such thing as a dumb question” philosophy. Admittedly, I am likely a bit biased after years of fielding hundreds of questions a week as a Marine instructor. Trust me when I say that if you get enough Marines in one room, eventually, somebody will ask a dumb question.

That being said, an effective leader heads off most questions (good ones as well as bad) by keeping those they lead well informed. Whenever possible, a leader should carefully explain how a given task will be accomplished, why that task is important to the overall plan, what each person’s responsibilities are, and what actions should be taken if any likely problems should arise. Also, take some time to specifically cover any safety issues associated and what will ultimately constitute success and failure regarding a task.
Many of those I have led expressed their appreciation of my habit of not withholding any information. They also said how much easier it was for them to make adjustments on the fly since they had all available knowledge at their disposal.

5) Set the example

A leader must always be willing to do whatever it is that they ask of those they lead. An overweight and out-of-shape health teacher deserves to be mocked, not followed. A lazy individual who cuts corners deserves a demotion or firing, not a promotion to a senior position.

Something I learned early on was that your juniors are always watching you and that any sign of hypocrisy will be used by them as an excuse. Any father or mother with a bad habit has heard (or will eventually hear), “…but Dad/Mom, you fill in the blank, so why can’t I?”
A good leader must be beyond reproach and must work even harder than their subordinates. This ensures that they can’t make excuses for failure and that a drive to live up to the leader’s example is instilled within them.

6) Ensure the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished

Supervision is one of the most important tasks that a leader has. While delegating responsibilities to subordinates is often required and offers opportunities for them to take on a leadership role, the senior leader should always conduct a meeting or brief prior to the start of a large project. A quick question and answer session before starting will bring to light any confusion. Here are a few tips for Q and A sessions: Never just say, “Any questions?….No?…Ok, let’s get to it.” Many people won’t ask a question for fear of looking dumb. If no one has a question, go around the horn, asking each person a question related to the project. This will let you know if everyone is on the same page. Also, always leave the door open to ask a question after the brief. That removes the possibility of them “looking dumb” in front of others.

Throughout the project, conduct supervision responsibilities at regular intervals, as well as randomly. This keeps everyone honest. A leader must also recognize when they should step back and let their juniors work. Too much supervision quickly turns into micromanaging and stifles initiative and creativity in subordinates.
When the project is complete, the senior leader should personally conduct an inspection or review and give feedback on everyone’s performance. There is nothing worse than working hard to accomplish a task, and a supervisor doesn’t even bother to inspect the fruits of your labor.

7) Train your Marines as a team

Getting those you lead to work together for a common goal can be difficult. With so many different personalities, there are lots of opportunities for conflict or friction. Setting up activities where everyone spends time together during free time can help build relationships. A good leader can explain how every team member plays a part in the success of a given project. Figuring out what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are, then building teams based on that will reduce the chance of two people bumping heads during a project. Also, making everyone’s roles clear is helpful here too. Building your smallest team’s cohesion, then incorporating the smaller teams together will help in getting the separate small teams to work together as a cohesive unit.

8) Make sound and timely decisions

This principle is based on a combination of the leadership traits of knowledge, judgment, and decisiveness, and it directly affects a leader’s credibility. Few people will follow someone who consistently makes poor decisions. Similarly, waiting for the situation to develop to the point where the decision is out of your hands is antithetical to being in a leadership role. You need to quickly assess a given situation, weigh the possible consequences of several courses of action, then make a decision and stick with it. A leader can make adjustments to a course of action as the situation develops, but they must ensure everyone is aware of any changes and why the changes were made.

9) Develop a sense of responsibility among your subordinates

A confident leader isn’t constantly looking over their shoulder, worried that someone could supplant them at any time. The saying, “A high tide raises all ships,” relates directly to this leadership principle. A good leader finds ways to put subordinates into positions of responsibility and helps them gain confidence as leaders. In the Marine Corps, we often say that everyone should know the jobs of the two ranks above them. This results in greater rates of success in the event that a given leader is “removed” from the situation. If subordinates don’t voluntarily take charge, make them take charge.

I would often plan these opportunities for our training. I’d conduct a detailed brief and lay out the chain of command. At specific points during training, I would remove key individuals (including myself) from the scenario, forcing juniors to step up and take charge. After observing from a distance, I would bring everyone in to discuss what happened and give advice on what went well and what could be done to improve in the future.

