Northeast Tennessee

Thirty Steps of Humility

CSAUP Events Northeast Tennessee Johnson City Erwin Kingsport

GoRuck events have a unique way of exposing your character and revealing motives—often in unexpected ways. You learn things about yourself and you learn things about the people around you.

Since planting F3 in Johnson City my approach has been pretty straight forward—get in front and lead—pull the men with me. I’m working hard: work hard with me. I’ll be here in the cold and rain: be here with me. Embody the spirit of F3 in word and deed—men will follow. They did.

Over the past few months, however, I’ve sensed a shift. The physical gap that allowed me to lead from the front has dwindled. Men are stronger, faster, resilient—tougher. GoRuck was the last corner of F3 where I could really lead the men of F3 Northeast Tennessee.

I’ve done events before—I know what to expect (as best you can), I know how to prepare. I knew our guys could finish—but I also know the event is grueling. It was an opportunity for them to learn something about themselves and an opportunity for me to lead the men as I have for the past 18 months—from the front.

When the event started, two men of our men were selected for important leadership positions. It kept going down the line, most of the 15 men we took to the event ended up in a leadership position at some point during the event—they all crushed it. They all demonstrated the attitude and spirit of F3 we have worked for 18 months to build. I’ve never been more proud of these men.

Except for me. With the random division of platoons, squads and subsequent selection of replacement leaders, the lot never fell my way. If I’m being honest, I didn’t really want it to. After being drenched by the monsoon, soaked from the field drills on the first rotation, cold from temperature drop and 25mph winds, I was in a bad place mentally. When the cramps hit a couple hours into the event (which continued for the duration)—I turned inward. Thinking about myself, my circumstances. Not the men around me.

There’s no reason I should be cramping. I’ve rucked a trail-based half marathon under 3 hours. We completed an 8-week training program, I was hydrated and I consumed plenty of minerals. I was physically prepared. Further investigation suggests a medication I take is notorious for exercise induced cramping—but that’s irrelevant. In the moment, I found myself focused inward and self-loathing.

Then I looked up. The men I’ve watched grow since their first post, the men I talked into signing up for this experience, the men I trained, the men I’ve pulled for 18 months—were outperforming me, across the board.

Physically, it may not have been evident. I was doing what an F3 guy should. I continued to work hard, spent more than my fair share of time under the Kraken (heavy beast of a log retrieved from the river), finished the 11th hour PT test somewhat respectably—but I checked out mentally. I wasn’t leading. I didn’t rise to the occasion for my men in the way I had envisioned.

That’s the thing about GoRuck events; it’s never really physical. Cadre Danny huddled us up after the PT test to talk about our motives, why we were doing this event. There were many good responses.

Although I wasn’t called on to answer, I thought about my response—I was here for the men of Northeast Tennessee. On the surface, that sounds like a noble reason. While that may be true, there’s always a reason behind the reason. Yes, I was there for the men of Northeast Tennessee—but I was there to lead from the front and reaffirm my status among the men. That didn’t happen. My motives were selfish. My motives were exposed.

Before the event began, Cadre Danny commented about using the event as an opportunity to learn about individual leadership. I learned, just not from assigned tasks during the event. I learned in ways I didn’t expect—through humility.

The mission of F3 is to plant, grow, and serve small men’s workout groups for the invigoration of male community leadership. I learned that leading from the front was necessary to plant and grow F3 Northeast Tennessee, but that time has passed.

The GoRuck event was a providential signal—F3 Northeast Tennessee doesn’t need to me lead from the front anymore. As a leader, I have to acknowledge, give it a voice, and adjust course. It’s time for me to focus on serving the men of Northeast Tennessee. Mission first, people always (not me).

On the ride home, I reflected on some of these thoughts with the men. Through my rearview mirror I noticed Heisenberg with a big smile on his face, so I inquired. His comment—“So after 18 months of you carrying us, we finally got to carry you.”

Yes—yes, you did. Thank you men.



  1. Brother, you nailed the precise reasons that F3/Grow joined forces with GORUCK a year ago to GrowRuck. Trust is the reliance between TEAM Members. Nothing builds Trust faster than #D3 (Dirty Dangerous Difficult Things). It sounds to me like you have two of the great components a Leader needs to build his Team. He needs to love his Members (and that is obvious). But he also needs to Trust them so that he can share Leadership. Now you have that too. You will continue to Lead because you are Leader. But now you can also stand back a bit and watch has been unleashed through Trust. I guarantee you it will be great.


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