It was the summer of 2012 and I was getting my sh*t kicked in. But it was my fault. I took responsibility because it was my decision to join the military. It was my decision to push myself even further in my quest to become a real man.
After what felt like an eternity of dragging my face through the mud in an obstacle course called, The ASSAULT Course, I could almost see again. You see, I’d been blinded several minutes ago after diving face first into a sea of mud. There were grenades going off left and right, and I didn’t want to miss the narrow opening to slide my big black body under the barbed wire. I’d be damned if they pulled me off the course for getting hurt. I was a leader, and I was going to finish this hell of an obstacle course on my first try... or die trying.
The reason I could almost see again was because my battle buddy squirted some water on my face. But where did he even get water from?
“Stout, where did you get water from!?”
“Salimu, just keep following my voice! We are almost there!”
I had been following my battle buddy's commands for a while now. I told him I’d been blinded and he told me to simply fight like hell and keep following his voice.
There is one core trait that every good leader has, and that’s being a great follower. I had been a great follower already and now I was blindly following my battle buddy through hell. But something didn’t feel quite right. The noise of the cannons was growing quiet and I hadn’t heard a grenade go off for a while. When I finally could fully open my eyes and see where my battle buddy was leading us, I saw a camera crew and this giant man heading our way. The giant spoke first while I took the time to catch my breath.
“So were you going to do the whole obstacle course blind, young man?”
“Yes, Sir!” I said between deep gasps for air. “Adversity... builds character, Sir.”
My buddy Stout was now leaning on me, but I was standing tall and staring this celebrity type guy right in the eye. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I could sense that he must be a great man. He taught me a thing or two that day, and I always knew that one day I would share that wisdom with the world.