‘Hold the line’ — former ‘black hawk down’ Army ranger’s message of endurance, persistence

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Updated Feb 11, 2015

“I don’t get to wear the boots anymore,” said songwriter, author and former Army ranger Keni Thomas, capping a talk that was strong on storytelling, with no small amount of motivational-type elements thrown in to keep you thinking. He was moving into a point about where exactly life and leadership happen, where the rubber meets the road in our on-highway parlance, noting that it all gets harder and harder the more advanced you become in whatever you’re doing. “Making a difference and mattering and giving an example to follow — it’s easy in the uniform,” he went on, referring to his military experience, when he was a sergeant Army ranger caught in the now famous “black hawk down” episode in Mogadishu in Somalia. “But it gets hard when you come back to the other side.”

The same could be said for a lot of things, of course, whether it’s making a decision to jump off the truck to grow the fleet, to break the reins tying your business to a larger leased entity to go out on your own with a set of different partners, or to finally put that down payment down on a truck of your own to revamp your relationship to the industry.

But just because life gets harder doesn’t mean it’s not worth moving forward, in the end. Thomas gets to a little bit of that in the podcast below, an excerpt from the tail end of his talk, introducing his “Hold the Line” song (it’s followed by the official video for the recorded track below, which I’d encourage you to also take a look at).

Click through the image to read more about Thomas’ book chronicling his experience in Somalia.Click through the image to read more about Thomas’ book chronicling his experience in Somalia.

Thomas spoke and performed the song this past Thursday to open the Conversion Interactive / TCA recruiting/retention conference — his story was an unexpectedly gripping treat to start the day. The fact that I don’t have a bevy of quotes from the story here is pretty good evidence of how good the it was, in the end. My notes fell by the wayside as I was pulled into it.

Though I haven’t read Thomas’ book, my guess is that it’s probably worth checking out for you readers out there.

The end of the tale broke down to a message of persistence — sticking to the things that you’ve learned actually work as the world throws you curveballs. As Thomas and his unit were quite literally running behind tire-less (i.e., more or less running on rims) trucks out of Mogadishu toward the end of the fighting that fateful day, he found himself skipping protocol when crossing intersections — pause at corner, cover the man behind you, keep going, essentially — in an effort to keep up with the vehicles. Turned out it was the weakest link in the unit, who was keeping to protocol, that saved everyone’s life when he shot at Somalis aiming RPGs down a corridor at the unit as they crossed.

You’ll hear more about his efforts to raise money for the sons and daughters of military servicemembers lost in battle — as well as an acoustic performance of the “Hold the Line” track — in the podcast. Enjoy, and stay safe out there.

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