10) Employ your command in accordance with its capabilities

A leader should continuously conduct honest assessments of their team. A leader must make themselves aware of what the team does well, where they are merely adequate, and what they are incapable of. Employ the team based on these assessments, assigning specific tasks based on team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to arrange for outside support when it comes to areas where a capability is lacking. For example, if one of your tasks is to build a barn, but no one on your team knows the difference between a hammer and a handsaw, would you stand more chance of success by hoping for the best or by calling in a carpenter? A great leader knows how to task their team and doesn’t set them up for failure by expecting them to work outside of their capabilities.

11) Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions

How will you ever be a leader if you don’t seize the opportunity to lead? My time in the Marine Corps is a good example of how well this leadership principle works. In boot camp, squad leaders are fired constantly by Drill Instructors. Each time one was fired, I would sprint up and volunteer for the job. Each time, the Drill Instructors would send me away because I was a disgusting fat body (aka diet recruit, aka anything wider than a bean pole). Finally, after a couple weeks of this happening several times a day, they gave me a chance. I was emplaced as First Squad Leader for Platoon 1057. I made the most of that opportunity and was meritoriously promoted due to my performance. This one act set my entire career on a path of leadership. I was always a Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, Instructor, Operations Chief, etc. My troops knew that they would get credit for our success and that any blame for failure would land squarely on my own shoulders. This principle served me well, and I still utilize it today whenever the opportunity arises.

“Leaders aren’t born. They are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal or any goal.”

-Vince Lombardi

Some are considered to be natural-born leaders. With scrutiny, I believe we would find that the situations, experiences, and choices along the way deeply influenced how these individuals gained the mantle of leadership. While there is no formulaic solution to becoming a leader, with hard work and dedication, everyone has the ability to lead when the opportunity arises. Curating the leadership traits and applying them through these leadership principles is a proven means to find success as a leader.

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Leadership, From J to E

How many of these traits do you have? One? None? All 14? I am a firm believer that anyone, given the will and opportunity, can develop into a leader.



By: Woodworking Gunny Bear

There are many things from my 20 years in the Marine Corps that I do not remember fondly. That being said, the opportunity and honor to lead thousands of young men, both on and off the battlefield, is a memory that can never be tarnished. As a Marine, being a capable leader is as important of a skill as firing a weapon accurately. Because of this, the Marine Corps begins developing its future leaders in boot camp. The process of learning to effectively lead others continues throughout a Marine’s career. To aid in this endeavor, the Corps has created countless leadership courses as well as a world-class Academy system. While attending the various Academies, Marines attempt to gain mastery in a multitude of subjects such as military history, tactics, strategy, and of course, leadership.

Contrary to popular belief, Marine boot camp isn’t all shooting, marching, and bayonet training, although there is a fair amount of each.

There are hundreds of hours of classes. Everything you do in boot camp has a class (or a multitude of classes) associated with it, even shooting, marching, and bayonet training. Along with each class, there is often a new acronym to learn. The military is thoroughly convinced that it is impossible for troops to remember anything that doesn’t have an acronym. The primary acronym linked to leadership is…wait for it…JJ DID TIE BUCKLE. I’m sure someone received a medal for that one. As ridiculous as it sounds, any Marine worth their salt will know that JJ DID TIE BUCKLE is the acronym for remembering the 14 Marine Corps leadership traits. These traits, however, aren’t only applicable to Marines. Anyone wanting to step up into a leadership position or to further develop their existing skill as a leader will find it difficult to do so without first making a conscious decision to begin exhibiting the following traits:

Justice – A good leader remains fair and consistent. Few will follow someone who always hands the easiest task to their best friend or doles out overly harsh punishments that do not fit the crime. They willingly follow someone who ensures that their decisions, regardless of the people or circumstances involved, are just.

Judgment – There are few quicker ways to get someone to stop looking to you for leadership than consistently making poor decisions. Leaders must not only make decisions, and they must make sound ones. Even if a specific decision results in failure, ensure you’re able to defend each decision you make with sound reasoning and logic.

Dependability – Leaders who cannot be relied upon to perform their jobs properly lose respect quickly. It’s even worse when a leader isn’t even around when it really counts. Develop a reputation for dependability by performing each task to the best of your ability, being on time, never making excuses, and taking responsibility for failures.

Initiative – Good leaders don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do. They see a problem as an opportunity and make sure it’s addressed right away. Develop your initiative by actively looking for problems or tasks and working on them without having to be told to do so. Don’t forget the second J. Many Marines have been told the following, “Good initiative, bad judgment.” If the task is new or complex, it is a good idea to do some research or seek a bit of guidance.

