#1485 The Paratrooper’s Prayer

“Give Me What No One Wants from You”

In our last several +1s, we’ve been learning how to lead with Jim Mattis.

We’re embracing solving problems as our job as leaders, we’re reading the great books of self-development, and we’re doing the hard work to prepare for opportunities.

Today I want to talk about one of the most inspiring poems I’ve ever read.

It’s called The Paratrooper’s Prayer.

That’s from a chapter in Part II of the book on Executive Leadership in which Mattis shares his experiences in 2004 leading American Marines in Afghanistan.

He tells us: “I remembered a poem written by French lieutenant André Zirnheld in 1942, as German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was sweeping across North Africa. Knowing the odds against him were overwhelming, Zirnheld volunteered to parachute in behind German lines near the British- held port of Tobruk. He was killed. Zirnheld had remained loyal to his sense of duty. He had chosen to be a soldier. That didn’t change because the Battle of Tobruk was lost. His poem was discovered when his body was recovered. Today it is known as ‘The Paratrooper’s Prayer.’”

He continues: “The war was lengthening. But that wouldn’t change who we were or sap our fighting spirit. The Marine motto is ‘Semper Fidelis’—always faithful, not just when things go your way. Nobody had forced us to be where we were; we had all volunteered to fight. My troops had kept faith, thanks to their will and discipline, and I said good-bye to my rambunctious and undaunted Marines by reading the French ‘Paratrooper’s Prayer’:

I bring this prayer to you, Lord,
For you alone can give
What one cannot demand from oneself.
Give me, Lord, what you have left over,
Give me what no one ever asks of you.

I don’t ask for rest or quiet,
Whether of soul or body;
I don’t ask you for wealth,
Nor for success, nor even health perhaps.

That sort of thing you get asked for so much
That you can’t have any of it left.
Give me, Lord, what you have left over,
Give me what no one wants from you.

I want insecurity, strife,
And I want you to give me these
Once and for all.
So that I can be sure of having them always,
Since I shall not always have the courage
To ask you for them.”

That’s Today’s +1.

There’s not much I can add to that passage except to encourage you to reread the Paratrooper’s Prayer as you feel into the depth of that soldier’s Heroic commitment to something bigger than himself.


As you reflect on the Wisdom and Self-Mastery and Courage and LOVE with which lieutenant Zirnheld wrote that poem that millions of soldiers have used as their guiding star, know that this is EXACTLY what we are talking about ALL the time.

Note: That’s also the most beautiful and poetically powerful encapsulation of Phil Stutz’s encouragement to embrace the pain and uncertainty and hard work inherent to a great life that we discuss in this +1 playfully called “I Love PUH.”

Remember: Your infinite potential exists on the OTHER side of your comfort zone.

Even more importantly, remember that your commitment to something BIGGER THAN YOURSELF is, ultimately, the source of that type of Heroic Courage.

I repeat...

Your secret weapon is LOVE.

Here’s to having the strength for two as we forge our antifragile confidence and say “BRING IT ON!” to any and all of the challenges we will face on our Heroic quests.

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