The Marine Corps Mindset

Marine Corps Mindset

When you think of a Marine, what goes through your mind? Diciplined? Fierce? Committed? Honorable?

A commonly heard slogan, ‘The few, the proud, the Marines’ resonates in my head and I think of a group of men and women that have been conditioned to overcome the human conditions of fear, limits, and doubts.  They are rewired to push forward and overcome the impossible and conquer anything that stands in their way.

The question I wanted answered is how do they do this?  How does the Marine Corps take people from various backgrounds, beliefs, and habits, and train them with a mindset that makes them stand apart from the rest? They walk tall without an ego but know their capabilities well, and their conditioning permeates their entire life, for the rest of their life.  They bleed Marine Corps colors and live by the motto, ‘once a Marine, always a Marine.”  

I served in the Air Force and have experienced various military trainings to include boot camp.  I have never been trained to the degree that new Marine recruits experience during their 13-week boot camp and beyond.  The Marine Corps figured out how to train an entire branch of service with a belief system that each and every recruit understands and carries out in thought, word and deed. 

General William Thornson of the US Army said: 

“There are only two kinds of people who understand Marines; Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.”

I had the honor of giving the keynote presentation at a Marine Corps Birthday Ball where they celebrated their 243rd year of service.  It was here where I had the opportunity to share my own second-hand opinion.

I spoke about the Marine Corps Mindset.  I challenged them to never forget their accomplishments and where they came from and I encouraged them to share their unique way of thinking with everyone they know.  Then I explained to them the training format used in boot camp that made them perform differently and stand tall amongst the rest.  The Marines call it ‘a bias towards action,’ but in the psychology world, it is known as an internal locus of control.

A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes in their life, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything that happens to them.  They feel victimized by life and blame others for their shortcomings.  

The Marine Corps incorporates the concept of an internal locus of control during their training of new recruits. Regardless of their background, every recruit is exposed to and adapts to the idea that they have a direct influence on what happens in their life.  They are taught to be calm while experiencing chaos and to be innovative, forward thinking and have a bias towards action.  They will think through a challenge and come up with three options to accomplish the mission assuring they are never caught off guard.  This learned mindset allows a Marine to overcome obstacles with perceived ease and the confidence developed feeds this mindset and becomes a self-perpetuating characteristic every Marine displays.

I came across an article in a Marine Corp publication about a mom explaining what she saw in her son after he completed boot camp.  She said. “He was a lazy kid that was never motivated to do anything before he decided to join the Marines.  When he came home after boot camp, he was a different person altogether.  He looked different, walked different, talked different, and had such a bearing and pride in him.  He had better values, morals, and manners than anyone I know.  He cared about how he looked, what he did and how he treated others.  He was a true gentleman.  I saw patience and calmness in him that I have never seen.  I could never express my gratitude enough to the Marine Corps for what they did for my son and for me.”

So, what do the Marines have that the rest of us can’t?


Your life is just the way you planned it based on the decisions you’ve made up to this point.  You can blame circumstances, bad parents, or a horrible teacher but the reality is, this is your life; own it!  It may not be your fault, but it’s your responsibility!

Until you accept responsibility – total and complete responsibility – for your life, very little will change.  This is the difference between surviving or thriving in life.  This is where those who are successful live, and those who struggle fear going.

Fear is the biggest obstacle in life and the Marines have figured out a way to rewire the human psyche to face fear and take massive action.

I’m not asking you strap on a rucksack and hike the Crucible (a 54-hour confidence course at the end of training that molds a recruit into a Marine!).  I’m asking you to take a hard look at your life – the good, the bad, and the ugly, decide what you really want, and begin taking the actions that will generate the success you desire and deserve.  Live your life from the inside out (internal locus of control) and take control of your future.  You’ll one day look back and be glad you did.  

Semper Fidelis!

Photo by: Corey Parish, US Air Force

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