If You Can’t Take a Joke, Take a Cement Pill!

Exercising Parabats
Take a Cement Pill and harden up

When I served in the South African Air Force, as you'd expect, there were times when things got challenging. Tough even. Fear, hunger, cold, loneliness, fatigue, pain, a fair amount of humiliation. Not continually, not even regularly, but discomfort is common to the military. (As it is to life)

At those times your brothers would respond in one of two ways. Either,

“If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have signed up!”

– or –

“Take a cement pill, and harden up!”

The first an effort to laugh off the discomfort. The joke was we were all conscripts, we hadn't signed up. The message: Even as conscripts we have agency. We had still made the choice not to defer, or object.

The second began as an insult from our instructors, but over time became a joke amongst the troops. It is a checkpoint to remind you a simple truth in life. Mental toughness is a decision.

You always have agency. Pain is inevitable, but suffering a choice.

So, if you can't take a joke, take a cement pill…

…and harden up.


P12-121: If You can’t Take a Joke

Project 2012: Day 121

When I did my national service, 2 years in the South African Air Force, we had a saying:

“If you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t of signed up!”

It was a particularly ironic and cruel saying, because none of us had signed up, we were all conscripted. (Actually I had naturalised and applied for Permanent Force, so this was just fulfilling a commitment I was aware of)

But it’s true for any role you consider today.

Miss22, my daughter, is in her final year of nursing, and doing a placement in Randwick. Her first time in the OT and she had to deal with a belligerent, and downright rude surgeon. He literally swore at young, inexperienced nurses. “If you can’t take a joke…”

I’ve managed plenty of IT consultants, and technologists, who at the end of a particularly hard month of travel and work, have been faced with expenses and timesheets. “If you can’t take a joke…”

As a barman in Antigua, the job starts at 2am when you have to clean up the vomit, and clear the bottles from the pub. “If you can’t take a joke…”

Whatever you dream job is, there will be a proportion of the job that is tedious, boring, frustrating, or downright annoying. That’s ok.

What’s not ok is expecting that the grass is greener on the other side. It isn’t. Or if it is, we have another saying, “Greener grass has more manure, and needs more mowing”