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The Power of Choice

(A Change Management Article)

Imagine a world where the minimum physical qualifications for the position surpass what the vast majority of us could accomplish in our prime. Running two miles in twelve minutes, performing one hundred pull-ups in two minutes, executing one hundred push-ups in two minutes, not to mention swimming five hundred yards in about eight minutes. [i]

Now imagine you could successfully meet all those minimum qualifications, yet still fail. This is the working environment of the United States Army Special Forces – Green Berets.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of creating a model that would help predict successful completion of the Green Beret Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). Candidates for the SFQC had already completed the Special Operations Preparation Course (SPOC) and the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS)[ii] course. Every candidate was in great physical shape and had full knowledge of what it would take to be successful, yet still candidates did not graduate to become a Green Beret.

What made the difference between candidates who succeeded and those who failed? How could a candidate who already had five years of military service fail? Why would a candidate who could run for over six hours carrying a fifty-five pound rucksack across wild terrain, fail? How could a candidate who had great map navigation skills, lose their way and not graduate? How could a candidate that had the best trainers, mentors, and coaches give up?

The results surprised me, but serve as a great example of the power of “choice”.

During their training, every candidate was pushed past their physical ability. Every candidate was physically and mentally exhausted. Every candidate was driven to points beyond our normal understanding. Yet some succeeded. Those that did weren’t in better physical condition, or more physically capable. But rather they were able to logic through the pain; to put the pain aside and choose to continue. They understood their ultimate goal, they had a purpose larger than their current environment, and they focused on that purpose to overcome their hardships. The answer was choice.

Put simply, the power of choice overcame the “you can’t” statements that their body kept sending. They understood what they were fighting for, and were willing day-by-day and minute-by-minute to choose achieving the goal over allowing the pain to stop them.

In any transformation, whether organizational, professional, or personal, we will sooner or later arrive at the intersection of pain and change. This is the point where we make the choice to continue or give up. The differentiator, the one that allows our transformation to succeed where others fail, is when those who understand the cost and truly identify with the larger purpose, choose to overcome.

The Special Forces motto "De Oppresso Liber" is translated from Latin "To Free The Oppressed." What a powerful mission statement, what an overwhelming brand promise. To all those who serve, thank you for your sacrifice, unyielding determination and choice to keep us safe.


[i] Stew, Smith (n.d.). Army Green Beret Training. Retrieved from

[ii] U.S. Army. (2016, Mar 29). Special Forces Training, Retrieved from

© 2018 Barry Robbins, Silver Bear Solutions

Contact The Author

Barry Robbins is an IT Executive with a strong record of success in transforming IT organizations by envisioning, developing, and implementing IT business solutions.


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