Post created by Jason Yan, MBA 2014
“The CIA and FBI turned down my applications for a summer internship. Operation Blue Devil (OBD) might be the only chance that I have in my life to experience Special Forces training,” I joked when asked why I applied to OBD. Inspired by my role model Jason Borne, I always admire those who have the physical competence, sharp mind, courage and leadership to do the right thing. Those are exactly the traits that I expected to improve through OBD, and my experience with OBD went beyond my expectation.
Physical competence. In one activity during OBD, our team of 12 moved a 55 gallon drum filled with water for nearly two miles. Though we used a contraption built with 4 tires, 6 poles and rope to get the job done, it’s still physically demanding. What’s more, the point I want to highlight here is that we pushed ourselves to run for several times while moving the drum, even when we were nearly exhausted. The physical competence is built not only on the physical capacity, but more on your strong will over the physical challenge.
Sharp Mind. Everyone has skills, some of which can be explored only in certain conditions. One of these conditions is focusing, which can help to sharpen your mind. One activity during OBD was to assemble Legos in 45 seconds in a design after running a half of a mile. We saw the design before we ran. The key challenge here is to remember the design during the run and to think of the best way to assemble the Legos quickly. By focusing, you are able to do better than you expected. Focusing enables you to think fast and proactively, which makes a difference, especially in urgent and challenging situations.
Courage. You don’t know what you are afraid of until you face a problem. When you face it, you are half way to figuring out how to deal with it. The activities of OBD helped strengthen a “can-do” attitude, a courage to face a problem instead of escaping it.
Leadership. Many different types of leadership (lead by example, lead by coaching or lead by supporting, for example) were presented during OBD. I learned a lot about leadership from my peers during the two days of intensive teamwork. OBD is a real-time experience of leadership in a diverse team environment with people from different cultures and language backgrounds. Given the different context in each activity of OBD, it was clear that a single leadership style is not ideal for every situation; instead it is important to customize it to the specific context.
Overall, OBD was a lot of fun. Don’t be intimidated by its affiliation with Special Forces and toughness. The whole point throughout is to get out of your comfort zone and to go beyond how you define yourself.