Day 48: Identity

As I read Day 48: Identity, I was reminded of a story from Dan Crenshaws book, Fortitude, Resilience in the ERA of Outrage. Anything I can find on resilience and stories of how men and women have stood in their “Moments of Truth”, and prevailed, I want to read it and study it! The following story is clearly a young man’s MOT and how it impacted his career.

A young ensign assigned to a destroyer in the Philippines in 1907, entering a familiar harbor, decides to get by with an estimate of his ships position instead of proper, specific bearings. He runs aground, and the ship must be pulled free of the mud bank into which its keel has settled. It is a grave error and a tremendous offense for a naval officer. He reports his error, takes full responsibility for the error and the humiliation of grounding a ship.

The young officer is court martialed for his error and found guilty. He is denied the opportunity to serve on the Navy’s crown jewels, the battleships. Instead, he is pushed over to the relatively new and unglamorous branch of the naval service, the submarines. AND what does our young ensign do in the face of this adversity, he studies everything he can get his hands on in terms of submarine use and theory and becomes an expert on submarine warfare.  

This young ensign was soon being recognized for his resilience and expertise in submarine warfare, promoted to higher levels of command and ultimately becoming one of the greatest Admirals in American History, Admiral Chester Nimitz leads America to victory in the Pacific in WW2. This is a story of failing, humiliation, accountability, learning, change and growth. As I read this story and studied more about Admiral Chester Nimitz, it became very clear to me this man had a very strong sense of identity that was forged over the anvil of time and life experiences, in the small town of Fredericksburg, Texas.

We know there are 5 factors that influence your identity:

  • Chemistry: your DNA, Genes, all that chemistry that makes each of us so unique, and we have no control over.
  • Circumstances: where you are born, things that happen around you and to you, and we have no control over.
  • Connections: parents, siblings, relationships, healthy, dysfunction, no control.
  • Consciousness: how we process the first three.
  • Choices: This is the Wild Card! You have little or no control over the first 4 cards, but you do have control over how you will respond and make healthy choices and changes for a better life.

How does a young guy growing up in Fredericksburg Texas (the hill country of Texas), become one of the greatest Fleet Commanders in the Navy, clearly, some very good choices? Chester Nimitz lost his father shortly after he was born and was raised and influenced by his grandfather, who was a German immigrant, settling in Texas, and a former merchant marine seaman. Chester worked in his grandfather’s businesses who was a stern taskmaster. Chester learned how to work hard, the value of education and disciplined study. Chester learns early on, that in the county of Fredericksburg, there is a Congressional appointment made each year to the Naval Academy that you compete for, and upon learning this fact, Chester’s identity takes shape, learner, student, leader and serving a higher purpose, he played his wild card and chose to compete. 

I love history and I have been to many wonderful museums, battlefields, and war memorial’s’. I can honestly say, one of the best historical museums I have ever been to, is the Admiral Chester Nimitz Naval Museum in Fredericksburg Texas. This is the story of a great leader, who early in his career in a Moment of Truth, made the choice to lean hard on what had shaped his identity to that point in his life, learn, grow, disciplined study and never give up!

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