An Average Guy on the path of Enlightenment – an interview with Mark C. Carroll (19 March 2005)

I first came across Mark’s work when he commented on one of my articles posted on the net. Since then, we have been corresponding via email. It was after reading some of his work and articles that I realised that he is a man of many talents and one I would love to interview. He described himself as “an average leader trying to do an above average job of leading” and this humility is what enamoured me most. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you, Mark Carroll.

Aneeta: Hello Mark, thank you for agreeing to this interview. I appreciate it.

Mark: It is my honor I assure you.

Aneeta: Please tell us a little about your background, your family and where you live.

Mark: I have lived in San Diego, CA area for 18 years. I am married for 17 years and have three children.

Aneeta: I understand you are a US Navy, Chief, Sonar Technician (Surface). What actually does this mean?

Mark: I dropped out of my North Carolina high school and I enlisted in the US Navy in 1986. It actually took me months to figure out what a Sonar Technician is. Formerly known as sonar men or soundmen, we utilize sound and the underwater weather to locate submarines. The surface sonar technician has a more challenging job than submariner sub chasers because we have look from on top of the water and are unable to dive. As far as a Chief, well the chief’s of the navy run the navy. We make it work. When US Navy personnel are promoted to the E7 rank, we are inculcated into a brother/sisterhood with very rich traditions and are recognized as a key factor in the success or failure of a Naval Command. There is no equivalent in any of the other US Armed Forces. We earn our own Messing (place to eat), separate living quarters, and a distinction of wearing the Khaki Uniform, which is reserved for Officers and senior, enlisted. When sailors, officer or enlisted have questions there is a slogan “ask the Chief”. We train mid level enlisted and junior officers to be the next generation of leaders.

Aneeta: I assume that being in the Navy, you would have travelled loads. If so, which is the country you like the most and why?

Mark: There are many countries and so many different cultures it is challenging to pick the best because I learned something in each. I will share a few of my favorites. I have been a “west coast” sailor my whole career so all of my deployments have been via the pacific and Indian ocean. As there has been a whole lot of action in the Middle East that is where I spent most of my deployments, in the Arabian Gulf. Additionally, I have been fortunate enough to visit many pacific Canadian cities.

Phuket Thailand is or at least was a very beautiful town. I think this is my favorite port visit so far. Not as large or as commercial as Pataya beach. Phuket reminds me of a small fishing town with very friendly locals. I really love how they smile almost all the time. How fantastic. I went diving in the bay and as beautiful as Phuket is above water it is twice as nice underwater.

I must admit that Singapore is a fascinating location. At 37 or so years old I still have not owned a cell phone. There are families in Singapore where children under ten own and regularly use their cell phone. I am amazed at that. People hear in the United States cannot fathom how well developed a country like Singapore is without first visiting. Mandated integration of their society is really unique. As I understand it a certain percentage of each residential area contains a demographically representative portion of minorities. I was fortunate enough to be given a free tour by a Christian group in the area and got at least of educational understanding of other religions, we visited a Hindu and Buddhist temple and discussed, in great detail these religions which I previously did not understand.

Aneeta: I am going to take you up on your point: “People hear in the United States cannot fathom how well developed a country like Singapore is without first visiting.” Everyone usually visits Thailand and Phuket and then on to Singapore. What they skip is usually Malaysia … we’re right in between and we have one of the tallest buildings in the world – the Petronas Twin Towers and this weekend, the Formula 1 race is taking place in Sepang!

So, what other countries have you visited?

Mark:I have visited several Australian cities and they all remind me of home so I like going there. I have been blessed to visit Cairns, Sydney, Hobart (Tasmania), and Fremantle.

Sydney is a truly beautiful city. It has an interesting mix of old and new. Aside from the stunning and distinctive opera house, a walk in the botanical gardens is a gourmet feast for the eyes. I recall walking through the gardens thinking “those are the biggest coconuts I have ever seen” I came to realize when one flew by me that they were bats. I would think there are millions of bats there, but suspect my estimate is embellished.

The architecture of local landmarks, as well as numerous government buildings is very prominent. The public library of all things is the largest and most elegantly decorated library I have ever seen. In a park is a life size chessboard with chess pieces about half the height of an average person. Additionally, I was intrigued by a local game called “Net Ball”. Similar to basketball, without a net or backboard, I observed that no dribbling was necessary. You can pass and block shots but jumping ability is not helpful, as you are not allowed to jump when blocking the ball.

Another interesting thing about Australia and truly in many other nations is that the police are very well respected. While visiting Fremantle, Australia I saw a cop step out in the street one foot in front of a moving car and the car stopped. Subsequently the officer cited the driver for a violation, in the states that officer would have been run over, if he would even dare to try.

Aneeta: Can you please explain a little about being a 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Facilitator?

Mark: One of the courses I have facilitated is Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop. I work for the US Navy so all of my students were also facilitator’s and sailor’s both Officer and Enlisted. Our primary employment while on shore duty here is to facilitate Naval Leadership Courses at the Center for Naval Leadership Learning Site Coronado. These leadership courses are the primary training naval leaders get to accomplish their mission and in a way the preserves personnel resources. We like to say “Mission First; People Always”. We use the 7 Habits workshops to enable our facilitators to more effectively deliver leadership curricula.

It occurs to me that many may not understand the difference between Facilitation and Instructing. I am sure there are many definitions and my way of defining facilitation may be just that, however, I have some advice for how to facilitate lessons while enjoying yourself.

Definition? Instructors train students to perform tasks. These tasks must be measurable and the ability of the student to perform after training is a direct reflection of the quality of instruction.

Of course to facilitate means to “make easy”. I prefer to say facilitation is exposing students to information and allowing them to explore alternatives with expert assistance available. In short good facilitators are nothing more than tour guides to learning. Students must pick and choose what path to take.

