Three things I learned from spending 30 minutes with a soldier

Three things I learned from spending 30 minutes with a soldier

Erica Oliver and Bonnie Mouck

Just because someone thinks you can’t do something, doesn’t make it true.

The moment Combat Engineer, Erica Oliver saw a combat diver she knew that was what she was put on earth to do. From that day, until she received her Combat Diver coin was six years. Six years of being told she didn’t belong, and will never succeed.

I’m a rule follower. I always dreamed of being a rebel, but it’s never been in me. If someone in a position of authority told me I couldn’t do something, for the most part I didn’t do it. If I was told I wasn’t good enough I believed it, and I would put a whole lot of energy into trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. It’s only been the last few years that I have really started to question when someone says no, or underestimates my capabilities. Maybe it’s age and experience, or maybe I just got tired of sitting quietly worrying about the opinion of others, but at some point, I stopped caring. I’ve been lucky to work with amazing leaders over my career. People who believed in me, challenged me and championed me. I’ve also worked with people who think they’re leaders because of a title, but they’re not. A title does not make the leader. The point is we all have the power to be leaders, and we all have a voice that we need to use. Keep moving forward, keep challenging what people say, and if you want to do something figure out how. Learn from the great leaders you meet, and listen more than you talk. Most important, don’t take the word no as gospel. Challenge, question, push and go for what you want.

Be Brave

OK, so not everyone is going to be a soldier and actively put themselves in danger to help others, that’s a whole different level. Erica, with four operational deployments (two in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti) is no stranger to life and death situations. We can all learn from people like Erica, people who continuously sacrifice for others. The GI Jane’s of the world.

What I took from my time with Erica is that we all have a responsibility to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. What does that look like in the business world? To me, it means making sure we have diversity of thought and ensure we’re collaborating and seeking opinions of others. Not everyone is comfortable speaking up in meetings, or being the first to answer a question. It’s up to the leaders in the room to make sure they’re actively seeking the opinion of others – even the quiet ones, who in my opinion, many times have the best ideas. Empower those coming up behind you to speak up, share their thoughts and be a leader.

Dig deep and bring it every day

When we posted Erica’s episode on Facebook it got a huge response. 4.5K likes, over 800 shares and over 200 comments. I read through the comments and it was pretty cool to see. People who knew Erica started commenting. People who met her at the gym, or worked with her. The comments all had the same theme – Erica always brought her best.

“Definitely the most badass woman I’ve ever met, and was a great experience to work with her.”
“Erica, you were one of the best instructors I ever had.”
“Erica spotted me at the gym once. She was always there, any chance she had she was hitting the gym.”

It’s hard to bring your best every day to work. Life gets in the way of that. But we all have a job to do, and we owe it to the people we work with, and to ourselves to dig deep and try to find the positive. Every day is not a good day, and that’s fine. Being authentic means you let people see the real you – the good and the bad. What I took from Erica is that we all have a choice – we can inspire and motivate others, or we can simply try to get by.

If you would like to hear my conversation with Erica you can find it on your favourite podcast platform or on our website: