How The Navy Turned My Life Around With 3 Basic Lessons

<b class="credit">Courtesy Adam Dince</b>
Courtesy Adam Dince

In 1995, I enlisted in the United States Navy because in all honesty, it was my only option. I had no marketable skills, poor grades in school, was working a dead-end retail job, and stuck living at home. My grandfather, Irving Gellman, who had served in Japan during World War II, encouraged me to follow in his footsteps and join the military. So, I did, and it changed my life.

"Recruit Dince, you can either take what they give you or take over! If you see a job you want, learn it on your off-time and do it better than the person who trains you."

That was the advice our division commander, MRC (SW/AW) James Lowe, gave me right after graduation from Naval Recruit Training in Great Lakes, Illinois.

I was fortunate enough to get stationed aboard America's Flagship, USS Constellation (CV-64). In three years of active duty service, I was promoted three times and received numerous medals and awards, including a Letter of Commendation from the Fleet Admiral for the quality of my work.

I followed Chief Lowe's advice to the T and ended up doing a job that was slated for someone three levels my senior. My time on board the "Connie" taught me discipline, gave me a strong work ethic, and provided me the confidence to succeed in life. Additionally, it taught me how to lead and build a team.

After completing active duty in 1998, I joined the Naval Reserve and began my collegiate and professional careers. Over the past 16 years, I've done my best to apply what I learned in the military to my professional life.

The Navy has a set of core values that they embed within each sailor that graduates from basic training -- Honor, Commitment and Courage. Here's how I apply those core values:


Honor integrity

I always try to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences.

Honor the collar

In the military, we're taught to honor the rank that appears on the collar of a uniform.
In the civilian world, I've been fortunate to work for some amazing leaders whom I've admired and honored because of the kind of people they are.

I've also worked for a few challenging bosses who didn't necessarily share the same ethical standards I do. While I haven't always been able to respect the person in the uniform, I've always honored the position they hold

Honor the people who work for me

I do believe the old adage that there's no "I" in "Team" and believe that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Though I'm in a leadership role, it's my team that makes me successful and I honor that. I've always had successful teams!

Honor the work I'm entrusted with

The last six months of my enlistment, I worked for a senior officer who pushed harder than anyone I've worked for since. He would always tell me, "No matter how good you think you did, you can always do better." I try to apply that to the work I do in the civilian world. I know I can do better next time!


I commit to do what I say I am going to do

When I make a commitment to do something, I see it through until it's done -- and done well. While there are always obstacles in the way of reaching the finish line, I never give up.

I commit to the brand I represent and work for

I don't see myself as just an agent of the brand, I see myself as the brand.

I'm committed to always setting the right expectations upfront and to overdelivering

I'm committed to helping those around me grow professionally and accomplish their goals.


Courage to take calculated risks

In businesses, doing the safe thing doesn't always net the best results.

Courage to listen to my gut and intuition

It rarely lets me down.

Courage to be honest when asked my opinion

I owe a lot of who I am and what I've accomplished in life to the United States Navy. As a kid, I could have never imagined achieving what I have. I credit that to the person the military made me. I highly recommend the experience to anyone who is interested in serving our great country.

On this Memorial Day, I'd like to thank those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom and way of life we all enjoy.

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"The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example." – Benjamin Disraeli