Written By: Adam Dince
Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death…”
As a kid, I was one of the biggest screw-ups you’d ever want to meet. I had absolutely no confidence in myself and often thought that I was destined to be that dude who lives in his parent’s basement and plays video games all day.
Why did I feel so inadequate? Mostly because of the people with whom I was surrounded by. Whether it was my teachers and peers at school or my family at home, I was constantly told that I was a failure and I’d never amount to anything–and I believed them. When I finished high school, my grades were so poor that college was completely out of the question. And there I was—stuck working a dead end retail job, living at home, with no way out.
Then one day, I remembered a Navy Recruiter at my school who always had a good word to say. So, I called him and a few months later, I was on my way to US Navy basic training. As I sat on the bus from the airport to the NRTC Great Lakes, I could hear the voices of those back home telling me that I wouldn’t make it. And honestly, I didn’t think I would.
Fortunately for me, I was blessed to have ended up under the command of MRC (SW/AW) Lowe. He was the epitome of what a drill instructor should be. When he spoke, his low voice was enough to put the fear of God in you. He didn’t have to yell—he just uttered a few words and you knew he meant business. And for some reason he took a special interest in me. Maybe it was that I was out of shape and completely uncoordinated. Maybe it was because he knew I believed in God and he thought that was a weakness. I don’t know. But he definitely made me his “special case”. In fact, he referred to me as, “Special Case Dince”. As a side note, Chief Lowe is the only person who was and is allowed to call me that, so don’t get any smart ideas.
Chief Lowe regularly pushed me to the point where my body gave up. And even though I felt I let him down, he always said “Well done, Special Case Dince!” No one had ever said “good job” to me before and meant it. It was welcomed. And eight long weeks of blood, sweat and tears culminated in a graduation that surprised my family, friends, and honestly—me. I couldn’t believe I made it.
The night of graduation, Chief Lowe came in to the barracks and summoned me to his office. We had an awesome conversation. He told me that he would be honored to serve with me, if we ever ended up at the same command. I shared with him my concerns of failing and he shared with me some of his own self-doubts. As we finished our talk, he asked me a question I hadn’t really thought about, “Dince, what do you want to get out of your time in the Navy?” I replied, “Chief, I want to become an officer!” He then said, “Well, I’m going to give you a piece of advice and I hope you never forget it. You can take what they give you or you can take over. If you see a job you want, work harder than the guy who’s currently doing it and take it. Work your way up the chain of command and know that you can do whatever you put your mind to.” Words of life!
When I arrived at my duty station aboard the USS Constellation, I found an amazing group of brothers who continued to speak those positive words of life into me. And those words became an obligation to prove them right. And when my active duty contract expired, I ended up with an accumulation of ribbons and medals, letters of commendations and three promotions in three years.
After the Navy, I met a college professor whose words of belief and encouragement helped me, a high school flunk-out, graduate with honors from university.
I’ve been so fortunate to have these types of people throughout my adult life whose words led me to things greater than I’d ever imagined. It’s people’s words that have helped me mature and in to the person I am today. If you would have told me on the day that I left for boot camp, that I’d someday be a Vice-President at an Ad Agency or a practice lead at a top corporation, responsible for generating millions dollars in revenue, I would have laughed you out of the room. And that’s what President Obama meant when he told business owners, “You didn’t build that!”
It’s important to understand that who you surround yourself with and who you listen to, will shape who you are. I have lived two very different lives. The first half of my life was one of doubt and insecurity, the second has been one of happiness and success. And what powered that transformation is simply one thing—words.
The tongue really does have the power of life and death, thus it’s important to have people who speak that life in to you. It’s imperative to surround yourself with a core group of people who believe in you and lift you up at all times. And it’s just as important to filter out the Debbie Downers and naysayers that want you to join their pity parties.
Also, on the flip-side, it’s important to remember that the words we speak have that same power to build people up or stop them dead in their tracks. Thus, before speaking, we should make sure that we really think about the words we plan to use.
On this Thanksgiving 2012, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has made such a positive impact not just on me, but everyone in your life: Aimee, Jorie, Dr. Veal, Shannon, Chavez, Kretuer, Laurel, Charlotte, Jill, Cristina, Tylka, Nathan, Darren, and so many more.
And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone reading this post!