Of course you have seen R. Lee Ermey on TV and on the movie screen. He is usually, but not always, the Drill Sargent. In fact, for the past generation he defines the image of what we think a Marine Drill Instructor is or at least should be. I am not a Marine so I will leave that for others to decide. He is a compelling presence on the screen and there is no doubt or debate about that.
This book is part autobiography and part motivational. In fact, I think the focus of the book is its motivation to help its readers get excited about getting control of their lives and getting things “squared away” and moving forward in life. The stories R. Lee Ermey tells about his life are there to illustrate the principles he is driving home (and to hold our interest – personal stories are always more attention grabbing than abstract rules and principles).
We learn about his early life, his joining the Marines, how he knocked around before he got into Hollywood. How he got his first break in the movies as a technical consultant and how he got on the screen the first time. And of course, we learn what it was like on the sets of those movies, especially the set of “Full Metal Jacket” and how grateful the Gunny is to Kubrick for that role. But all the interesting stories are in service to a bigger goal: helping the reader – especially young men and women – understand what it is going to take to get their lives in order and heading in a good direction with energy and purpose.
The writing in the book sounds just like Ermey does on the screen. Direct, forceful, and mildly Marine coarse. He entertainingly drives home the importance of being in charge of your life, no Marine waits for the enemy to come to him. He decides on an objective and goes and achieves it. He shows you what you need to be prepared in life – a solid education, skills, seeking opportunity, seizing it when it shows its face, and finding a way of turning setbacks to your advantage. The trick is, you can’t get ready after you see the opportunity. Rather, you need to get yourself ready to seize the opportunity you seek so you can both recognize it and act on it.
He has a great chapter on physical fitness and its importance to your life. While he in no way tries to give you the one and only one true way, he does offer suggestions and an exercise program that will help you if you take it one step at a time.
Another key to success Gunny Style, is carrying more than your share of the load. People who find success always – ALWAYS – do more, work harder, chase down more opportunities, and refused to be stopped by failure – than the average person. You need to become that guy, too. When you experience a “major malfunction” you cannot quit. You cannot even slow down. You size up the situation and go right back at it in a positive way.
Ermy recounts the way the Marines shaped and made his life and how it can do the same for you. He asks you to consider becoming a Marine and some reasons to think about it and how it will change your life for the better, allow you to serve your country, and join the brotherhood of Marines that you are a member of your whole life whether on active duty or not.
He ends the book with a chapter on how you can develop your leadership skills and what he thinks being a leader means and it is not just having the title of “leader”. He also does have a chapter on his views on the issues of our day. You can surmise his views already, if you know anything about the man.
And each chapter ends with a couple pages of excellent quotes from historical figures, military leaders, philosophers, and public figures that are relevant to the topic of that chapter. They are short, punchy, enlightening, and you will certainly find a couple in each chapter you will want to commit to memory.
A book well worth reading; especially if you are a young person thinking about taking a fresh look at where your life is going or an middle aged person wanting to get your life back on track. Don’t worry, The Gunny can get you squared away straight away.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI