“Never settle!” – West Point Life Lesson #6
My first three weeks of the six week orientation, known as Beast Barracks, for New Cadets at West Point were rough, as it was for most of us who were struggling to adapt to the daily grind at the Academy. I could never seem to get anything right. I was like sticky fly paper, Upper Class Cadets would hover around me just waiting for me to mess up, and I often did not disappoint them.
“What are you doing here, New Cadet?”
“Do you think you deserve to be here, New Cadet?”
“I’m going to make it my personal mission to get you to quit!”
Those were a few of the many comments I heard several times throughout the day. However, there was one phrase I heard the most, and it helped me immeasurably during my initial few weeks, “Never settle!” This was the motto of my Squad Leader, my assigned leader during my initial phase of Beast Barracks.
My Squad Leader would approach me after several Upper Class Cadets had their way with me and would simply whisper, “Never settle.” Whenever I encountered him, I was required to cry out, “Never settle, Sir!” This phrase was short for “Never settle for mediocrity.” A phrase I came to internalize early in my young adult life.
I must admit, I could get down on myself quickly in those early weeks at the Academy and many times I could see the frustration in my Squad Leader’s face when he stood in front of me after I failed in something, but instead of berating me he would simply say, “Never settle.” Over time I adapted to my new life at West Point and began to thrive. Even today there is a little voice inside that dares me to be extraordinary and to never settle for anything, but my best. I could have gone either way in those early days at the Academy and I truly believe my Squad Leader’s belief in me and his daily challenge to “Never settle” was critical to my sustained success. It helped me become a successful Cadet and eventually graduate as an officer in the U.S. Army.
So how do you know if you are settling in your life? I believe there are three main indicators that you may be on a path of mediocrity and need to assess where you are in your life:
First, you will feel unsettled by your situation. It is a gut feeling that things are not right. This is hard to explain, but everyone reading this knows the feeling because we have all been there at some point in our life. If you have a feeling of despair on Sunday night at the mere thought of starting another work week, then you are probably settling and need to rethink your path.
Second, “good enough” is often a sign that you have taken on too much. It is easy to get overwhelmed in tasks and responsibilities to the point that we are not adding value to any of them. If this is you, then you need to seriously think about editing your life and focus on not being good at many things, but outstanding at a few.
Third, if you are not energized about your work or what you are doing in your life then you most likely are settling for mediocrity. When you work within your strengths and accomplish things that you are uniquely qualified, then you wake up every morning excited about the day. People who are excited out of their minds are those that are pursuing extraordinary goals, which is what we are all meant to do.
Are you living in excellence or are you settling for mediocrity? If the answer is anything short of excellence, then I suggest that you stop settling, and start pursuing extraordinary success.