Seeking Pain and Finding Humility at Bragg Heavy 2021

“Humility” comes from the Latin word humulis which means being low to the ground. A person who exhibits humility, or is humble, is not arrogant or overly proud.

Last weekend, at the GORUCK Ft. Bragg (double) Heavy event, we were literally on the ground, being humbled. We not only learned about ourselves and each other, but also about the sacred place we were walking upon and the men who were trained there.

My favorite moments came when I surrendered my ego and remembered that I was there to learn. This happened multiple times, but one of the most memorable occurred late into the first night when I was chosen to be a team leader. At first, I thought it would be easy. I’d organize people, tell them what to do, and we’d all do it. The reality was quite different. When we all began to move out, I realized I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing.

At this point Cadre Chuy took me aside. First he asked me questions about my background, then clarified our team’s mission: Sing the American national anthem proudly and beautifully, in unison. Walking slowly into the night with 45 people still shivering and suffering, I wasn’t quite sure how to do that.

This is where the beauty of humility reared its head. I set aside my ideas about myself and listened. Cadre Chuy taught me a quick lesson about Organizational Leadership. He told me that when your team trusts you, understands the mission, and can carry it out with proper intent, it can be achieved. Good leaders allow their people to complete the task as they see fit. Trusting your people to get the work done and not micromanaging empowers them. Eventually, you’ve built such strong relationships that when you ask your people to carry out a mission, there is no hesitation, just action.

He set me free and allowed me to lead as I saw fit.

We did end up singing the national anthem beautifully, but it wasn’t because of my leadership. The reason we ended up singing well was because we trusted each other. We had gotten to know each other through conversations and shared suffering. We understood that this song represents us as a nation, and we intended to show that we were one, untied, through the pain we were experiencing, the lessons we were learning, and the mission we were undertaking.

This is why Ft. Bragg Heavy is the king of all rucks. This is why we do these events.

Through the pain, we all realized that we can endure if we humble ourselves, open our minds, and learn. By working together, getting to know each other, and uniting to achieve the mission, we forgot about the external hardships. We became a team, forged through the mud and cold and doubt and ego. It all went away, and there we were, singing the national anthem as the stars and stripes waved in the breeze.

Later in the afternoon I’d start Ft. Bragg Heavy 2.0; there were 21 total participants (18 of us had completed Ft. Bragg Heavy 1.0). More lessons would come, which I will write about in another post. I ended up stopping in the middle of the night due to some back pain, but I was not disappointed by the premature departure; I had gotten much more than I imagined I would from the 34 hours I participated in the event. Today I am a better person, “lower to the ground,” with my eyes wide open, ready to learn.


“If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know who you are.” – Mother Teresa

About the Author

Jaala Shaw is a coach, teacher, and writer. She is the founder of “Drop by Drop Fitness,” an online fitness and nutrition coaching business where she helps people push past their potential and achieve difficult goals. You can find her @dropbydropfitness.

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