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Lisa Earle McLeod: Take a cue from ‘Ranger Up’

How do you motivate yourself in difficult situations?

I learned a technique from my brother, Jim Earle, a former Army Ranger, to help pull it out of our gut when things get tough. It’s a single phrase that has become our business mantra: “Ranger Up.”

It’s not just the phrase; it’s the backstory that makes it motivating.

My brother went into the Army right out of high school and before college. He decided that he wanted to go to Ranger School during the enlistment process. But, as he says, “It’s not that simple.” You have to prove yourself to even be recommended. My brother’s unit required a pre-Ranger School he describes as “a demanding three-week test of physical and leadership abilities. Pass it and you might get recommended for Ranger School. Then the fun begins.

Ranger School is a grueling 62-day training program that includes a physical fitness test consisting of 49 pushups, 59 situps, a 5-mile run in 40 minutes, and six chinups; a swim test; a land navigation test; a 12-mile foot march in three hours; several obstacle courses, four days of military mountaineering; three parachute jumps; four air assaults on helicopters; multiple rubber boat operations; and 27 days of simulated combat patrols. With two months of endless physical obstacles, including sleep and food deprivation, it’s one of the U.S. military’s premier courses to develop elite fighters and leaders.

My brother says, “In Ranger School, they take rank off of everyone. Here I am, a private first class, but when I’m the patrol leader, there’s a West Point major taking orders from me. When I say, ‘You have to carry the machine gun today,’ it’s the worst job; it weighs 80 or 90 pounds. Do you want someone to say, ‘Sure, I got it?’ Or do you want someone who whines and says, ‘Oh, I did it yesterday.’ In the real Army, you outrank me by eight pay grades, but when I’m asking you to carry the machine gun today, you don’t care what rank he is, you want the guy who says, ‘I got it.’ It makes you a better leader and a better follower. You learn to be a real team player.”

My brother describes a typical situation: “You’ve hiked 12 miles. You’re totally smoked; it’s night. You think you’ve given everything you got. You get to the extraction point. The leader tells you, ‘The birds aren’t here. The helicopters are grounded; we have to hike another 10 miles to get out.’ ”

That’s when you “Ranger Up.” My brother says, “Sometimes the leader will say it. Over time, it becomes more of an internal motivation. It means dig deep, find the intestinal fortitude. Do what you need to get done.”

He says, “It’s an acknowledgment that things are tough. We can complain about it, or we can get our mind around it and do it.”

Last month, the Army announced that two female officers, Capt. Kristen Marie Griest, 26, and 1st Lt. Shaye Lynne Haver, 25, have made history as the first two women to graduate from Ranger School.

In their honor, we decided to make “Ranger Up” our new business mantra.

Think that getting stuck in an airport is hard? “Ranger Up.”

Afraid to speak in front of 10,000 people? “Ranger Up.”

If Griest and Haver can make it though Ranger School to achieve their goals, how can we justify whining about anything?

When you think about true toughness, it makes your own challenges look easy.