I’m a fan of Jordan Peterson, I mean, we have our different opinions at times, but I have a lot of respect for him, his views, his intelligence, and especially his conviction. Jordan Peterson wrote a book called 12 Rules For Life which was releaseda year ago, January 23, 2018. This amazing book is slightly controversial and has fast become a cultural meme. I also am a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan, who did a version of his own 12 rules on his Podcast Revisionist History. I love both versions, and both have incredible insight into how to look at, and approach the world. I realized, the infantry has a unique perspective on the world and one that has given me a lens which to attack the world differently — successfully. So, here I present, 12 Rules for Infantry (but for deployment by everyone) an Antidote is Chaos (or what appears to be chaos, war is hell!).

First, let’s nail down what the infantry actually is, according to the Army’s website, “Infantry Soldiers use small arms, anti-armor or indirect fire weapons during combat missions.” In other words, often times when you think about what a Soldier (or Marine) is, you’re thinking about the infantry. These are the guys with M4’s and M249’s running amok in Iraq and Afghanistan kicking down doors, patrolling, and engaging in firefights. Now, that isn’t to say that other MOS’ don’t often engage in similar activities, but from a classic, mission standpoint, this is the mission of the infantry.

The Author, David Ingram in Sadr City, Iraq, 2008

Also, I would be remiss not to say, war…combat, for those who have been there, is unlike what most people imagine. Actions in combat are driven by love, not hate, there is no group of men that you be closer with, and do more for, than your unit. Within days you realize, your real mission is to make sure all of your buddies come home, not making sure that the other side’s guys don’t.

Disclaimer: Some of these are cliché, I know, but the lesson still stands. And let’s not kid ourselves, the military is cliché most of the time.

  1. Leaders Eat Last

In the military, especially the infantry, it is always easy to quickly suss out the good leadership from the bad leadership based on when they eat compared to their troops. Every good leader I had in the Army would stand back and make sure that all of their soldiers had food, and had enough to tamp the hunger pangs before they even thought about grabbing food themselves. This may be a small detail but it leaves a huge impact on the morale of your men, and their respect towards you. This point was even popularized by Simon Sinek, in his book Leaders Eat Last, which I highly recommend (Along with all of his books). This small act proves to your people that you respect them, and maybe even love them, enough to ensure that they are cared for first and foremost, even before yourself. No act will garner more respect and loyalty. Whether you are a boss, a friend, a significant other, this is a small fact is key.

2. It’s Always Funny if No One Dies

The key takeaway here is turning all negatives into positives. Many times I have told stories to my friends here stateside which I am cracking up about, only to realize that they are looking at me horrified. Well, turns out, you had to be there for a lot of those stories, but the sentiment holds up, it’s always funny unless someone dies (then admittedly it isn’t really funny at all). The big catch here is you have to find a way to adjust this viewpoint to a humorous one, although, admittedly, sometimes they are just plain funny. Some of my fondest memories in the infantry are when my fellow soldiers and I were sucking hard, it was cold and wet, we were tried, everything sucked, but looking back on them, those were also some of the most amazing times.

3. When in doubt, Frag Out

Ok, ok, I know! This is about as cliché and corny as they come, seen plastered across the chest of many of cheesy-ass Military inspired t-shirt, but stay with me here. The point is knowing when to cut your loss, break contact (this is infantry for tactically run for your life), and drive on. Specifically, don’t focus on your sunk cost, know when it is better to just end something and move on. This can be monetary, like an investment, or relationships, whether a job or a significant other. We could expand this to know when to pivot as well, but, the key, is don’t be stubborn, don’t hunker down, and expect to win when fragging out is the best option.

4. Stupid Games Win Stupid Prizes

This might be my all-time favorite, and in my case specifically, most overused. This is a very simple concept, if you do something stupid, the outcome will generally be something stupid. There were so many stupid games played in the Army (and I’d suspect the rest of the military), but one we can all relate to is bloody Knuckles. What is the prize for winning bloody knuckles? That is right — dickshit, you get nothing but a sore ass fist. Now, in life, there are also many stupid games that have stupid prizes. An example that immediately comes to mind is pyramid schemes where the prize is generally a bunch of debt an a bunch of old friends who avoid your phone calls now. So remember, don’t play stupid games, play smart games.

5. Keep Your Booger Hook off the Bang Switch

This one, full of colorful language is also a simple premise, first, booger hook is your finger, bang switch is the trigger — keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire (specifically until you are aiming at something that you want to shoot). Very simple, be methodical, be prepared, be diligent. These days with my infantry days ten years behind me, I am a marketer, in this discipline, it runs rampant that people are not methodical or prepared, they flail wildly trying to get leads, get business, increase revenue, but for the most part, all of their efforts are shit. If you have a good idea, be methodical, or keep your booger hook of that bang switch until it is time to shoot. Plan ahead, think before you act, and don’t aim until you’re ready to kill whatever is on the other side of that sight.

1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, A co. 1/68 — Sha’ab, Iraq, 2008

6. The Ability to Sleep Anywhere — Even Standing with your Eyes Open

The infantry has the rare gift, which is to sleep ANYWHERE, seriously, even, as mentioned in the sub-header here, standing up with your eyes open (ask any infantryman, for sure, at Sand Hill, his tired ass went cross-eyed and he was suddenly in dreamland). Although this is literal, in this example, let’s bring this one home with a metaphor, and that is, find comfort where you can. Also, take a little me time, you deserve it — you wanna take a nap on that pile of sharp rocks over there? Well, do it! Get yourself your 40 winks…might only last for 40 seconds, but buddy, you’ve worked hard for it.

7. If it Ain’t Raining, We Ain’t Training

Oh No! Another cliché, but tough luck suckarino, this one is badass and has two huge life lessons. One: train/practice in the worse conditions, this makes the real whack at it that much easier. This is much like many Olympic training facilities are at high elevation, like the U.S. Olympic Training Center (what’s up Colorado Springs?!). And two: the rain never hurt anyone, don’t be afraid to get wet, muddy, cold, just get in there, get it done. Frankly, the infantry, LOVES the rain, well at least I do, and I don’t mean like from inside a warm building holding a cup of cocoa, I mean ankle-deep, standing in the parking lot type of love, no one is loving shit from the wrong side of a glass panel. Go out in the rain, don’t be afraid, get dirty, get wet.

8. Always Have a Contingency Plan

I am not sure why there are so many words that are SO military sounding but contingency is definitely one of them, but a big shout out to my main man “behoove,” it doesn’t get more hooah-oorah than that. But anywho, every single mission and task in the Infantry had a contingency plan, why? Because it was life and death you fool! What does this mean to you? Don’t be daft, it means you should have a contingency plan too…a back up plan is always important, and one that is planned out beforehand. This somewhat goes hand-in-hand with Rule 3: Frag Out, so what I’m saying is this, it would behoove you to know when to frag out and what the hell to do when you do.

9. If You’re On Time, You’re late & Be in the Right Place at the Right Time in the Right Uniform

I’m technically putting two together, but they are so similar, just deal with it. Being 15 minutes early is the bane of so many Soldier’s (and Marine’s) existence, many times your leadership will require you to show up 15 minutes early (I mean all of your leadership). Shit rolls downhill and after your chain of command is done adding 15 minutes each, your tired ass shows up an 1 hour and 15 minutes early to morning formation — hurry up and wait. Well not now bucko, you control your own fate, so what do I propose, show up ONLY 15 minutes early, everywhere, all the time. This will have many benefits, but some are, you will look reliable, you will not be frazzled, and you will not stress yourself out. Win Win Win, we all win, just like wearing a t-shirt of babies playing jazz. Second, this is actually the ONLY rule for infantry, and that is, right place, right time, right uniform, in other words, dress appropriately for the situation that you are in and be in that situa….why am I explaining this, you get it, now do it.

10. Keep Your Head on a Swivel & Complacency Kills

Go ahead and smoke me, I added two together again, but again, they are related. What more can you say, never get too comfortable, never get complacent? Be vigilant in everything that you do, because when you get comfortable and rest on your laurels, or just get lazy, the enemy will strike. Always be aware of your surroundings, both physical surroundings and metaphorical. Know the exits, know the best appetizer at the wedding, soak it all in. The key takeaway, don’t get lazy and comfortable and know what’s going on around you.

11. Keep your Headgear Parallel to the Marching Surface

This is a general army dress standard, specifically, that your (mandatory) headgear (usually a patrol cap in this context) should be parallel to the marching surface — or the floor. I’m not telling you how to wear your hat, it’s your life, you cover your head however you see fit amigo. But, this gives a greater compound lesson here, first, always be presentable and have enough respect for yourself to look respectable. Second, and more importantly, the devil is in the details, the small things mean a lot. Having a hat parallel to the floor definitely looks sharp — when it is not, some people may barely notice, but when it is, they will for sure notice, even if they don’t know they do.

12. Don’t Hang Out with the Shitbags

I first heard this from my Father (HUGE shout out to that badass, Ski Ingram) as I was joining the Army, he learned it from his time in the Army (himself being a Vietnam Veteran, Green Beret Medic, and Ranger). But, this one makes a lot of sense, if you hang out with losers, you will become a loser, if you have out with winners…well, you can imagine. Dump your lame friends, and seek out people with similar goals, aspirations, and positivity. That minor move alone will change a lot for you — your mindset, your relationships, and life.

6. The Ability to Sleep Anywhere is Indispensable

There you have it. My personal, “12 Rules For Infantry, but geared towards civilian life, an antidote is chaos,” but that title was waaay too long and didn’t make for a cool graphic. I definitely highly suggest that you check out Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote to Chaos, Malcolm Gladwell’s Podcast Revisionist history, and Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last.