by Jack Kennedy
“Entrepreneurship is just a Field Training Exercise.”
Growing up I wanted to be an actor and a writer so I went to West Point and became an Army Officer.
I didn’t regret that choice, but I did think it ended my Hollywood Dream. So when the Army released me back into the wild, I immediately found a recruiter, started interviewing for jobs and getting offers. It was easy; I was marketable and I had the skill set that everyone seemed to need. I settled on a corporate gig in Atlanta, but in the days leading to my start date, something gnawed at my gut. Here I was harboring a childhood dream yet settling for less and taking the road more traveled. I was choosing the easier wrong over the harder right. I had no idea how to be an actor or a writer. The Army hadn’t left me with that skill set. But the Army had left me with this: the knowledge that nothing would ever be harder than the things I did in the Army. I learned how to adapt, overcome, survive, endure, fail and succeed. But you can’t do any of those things if you don’t take action, which is why the military is task oriented. From day one you are told to do things you have never done before. You train, you do. Repeat. Every day your commander gives you a task and not accomplishing it is not an option. You figure it out, complete the mission and report back.
So I called my soon-to-be-boss and I quit before started. I packed my car and headed to Hollywood where I didn’t know a soul, have a job, or any intel on Objective: Be An Actor. Everybody I tell that story to thinks it took a lot of guts to make that choice, but it didn’t. I now had a mission and I was trained to complete it no matter what.
As an Actor and Writer I am an entrepreneur, CEO of Jack Kennedy, Inc. I’ve now been in Hollywood for several years and have experienced more failure and rejection than I thought humanly possibly. But each year I move my career one step forward, all on the back of being willing to fail, reassess, and continue. I couldn’t have picked a profession more opposite than the military. In the military, if you do A, B, and C you can reasonably expect X, Y, and Z. In Hollywood, you get J, Q, 3 and a guy driving an Aston Martin who tells you he’s better than you because he has money. But somewhere along the line I realized entrepreneurship is just a Field Training Exercise. You have a mission, you make a plan, you execute…and it all goes to hell. But you do an After Action Review, fix the problem, and do it again. I’ve seen thousands of people come and go out here. They come with the idea of a dream but not the ability or instinct to take the necessary action—because your first 99 actions will fail and you have to be willing to take the 100th.
Like many of you making the transition, I miss the camaraderie of the military, the natural support system where a Company of men and women have my six, and the comfort of a Field Manual to turn to when I need answers. It can seem a bit daunting but remember we are all armed with the gift of being forged, like steel, by our experiences in the military: We all know how to complete a mission, no excuses.