Millennials can learn these 7 lessons from the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Millennials can learn these 7 lessons from the military

As a millennial myself, I’m the first to admit that my generation is just as imperfect as those who came before us. We’re all influenced by our upbringing, whether we like it or not; how we think, set goals, and look at life are all tied to how we grew up. 

For more reasons than one, younger generations tend to be more individualistic than previous generations. They’re often highly motivated to reach leadership positions and meet personal bests, but military life can impart some priceless lessons. 

1. Take baby steps.

When you grow up with 24/7 access to Pinterest, YouTube and Google, it’s easy to believe that you can learn to do anything overnight from a 12-minute tutorial. Achieving true mastery, however, requires diligence.

In the military, recruits are taught how to make their bed and wear their uniforms correctly, long before they see any action. Imagine if you joined the Army, had one hour of combat training, and then got tossed into battle. Even if you learned a few skills first, you would be woefully unprepared. By perfecting each small step, members of the military build a foundation for success- which they’ll rely on when it really counts.

Breaking things down into pieces and mastering them is a skill that millennials and zoomers can apply anywhere; work, the gym, even in relationships.

millennial soldiers fold flags


2. Take pride in your work, regardless of what it is.

We grew up being told that we could be whatever we wanted to be if we just tried our best. Disney movies glossed over the fact that in real life, you usually have to try your best for a while. Like, for years. Meeting your goals doesn’t happen during the course of a 2-hour movie. You might have to put up with jobs you don’t like to get to the one you really want.

When you’re in the military, you learn that no job is insignificant. Others are depending on you to do your job well, so take pride in your work. Even if your work is cleaning toilets. Think you’re beneath doing such menial labor? Prove it by doing a damn good job.

3. Discipline is the key to long term success.

Millennial Marines training
US Marine Corps (USMC) Basic Training recruits from Platoon 2086, Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), Parris Island, South Carolina (SC)

Like we said — success doesn’t happen overnight. This isn’t a fairytale. Millennials tend to think they’re failing if they don’t meet their goals quickly, but achievement takes persistence. You have to show up every day and work hard. In the military, a lack of discipline can later mean the difference between life and death. In civilian life, discipline means the difference between meeting your goals and fizzling out after a few weeks of effort. Your pick.

4. Millennials, pay attention to how you present yourself.

College students in pajamas, we’re looking at you. The way you show up every day leaves an impression. In the military, your uniform tells your superiors a lot about you. If it’s sloppy, wrinkled and ill-fitting, they’re not going to trust you as much as the guy standing next to you with a perfectly pressed, spotless ensemble. Why? Because it seems like you don’t care. If you don’t care enough to present yourself well, what else are you careless about?

recruited millennials during boot camp
Recruits stand in formation during boot camp activities at the Naval Training Center.


While it’s totally possible to write a brilliant essay in sweatpants, the way you present yourself sends a message to your teachers, your boss and everyone around you. Even if you’re working from home, the way you dress will influence how you view yourself. Are you put together or a mess? You get to choose the message to send.

5. Roll with the punches.

Military life isn’t always predictable, and neither is any other lifestyle. Sh*t happens. When you take a hit, you can either collapse, or you can get back up and keep going. Joining the military teaches you to be adaptable so that you can thrive in any environment you run into.

6. Even millennials can’t do everything alone.

If you went into battle alone, you’d die. The movies lied to you. There’s rarely a single, beloved hero who gets all the glory. Winning a war takes a literal army. The same goes for civilian life. You can absolutely choose your own goals, but you’ll need support to get there. Your family, your coworkers, your classmates…you’re all team members in one way or another. Be a solid member of the team, and others will be there to support you when you need it the most.

Millennials can learn these 7 lessons from the military

7. Don’t be a d*ck.

There’s no way to sugar coat this one. People remember how you treat them. In the military, being a good guy and taking care of your team is invaluable, and it’s no different anywhere else. While millennials and zoomers tend to focus more on empathy than older generations (and we’re great tippers), our drive for personal accomplishment can limit our perspective.

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