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Taking the Initiative - Preparing for the Military

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I am a fitness writer that specializes in military, police, and fire fighter fitness.  I have well over 800 articles on the internet on various sites and several published books / ebooks.  I ENJOY answering questions from readers - especially the younger generation who seeks out information and finds me as a resource for tactical fitness training / general preparation information.  In fact, I answer my emails each day easily seeing 100-200 emails a day.  These give me ideas to write about and very often (more than 50%) of the time I reply to someone with an article link that has become a frequently asked question over the years.  THIS IS WHAT I DO.  But I also want to be the guy who tells you to

                                                             Take the Initiative!

The definition of initiative is:  The act of taking the first step.  The ability to think and act without being told what or how to do it.

The reason I am telling you to take, use, or seize the initiative is probably no one has ever told you to do so.  There is a short story called Message to Garcia which was the first thing I ever read when I joined the Naval Academy.  It is about a young officer given a message by the President of the United States and deliver it to General Garcia of Cuba.  That was the mission.  Travel, lodging, food, location ALL THE DETAILS had to be figured out by young LT Rowan.  He has become the epitome of 'taking the initiative' in the military and in the business world alike.

After receiving way too many stupid questions - yes there is such a thing - I made a humorous post on Instagram (stewsmith50) that "stewsmith50 is not google".  This post either ruffled some feathers or caused others to laugh, but what I posted is truth and a serious matter.  Here is why:

1 - I define a stupid question as one that lacks all initiative posted by someone too lazy to look it up themselves.  Some classic examples:

- How many yards are in a 50m pool?  Answer - do the math.
- How many weeks in bootcamp?  Answer - Go to google.
- How long is SEAL training?  Go to the SEAL website -

As you can see, these are legitimate questions usually asked by a younger generation that may not know how easy it is to answer with a simple Google search.  With questions like these - Take the Message to Google.  It will save time and teach you something about taking initiative.  If you need to confirm answers, by all means, feel free to ask as I am aware of all the information out there.  But you have to learn how to sift through the mess and figure it out.  The military wants people who know how to take the initiative.

2 - In the military, one of the first things we learned in basic military training was the Five Basic Responses. When someone asks you a question, you have five responses to choose from:

1 — the right answer
2 — yes sir /​ ma’am
3 — no sir /​ ma’am
4 — I’ll find out sir /​ ma’am - if you do not know the answer.
5 — no excuse sir /ma’am - if you did not accomplish a task / or know something you should.

The first three are self-​​explanatory, the last two are priceless to a member of any team. Answer number four is the best answer you can give if you do not know the answer to something. What you are implying by saying, “I’ll find out sir,” is not the more common answer, “ I don’t know”.  This is the answer that will require you to do some research. Knowing the right answer and finding it out for yourself is a critical skill that will one day save your / others lives.  Consider taking the initiative part of your military training prep.

The last of the Five Basic Responses is “no excuse sir.” We are all human and we make mistakes, forget details, or arrive late, and get frustrated, but instead of making up an excuse or developing an untrue story, simply let your leaders /​ coaches /​ teammates know that there is no excuse to your error. 

Responsibility to your team /​ coaches /​ leaders becomes a habit when you start saying “no excuse or I’ll find out” to questions that your team needs answers to. You will also find that you will grow as a person when you learn to step up and take the initiative and learn to be responsible for something.

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