Let me introduce you to the Hazelwood Principle.
Go with me to the woods of Kentucky. Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, to be exact. I had the privilege to serve with the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division. I served as a section leader in a 60mm mortar platoon. I led 7 infantryman. One of those 7 soldiers was Private Hazelwood. We were in the woods of Ft. Campbell performing combined arms tactical live fire exercises. While executing these exercises a clarion call came across all radios. A weapon had been lost. Losing an M16A2 rifle was tantamount to having your car stolen on the same day your bank account was robbed. It was the worst thing a soldier could have happen.
What happened next is the frustrating part.
The entire 3rd Battalion 327th Infantry spent the afternoon in line formation walking the woods looking for a lost weapon. Darkness came and 500 soldiers had failed to find the weapon. Around 11:30 pm a call came from the Battalion Headquarters. The Sergeant Major wanted to see Staff Sergeant Stoddard and Private Hazelwood. As we walked up to the tent, I could see the Sergeant Major outside. As we stepped up I greeted the Sergeant Major with “SSG Stoddard and Pvt. Hazelwood reporting as ordered Sergeant Major.”
The Sergeant Major had a weapon. It was Hazelwood’s M16. The Sergeant Major asked Hazelwood to explain himself. Pvt. Hazelwood then started to make all these excuses as to why he had left his weapon unsecured giving the Sergeant Major the opportunity to take it (Sergeant Major’s live to do that). As Hazelwood continued to make excuses, all I could think about was to tell him “Hazelwood shut up, stop making excuses, and just say ‘I have no excuse Sergeant Major. I messed up and it won’t happen again.’” Well, that is what I told him.
What’s the point? You get it. There comes a time when we must just admit we do not always get it right. There are times when we have to admit we botched it – whatever “it” is for us.
The Hazelwood Principle: excuses are a waste of time so admit mistakes and move on.
I’ve had plenty of times when I made mistakes and made excuses. The Hazelwood story reminds me that I should not make excuses. Or at least there is a time when I should not make excuses. A lot of time is saved just saying “I messed up … it won’t happen again. I’m on it.”
PS – Hazelwood ended up carrying a log everywhere he went for two weeks. If he had just admitted he botched it, he would have “probably” not had to carry a log to the movies, in the shower, and to when he slept. Sometimes, there is baggage to making excuses.