Life Lessons From A Combat Marine: An Interview with Natalie Shand-Spellman

By: - January 29, 2023

Staring blankly at the computer screen, I wondered for the umpteenth time how to explain that Jennifer Garner doesn’t really work at CIA Headquarters, that her character doesn’t actually exist, and whether there couldn’t possibly be a better use of my time as an intelligence officer than answering a flood of emails from individuals clearly lacking a true grasp of reality. At twenty-nine years old, I could have most certainly used Ms. Natalie Shand-Spellman’s purpose-cising technique.

Ms. Spellman is the author of the book Drop Stress Like a Hot Potato: Transformative Stress Workbook with Life Coaching for Busy Women.

Coach Nat, as she is known, describes the book as an illustrative, transformative, life-coaching, mental health, and stress management workbook. It is for individuals who feel broken, overwhelmed, lost, confused, grief-stricken, lonely, hopeless, and helpless. In the beautifully designed book with therapeutic colors, Coach Nat guides readers through a unique stress transformation and a mental re-framing journey that will improve their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. Also, readers will learn the strategies to discover themselves, master their emotions, manage life, overcome negative thoughts, improve their mental health, and experience growth in all areas of their life. At the end of the book, readers will know how to live their best life in harmony and balance while performing at peak levels.

Coach Nat knows something about performing at peak levels – she served in the United States Marine Corps. I asked her to tell me a story about her time in the Marines and a specific experience that shaped her personally. She went on to describe her experience in Marine Corps boot camp:

When I first got to boot camp, I was the weakest because I had difficulty assimilating to the grueling boot camp training. I struggled with the required skill training to advance in the boot camp program, and I also moved at a slower pace than my peers. My leaders wanted to teach me a lesson, so they masterminded a plan to put me in charge of the entire platoon. They assigned me this leadership position during the Crucible, which was the most intense and final test before earning the United States Marine title. It was hard work, and I had to pivot from the weakest link to one of strength. I had to quickly learn how to motivate my peers when it was tough and challenging. I dug deeper into my mental fortitude and discovered my dormant strengths. I tapped into those strengths and quickly learned to turn my other weaknesses into power. That experience taught me that I was stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than I had previously thought.

She went on to lead a small military troop in Iraq.

Natalie’s current work and her new book were shaped by this military experience. She talks about dealing with lost identity, brokenness, emotional turmoil, and ill health due to stress. I asked her to tell me more about the “lost identity”:

I dealt with a quarter-life crisis after returning home from Iraq. I once led a small military troop and had a promising military career. I had a vital mission to protect the freedom of the United States and was purpose-oriented with great patriotism to serve my country. I had excellent camaraderie amongst other Marines because we all shared the same core beliefs and values. We were sacrificial and willing to put our lives on the line for our country. On returning home, that military state of believing, being, and living was non-existent since others around me did not share my military core values and beliefs. I also felt like a fish out of water because my civilian friends and family could not truly relate to or understand my struggles. My family, as well as society, expected me to assimilate back into a culture I had left behind years prior.

Furthermore, it was more complicated because I was dealing with PTSD unbeknownst to me, and my environment significantly triggered me. I suffered in silence because no one around me understood my struggles. While I functioned superficially, I felt lost because I was no longer a leader with a purpose and a mission but rather a young woman who was once again struggling to find herself in a world where she felt misunderstood.

With today’s youth so seemingly lost, I asked Natalie about why she joined the military in her youth, and if she would recommend it to today’s youth:

The United States Army initially recruited me. I was guaranteed a two-year contract and a $50,000 sign-on bonus. Weeks later, I met the Marine Corps recruiter on my college campus who looked sharp and dignified in his official military uniform, unlike the Army recruiter. The Marine recruiter was highly skilled and sold me the Marine Corps dream with no bonus; it was also a four-year contract, not two years. The Marine Corps dream package promised intangible leadership traits like honor, courage, and commitment. Those were the skills I needed, so I forwent the bonus from the Army for the title of US Marine. I wanted strength and courage to be the best.

I believe today’s youth can benefit from some essential life skills and intangible leadership traits that the military offers. Those traits include discipline, integrity, honor, courage, commitment, perseverance, passion, and mental fortitude, which are high-performing skills for great success. Additionally, when you serve in the military, you tend to mature quicker and be more equipped to handle life’s challenges.

Military service can benefit anyone who chooses that path to success and patriotism, but if you’re not ready to join the military, Coach Nat has created something called Boot Camp for Life. Boot Camp for Life is a proprietary approach to life coaching that she developed to incorporate her military, clinical, and life coaching skills to provide a unique, transformational, intense, and result-driven experience for clients in her coaching program. This program aims to create a shortcut for individuals who want those life skills, traits, maturity, and high-level tools to handle life optimally without enduring the grueling training of the military. This way, there is hope that one can achieve purpose and mission-driven results in their life in a shorter period rather than spending years in military service.

Natalie Shand-Spellman is a great example of the crucial skill she credits the military with having given her- perseverance.

You can find more about Coach Nat at natalieshand.com.

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