Perception is the greater part of reality
This one still drives me crazy but it is one of the truest and most honest statements I have ever heard
though at the time I first heard it I thought the guy who was telling it was an idiot or that he was just trying to
sound profound. It turned out both of which were true. I guess my first experience with real politics was in
the service which was very odd. For my service was in the Marines and politics just seemed counter to the
culture and I must say that for the most part and for the better part of my first enlistment I never
experienced anything close to politics. I had started off in a division unit and there did not seem to be a
place for it at least not to my notice. That is why when I was transferred to a support unit a bit more then
halfway through my contract I was completely unprepared for the experiences I would face. In retrospect, I
can appreciate the lessons I learned and now see it as a turning point in my working mindset. One might
say my eyes were opened and I never looked at any situation the same after that.
Over two years in and I was still in Love with the Corps. I had mostly recovered from an accident that had
lead to my transfer from a combat unit to support. I was on my way to maintenance battalion by way of the
group personal office when I got pulled aside. The head of the department, a Chief Warrant Officer 4
(CWO4), a female Marine, had noticed that I had some college and computer experience and she was
looking for someone to fill an out of MOS billet at the group level on the General’s Special Staff. She
called me into her office and spoke to me in such a casual manner that I was a bit unsettled. I had not
worked directly with senior officers warrant or otherwise to this point and there was a sense of awe that
went with the rank in the Corps. I also had not worked anywhere with a female in over two years and now
they seemed to be everywhere. (Note: Half of them seemed to be pregnant. It was weird to see a female in
a pregnancy version of the uniform. I didn’t really approve).
We spoke for a few minutes about my experience and I relaxed a bit. She told me about the position and
asked if I would do it. She asked me. I can’t tell you how otherworldly that seemed to me. She said, I
could try it out for a month or so and if I did not like it or it was not working out I could come back and she
would transfer me on to Maintenance Battalion. A month later, I did come back to her, reminded her of
what she said, and asked to be transferred to maintenance battalion. She said, “No.” and that pretty much
sealed my fate for my first enlistment. But for the monument I was still under the, properly trained for
division, but miss guided believe for group that when a senior asks you to do something it was a
command. You don’t have a choice and you can't refuse a command. If fact you jump at the chance to
prove yourself so I responded in good fashion Yes, ma'am. ..and went to it. I was going to the Human
Resource Office (HRO) a small section within the general’s special staff under the supervision of the G1
(the administrative section) at the group level. I was going to push paper and not turn a wrench for the
rest of my enlistment. I admit at the time the prospect never seemed that appealing but I believed that a
good Marine did the job assigned to him to the best of his abilities without complaint and that his efforts
would be recognize and rewarded. Yeah, I know, Naive. But I am telling you I had not experienced
anything else in the Corps. Until I landed at group.
When I arrived the section was lead by a CWO2 who was proficient and looking to get out of the job to go
to school and get a commission, His enlisted counter part was a female GySgt who’s primary MOS was
dispersing but had managed to do les then six years in that job out of a sixteen year career. She wanted
to get out of the HRO but would go anywhere as long as it wasn’t back to dispersing. There was a Cpl who
I was going to replace he was getting out all together. I had also heard of a Sgt who had just left the
section after being denied reenlistment over some bitter feeling between him and the Gunny which I would
only understand months later. I was introduced to the G1 a major who was filling a billet designed for a
LTCol but it didn’t matter much as he was soon transferred to another unit leaving an odd somewhat ill
prepared and overwhelmed Captain in charge. By the time the Capt. took over both the gunny and the
CWO2 had moved on and a new gunny had been assigned to be in the HRO but had just came from
Headquarters Marine Corps as an Equal Opportunity Advisor. He didn’t want to get involved with the
functioning of the section or have responsibility for any troops. I was a troop. He reluctantly filled the spot
for appearance sack and or to his own advantage but I was on my own and the Gunny made that perfectly
clear. I had picked up Sgt when the Captain officially took over and He pulled me aside to speak with me.
Break: If this does not already sound overly complicated and somewhat confusing by now then you have
been watching too many soap operas on TV.
It was a strange meeting but I had begun to get used to the fact that group and especially the general’s
level of group was not like the rest of the Marine Corps in fact I was beginning to doubt it was in the Marine
Corp at all. At any rate it was at this time that I was given a jewel of wisdom from the Captain.
We spoke about the job and his expectations of me. That he was, as everyone else, overwhelmed and
filling a billet above his grade. He said he would not have much time to direct my way and needed to know
if he could rely on me.
I responded confidently, “Yes. You can depend on me, Sir.”
He said he understood that I was filling a senior staff NCO billet or possibly a WO billet but that it was a
good credit to his belief in my abilities that I was there. It was understood that this was an opportunity. I
would be rewarded for my efforts. This was to placate me into doing what no one else wanted to do.
Everyone before me had either realized this job was poison to their career and got out or had already
been killed metaphysically by the poison of the situation. As our conversation ended I was feeling both
overwhelmed and confident.
At this point he said, “There is one more thing…”
He leaned forward and in a very serious manner said, “Remember, we are at group…. The general is just
up the hallway… and perception is the greater part of reality.”
I nodded my head in agreement not really understanding what he meant. I understood completely what he
had said. Be careful to not to screw up. But as for its truer deeper and most complete meaning I was
clueless. I contemplated it as I walked away and back across the street to my office. I had already started
to develop a bit of sarcasm about my experience at group and thought He was just another young officer
only a few years out of college and only a couple of years older then me who wanted to appear as if he
had all the answers and some wisdom. I looked back and wondered where he had heard that saying as I
know he did not think that one up alone.
Most of the world functions on what they see or what they think they see. We rarely delve deeper then the
first few layers of any given subject to confirm the absolute truth of it. And why should we for most things
in life the simplest answer is the correct one and things are as they appear. The difficult part is when
things are not as they appear or when it takes a lot of digging to find the real and complete truth. As a
result it often does not matter what the truth is because people will act and respond to a situation based
upon how it appears or more correctly their perception of the situation. Once people have determined in
their own head what happened it takes a lot to change their mind or convince them otherwise. By that
point it is likely too late and the damage it already done.
The Lesson to Learn:
The truth is what people think the truth is… there is a black and white… there is a right and wrong but it
does not matter what really happens if people are acting based upon what they think happened. You have
to deal with the situation as it is and people as they are. You can save the correction and analysis for your
memoirs. This is why there are whole industries and vast numbers of people dedicated to creation and
altering of perception in people and society as a whole.
The Brutal Truth:
Things are not always as they seem but people respond to what they see and you have to deal with
people as they are. So the reality in which we live is most often a product of perception.