I am a child of the atomic age.
I exist because in August 6, 1945, forty years and a day before my birthday, a man named Harry Truman made a choice that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands, but might have saved many millions more.
What would have happened if Japan did not surrender?
What would have happened if we had to invade Japan and end the war using one on one combat?
For the Americans, it would have been the bloodiest campaign of World War II if the Olympic/Coronet landings had taken place.
Based on the casualty figures from the battles on Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, the most-oft quoted estimate of total U.S. casualties (dead, wounded, captured, or missing) cites a figure of over a million.
In 1945, the U.S. government ordered 500,000 Purple Hearts in anticipation of heavy losses.
To this day (2016), the U.S. is still awarding Purple Hearts from this batch of medals.
My grandfather was a supply sergeant in the Army, stationed in the Pacific. He was drafted at age 28, had a degree from Cornell, knew how to type and had other skills that mostly kept him from the front lines.
But he did his duty and was ready and willing to follow his orders into the belly of the beast.
The likelihood that he would have survived being part of a full scale invasion of Japan was somewhere between slim and nil. He would have been one of the first to go, and had that happened, it’s likely I would not be sitting here typing.
My father had a similar run in with fate, missing the draft lottery for Vietnam by only 3 numbers. Enrolled in college at the time, he was still subject to selective service and eligible for the draft on a lottery system, where they assigned you a number and if it was picked, you went.
He was number 253, and they took everyone from 1-250. Many of those selected, never returned.
I am 31 years old now, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be drafted. I would do my duty and defend this country from an actual existential threat, should one present itself and I was called to do so.
I’m grateful for my life, and practice being grateful often. It’s an important part of anyone’s life. I often think about how I may never have been born, had things gone just a little differently.
On the flip side, it makes me believe that I exist for a reason. That my grandfather, and father both were spared so that I might live.
That there’s a reason I’m the 13th continuous generation in this great country.
There’s a reason each of us has the story we have, but we can choose what we’re going to believe about it and what it means, thereby informing our strategy and emotional state to create what we wish in the world.
It starts with gratitude, which comes from reflecting on what might have been if something happened just a bit differently. From the belief that life happens for us and not to us, and while we get to choose our destiny, and it’s not predestined, we do have to make an effort to do so by choosing what we value and therefore believe.
These values shape our beliefs which shape our thoughts which shape our words which shape our actions which shape our habits– which ultimately shape our destiny.
I value my story and the sacrifices that my forebears made so that I could live. I value the generations who came before, their wisdom, knowledge and service.
I value sharing what I’ve learned in a similar way to what they did.
They were my role models and anti role models, who I owe my very life to. I would not be the man I am today without their influence. Full stop.
Tell me your story and what you value in the comments, and if you’re really ambitious, share it with your tribe. This is an excellent exercise in finding your key emotional motivators and drivers. I look forward to reading each and every one.