Back in the army, I used to give professional technical lessons as a commander. It sounds big, but in reality I was teaching young kids to be a PC Admin. Nothing glorious about it. In the beginning I wasn’t very confident and sometimes I felt the urge to prove myself to my soldiers, even though I already had the authority. When I left the army, I left that professional life behind and looked for a more artistic profession.
After a few years working as a UX Designer and dealing with anxiety, I created “The Shield”; a workshop designed to help people who deal with stress and anxiety on a daily basis. Very much like myself. The whole workshop was based on my own personal experience plus some techniques and conclusions I got along the way. Naturaly, I posted all about it on my Facebook profile.
A friend of mine, who was my initiate in the army, saw one of these posts regarding the workshop and called me right away.
“Hey Mike, what’s the deal with that workshop you just published?” she asked. I told her about her all about the workshop, and how the only reason it even exists is that many people urged me to share my personal experience since they felt it helped them and might help many others in the same situation.
My friend told me about the everyday stress her soldiers have to deal with, and that her unit lacks activities like this one.
“Would you mind coming here and share the workshop with the soldiers?”
I was actually hoping she’d ask something like this. I don’t why, but I have a soft spot for soldiers. I said ‘yes’ and after that everything was arranged very quickly.
The Day of The Workshop
Two months and one trip to Argentina-and-back later, the day of the workshop arrived. I came prepared with my laptop and extra notebooks, just in case. My friend waited for me a projector, her own copies of the notebooks (which I’ve sent a few weeks before) and a brand new classroom for me to use. Looking at my friend as a commander, who I remembered as a soldier, was astounding.
“Wow, this kind of feels like ‘closure’, doesn’t it?” She said, with a voice so excited. I agreed with every word. It wasn’t the base I served in, but something about this place turned on this nostalgic feeling.
Slowly but surely, the classroom was filled with bored young soldiers. To their credit, they were very patient waiting for their peers to take their seats. Some were talking with each other, others were on the phone, but every single one of them said ‘hello’ when they entered the door. Some of them took advantage of the extra time to look at the picture projected on the wall and go through the notebook real quick.
When everyone was seated the workshop started, a flood of memories came rushing in, like a flashback in a movie. But this time something was different. I wasn’t as anxious as I was at the beginning of my role in the army. I didn’t even felt that urge to “prove myself” to the other soldiers. I found myself lost in the moment and decided to go with it.
Throughout the workshop, we had many interesting discussions, which only made the experience more enjoyable. Every new conversation reminded me how much I love to stand in front of an audience and share what I know, and how much I appreciate a discussion that challenges your thought.
And just like that, it was over.
Everyone stood up and exited the room. Some of them shook my hand, some settled for a polite head nod. I could hear the words “You’re welcome” and “My pleasure” coming out of my mouth but all I could think about was that very first lesson as a commander, and the long road I’ve been on since I left the army.
I almost couldn’t believe what I’ve accomplished throughout this long short-journey of mine. Accomplishments I took for granted suddenly came back to stare right at me. I couldn’t help but think about Steve Jobs’ speech about ‘connecting the dots’. The speech where he talks about how you go through so many things in your life, that seems like have nothing to do with each other, but when you look back – it all makes sense.
And when I thought about the workshop I gave at that military base, I thought it was fun. I was exhausting. It was closure. You need to stop every now and then and look back at what you’ve accomplished. Sometimes it’s very easy to miss you’ve come so far.
When they all left the classroom and thanked me, I should have stopped each and every one of them, and instead of saying “You’re welcome”, what I should have said was: