The Obstacle Course Lesson
What did the confidence course teach me?
Now that’s a question isn’t it? In the Navy, the confidence course isn’t really there to train us on overcoming physical obstacles. Most people in the Navy do not have a need to traverse forest or urban battle fields and those who do end up receiving specialized training after recruit training. So why is it that we had to complete this obstacle course as a part of our training?
While I’m positive that the Recruit Division Commanders (RDC’s) told us something about the course, my fatigued and overwhelmed 18-year-old brain did not retain the information. But, I remember clearly going through the confidence course. I remember how hard it was for someone my size, I’m only 5’1” tall, to jump over and flip around and climb through the obstacles. I also remember being yelled at by the RDC’s because I was struggling and being encouraged by my fellow recruits. And I did make it through the course both times we had to run it.
So what did I learn? I didn’t learn any particularly important physical skill by going through that course. What I learned was much more important, although at 18 I’m not all that sure that the true significance was. But now the lessons I learned show up in the sneakiest of ways. I learned I was capable. I was capable of getting through the physical challenge that was the obstacle course. And more importantly, I learned I was capable of accomplishing just about anything I set my mind to.
I actually bruised my lower ribcage in the process of getting through the obstacle course. It hurt. I had people in authority constantly telling me to quit, to give up, that I couldn’t do it. That hurt to. But I learned to take that frustration, that pain, and turn it into fuel for my accomplishments. I learned that I could persevere and overcome obstacles in life.
Throughout my ten-year Naval career, I often came back to the obstacle course lessons. I worked hard and earned my way up to First Class Petty Officer, or E6 paygrade. I spent two years working on my Air Warfare certification. I used the lessons I learned way back in recruit training in perseverance to grow as a Sailor and a leader. And then I took the lessons with me back to the civilian sector.
Sometimes the situations I was in hurt. They hurt physically, mentally, and emotionally. But every time, every single time that I wanted to quit I would think of that obstacle course. The fact that I did finish, even in the face of difficulties and pain. I’d think “well I know I can get through this too” and then I’d get the job done. Whether the job was taking care of accommodations for my daughter’s special needs, or pursuing and earning my college degree didn’t matter. It was the same skills and the same knowledge that I could do it.
We all have obstacle courses in life. Some more obvious than other. But if you think about your obstacle course and you think about the lessons it has taught you, you will find that you can do. You will learn that you are capable. There will be pain, there will be people trying to stop you, but you can do much more because of the experience of the obstacle course. That’s what I learned for the obstacle courses in my life. What have you learned from yours?