Decisiveness – Decisiveness means making decisions quickly and confidently. Decisive leaders aren’t so worried about making a mistake that they freeze at decision time, but they’re not so brash that they miss important facts (see: judgment). You can develop your decisiveness by quickly weighing the pros and cons of even trivial decisions, then sticking with your choice. When larger, more important decisions present themselves, you’ll feel more confident while quickly working through the decision-making process.

Tact – Tact is similar to the saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” You don’t have to be overly nice, but a tactful leader remains polite and calm even in stressful situations. Taking a moment to consider tact BEFORE an interaction will help you behave courteously even when you feel like clicking off safe. If you tend to struggle with tact, remember that the negative results of a leader’s lack of tact is more often felt by those being led.

Integrity – Having integrity means valuing moral principles above all else and refusing to compromise on values, even when everyone else is doing so. A leader without integrity isn’t worth following, so always strive to make moral choices, especially when no one is watching.

Enthusiasm – Enthusiastic leaders inspire others by showing sincere excitement about any task they’re given. Even the most menial job will be taken on with zeal by others if you can remain enthusiastic and show genuine interest in its accomplishment.

Bearing – If you strive to be a leader who others respect, you need to carry yourself with confidence, competence, and control. I have known several men in leadership roles who lost all of their troop’s respect because, when the proverbial poop hit the fan, they became manic and outwardly showed their fear. Always be aware that those being led are watching you for cues and will gain or lose confidence based on how you appear to be handling a situation.

Unselfishness – We are all familiar with the concept of planting a tree, from which you may never get to enjoy the shade or fruit. A good leader never has ulterior or selfish motives, and they always put the success of their team first. Any accomplished business owner will tell you that the employees always get paid first, take the most breaks, and get the most days off. I have completely written off “leaders” for the simple act of eating before their troops. It told me everything I needed to know about them. It is also important to give credit to subordinates whenever possible.

Courage – Most people think of courage as not being afraid of something. In actuality, if someone has never been afraid, they have never had an opportunity to be courageous. Courage is grace and the ability to perform in the face of fear. A great leader needs both physical courage when leading a team into a dangerous situation; and moral courage to stand up for his or her beliefs, especially when making an unpopular decision. Develop courage by identifying and facing down your fears.

Knowledge – Knowledgeable leaders work diligently to learn everything required to perform their job at the highest level. They constantly strive to learn more about their tasks, their subordinates, and their general field of expertise. A knowledgeable leader is someone that others seek out in order to get the right answer. There is a serious pitfall to becoming the subject matter expert, however. Some leaders become afraid to say that they don’t know something. Many good leaders have shot themselves in the foot by making up an answer on the spot. Your subordinates will rarely look down on you for saying, “I’m not sure about that, but let me find out for you.” Just don’t forget to follow up with them once you find your answer!

Loyalty – The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful). Loyalty to Country, Corps, and your fellow Marines are reinforced heavily throughout Marine Corps training. Some ways of showing loyalty as a leader are: 1) Never discuss team problems with outsiders. 2) Never complain about an order from your own boss in front of your subordinates.
3) Always ask your subordinates for their side of the story before addressing a problem. That doesn’t mean that you have to decide in their favor, but everyone will see that you care enough about them to ask. 4) Ensure that you are always loyal, or you will never gain loyalty in return. As much as possible, treat your team as your family.

Endurance – I always found it fitting that the final leadership trait was endurance. While each leadership trait interplays with one or more other traits, endurance must be applied to them all. The ability to continuously strive to finish a task, regardless of difficulty, pain, or fatigue, is what defines a leader with endurance. A true leader never slacks off when it comes to exhibiting these traits, especially when it would be easy to “let one slide.” You can’t just dip your toes into developing yourself as a leader. You have to dive in and never stop swimming. The only way to improve endurance in your personal life is by pushing yourself past your perceived limits on a regular basis.

Well, there it is. Leadership from J to E. There are other aspects of leadership that I learned in the Marine Corps, all of which tend to refer back to the basic leadership traits of JJ DID TIE BUCKLE. I may eventually write more about what I learned about leadership.

The 11 Marine Corps Leadership Principles are definitely worth covering, but without embodying the traits listed above, you would be better off following or just getting out of the way.

How many of these traits do you have? One? None? All 14? I am a firm believer that anyone, given the will and opportunity, can develop into a leader. I have personally witnessed many a “natural leader” crumble under the weight of command. Conversely, I have watched the weakest, meekest Marines push themselves to excellence and assume the mantle of leadership. A great leader strives for continual growth. Spend some time each day working on at least one of these traits, and (with endurance) you’ll eventually grow into a leader others will not only follow but respect.

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