How Did a Kid with a Learning Disability Become Aide to a Billion Dollar General? (10 Life Lessons)

How did an adopted kid with a learning disability go from a family on food stamps to the becoming the Aide to a General in control of a billion dollar company known as the U.S. Army? Guess what? That kid became the man I am now. This experience shaped who I am today. These are 10 life lessons I learned from my experience as General’s Aide.

I had the pleasure of serving this country in the U.S. Army active duty for seven and a half years. During part of my service, I was Aide to General Sumrall. It was challenging, but it was also one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I took a lot away from that experience working with General Sumrall. I hope you find these lessons  as valuable as I did.

Major General Michael H. General Sumrall has served in various leadership assignments throughout his career, starting in 1985. General Sumrall completed three active duty tours in Germany before returning home to the states in the late 90’s. In 2001, General Sumrall was appointed as The Adjutant General of Alabama. He returned to active duty in 2003 and was assigned to United States Central Command. After his dedication to military service, General Sumrall also became a real estate investor. He is located now in Washington, D.C. Managing Director Sumrall Real Estate.

Major General Sumrall understood that as military men, we took an oath to uphold the Constitution and other American values. One of those values is to check all of your personal feelings and emotions at the door. I witnessed General Sumrall handle many tough situations where with class. He showcased leadership qualities at all times. For example, when Marines covered Saddam’s face with the American Flag, everyone was pretty emotional about it, and rightfully so. But General Sumrall didn’t let his personal feelings get in the way of taking care of business. General Sumrall also conducted himself with high integrity and class during the Abu Gharib investigations. In this photo below, an Iraqi man looks on as a Marine covers the face of a statue of Saddam Hussein with an American flag before toppling the statue in Bagdhad. 

Of course military personnel are trained to be highly disciplined. But General Sumrall took that to another level. As General’s Aide, I was in charge of keeping track of his schedule. This involved using not one, but three different calendars to keep track of his meetings and daily activities.

1. Stay disciplined.  

   Keep yourself in check and stay diligent. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals to make sure you stay on track.

2. Develop a deep relationship with your calendar.  

Use color-coding to easily differentiate between daily activities. Your schedule is your new best friend.

3. Check your personal emotions at the door.    

Leaders don’t let their feelings and opinions get in the way of completing a successful mission.

4. Stop complaining.    

No one wants to work with a belly-acher.

5. Fail forward.  

Every time you make a mistake, learn from it. Help others learn from similar mistakes.

6. Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their bank account.   

IF you want to change the world, don’t always judge everyone by how rich their bank account is. Focus from time to time on how rich someone’s soul is.

7. No man (or woman for that matter) is an island.    

You need people in your life to lift you up. But make sure you’re keeping the right people around you.

8. Never, ever give up.     

I mean EVER! You might fail often. It will be painful and discouraging. A leader’s will to succeed separates them from the rest. Just keep going.

9. Take some risks.        

Be calculated about taking those risks, but don’t be afraid to move outside of your comfort zone from time to time. Developing the will to keep dusting yourself off after you fall will turn failed risks into learning experiences.

10. Don’t be afraid to smile big and have a lot of fun.    

Turn off the computer and smartphone from time to time. Take your kids or your dog to a park. Enjoy the things in life that money can’t buy – true connections with people in your life.

As a mentor, I’ll add a few more. Start each day with a plan and a smile. Find like-minded people to help you succeed in life. Respect everyone, yet fear no one. I really hope you got something out of this post.

Thank you so very much for sharing your ideas and dreams with me. Do you have experience with a leader you admire? Best comment wins a FREE copy of my new kids book! If you found value in this article, please share it with your friends — it would mean the world to me.


Franklin Cruz