The Late R. Lee Ermey’s Rules for Life

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Posted: Apr 17, 2018 12:00 PM
The Late R. Lee Ermey’s Rules for Life

Editor's Note: The following are excerpts from R. Lee Ermey's memoir, Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like A Marine, published by Regnery Publishing.

R. Lee “Gunny” Ermey, the Golden Globe-nominated actor best known for his unforgettable role as a drill sergeant in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, died this week at the age of 74. 

To commemorate Ermey’s life—especially, his legendary work ethic and commitment to duty—here is the best advice from Ermey’s memoir, Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like A Marine

Make it a Habit

“The Marines did not teach me to roll over and play dead in the tough spots. I have not always achieved my mission, but when I have come up short, it isn’t because I do not go the extra mile, do not carry my load. I’ll hump it as far as it takes to get what I want. I have done that every day of my life since I became a Marine, in large roles or meager ones, and I expect to continue doing it until I’m in a wheelchair or my trip is over.” 

Never Say “It’s Good Enough”

“Unfortunately, for many people the ‘extra mile’ seems to be a distance they cannot make. You can spot them a mile away: the clock watchers, the early quitters, the ‘wait till tomorrow’ addicts, the ‘it’s good enough, let’s move on’ cop-out artists. They’re in every office, every organization, even units of the military, law enforcement, and elsewhere. They’re not going to lift their hands one inch beyond their job descriptions, and often not even that far. I have no respect for these misguided hangers-on.” 

Family Matters Need Attention

“Families require “extra mile” performance as much as, if not more than, the workplace. Family cohesiveness and function depend on squared away, unwavering involvement between every member. The care, the love that cranks up families and keeps them going isn’t just mama’s job. There’s usually something happening all the time that takes extra effort. We all care about our parents and our brothers and sisters. When it takes an extra mile to help the family get up the hill, we need to make completely sure we’re not on leave or AWOL.” 

Take Care of “Number One”

“All those chores and things you’ve been putting off doing for yourself aren’t going to stop bugging you until you call a halt and turn-to. You need to give your personal needs an extra mile at times to stay squared away. Your job and duties and the needs of others still rank high in your priorities, but you also have to look out for Number One. Sometimes that takes an extra effort, whether it’s getting in that hour-long run you need or taking care of a personal chore like shining your shoes or ironing your shirt. You’re responsible to your family and your employer, but also to yourself. “

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Work the Problem!

“Whatever major malfunction is tormenting you, whether it’s in your head or it’s some piece of broken machinery or technology, you must face the situation with calm, deliberate action. You will find help if you need it. You will kick the malfunction in the ass and move on. If you do not grasp the fact that you are capable of doing this, you are going to be set back time and again by life’s booby traps and plain old bad breaks. The problems—the malfunctions—should not throw your train off the tracks or wreck your missions and objectives. You might be delayed while you work on the pain-in-the-butt problem, but you’ve got to get it done and get back on schedule.”