Commentary

July 11, 2013

Leap to your limits

Commentary by Lt. Col. Oliver K. Leeds
92nd Air Refueling Squadron

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS) — One of the lessons I carry around with me every day is something I learned from the jumping events in high school track and field.
I was intimidated by the high jump. Unlike the long jump, where every leap into the sand pit could be measured and faults were not embarrassing, the high jump presented a daunting binary challenge: clear the bar or make an embarrassing spectacle. Knocking the bar down could hurt if it landed between me and the mat, and the groans from spectators could be ego devastating.
Some of my long jumps were better than others, but none felt like failures. In the high jump, however, failure was certain. Every competition has the same sequence: jump, succeed; jump, succeed; jump, fail. It was always there, stalking me. Eventually, my limits prepared me to announce to the world, “I failed!”

One day, at my more comfortable long jump pit, my attitude swung 180 degrees. Simply put, I was discontented not knowing if I had done my best. Could I have run faster? Did I jump too far behind the line? Should I have waited for the breeze to shift directions? The second guessing went on and on. I didn’t have this problem in the high jump. In the high jump, I always knew I did my best, because I pushed myself until I failed. Eureka!

Had I found comfort in failure? Yes, because it assured me I had done my best, and removed regrets for not having tried.

My thoughts turned immediately to the sealed and addressed, yet unmailed, envelope on my desk at home. It was college application season, and I had been accepted to all four schools to which I had applied. But the application on my desk was different — it was to “the long-shot school” — the school I would go to if I could, but seriously doubted I had a chance.

Wasn’t it smarter to avoid failure? I could spend the rest of my life thinking I wasn’t rejected, rather than apply and remove all doubt. But that day, 23 years ago, I glanced over my shoulder at an unusually inspiring high jump bar. I walked out of my uncertain sand, went home and mailed the application. