Recently I’ve been working with a client who’s a veteran. His company has many close ties to the military community, and it comes into play quite a bit in our work. Though I have a few family members who have served our country, military life and customs weren’t very familiar to me until recently.
I’ve learned a lot from working with this particular client. It’s clear his time in the service contributed immensely to his success, not just in business but life in general, and I’ve been lucky enough to pick his brain about some of his most important habits.
Based on what I’ve gathered, here are seven military habits that translate perfectly into a recipe for entrepreneurial success. Thanks to my client, and to all who’ve served our country, for passing on their discipline to the rest of us.
Make Your Bed Every Morning
It’s such a simple thing, but it really sets the tone for the rest of your day. Of course, this habit is about much more than just tidying up your sleeping space; it’s a about taking pride in your space and your belongings.
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven told graduates of the University of Texas making their bed was the single most effective thing they could do to start the day.
"If you make your bed every morning,” he said, “you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.”
And we all know the power of that kind of snowball effect when you’re working toward a goal.
Take Care of Your Body
Physical fitness is of high importance to the military, with each branch setting its own stringent requirements new recruits must pass.
For our men and women in uniform, being in shape is a direct necessity to be able to do the job well. For entrepreneurs, it’s a key ingredient to reaching our peak performance at the office.
Getting and staying in shape contributes to your overall wellbeing, while working out daily boosts your mental and physical energy so you’re well-equipped to handle whatever your business throws at you on any given day.
Follow a Strict Schedule
Many veterans report one aspect of military life that stays with them well after they’re out of the service is a strictly regimented routine. It’s no accident that our servicemembers eat, sleep and do everything else at the same time each day; it’s by design.
Following a consistent routine is best for our bodies, which thrive on homeostasis. When something throws off our regular schedule, our physical and mental performance suffer. Perhaps the most important item in the schedule for our overall success is sleep.
Many successful entrepreneurs cite consistency as the biggest contributing factor to their success; for more on this, check out our post on why routines are sexy here.
Dress For Success
The “high and tight” haircut. The pristinely polished shoes. The spotless dress pants with razor-sharp creases. Servicemembers always look sharp in uniform.
Take a cue from our military and dress for success in your business. Studies have shown when people wear nicer clothes—regardless of their actual position—they’re likely to achieve more than if they dressed as a slouch.
When you’re the boss, it’s easy to slack in the appearance department. Do yourself a favor and leave the house each day dressed so that you’re poised to meet an important investor or new business partner; after all, you never know when you actually might corss paths with one of these important individuals!
Show Up Early
A common military saying is “15 minutes prior to 15 minutes prior.” In other words, if you’re on time, you’re late. There may be no business maxim more important than this.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost faith in a person or company simply because they kept me waiting far past our agreed-upon meeting time. When you show up late, intentional or not, you convey a lack of respect for the other person’s time.
That’s why the military’s motto on timeliness is such a great one. It accounts for not only your own accidental tardiness, but unforeseen circumstances that may delay your arrival. Always plan to be somewhere “15 minutes prior to 15 minutes prior.”
Go To Bat For Your Team
In the utmost display of valor, our service members regularly put their lives on the line for their comrades. While it would be wrong to compare running a business to defending our country, there’s a lesson civilians can learn here.
Going to bat for your team members is the ultimate display of solidarity. Whether it’s taking the fall for an employee’s mistake or going the extra mile to create a better work environment in spite of added costs, these important actions show your commitment to your team and build trust in your leadership.
Debrief After Big Moves
Just as the generals convene in the briefing room after an important operation, so should you meet with key players on your team after a big business move. Discuss your successes, analyze what went wrong and talk through ideas for how to improve your performance on the next go-round.
The best innovators are constantly looking for ways to improve. By debriefing with your team on a regular basis, you’ll avoid making the same mistakes repeatedly and be privy to a constant stream of new and better ideas.
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