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This story originally ran on April 5, 2016.
Dakota Meyer grew up on a farm in Greensburg, Kentucky and had a major problem with authority. During his senior year of high school, a Marine recruiter asked what he was up to after graduation. Dakota replied, "Probably playing soccer." The recruiter replied, "That's good, there is no way you could be a Marine."
Dakota, unable to avoid a challenge, shot back, “Prepare the papers. I will sign it today. "He was only 17 years old and his parents had to sign his contract. After his training as a Marine Corps sniper, he completed a tour in Iraq and signed up for Afghanistan because he" wanted to fight ".
While serving in Afghanistan, Meyer's combat team was fatally ambushed. Meyer ignored the direct order to get out of the way and ran into battle. During the six-hour battle that followed, Meyer saved the lives of several Marines and soldiers and retrieved the bodies of four of his fallen brothers. For these selfless actions, President Barack Obama presented him with the Congress Medal of Honor in 2011.
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After his release, Meyer's life took a turn that he had not expected. Before these events, if you asked him what he would do for a living, he said to Entrepreneur, "I grew up on a farm and I think I would have come back and done something like that. It's an honest way of life, a conservative way of life, a simple way of life. In any case, the exact opposite of what I'm doing now. "
What he's doing now is by no means easy: he toured as a motivational speaker, advocated veteran employment, partnered with companies like Toyota, been a regular guest on Fox News Channel, and has had an in-depth look at the world of entrepreneurship. He currently heads two companies: Dakota Meyer Enterprises (construction and general contractor) and DM Tactical LLC (training for the federal government). Both are small businesses and both have grown significantly in the past 18 months.
The entrepreneur spoke to Meyer and learned valuable lessons from the self-described normal man who leads anything but a normal life.
How have the months and years since your Medal of Honor changed your attitude?
I wish I never had that medal. It's the worst day of my life, but the attention it has given me has led me to do great things to honor the lives of my fallen brothers. After the ceremony, I experienced different parts of the world, experienced different types of people – it lit a fire within me to give me more confidence, and it showed me that I was making the most of every moment.
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You have met US presidents, business leaders, who have appeared on major networking shows like David Letterman. What did you learn from such experiences?
You look at these names and you think I could never be. But the more I met these people, the more I realized that with the right attitude and passion I could make them come true.
Is there a transition between what you've seen in the military and what you've seen in business since then?
When I'm in the Marine Corps doing my job, there is great risk. I was comfortable with the risk. As an entrepreneur, it's all about risk. Being an entrepreneur is like going to Vegas every day and putting all your chips in the middle of the table every day.
It doesn't matter how big your company is, I always tell people that you are only one job away from being broke. And if you don't live like this, you're broke. I think what got me there as an entrepreneur is getting to know the unknown and the risk. If you are unfamiliar with any of these practices, you will not become a successful entrepreneur.
What are some of the most important lessons you've learned in business so far?
Business is like sports: when you're the best of the group you run in, you'll never get better. It's the same in business. I surround myself with people who are smarter than me and more experienced than me, and I have received a lot of good advice. Mark Gross, CEO and Founder of Oak Grove Technologies, which specializes in tactical training and intelligence, was an amazing help. He gives me a clear ball and that's what you need. He tells me this is going to work, this is not going to work and that advice is amazing.
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You campaigned for veteran employment. What should entrepreneurs know about these men and women who want to join the civil workforce?
250,000 veterans will be leaving the military next year. I think it's crazy that people see it this way, "Oh, we have to give these men and women jobs." That's crazy! As a business owner, I see it this way: "There are only 250,000, if I don't hurry and hire as many of these people as possible, I'll lose."
What properties do they bring to the table?
There isn't a company out there that isn't looking for a good person, a selfless person, not a person with an attitude that needs it all. You take someone who went four years in college and got a degree versus someone who went four years in the military and left with an honorable discharge … I'll take the veterans all day. A veteran is a person who has proven themselves in an uncontrolled, unstable environment. That's the kind of person I want on my team.
What is the biggest lesson you've learned?
At the end of the day, no one will care about your business as much as you. It's a motto that you will live or die by. And if you don't believe this, take your eyes off the ball for a day and watch what happens. The only business owners who fail are those who gave up. They are tested every day, every hour, every minute. You have to be ready for it and you have to embrace it. And if you do, you will succeed.