Family & Education

The Best Kind of Tough

Triumphing over hardship, the warrior way
TIMEDecember 31, 2021

Sometimes, we find inspiration and sound advice in unexpected sources.

Prompted by a friend, I recently read Jocko Willink’s “Way of the Warrior Kid III: Where There’s a Will … ” In this novel for adolescents, which is directed especially at boys, we meet Marc, a seventh-grader who’s having problems adjusting to Danny, a new kid in Marc’s circle of buddies.

The trouble is that Danny, who’s always smiling and wants to be a friend, can best Marc in all sorts of athletic and academic contests. Marc’s Uncle Jake, a wise ex-Navy SEAL, takes his envious nephew under his wing, as he has in the two earlier novels, and adds to the Warrior Code that he has already taught Marc by pointing him in the direction of comradery, compassion, and understanding.

Though Willink is unfamiliar to me, many of my readers have doubtless listened to his podcasts or read his books for adults on stamina and leadership. Disgruntled with what contemporary children’s literature was offering to his own kids, Willink, himself a former Navy SEAL, embarked on a crusade to inspire younger readers, as an Army recruiting slogan once put it, to “be all you can be.”

As I read “Where There’s a Will,” it struck me that Willink’s advice for adolescents might prove to be worthwhile for adults as well. Here are just a few of the precepts of the Warrior Kid Code as compiled by Marc:

“The Warrior Kid wakes up early in the morning.”

“The Warrior Kid studies to learn and gain knowledge and asks questions if he doesn’t understand.”

“The Warrior Kid trains hard, exercises, and eats right to be strong and fast and healthy.”

“The Warrior Kid works hard, saves money, is frugal and doesn’t waste things, and always does his best.”

“I am the Warrior Kid and I am a leader.”

Now there’s a code that goes to the very heart of self-improvement, and it’s not just some syrupy nostrums pumped out to inspire kids.

By now, most of us are aware that hard times have arrived in our country. Gas and food prices are skyrocketing. Rents, mortgages, and the price of a new car—or a used pickup truck, for that matter—are through the roof. And depending on where we live, goods in our local shops and even in the big box stores may be in short supply.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to linger, and the dark winter predicted by some is now upon us. Sometimes, life these days can look pretty bleak. That means it’s time to be tough. It’s time to be the best kind of tough: hard on the outside and compassionate within.

Whatever our status—parents, grandparents, relatives, or mentors such as coaches and youth group leaders—we need to teach our young people to face the world squarely just as it is, shoulders back and heads erect, strong and defiant in the face of hardship. We need to teach them the importance of self-reliance, self-sacrifice, duty, and responsibility.

Just as importantly, we need to make that we exhibit these same positive character traits ourselves. To face our present trials, we must rely on our inner resources—an understanding of virtue, an acquired strength of mind and body, and a willingness to sacrifice ourselves for our family and friends. And all of us moms and dads, family members, and mentors need to act as leaders for those we love and cherish.

Few of us would meet the mental and physical criteria required to become Navy SEALs like Jocko Willink, but all of us can adopt a warrior’s code, a set of high standards and solid principles that will give us the strength not only to survive hardship and tribulation, but to triumph over them.

Let’s make 2022 the Year of the Warrior.

Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust on Their Wings,” and two works of non-fiction, “Learning as I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See to follow his blog.