Geezerís Game Plan
J. D. Pendry
Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.† Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.
†Ė Ecclesiastes 11:9
Recently, I received a book in the mail.† I didnít order it.† A younger friend sent it to me.† The name of the book is Game Plan, by Bob Buford.† The gist of it is that if you are approaching geezerdom, itís time to contemplate what you want to do when you grow up.† This gift was in recognition of the 31st anniversary of my 19th birthday.† By most measurements I know about, that is the beginning of geezerdom.† Wherever it is youíre headed when you reach that point in life, be assured that your more than half way there.† In all seriousness, Mr. Bufordís book is about getting in touch with what it is that you really want to do, have always wanted to do and getting yourself into the frame of mind, mentally and spiritually, thatís needed to do it.† He says you need to have these Halftime (the prequel book) contemplations when youíre 40 something.† Because by then, youíre probably about as successful as youíre going to be at what you do now.† Most career military people are about as successful, military wise, as theyíre going to be by age 40.† To tweak an expression, by that stage in my military endeavor, I was all that I could be and in the opinion held by some, probably more than I should have been.
The book caused me to ponder my future, but it caused me to do it in context with my past.† I started my ponderings with a little gezzer math.† 28 of my 50 years, or 56% of my earthly existence were spent in the Army.† Whatís interesting is at year 27, my plan was this:† Retire, find job.† That was about the extent of it.† I knew what my dream job was, but didnít hold out much hope of being able to do it and continue to eat regular and live indoors.† Iím not famous.† I never managed any grand military achievements.† I was a support guy and as such, all the wars and glory days passed me by.† I was never once sexually harassed.† So hiring a ghostwriter to do my biography for a million dollar advance on sales then retiring to my ranch in Montana and becoming a military analyst for network news wasnít an option.
What Mr. Buford (and this friend of mine who clearly believes I need direction as I approach senility) caused me to think of was this.† In 1971, I was a directionless teenage high school dropout working in a Chicago factory.† I was 18 years old and going on 40.† I broke my back for 40 hours a week, spent all of my money on weekend binges with my buddies and repeated.† Itís like those instructions you read on a shampoo bottle, wet hair, lather, rinse, repeat.† Mine was work, party, repeat. Today, some well-meaning sociologist would label me ďat riskĒ.† At risk of becoming a drug addict, thief, murdererÖ.†† Following one of those weekend binges, I walked into a recruiting office.† Less than one week later, I was in the Reception Station at Fort Ord, California.† The Army provided me the direction I was seeking and the proverbial boot in the seat of my pants that I needed to jumpstart my life.† It's a special leadership culture that can take a lost young man and produce someone who is respectful, respectable and useful to society.† Over my years, I had many experiences and learned many lessons about following and leading.† Most good, some not so good, but they were valuable lessons all the same.† As time went by for me, I started writing down the lessons Iíd learned.
The simple truth is that I survived my youth because Army noncommissioned leaders, who once walked in my shoes, shared their wisdom with me.† One weekend, I began looking through my old computer files Ė most of them kept on floppy disks, which I still have in a box out in the garage.† I printed myself a copy of everything I could find, punched holes in it and put it in a notebook.†† Much of it was personal journal stuff, which is my preferred method of trying to figure things out.†† I fooled with it for sometime, editing rewriting organizing, etc.†† I then asked a good friend, and my adopted coach on such matters, to read my collection of lessons, which I dubbed The Three Meter Zone, A NCOs Perspective on Leadership.† Her feedback was positive and encouraging.† Worried that maybe she just didnít want to hurt my feelings, I worked up the courage to give the notebook to a couple of harder than woodpecker lips NCOs I knew.† Again, the feedback was positive.† One, who is still and active CSM, told me that he felt like he just had a long counseling session and could hear me speaking to him as he read it.† My coach encouraged me to send it to a publisher.† Mr. Bob Kane, retired Army officer and founder of Presidio Press, returned my manuscript to me with a letter suggesting that I make some changes and return it to him.† I did that and about a month later, it came back with editing marks and yellow sticky notes all over it and another note from Bob.† I went through this process several times even though there was no offer to publish the book.† Once again, an old soldier was teaching me.† One evening, I received an email from Bob and it said, ďWe want to publish your book.Ē† The rest, as the expression goes, is history.† TMZ certainly never hit anyoneís bestseller list, but it has special meaning to me, mainly because it represents sharing of many lessons Iíve learned.† I believe the most important thing noncommissioned officers, actually any old soldiers can do, is share their lessons.†
That was the long way around to get to back to the point of telling you my geezerís game plan, which is to continue sharing the lessons Iíve learned with anyone who wants to listen, and probably annoying those who donít.†† I learned some principles along the way on which I hope to keep focused while doing this.† Their sort of an expansion of the words of King Solomon quoted at the beginning of this note.
The other part of the game plan is to work hard toward my dream job, which is to research and write about first line leadership, but until it can pay the bills (you see, the only shortfall in Mr. Bufordís little book is that he was rich when he decided to quit his day job and pursue his dreams) Iíll have to keep the day job.† First line leadership makes or breaks organizations whether military or civilian.† CEO provided visions are a great thing, but without the people in the trenches who overcome the obstacles to achieving the vision, it doesnít happen.† Look for my irregular ranting via BunkerTalk and keep your ear to the ground listening for another book to emerge from the Bunker.† I donít know if itíll find a willing publisher, but itíll get it out there somehow.† I must, because thatís my plan.
As they say out here in wild wonderful, ďIíll be talkin atcha.Ē
Copyright © 2002, James D. Pendry, All Rights Reserved