“Minutes become hours, hours become days, days become weeks, and before you know it, a year has passed with little to show for it.” – Nick Lavery

In 2013, on his second combat rotation to Afghanistan, Green Beret Nick Lavery and his detachment fell victim to an insider attack. Nick ultimately survived that attack but sustained injuries that cost him his leg. 

At this point, there’s nothing uncommon about Nick’s story. Within military circles, the loss of limbs is unfortunately common. Like many others, Nick ended up at Walter Reed National Medical Military Center where they performed a year of surgeries and fitted him for a prosthetic leg. 

That’s where we’ll quit using the word “common” in this story. When he left Walter Reed, Nick returned to his unit, deciding that he wanted to return to operational status. Not only did Nick want to return, but his goal was to deploy again with his team and get back into combat… a Green Beret with a prosthetic leg. 

For Nick to make his goal a reality, he would encounter some massive barriers and hurdles. Massive. Nick would need to perform on his prosthetic at the same level as his two-legged Green Beret teammates. There were no waivers for the guy with one leg or special cases where he could skip certain requirements based on his injury. To return to combat with his team, he’d need to perform at their level, or he couldn’t come back. The team’s safety and ability to execute their missions depended on it. No matter how bad Nick wanted it or how hard he worked, there were no passes… In or out would be determined by performance and performance alone.

Here’s where that quote we started with comes into play… 

“Minutes become hours, hours become days, days become weeks, and before you know it, a year has passed with little to show for it.”

Every minute, every hour, and every day was now more valuable than ever.

Listening to him unpack his journey on the Jocko Podcast with Jocko Willink, Nick talked about learning to maneuver in and out of armored vehicles. Every available minute, he would practice getting in and out, timing himself, and planning his foot placements to ensure each step was efficient. He had to be able to scramble as fast as his teammates, so he put the time in and learned how to do just that. This is just one small example of how Nick used every available moment to work toward his goal. 

Every minute counted, and every missed opportunity would add up over time. For Nick, the journey back to his team would require discipline, sacrifice, and doing the kind of hard work most individuals shy away from. His goal was big. His effort would have to equal it in size.

How does this apply to you and I?

For me, I don’t want to get to the end of this next year looking back on the minutes and hours and days and weeks with regret – wishing I had done things differently. 

If you have a goal, especially a big one, you need to be hyper-aware of how you’re choosing to invest your time and how those choices positively or negatively impact your goal. You need to make the most of every minute, every hour, every day, and every week – your goals depend on it.

This isn’t just for Green Berets with prosthetic legs who want to return to combat. It’s for med students working to become doctors, entrepreneurs working to grow their businesses, and husbands and wives working to strengthen their relationships. It’s for the one in the gym at 5:00 AM trying to improve their fitness and the author trying to write their first book. It’s for anyone with a goal. 

If that’s you… if you have a goal… then what you do with your minutes, hours, days, and weeks matter. For all of us, time is a limited resource, and frankly, it’s not on our side. 

Tick, tick, tick…

Every second, a little more time slips past. 

Lavery had an interesting take on this. As he discussed preparing to return to his team, a reality set in for him. He needed to cut out the things that weren’t moving him toward his goal. He began measuring things in his life based on the answer to one question… This is bringing me closer to my goal, or it’s not. If it’s not, it’s out. Nick had an extreme goal, so he took extreme measures to get there. 

Maybe you don’t need to be so extreme, but if you look around, you also need to start to weigh some things out. Watching that latest episode of the Bachelor… Is it moving you toward your goal or away from it? Scrolling through social media… Is it moving you toward your goal or away from it? Spending time with negative people… Is it moving you toward your goal or away from it?

“Minutes become hours, hours become days, days become weeks, and before you know it, a year has passed with little to show for it.”

The Takeaway

If you really want the goals you say you want, then how you spend your time should reflect that. If your time doesn’t reflect that, then how bad do you truly want what you say you want? 365 days from now, when that year has passed, how much closer will you be to your goal. You get to decide, and that decision shows up in how you spend your time. 

How did Nick Lavery’s journey end up? 

From his websiteNick is an active duty member of The United States Army Special Forces. He is considered to be the first Green Beret to return to combat as an above the knee amputee. Nick’s awards include the Silver Star, three Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, Bronze Star with “V” for valor, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, two Meritorious Service Medals, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and the Special Operations Command Excalibur Award. In his TED Talk’ Living by an Ethos,’ Nick speaks about the Warrior Mindset and the importance of sacrifice, determination, and selflessness. 

Get his book Objective Secure on Amazon here