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The Reasons For Seasons



There are many reasons why we have seasons in this realm, and most of those reasons are never thought about by the vast majority of the population. Depending on your geographical location, seasons are typically associated with a complaint. It’s too hot during summer, too cold during winter, too rainy in autumn and spring. Folks tend to always have some sort of grief with the weather, and society has morphed holidays into a way of getting through these seasons. We look forward to the “holiday season” of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. We jam pack as many holidays into the course of a few months as we can to give ourselves something to look forward to in those wet, cold, dreary times. And in doing so I would argue that we’ve all but lost the true reasoning behind the changing seasons.

To start this, we need to view things (as best as we can) from God’s perspective, and his intentions for us. If His intentions were for us to always be fed, have no hardships in life, have superficial relationships with family/friends, and simply have fun all the days of our lives, then we would live in perpetual summer. The sunlight would beat down all day every day, producing monstrous crops year round. We wouldn’t have to worry about the cold. We wouldn’t have to plan ahead. We wouldn’t need to form communities with the sole intention of surviving.

But God’s intention for us in this life is not that. His intention is for us to grow. Growth requires dark times, both literally and metaphorically, as much as it requires what we associate with good times. A plant will die if it just has sunlight and gets no water. It will die if it doesn’t get the proper nutrition. It will die if it gets eaten by bugs. So to will we wither away if we don’t have a proper balance of perspectives, reflection, appreciation, nutrition, emotional experiences, etc. A plant will grow better with companion planting. Corn grows well with beans and squash. They provide what the other is lacking. We too require community to really thrive, and the seasons are the ultimate factor in the creation of these communities.

Spring: Springtime is a wondrous time to experience. You can feel the life energy in the air as the trees start sprouting leaves again, the birds start singing, the flowers start to bloom, and you see all of the newly born critters running about. The persistent cadence of short rains and bright sunlight tells everything that it’s time to wake from winter’s slumber and start to grow. This too happens within us. Every year at this time we all experience that kick of energy. We all start to plan our gardens, plan what we’d like to accomplish in our lives for the year, what projects we’d like to complete, and where we’d like to be when winter rolls around again. We look at our bodies, full of baked goods and potatoes and think “yeah, it’s time to start working out again”. We have a primal urge to better ourselves. This is what spring is for.

Summer: Summer is typically viewed as the time to have fun. There’s truth to this, but it’s also a continuation of spring in terms of growth. In spring we plan, and in summer we build and maintain. Our crops need constant tending. Our bodies need constant hydration and nutrition. And although it seems easier to get things done in summer, anyone with any level of perception knows that although energy levels are high, you can quickly burn out with the constant heat and endless light. Again, we require balance. Towards the end of summer we all look forward to autumn, because we know it will bring rest. But until that day comes, summer is when we work hard. And we should be working hard to ensure we have enough food and supplies for the cold months. As spring was to planning, so is summer.

Autumn: After 6+ months of heat, sunlight, growth, work, fun, excitement, and joy, autumn brings with it a much needed respite. We are not made to crush nonstop 100% of the time, and autumn forces us to slow down and rest. The waning hours of sunlight change our circadian clock and our bodies start producing melatonin earlier in the evening, making us tired at 6pm rather than 10pm. We no longer have an abundance of those high sugar fruits that are ripe off the tree (or we shouldn’t in a natural world), and we move towards meats and root vegetables which are stored more easily. This changes our digestive habits. It changes the flora in our digestive tract, which changes our mood. As we consume more calorie and nutritionally dense foods, our digestion slows, and we begin to slow. The almost manic energy that spring and summer bring fades into a calmness, a sleepiness, and a desire to curl up by a fire and read yourself to sleep under a blanket. Bears hibernate, as do we in a way. Autumn is designed to slow us down so we don’t burn ourselves out, to reflect on what we’d like to do differently next year, to appreciate all of the blessings we have, and most importantly to begin resting our bodies.