Students really do learn by doing. If you let them do it, let them have fun and ensure no one gets hurt, they will learn and retain lessons. If we avoid the urge to correct every mistake a student makes then they will quickly self discover whether what they are doing is effective or not, that’s facilitation.

Aneeta: I understand you have an interest in Motorcycle Training. This is a very new and interesting topic. I am sure that people will be fascinated with this. Please explain this part of your interest a little more.

Mark:  I have been a motorcycle rider since 1993, and earned instructor certification in 1997. Since 1997, I have trained thousands of riders. Currently I train the mostl novice riders or as my counterpart would say beginner-beginner riders. We do not just train them to ride though; we develop physical knowledge and understanding of how a motorcycle operates and encourage them not to decide to ride until they understand the risks and how a motorcycle operates. Our motto is “Be informed before you decide to ride”. We give them information so they can guide themselves as slow or fast as they choose. We do not sell or receive funding from anyone who sells motorcycles so we do not pressure students to ride. We believe that every educational experience can be important and fun. (Our website if you would like to include it, www.sandiegomotorcycletraining.com). I believe we have perfected how much or in essence how little to coach or teach in this course. As long as students are having fun and not getting hurt, they learn by doing and here they get just that.

Aneeta: You mentioned that in Singapore there is mandated integration of cultures. Much of the same happens here in Malaysia too. However, like any group of different people living together, there are incidence based on racism. What are your thoughts of this subject of racism and how can we overcome/eliminate it.

Mark:  I am no expert in the field of racism; In fact, I like to say with regard to all subjects, I am just an Average Guy. I do have a whole lot of opinions and they should be interpreted as just opinion. Here are some of my thoughts on racism.

Most of us know that racism is wrong, but many of us do nothing when faced with it. Let me tell you about my Navy, we have great sailors from many unique and interesting backgrounds. They come from all over the world, though primarily the United States. These sailors are young enthusiastic and want to do important things in the service of their country. I suspect that as fewer of my generation learned to be racists, fewer of the current generation are racists. I believe the most effective way to end racism is to celebrate the positives of diversity, without forcing acceptance.

Aneeta: With all this experience and varies interests, it’s time, don’t you think, that you write a book?

Mark: I have not yet written a book although I am interested in writing one and I believe I have several great book ideas. The fact is I want to understand the process of authoring and publishing a book more.  As you can see I am fairly busy. I am nearly finished with my associates of science degree and hope to work toward a degree in Psychology specifically educational or organizational psychology. My finances are limited so I have to balance the quality of degrees available with the cost.

I really enjoy recommendations from readers of this interview they can contact me at sonarmark@hotmail.com. Of course I would like to encourage readers to view and or comment on my poetry or articles posted at www.authorsden.com/sonarman

Additionally, I would be interested in your book [at a discount]. I agree that we all have great stories but we are not all expert storytellers, what a noble calling.

Who are the greatest storytellers? Sometimes musicians tell great stories and when I think of them the most notable storytellers that come to mind are Red Sovine (he will make you cry) and Jerry Clower (he will make you laugh). If you haven’t heard any of their stories (songs) though somewhat dated and regional, I think you would enjoy their story delivery. I will offer to interpret any terminology for you in case you don’t speak Southern American slang.

Aneeta: Mark, my ebook is now selling at a discounted rate of US$9.90. I have no idea how much lower I can go! I think you would enjoy reading it. If you’re interested, please go to http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com . Thank you for the offer. But we have so much exposure to American T.V. thanks to cable network that I think I could comprehend their story.

With all this access to the global market and all, what then, Mark do you see as some of the challenges that leaders today face.

Mark: Probably one of the biggest challenges a leader or organization has is aligning values and systems of values. I would like to take a moment and share the US Navy’s Core Values Click here . I think that there are several large obstacles, which make honest alignment to core values difficult.

The first is the war for the best people. If the people we hire, recruit, and train are not willing to truly accept organizational values when they start or even unwilling to commit to learning them when they are join, they probably never will. In the Navy we do not require new recruits to learn our core values until they are already on the job or until they are in training. We have already utilized resources to train them and them to be a sailor before they commit to our value system. How unexpected would it be if during an employment interview a manager asked a prospective employee what the organizational values are and the interviewee knew? If they don’t know then maybe they really don’t want the job. I have heard this said as make people come to you. That way they show a commitment to the organization before you use resources on them.

The second obstacle is that we are reluctant to fire someone when they choose to operate outside of our values. It should be common that people’s values and belief systems change over time, if their values are not in alignment with the organization, why pay them? The Navy cannot just fire people we have to wait until they are due for re-enlistment and many times they are permitted to re-enlist whether they demonstrate commitment to core values or not. That alone is not too egregious unless it violates the military laws or regulations. Should it be? I think so.

The last biggest obstacle is organizations that do not have a core set of beliefs written or they have a mission with value elements and no commitment to it themselves. If all leaders do not know or understand the mission or values, what are the odds that subordinates will? Where is our integrity/credibility?

Aneeta: Well Mark, I think this has been a very interesting interview indeed. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. I wish you success in your desire to write your stories down. I am sure ‘How To Tell A Great Story’ will be able to help you in this. 

Mark: Aneeta, as this is my first interview opportunity I want to thank you for your efforts to get me to share my story. I feel like I have learned more about myself from this process than most readers will learn about me and in the words of a movie I recently saw BULLETPROOF MONK “To know others is wise; to know yourself is enlightenment.”

A Little Life’s Lesson
If I knew; I never learned
If I learned; I never failed
If I taught; I never forgot
If I love; I never die.

Aneeta: My pleasure.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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