Everything is a Test.

Iraq, Oh-Dark-Thirty:

Our group touched down early in the wee hours of the morning at our destination, stretching our legs and backs after 8+ hours sleeping under trucks or in any flat and smooth spaces we could find in a cavernous C-17 transport aircraft.

We were met by the Sergeant Major, who got us settled and gave us a quick tour of the compound, as best he could in the pitch black morning. He was a typical Sergeant Major: gruff, no-nonsense, and wouldn’t put up with rookie mistakes or attitudes. We rode around the compound in the back of a pickup truck, stopping only to drop off our bags or to talk to someone important we needed to know from the Task Force. I assumed we were already being scrutinized for our as-yet undecided jobs, so I started asserting myself as the leader of the group and made some decisions. Just little things, mind you…


Everything is a TestPhoto Credit: U.S. Air Force

After our familiarization on the compound, our inprocessing was very in-depth and designed to make sure we could hack it at our jobs for the next 6+ months. To say it was an intense, high-ops-tempo place doesn’t begin to describe it.

There were two Captains in our group, so I felt I had to beat out the other guy for a position on the leadership team. The final step of inprocessing, about 72 hours after we started, was an individual interview with the OIC [Officer In Charge], OPSO [Operations Officer], and SGM. [Sergeant Major, come on… keep up!] The result of our interview (and previous rigorous testing) was that I was selected as the new Operations Officer, second in command of the entire organization. The other Captain floated around with nothing to do for about 2 weeks while the rest of his team was set up–while I was quickly involved in the daily ops of the place.

So why the vague reference to an early morning ride through a dark compound?

Because I was being tested. It turned out that the first impression I had was spot-on–I later found out that the Sergeant Major had started our job interviews the minute we stepped off the plane. He was scrutinizing our every move, our handshakes, our drive, and intelligence from the start.

Spain, Orientation Day, 0930:

Fast-forward six years to January 2013: It was orientation day for the new interns at the G42 Leadership Academy. I talked about our style, our background and ethos, and the policies and details of the program. One of the themes I was especially focused on developing and encouraging in our interns is Initiative. And in each intern house, we posted a list of jobs to be done. Not your normal daily or weekly housekeeping jobs, but projects that would take some time, planning, and hard work to accomplish. It was a simple list, with items like “Weed the Yard,” “Paint the kitchen wall,” or “Install a new pole and hang a new clothesline.” There were no names attached, no due dates, just a list of jobs that needed doing.

The idea was that interns, during their down time, had the option to pick up the list and do one of the projects. They also had the option of serving their neighbors, teaching English to kids, or watching movies, surfing Facebook, or a million other time wasters. We don’t regulate study hours, or time on the internet–we leave it up to them. They’re adults and have self-discipline and their conscience to guide them.

But it’s all a test. It helps the leadership at the Leadership Academy determine who really understands the heart of servanthood, who is willing to take initiative, and who is worth investing in. But, like life, there’s no grade, and it all hinges on whether you step up to the challenge.

Everything is a test

…From the minute your alarm rings in the morning until you kiss your wife good night… will you workout each morning like you challenged yourself to, or will you hit snooze? Will you work hard through the day or will you do the minimum amount required? Will you carry a grudge to bed or will you go to bed with your debts all paid?

Everything is a test. There’s no report card, there’s no one looking over your shoulder… but it’s still a test.

Will you pass?