Twenty-one steps. A crisp about-face. A pause for twenty-one seconds. Then twenty-one steps in the new direction.
Then it’s repeated. For thirty minutes. Then a changing of the guard, and a new man begins his watch. Twenty-one steps. A crisp about-face…
It’s the work of the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment “Old Guard.” Guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns. And it continues twenty-four hours a day. 365 days a year.
It never stops. Ever. As you read this line, a soldier stands guard in Arlington Cemetery, outside Washington, DC.
What we respect, we guard. What we value, we protect. There are some things, despite inconvenience and circumstances, are worth intentionally protecting. They’re that important.
1. Your Integrity
“Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Integrity is doing the right thing, regardless. And guarding it requires a lifetime commitment.
Once broken, it can be rebuilt, but those affected by the fallout may no longer be a witness. So make decisions that reinforce doing right, not make it unlikely or an inconvenience. If it seems wrong to do, that perception is the screaming voice of right. Don’t muzzle it. Listen to it, and keep your integrity intact.
- Ask yourself, “would I want my kids doing this?” You don’t even have to be a parent to answer this question. If we’d counsel children to not take the route we’re planning to go, that’s a pretty good indication it’s time to think like a kid again.
2. Your Reputation
A life worth following is forged by a million decisions made in the right direction.
Guard your name. Protect the good that people think of when they consider who you are.
And never forget. One decision can destroy a reputation. One decision. When it comes to reputation, nothing short of non-stop vigilance is required.
“Your brand name is only as good as your reputation.” – Richard Branson
3. Your Heart
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” – Proverbs 4:23
At the center of your personal solar system is your heart. Everything revolves around it, emanating from its lack or abundance. So keep it well.
Intentionally work at avoiding circumstances that would clutter and pollute your ability to think straight. Nurture relationships that feed this center, not your peripheral ego. Learn to let go of those who, knowingly or otherwise, fight against your commitment to keep your heart pure.
- Watch what you allow to consume and feed your thoughts. We’re not passive when it comes to thinking. We control what influences us. So choose wisely. If it’s junk outside your head, it’ll still be junk inside your heart.
Let’s buck up. This is our integrity, our reputation, our heart, we’re watching. Don’t stop. Keep marching. Always guard.
It’s that important.