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Choosing Discernment

When I was in the Army, we were taught to have impeccable discernment. If we didn’t, that could mean life or death. What is discernment?
Dictionary.com states that discernment is, acuteness of judgment and understanding.
This means, having the ability to understand and pinpoint the main [problem]. John Maxwell states discernment relies on two main things. 1. Intuition 2. Rational thought.

Now here, I could go into a deep discussion about cognitive bias and how to build your “street smarts”, but I believe a story may be more useful.

Let’s go back a few years….Okay, a lot of years! To WLC -Warrior Leader Course. This was the first of many leadership courses within the Army.

We were going through a training mission in the woods, taking turns leading a team. This was like the Army version of paintball! You have two teams of around 7 people, each who had their own position and job. This time, it was my turn to lead. We were patrolling a road, taking the necessary precautions to minimize damage from IED’s, when we got flanked in an ambush from the bushes.

For 2 seconds, I froze! Not what a leader should do. I tried to assess the situation to discern what the best course of action was. The problem was in those 2 seconds, I lost one of my team members. Suddenly the instructor was screaming in my ears, “Make a decision SCOTT! Make it NOW!”. Finally my brain kicked in and I started screaming orders. “take cover! Return fire! Launch grenade at 12 o’clock! Alpha - team on me, Bravo team – flank right! Clear the trees!” We won, with only the 1 casualty.

My discernment as a leader needed to be quick and accurate in this situation or I would have lost more soldiers. Today, it’s not always about life or death situations. But it is about effecting the lives and futures of the people I and my team works with. In every position, in every job, in every field, we have the ability to effect someone else’s life.

Homework #1: We build intuition from experience and practice. Get out there and start taking intentional action! Fail as many times as Michael Jordan has.


We grow our rational thinking through noticing and understanding what our biases are. If you naturally believe something that isn’t true, take the time to learn how to change your thinking. You can’t learn to fly a plane if you always believed it was impossible. Change your thinking, change your life. The fastest way to do this is, when someone says you’re wrong, take the time to research if it’s true or not. Whether you believe 100% that you’re right, or not.

Discernment is the difference between learning success, and just thinking successful people are “lucky”.

 

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