As I was doing some Internet research on submarines—for some reason now lost to me—I came across an account of a Navy submarine officer who described a great deal about life aboard a submarine. Among his descriptions was his experience with the school run by the Navy for officers working with the nuclear power plants found in modern submarines. He said:
The Navy chooses its nuclear officers from all majors. They want good students who can learn, not just engineers. The school is designed to teach even a liberal arts major how a nuclear plant works: nuclear physics, calculus, chemistry, corrosion, reactor dynamics, thermodynamics, plant operations, abnormal and casualty procedures—and all in that one year.
Forget what you learned in college. You learn the Navy’s way. The one guy in our class who was already trained as a nuclear engineer failed out of the school because he couldn’t accept how the Navy designs their nuclear plants. On the other hand, a Political Science major was number one in his class and turned out to be one of the best nuclear operators and overall submariners I ever met. It’s more important to know how to learn than anything else.
During my career I have hired many people for many jobs, and from that experience I gleaned what I still believe to be the most important quality in any employee: willingness—willingness to learn, to work, to adapt, to grow.
That same quality has proven to be the single most accurate predictor for success in even more important endeavors, like dating, learning to be happy, becoming a great partner, and more. On hundreds of occasion I have been asked, for example, what to look for in a potential partner while dating. Answer? Willingness.
It’s useful to have intelligence, endurance, strength, and any number of native gifts, but without willingness to learn and more, all gifts are greatly limited in their use and benefits. When considering the direction of your life, ask yourself some questions:
- Am I really willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be the kind of person I claim that I want to be?
- Am I willing to give up my attachment to being right so I can understand people, learn new things, and discover possibilities I had never considered?
- No matter what I think I know about something, am I willing to genuinely listen to what somebody else is saying on that subject?
- Am I willing to abandon—at least temporarily—my own desires to serve the needs of another person?
- Am I willing to give up my pride?
- Am I willing to give up my fears?
If you want your life to improve, if you want your relationships to be energized and exciting, if you want to make a difference in the world, ask the questions above. If you’re considering a partnership, ask your potential partner if they’re willing to ask these questions.