5 Outstanding Principles Of The United States Marine Corps That Can Apply To Affiliate Marketing

Find out how I applied what I learned in the United States Marine Corps, to affiliate marketing.

I get it – it’s a bit of a reach.  I mean, what on earth could the Marine Corps and affiliate marketing possibly have in common?  The first venture is all about being the first into combat, and the other is for building passive income streams.

affiliate marketing

Stick with me, though, and it will all make sense in a moment.

Have you ever belonged to a team or a club?  Whether it’s varsity football, math club or whatever else, the aim of a good coach isn’t just to train you in that sport or activity.

Whether you realize it or not, the real takeaway comes down to skills that you can apply later in life: discipline, patience, and so on.

In the same way, my time in the Marine Corps has helped immensely in my affiliate marketing endeavors and in life.  Obviously, my drill instructors weren’t concerned with landing page etiquette specifically,  but they instilled in me the patience and perseverance that is simply crucial for affiliates.

First Venture:

There I was, reporting to the infamous “Land that God forgot” for Marine boot-camp – Parris Island, South Carolina. Picture a seventeen-year-old recruit, green as a blade of grass, crammed into a van with about ten other guys.

The van stops outside the intake building, and that’s when I saw him.  The stereotype of the scary drill instructor was certainly not disappointed that day.

We instantly recognized him from his campaign cover (funny hat), muscular build and foreboding expression. He was like an even scarier version of my prom date’s dad, only this dance would last for months.

One of the recruits yelled, “How much crack was I smoking when I signed up?!” I could relate to the sentiment, considering how nervous I was. The van stopped, and true to form, the drill instructor yanks the door open as we stared at him.

“Get your eyeballs off of me and look straight ahead!”

I whipped my head around so fast that I almost snapped my neck.  Then he yelled something like, “Ok, simple instructions. When I tell you to, you’re going to get out of this van and step onto my yellow footprints, facing forward and standing at the doggone position of attention.”

Needless to say, I followed his orders to the letter.  I didn’t want to give him any reason to single me out on the first day.  He started to give his “welcoming speech,” which was definitely a little less congenial than the welcome you receive from resort hotels.

He continued on and on with his speech, and with each word, I felt a mixture of fear and admiration.  We’ll say it was about a 70/30 split as far as those two went.  Either way, I had to face forward the entire time, never moving a muscle.


Already, discipline was being instilled in me.

This brings me to my first parallel between the Marines and affiliate marketing: discipline.  There are no two ways about it.

Discipline is absolutely key to affiliate marketing.  It’s the ability to do things the right way, even when you see no results.  It’s the refusal to quit as you press on toward your goals.

If you think that the drill instructor sounds tough, let me hit you with a weird truth: you are even tougher.  Not because you’re mean to yourself – obviously, you’d be nicer than a drill instructor.

When it comes to achieving things in the affiliate world, however, you need to be your own drill instructor.

See where this is going?  Self-motivating is much harder than simply being coached.  Sure, you may not have to do as many “push-ups,” metaphorically speaking, but as Denzel Washington famously said (excuse my paraphrasing),

“Ease is a greater threat to progress than discomfort.”

Picture of Ross and Scott Medlin, Iraq

My brother, Ross Medlin (Left) and I, in Iraq, 2005.

Switching back to my career in the Marine Corps for a moment, the disciplining in that instance came in the form of boot camp and two deployments to Iraq (2003 and 2005).  Throughout these experiences, of course, I faced a number of tough challenges.

Being an affiliate may sound so much easier than entering a combat zone, and in some obvious ways, it certainly is, but it’s actually not that far off in terms of discipline required – seriously.

Role of Mind Discipline In Adversity

It takes discipline and hard work to fail, and then fail again, and then fail ten more times, and still continue.  However, when you discipline your mind and your body, you’ll be equipped to push through adversity.

Affiliate marketing isn’t all adversity, by the way, even at the beginning.  I can promise you that, once you make that first sale, you’ll feel so inspired to continue that the failures won’t matter!

Attention to detail

Here’s a slightly less obvious commonality between life as a Marine and the affiliate game: attention to detail.  You may have heard the stories about barracks locker inspections, and trust me – they’re mostly true.

If you don’t stamp your underwear in the right location, you’ll probably fail.  In the same way, affiliates have so many detail-oriented processes to contend with at the same time.

They have to closely monitor their analytics, track links, make small tweaks to copy, comb new content for rising trends, complete top-down SEO overhauls, and much more.  Details are king.

