Commentary

September 6, 2012

Airmen have a choice — get bitter or get better

Commentary by Master Sgt. Joel W. Shepherd
338th Training Squadron first sergeant

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. — As warriors in today’s Air Force we face many overwhelming challenges. These challenges include an ever-expanding mission, a constantly shrinking manpower pool, a diminishing budget, an increasing overload of personal stressors, a demanding environment of “multi-hatted” duties at all levels and the same expectation of excellence in all areas that’s always been expected. These daunting burdens present us with great adversity. This adversity can lead to discouragement and negative attitudes. As leaders, we are at a crossroad where we can either “get bitter or get better.” Our nation, our Air Force, our leaders, our peers and our Airmen all need us to provide bold leadership with a positive attitude of hope and optimism every day.

When faced with adversity the easy thing, and possibly the natural thing, to do is to commiserate and breed an Eeyore-like mentality, “The sun’s too hot, the road is too long, and there is a rock in my shoe.” We can choose to “Worry-down-and-all-around” or “Warrior-up”. Stephen Covey wrote, “Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition-such as lifting weights-we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.” Adversity can make us better if we don’t let it make us bitter (John Maxwell, Attitude 101).

One of the secrets of getting better is to focus on what we do have rather than what we don’t have. One of the keys to success is to not let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do (John Maxwell, The Difference Maker). Despite all our challenges, we have a selected team of all-stars who are willing to do what is asked of them for this country. We have the title as one of the greatest organizations the world has ever known. We have a responsible enlisted corps of warriors who are bred to be technically sound in their craft. And, we have the core values as a foundation in all our Airmen. Whether we breed bitterness or betterment amongst our teams is truly dependent upon our attitudes as leaders.

As leaders, our attitudes can become our greatest and most inexpensive asset or our most burdensome and costly liability. The price we pay for a positive attitude is simple and cheap. This bill includes showing up to work with some enthusiasm, not becoming a naysayer, concentrating on solutions rather than problems, consistently meeting and enforcing standards, thanking and rewarding superior performance, expressing pride in the unit identity and the Air Force and smiling frequently.

Our attitudes can breed commitment over mere compliance. Compliance is easy to build and it is easy to recognize. Our Air Force is full of compliant Airmen who do what they are told. A team that operates under compliance is just watching the clock, hoping that no further tasks come down prior to the end of the day. On the same note, a team operating under commitment is more concerned with mission accomplishment, excellence and teamwork rather than watching the clock. We can either become masters of our attitudes and reap the daily benefits of teamwork and morale, or we can become victims of our attitudes and battle the daily burdens of complacency and mediocrity.

Our supervisors, our peers and our subordinates depend on us to provide daily dosage of a positive attitude and an optimistic hope. Understand, we get paid and are charged with executing the mission and solving problems, not with complaining about the barriers and perpetuating further negativity.

Worry-down or Warrior-up? Perpetuate problems or find solutions? Become masters or settle as victims? Breed commitment or build compliance? Get bitter or get better? The choice is ours.




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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant)

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