A good friend of mine told me a story of when he was trying to qualify for special forces. He went through a series of absolutely incredible tests of physical, mental, and emotional stamina. Many of his stories were just amazing but there was one the has stuck with me for years.

It was one of their first “obstacle course” tests, it was timed and had the reputation of being the test that eliminated the bulk of those trying out, so everyone was anxious to get a good time. The obstacle course included a long beach run which was to be completed immediately after the obstacle course, and both parts were timed.

The instructor told them: “You will be graded on your time and ability to follow instructions.You will go through the course as fast as you can. At the end of the course, there will be a hill. Race up the hill and down to the other side. Do not go between the 2 buildings. Proceed to the beach and run back to base. ”

The way it was set up was that on the other side of the hill, there were 2 buildings very close together. The way they were situated was so that when the soldiers came running down the other side, their body momentum would naturally “tempt” them to run between the 2 buildings and on to the beach which could be easily seen between the two buildings. There was an instructor posted off to the side with a clip board who watched this all unfold.

My friend noted, that as the soldiers ran down the hill, nearly all of them ran between the two buildings. Only a few, having ran through an exhausting obstacle course, had the presence of mind to stop at the bottom of the hill and find a way around the buildings.

Everyone who ran between the buildings was immediately cut from consideration.

There were many who said: “But I didn’t know…” or “I forgot…” or “I was too tired….” or “I didn’t hear that….” – all of which fell of deaf ears.

In this case the military was much more concerned with the candidates ability to follow instructions than the speed at which they ran.

There are a few really great lessons here– take it for what its worth.