Like any worthy undertaking in life, mastering the details was a struggle at first.  Once I mastered it, however, it helped hugely in my affiliate marketing efforts.  I now know how different details, like the amount of copy surrounding an offer, can potentially affect conversion.


Courage also links these two seemingly distant worlds together.  Obviously, it takes a different kind of courage to stay focused on your mission while under enemy fire.  When convoys I was in came under close fire, we couldn’t just stop the vehicles and hope it would go away.

We had to do our jobs.

It took courage to press forward in the face of this serious threat, that’s for sure.  On the other hand, it takes another kind of courage to jump into a performance-based market when you are brand new.

Part of that courage is a healthy helping of ignorance.  You know you’re surplus, but screw it.

Affiliates used to take comfort in hiding behind the screen, but those days are quickly fading.  I like how Neil Patel calls out affiliates who would just slap a picture of Oprah Winfrey on a landing page, as a spammy tactic for promoting products.

Today, it’s more personal. You’re more vulnerable.  Any affiliate trying these greasy tactics is not likely to get far, because consumers are quickly figuring these cheap plays out.

How does this relate to courage?

Well, you need the courage to market your brand as an extension of yourself, stepping out there and absorbing the inevitable criticism.

People will want nothing to do with you, no matter how good you are.  It’s just a fact of life, and that’s okay.  It’s the essence of capitalism, really – if someone hates sushi, then they will choose the burger joint every time.

You don’t have to please everyone, but you do have to take care of your audience.  Putting yourself out there makes you vulnerable.  That’s why it takes courage to build a YouTube presence, create podcasts and blogs, and so forth.

There will always be someone smarter than you who will leave snarky comments.  There will always be people who dislike what you’re selling.

Courage and discipline

If you combine the courage to put yourself out there with the discipline to keep churning out quality content in the face of failure, however, you will create success.  Be true to yourself, let your voice come out in the content and help others.

The discipline and courage will build upon each other.

Pain is weakness leaving the body

It’s a pretty catchy phrase at this point, but there’s truth to it.  “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”  As a Marine who saw this phrase etched onto recruiting gear, I internalized it.

Eventually, I realized it was true.  The more I was pushed physically, the stronger I became both mentally and physically.

The same applies to affiliate marketing.  You won’t need to run 3 miles, crank out a few hundred pullups and crunches, or endure the “hump” (hike) for nine miles with seventy pounds of gear on, but there will be “pain.”

You will make mistakes and experience growing pains as you navigate your market(s).   From pain, hopefully, comes learning.  You will learn the intricacies of funnel building, SEO, traffic generation and much more.

It won’t be easy, but with each mistake, you’ll learn something new.  Remember, pain is weakness leaving the body.  Adversity will build strength and character.

With strength and character, comes discipline.  With discipline comes the ability to master the details, and yes – keep going!

Having established that affiliate marketing is not a physical challenge, for those athletically challenged readers who are concerned 😊, I want to reference what I heard my Senior Drill Instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Phillip Jordan say often:

If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!”

This is more about the mental aspect.  I don’t know if he created the phrase, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask him.  Sadly, he was one of the first Marines killed in action during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

phillip jordan

Gunnery Sergeant Phillip Jordan. K.I.A March 2003

Anyway, back to this phrase that he repeated so often.  It could not be more relevant for affiliate marketing.  If you drop into this jungle without mentally committing, you’ll never make your way above the canopy.

If you’re curious about affiliate marketing, my first piece of advice is to try to calm yourself.  Yes, we’re talking about limitless potential and freedom, but you absolutely must do your research before you dive in.

Read, my friend.  Read as much as you can.  Develop a disciplined mindset, form a plan, and then get started.


In summary, I want you to understand that, though adversity may be a many-headed beast, the weapons that you need to use against it will echo through every corner of your life.

Whether it’s mortar shells and IEDs or price-gouging ad platforms, the formula is the same:

Discipline. Courage. Attention to detail. Ignorance (of pain). Do you want it? Earn it.

In conclusion, join the Marines! Just kidding.  You can if you want, of course, and you will surely become intimately familiar with the principles of discipline, courage, pain tolerance, attention to detail and mental toughness, but that’s not the only way to get there.

If you do your research, set realistic but ambitious goals, budget your time and keep yourself honest, you will have all of the qualities you need to enter the field of combat that is affiliate marketing.

So, are you ready to join?

Get Free Course