Excuse, reason, justification… solidifications

Every morning, it feels like a fight to get up early. It’s not enough to push myself. I got to find a pull, too; something to look forward to.

Early in my military career, I proudly held the distinguished label of motard – a portmanteau in the Marine Corps of the words motivated and retarded.

I really wanted to love being a Marine at the time and I’m still really proud of it. I served from 2001 through 2010. The newness quickly wears off after arriving at that first duty station. New Marines soon find themselves surrounded by older Marines who see their job as just a job.

For the military as a whole, those commercials are just that… just commercials. It’s a job. But it doesn’t have to be just a job.

It can be a stepping stone.


I got really good at my job. At least, I thought so. I dedicated myself past exhaustion, regularly, proudly. I wanted to belong. I joined back in 2001, before 9/11. To this day, I remain in contact with my recruiter whom I first met in Los Angeles back in January 2001.

He’s also Filipino-American. He retired as a Gunnery Sergeant (E-7) a few years ago. That’s a success in the Marine Corps. In the Marines, if you reach Staff Sergeant (E-6), you’ve made it; as a Marine Officer, if you reach Captain (O-3), you’ve made it.

On making it in the Army, it’s plus one. I don’t plan to make it in the Army. I’ll retire happily at my current rank of Captain (O-3E). I don’t care to promote anymore. My retirement will be in 2022. So… just a little bit more. This job is my stepping stone; I’ll do it and help others do theirs, but it no longer defines me.

When I was younger, and especially as a Marine, I wanted to do all those things that I imagined Marines did. I wanted to attend as many special schools as possible, volunteer for kickass assignments, units, climb the ladder, see the world, do dangerous things… Didn’t happen, but it wasn’t for lack of volunteering and working hard.

It wasn’t a loss either. In the Marine Corps, I earned my US citizenship; I brought into the world four amazing, healthy, bright children; I completed a bachelor’s degree (a four-year post-secondary degree in America); and I left with an honorable discharge.

It was a win. I’m thankful. I’m grateful. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Every asschewing, every rejection, every denial, every seemingly bullshit task, every failure, every loss, every hurt, every challenge… none of it, I wouldn’t change it. I’m proud of my difficulties.


On someday, it’s the same story in the Army. I wrote in a previous post that this might result from the nature of the job, the profession of violence. Violence is a zero-sum game. Given two aggressors who’ve decided on violence, one benefits at the expense of the other.

I don’t believe one should ever trust his chain of command. Yes, I really wrote that. No, don’t trust them. Don’t trust them with your future. They don’t care about you. They’ll take care of you, whatever the fuck that means. But they don’t care about you. If they know what you want, expect them to give you the opposite.

Expect them to face incentives that they believe run counter to yours. They want to get as much work out of you as possible and at your expense, and to promise you advancement or further development, at your next assignment or later in your career, if only you’ll buckle down and give your all for the meantime.

That’s just a carrot on a stick held by your boss riding you to exhaustion. You won’t get it.

It may sound cliche, but I’m going to say it anyway – don’t let someone else hold the pen that writes the story of your life. Be your own author.

There is no someday. Tony Robbins says that the Road of Someday leads to the Town of Nowhere.


Once you get into the routine of work, mindless entertainment, sleep, repeat… you’ve established a psychological momentum that’ll prove really hard to change.

You’ll want to say someday, when my kids leave home, when I retire, when I get to that next duty station, when I have more time, more money, more support…

Someday might be a real date, if well-thought and marked on the calendar. But let’s get real. It’s probably an excuse.

I remember early in my career when I’d done so exceedingly well – high fitness score, meritorious promotion, distinguished honor graduate, selected in numerous consecutive Marine/NCO of the month/quarter boards – that I eventually heard others say, “I’d like to do that, but that’s Del. He’s [lucky or works for great people or has time or…].”

I look in the mirror and see no one particularly special. Just someone curious about life and willing to put in his reps. Apparently, it’s possible to set such an example just high enough that it de-motivates instead of inspires, because it’s just slightly out-of-reach, and the negative-minded viewer sees it as a reminder of his own failings rather than a call to lift himself up.

I’m not bragging. I’ve lost that motivation for this particular job and I don’t care to re-create it for this job anymore. My military record is mediocre, average, unimpressive – and that’s how I want it.

The lesson sticks with me. By coming up with excuses for other people’s success, that leads to a road even more dangerous than the Road of Someday. The Road of Excuses becomes the one-way Road of Solidification, leading to the Town of Life-Not-Lived.

Rather than say, “Well, that’s him and he’s [excuses],” it’s better to ask, “In what ways might I do just that? Should I? Is there something there I can learn to get me to where I want…”

Ask something, anything, to better yourself. If not for yourself, then maybe for those who matter to you. By not making the attempt live life more fully, you’re depriving the world of all the great work you could give.