It is being said everywhere, this is a strange and difficult time. Arguably, many have been through harder times, but something about this feels different than anything we have experienced. Because of this feeling, it is possible that some may have forgotten what got them through tougher times; which made them “Warriors” in the first place. Some may not consider themselves Warriors, because they never served in combat, or even in the military. But being a Warrior is not about what you have done, it is about how you think, and how those thoughts help you to act. What makes a Warrior, is the Warrior Mindset, and everyone can have a Warrior mindset; an inner voice that helps overcome whatever challenges we face. If anyone can have a Warrior Mindset, that means everyone has the ability to be a Warrior, and right now, we need Warriors more than ever. The fight may look different, but we can adapt what has made us successful in combat, in sports, in school, in our families, and in business, and use it to move forward. We just need to remember, what makes us all Warriors – how we think.
This isn’t an easy task. A recent article in Bloomberg titled COVID-19 Is Becoming The Disease That Divides Us – By Race, Class, and Age paints a bleak and disturbing view of how this virus is pitting generations against each other, class warfare, and racial discrimination. Reading this and other articles that identify the real impacts of this national emergency on our economy, systems, and people is enough to make most people anxious. Add to all this the feeling of isolation that people may feel as they are ordered to “shelter-in-place” and practice “social distancing” and you have a recipe that exacerbates the original problem to almost insurmountable levels. It is enough to make even the most resilient among us feel completely overwhelmed.
Many Warriors, athletes, and leaders alike have learned that when you can’t change your circumstances, sometimes you need to change your perspective to overcome obstacles. Countless missions in combat have taught warfighters: “aut viam inveniam aut faciam” – I will either find a way or make one. Participants on the athletic field have been told countless times something similar to: “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it”. People of all walks of life have certainly been told some form of: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination”.
Our current crises with COVID-19 can make those feel like false platitudes and Instagram drivel. It is certainly true that words alone will not protect those facing racism, unemployment, and fear. But while the words may not serve us in this time of need, their ideas can provide guidance as we go forward toward uncertainty. How we look toward the future not only affects our future actions, it affects our current mindset. If we take the idea of perspective-changing to our current circumstance, we are able to move toward our future with more resilience and more thoughtful action. We can take the Warrior’s path.
For example, “social distancing” is a phrase that obviously wasn’t well thought out when introduced to our lexicon, and certainly not in a Warrior’s vocabulary. While intended to limit social gatherings, it has led people to feel isolated and shut out. While people have lamented that we are not seeing the unification we did after other crises, like the attacks on September 11th, it is clear that we have put up an imaginary barrier to the unity with our verbiage. Lacking that unity to our fellow humans has created secondary and tertiary effects like looking for someone to blame and looking to only be concerned with self-preservation and self-gratification, such as hoarding and gatherings at spring break.
So, what can we do in the face of adversity if words are not enough? What can any of us do, when many of us are facing real problems that will affect us for a long time? How can we be the Warriors we are meant to be in a time when Warriors are what is needed?
While there are countless examples of people and organizations helping others in this time of need, let’s look at one organization trying to do their part to serve their members and their communities, and trying to change the narrative in our nation from one of “me”, to one of “we”.
Merging Vets and Players (MVP) is a 501 (c)(3) whose mission is to match up combat veterans and former professional athletes together — after the uniform comes off — to give them a new team to tackle the transition together. MVP shows them they are NOT alone. They do this through a program that merges combat veterans and athletes in a workout and “Huddle”. The program starts with a 30-minute workout with a Warrior to their left and right to get that familiar “burn” going again in them. The magic of the MVP begins right after with The Huddle, an hour and fifteen minutes of peer-on-peer support. The Huddle is where they share their challenges in transition and offer each other support and resources. MVP coaches our vets and athletes to be PROUD OF THEIR SCARS, and to use what they experienced on the battlefield or football field to EMPOWER them through the transition. They are reminded of their Warrior Mindset.
So how does this organization execute during this difficult time? They execute the program virtually. They practice physical distancing and social connectedness. They provide predictability, continuity, and support to their members through virtual programs, at a time when those things are in short supply. They provide the virtual program to their members with art and creative writing seminars, business and leadership classes, and virtual fitness clubs to keep their community engaged. After they finish their program workout, the Huddle is filled with conversations about serving their community with service projects aimed at helping those in the greatest risk. These veterans of combat and the field are focused on doing their part to attempt to alleviate at least some of the anxiety, fear, and isolation that our current situation creates. They are focused on what made them great as military members and as teammates – serving something greater than themselves. They are focused on lifting others while they climb. They are focused on unity and world of “we”, not “me”. Together, they remember they are all Warriors.
It is important to remember that they are not alone. Organizations across the world are continuing to serve others and help those in desperate need during a trying time. It is easy to forget, with fear-mongering headlines, negative pundits, and the very real issues many face for the future. But we are not lost. We can take the example of MVP, and organizations that are doing what they can for others, emulate when we can; reach out for the support where we need it, and work together to our future. Only together can we truly prevail.
So, let us try and hunt the good where we can, and do the good where we need. Let us practice physical distancing and social connectedness. Let us move forward together. Let us all be Warriors.
LTC (Ret) J.C. Glick is the National Director for Merging Vets and Players (MVP) and is also a leadership consultant, Partner and co-Founder of Prodromos Leadership Team, who advises at the strategic, operational, team and individual levels. He has a strong background in leadership development, executive personnel assessment and selection, strategy, coaching, counseling and developing innovative solutions to complex problems.
JC served in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer for 20 years, primarily in special operations and special missions units with more than 11 combat tours. Since retiring from the military, JC has brought his innovative and unconventional thoughts on education, leadership, and resiliency into the private sector, consulting with Fortune 500 companies, the NFL, NBA, NCAA and professional sports teams including the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Hornets.
JC recently wrote and published the thought-provoking, groundbreaking book titled “A Light in the Darkness: Leadership Development for the Unknown”, which has been implemented by major corporations including the NFL and Microsoft and endorsed by leaders in the field of education, sports and entertainment, business and the military.