I once went on a training mission where I nearly died. I had just arrived at my unit and we went out with the infantry battalion for a week- long event. The operation took place in the fall and the weather was cool and sunny. By the second day the temperatures had dropped to the low 40’S and it started to rain. I was drenched.
For anybody who has ever lived in the field for any length of time, it is well known that there’s no equipment that will keep you dry from incessant rain. Eventually you get wet and there is nothing you can do. During the second night it was freezing. I was frozen to the bone and could not get warm. My core temperature was dropping and I was shivering uncontrollably. After all of my training, I knew hypothermia was setting in and if I were to stay out there any longer, I probably would be dead within a few hours.
I was a Second Lieutenant and this was my first command. If I showed any weakness or tried to get out of the field, I would forever lose the respect of the entire battalion and probably be sanctioned as well. So as any stupid 22 year-old Marine Officer would… I risked my life. I waited and hoped for the best.
Just prior to this, I had learned that a group of 8 Army Rangers had died from hypothermia while training in Georgia. In short order, 4 members of my platoon had been evacuated for hypothermia and the rest of us were not far behind. I knew we were in a serious situation. Fortunately, the battalion Commander stepped in and called off the whole event which undoubtedly saved lives. So my life was saved with my reputation intact.
It reminds of me the story of Jay Jay French, one of the founders of the band Twisted Sister, and his ability to endure hardships. Jay Jay French’s life is an amazing example of perseverance. When he started the band in the 1970’s, the group toured for 10 years working six days a week before getting a record contract.
After getting a record contract in the early 1980’s the group made millions. Their records went platinum and they toured the world. Yet by the end of the 1980’s Jay Jay French was bankrupt, divorced and the band had split up. After working so hard for so long and then losing it all, Jay Jay French took a job selling stereos. He went to work as a salesman at a local retail store in order to make a living and provide for his family.
He said the hardest part was going into people’s houses and seeing his records on their shelves. It was a brutal reminder on how far he had fallen. When installing stereos, his customers had no idea a major rock start was in their house nor would they probably have believed it. But he did what he had to do to survive. Yet, as he worked, he hustled and built his life back.
Jay Jay French sold stereos for 10 years before his next break came.
In the mid 1990’s, French was approached by a small band to produce an album. He agreed. The deal made millions even though he had no experience in the production end of the music business. He said yes to an opportunity and the door flew open.
In the Late 1990’s he got contacted by different companies to start licensing Twisted Sister’s songs, which he did, and the royalties started making the band millions of dollars. The famous song “We’re not Going To Take It” has been a favorite for political candidates all over the world and made the band rich.
Success, more often than we realize, is as much about endurance as it is about talent or skill. Its a fact that most people quit just before they are about to succeed. Jay Jay French is my new hero. Not only for his ability to hustle and endure… but for his ability to humble himself and do whatever it took to rebuild his life and career.
By the way, today Twisted Sister is reunited as a band…selling out stadiums worldwide… making millions… again.