6 Things I Realized About The Naval Academy After I Left

1. Your decisions about the fleet are made with little to no perspective

Remember being in High School and thinking you knew what it was like to be at the Naval Academy? You were sure you had it all down because you went to Summer Seminar or had a friend that went there, or maybe you read a lot about it. My experience in High School was that I thought I knew a lot about the Naval Academy and I knew about 1%. That’s how much you know about the fleet as a mid, 1%.

You have assumptions based on the few select officers you come into contact with and you almost never interact with enlisted people except for company chiefs and gunnery sergeants (who act like officers anyway). It’s a strange way to introduce someone to the fleet by never having them have any meaningful interactions with enlisted people (except for summer cruise), but it’s what happens. Know this and you won’t be so shocked when the fleet is nothing like you expected.

2. You are brainwashed, and that’s ok

Let’s face it, if you’ve been at the Naval Academy more than a few days you’ve been brainwashed. The good news is there probably wasn’t much in your brain worth saving, so a new mindset probably isn’t a bad idea (I’m kidding… sort of).

The Naval Academy will generally make you more conservative, more patriotic and more inclined to love Jesus. That’s just the way it goes. It’s a culture that will have a lot of influence you… so just don’t be surprised if you find yourself voting republican and wanting to join the NRA.

3. Your major doesn’t matter

Seriously. It really doesn’t matter.

It’s rare to meet graduates where what they majored in played a big role in them having the life they wanted. It’s rare and mostly useful for people who want super technical engineering jobs at some point in their life, which is about 0.1% of us.

Why do we get convinced that we should study engineering, or physics or some time-consuming major? It will make us look good? We will use it later on in life? Seems to me, most of the reason mids choose engineering is because they have always been high achievers and shooting for the moon academically is the thing to do. That’s a terrible reason to choose a major.

4. Competition drives desire

I was ranked 700-something in my class. When it came time to pick my ship based on my class rank there were lots of people ahead of me. I had thought to myself “I want a cruiser or destroyer out of Japan” and that was my first choice. My second choice was San Diego.

Fortunately for me, all the ships in Japan went in the first 100 spots and I was left choosing San Diego. Although I can’t actually know this, I’m very glad I picked San Diego over Japan. What I didn’t realize was that the biggest reason Japan got chosen wasn’t because Japan was great, it was because there weren’t a lot of ships in Japan. Mids saw the chance to get something that not everyone else could get and they jumped at it.

Scarcity drives desire and people always want what they can’t have.

5. I Learned A Lot about Leadership

At some point after graduating, I realized that leadership was something most people really struggle with. I had so much leadership experience after 4 years at the Academy and 5 years as a Navy Officer that it didn’t dawn on me that most people are totally clueless on how to lead small groups.

It was astonishing, but it made sense.

I was in a leadership laboratory for 9 years. The Naval Academy taught me more about leadership than any other college could because we didn’t just talk about leadership we practiced it. We were given leadership positions and we got to experience success, failure and everything in between. We learned by doing, and having been away from Annapolis for 8 years I can say it’s been enormously valuable to have the kind of leadership experience I have now.

6. IFLTP (I Fucking Love This Place)

I’ll be honest, I was a happy midshipman. I wasn’t the guy who went around saying how much he hated the Naval Academy, but after I got out, my love for the Academy grew exponentially. Especially after publishing Things I Wish They Told Me at The Naval Academy and getting to hear from hundreds of other Naval Academy friends and students. There’s something truly magical about Annapolis, and I was so happy when I got to take my wife back and show her around last year, and when I had the privilege of speaking for some of the students at Mitscher Hall.

Reunions are a blast, school pride increases and suddenly all the days on restriction, long nights studying for chemistry tests and parades in summer heat turn into fun things to joke about with your classmates.

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