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"Sh*t in One Bag"

An aspirational state

I learned many colorful phrases to describe people while I was in the Marine Corps. Two of my favorite were people who “have their sh*t in one bag” and other people who are “soup sandwiches.”

In Marine Corps parlance, the best leaders have their "sh*t in one bag” – they take care of business both personally and professionally, they have balance in their lives, and “the game” of life has slowed down for them. Not that everything always goes right for them but they rarely make emotional or irrational self-inflicted mistakes. They seem to have it all figured out.

“Soup sandwich” on the other hand refers to someone whose life is perennially messy and spilling all over the place. Sometimes it’s just shortened to “soup” and it’s never a compliment. They may be thoroughly likeable/loveable people but their lives are always chaos.

People who “have it in one bag” have done a lot and experienced a lot. They have perspective regarding the essentials in life versus everything else. They keep their heads when others around them lose theirs. They know that few situations are as dire as they first appear as their life experiences have given them the final chapters of how most books end. They are natural “calmers” who lower the temperature in the most stressful of situations. But they will not think of themselves this way. They will be surprised and humbled if you refer to them as such. They will freely acknowledge how often they’ve failed, where they’ve struggled and what they’ve learned.

Take a moment to think about the people you most admire and aspire to be more like in your life. What do they have in common, what traits do they share? I bet there are people like this in your life. Maybe you’re drawn to them even if you haven’t taken a moment to figure out why. You can seemingly go to them for advice on any topic and come away better for the interaction. You instinctively know that time spent with these people is time well spent.

Sometimes having the mirror of someone who has it figured out allows us to see where we need to improve. We may not always like that reflection but it can make us better.

For most of us, “having it in one bag” is aspirational and episodic - it’s hard to achieve and harder to maintain.

Identify those people in your life who “have it in one bag” and be deliberate about spending time with and learning from them.

Here’s to having more “in the bag” days than “soup” days!


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