Winter: The most trying season of them all, winter brings with it bone chilling cold, a minimal diet (or so it would be in a natural world), little light, no growth, and many hardships. Winter is still, and it is still for a reason. Everything on this earth needs a period of deep rest. Every animal rests during winter. Most plants go entirely dormant. Some animals sleep for months. Some bugs literally get frozen into a state of suspended animation until springtime when they thaw and their hearts start beating again. This is all by God’s great design. We all know physical rest is needed. If you don’t sleep for a couple of days you begin to hallucinate and your body begins shutting down. Nobody will argue the importance of a good night’s sleep. But we also require emotional rest, mental rest, and spiritual rest. We need time to quietly reflect on not just the past year, but also on life itself. We need to reflect on our relationships, on our communities, on our jobs, on our life path, and on the trajectory we would like to see in our individual lives. God has given us a time to do this, and it is winter. It’s almost forceful, in that most things we enjoy are stripped away for months, leaving us with only our primal desires. We want warmth, dryness, and food. And in that state of primal survival, we reflect. As we grow our physical strength in spring and summer, we should be growing our emotional and spiritual strength during winter. When all is lost, and we are cold and wet and hungry, we should be looking to God. We should be looking to our communities. We should be looking to our families, who are often overlooked during the excitement of all the chores and projects the other seasons bring. Winter is often seen as a bad thing solely because of the weather, but if you tap into what is actually happening during these months it is beauty beyond compare. We are resting. We are sleeping more. We are reflecting. We are seeking God. Our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls are healing. Most people literally purge toxins in the form of illness. Again, this is perceived as a bad thing, but it is our body making us stronger and cleaner. Winter brings endless blessings.

Many people view life by the year. They judge themselves on what happened during the course of a giant block of time. But there are seasons within that year. And if we overlook them, and do not pay them their property dues and work with them rather than against them, we can be sure to come up short each year in regard to our self-imposed expectations. If you don’t rest during winter, you won’t have the energy to crush during summer. If you don’t crush during summer and prepare, then you won’t make it through winter.

These natural rhythms have been thrown off with the adoption of cross-country and worldwide shipping, artificial lighting, climate controlled buildings and cars, etc. In a natural world we should not be able to get into our heated vehicle, drive to a grocery store, buy a papaya, go home, and eat it in a fully lit room at midnight in the dead of winter. It is entirely unnatural. And as a result, we feel like we’re living unnatural lives. And it’s because we are. We are not honoring the seasons, the reasons they exist, and we are working against them. This is, in my opinion, directly fighting God’s plans, intentions, and reasoning.

To shift from an unnatural/artificial existence into one more in line with what we’re intended to experience, one can simply make small changes. Those changes will have a massive affect on your health in all areas of life. Instead of having every light on in the house all night after the sun sets in winter, have a small lamp on. Let your body start the production of melatonin. When you get tired, go to bed. Don’t stay up until 2am working. Eat hearty meals that are packed with nutrition and meat during winter, rather than exotic fruits. Let your body replenish itself with what it needs, rather than what tastes good. During summer, don’t sleep in until noon. We’re meant to wake when the sun rises. Don’t pull your curtains shut before bed to block out that morning light. Let it wake you. During autumn, allow yourself to slow down a bit. Things can wait. If you’re pushing through this season as if it’s still summer, you will most definitely crash. One way or another you will get that rest. It’s just a matter of if it’s in a calm manner, or in a state of deathly illness. The choice is always yours.

Honor the reason for the seasons, which is God’s great design, and your life will undoubtedly improve. You don’t need high energy at all times. On the contrary, we are meant to store energy for times of need. We then use that energy, and it needs to be replenished. Replenish yourselves during the times we’re meant to. Live a natural life, and you will not only strengthen yourself but will also bring so much more to your communities. Embrace the hot, the cold, the joy, and the melancholic stillness as blessings, because that’s exactly what they are. 


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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