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You can't tell me, "No!"



I once had a battalion commander in the Army who was a stickler for chain of command, and because of this, he knew that the only person in his chain who could tell him No was his brigade commander.* No staff officer could ultimately deny his requests. No sergeant major could brush him off. No other battalion commander could put the kibosh on his plans. Only the brigade commander could say, "No! You can't do that!" And he used this to his and our unit's benefit regularly.


On one occasion, as a member of this commander's staff, I was trying to get air assets (i.e., helicopters) to support an upcoming training event, and the aviation unit's operations officer denied my request. This battalion commander immediately picked up the phone, got said operations officer on the line, and announced to him...you guessed it..."You can't tell me, 'No!'" He then followed by calling the brigade commander, pleading his case, and when the date of our training event came, we had helicopters. Why? Because he didn't accept No for an answer. He had a vision, and he followed that vision to its successful fulfillment.


I learned more from this particular battalion commander than virtually anyone else in my military career thus far. His tenacity, resiliency, mission-focus, and wisdom were second to none. The many lessons he taught me through both word and deed will guide me for the rest of my life.


However, this lesson on No was by far the most important. How many of you have had someone say to you, "You can't do that! You're not smart/skilled/experienced/educated enough to be successful." Sure, we all have! There is no shortage of people in our lives to tell us we can't do something. In fact, far too many people seem to take sadistic pleasure in shooting others down. Sometimes these people are virtual strangers, but other times they are our family members, close friends, or people we respect, which makes the criticism extremely hard to swallow.


But who says we have to swallow it! Truly successful people do not buy into other people's press. They are those who, like my previous battalion commander, have a vision and drive that vision to completion. They are people who don't accept No or Can't or any other naysaying criticism as the final answer. They stare such opposition in the eye without flinching.


Now, I'm not suggesting that we shun sound advice or wise counsel from others. We should certainly cultivate a teachable spirit in ourselves. At the same time, we should never allow others to squash our dreams and visions for the future. If God has laid something on our hearts--if we have a passion to do something extraordinary with our lives--then we should go for it with everything we've got! Sure, along the way there will be those who don't dream our dreams, see our visions, or even believe in our ability to achieve. But who cares?! These folks are not our drivers; they are our distractions. And the sooner we say to them, "You can't tell me 'No!'" the sooner we can get on with the business of achieving our success.




*In the Army, battalion commanders work for and report to brigade commanders. In other words, brigade commanders are the commanders for battalion commanders...if that makes any sense. :)

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