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Drew Bragg
Drew Bragg

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Lessons I learned from training with special forces that I use in software development

Interestingly, it wasn't until after I left the Army that had the unique opportunity to train with and be taught by some of Military's best. I've trained with and been taught by Green Berets, Army Rangers, Marine Force Reconnaissance, Navy SEALs, and guys whose titles are classified. I learned a myriad of skills, like weapons and tactics, clandestine and covert operations, and small and big team teamwork. While most of the training revolved around the application of these skills and the physical and mental toughness needed to operate effectively in adverse conditions, many of the lessons from a high level view have helped me in my career as a developer. I don't know if these lessons will be as profound for you just hearing them and not experiencing them but I thought I'd share them anyway. Who knew that the best warfighters had great insight into programming.

(Some names have been altered or are call signs as requested by the instructor/cadre)

First lesson, my all time favorite, by one of my favorite instructors, Cleve:

Persistence over all.

I don't feel that one needs much explanation.

A close second in terms of favorite:

Attitude is everything, keeps your positive.

You'd be surprised how many times this one saves my ass, especially while debugging.

Next, some words of wisdom from Big Daddy:

Cool breeds cool.

This one was always handed down to us during hour 10 of a movement. If you're cranky, miserable, or freaking out, everyone else will probably follow. But if you're calm, cool, and collected, everyone else will see that and follow in suit. I feel like this would be a great one for senior devs to know. If you're complaining about a projects, acting like you hate your job/boss, or freaking out about a deadline, you're setting that example for the juniors.

Another Cleve classic:

Fill, flow, and go.

Adaptability is key to overcoming obstacles.

A Marine Corps saying that I heard from Flash (the story behind his name is awesome but you have to earn it):

Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you.

This is all about teamwork and taking care of your own. You aren't better than anyone else on your team, you aren't the worst person on your team, you are part of a team. When everyone acts and feels like they are part of a team, the team can accomplish anything.

Which brings me to another Flash classic:

Stop being a fucking individual.

Seriously, teamwork, people, teamwork. This isn't about crushing your creativity or forcing you to conform or any of the snowflake bullshit. It's about thinking about the team and the mission before yourself.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to put this one on the list because I think sometimes it can be hard for Civilians to understand its meaning:

All it takes is all you got.

Or, anything worth doing is worth overdoing. I see people confuse this with obsession, or giving up everything else, it's not. It's just about fully investing yourself into your goal and not letting excuses hold you back. Maybe it works better in an ultra stressful physical setting but I've been able to apply it in the office too. When I'm writing code, or trying to learn something new, or trying to work through a problem, that's what I'm doing. I'm not also thinking about an upcoming meeting, or what I have to do after work.

I have so many more lessons (Quotes) I could share but these are the ones that stand out. I have a lot of them on post-it notes on my desk and monitors so I can look at them and be reminded of their lessons. Maybe I'll make another post or come back and add some to this one. I'd really like to start writing more posts so this was kind of a test. I hope you enjoyed this first one.

Bragg Heavy
21 Hours into getting the shit kick out of us at Fort Bragg these lessons, quotes, and the men who taught them to me help push me through.

Top comments (10)

chiangs profile image
Stephen Chiang • Edited

My time in SOF has been key to my ability to adapt into the development world and easily integrate into the Scandinavian work mindset where team and community is a higher common value over the individual.

Furthermore, the work ethic and level of focus I can tap into is thanks to those that were on my left and right.

During interviews and get-to-know-you conversations, I'm often asked how I was able to make such a transition, and then I get to say that almost all of the desirable qualities that brought me to you this day are learned from a seemingly 'incompatible' or totally 'foreign' environment.

speedstream profile image
Aaron Santos

Almost the same for me. I was in basketball team during 3 years in university. It was the same philosophy: always in team, unless you are the only one who can do it; good teams win matches, good attitude win championships; persist, adapt and overcome; keep practicing not for you but your teammates; keep healthy to do your best; keep calm and think fast... and many more to list here.
I believe during those years I learned a lot to apply in my carreer, and it helped me to be a better dev. Also, I've seen that during my firsts interviews HR asks more over those abilities than my programming skills.

scott_yeatts profile image
Scott Yeatts

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Slow down and think. Thinking through the problem will speed you up.

Not exactly what my drills meant, but it's worked for me!

drbragg profile image
Drew Bragg

Another good one!

peter profile image
Peter Kim Frank

These are awesome, thanks so much for sharing.

jrfrazier profile image

Thank you for sharing! I was recently appointed a leadership position at my current corrent job. So the timing of this post couldn't be better.

fhchstr profile image
Fabien Hochstrrasser

Great post! Having been in the army and now being in the IT, I know what you mean and how strong those quotes can help you in shitty situations!
Mental toughness can get you anywhere you want to be.

alexs1305 profile image
Alex Shannon

These are some great words of advice and perhaps the impact is less not having been in the army but the take away is still there and very relevant. Thanks for the post

vfulco profile image
Vincent Fulco (It / It's)

Really useful and good reminders. Thank you.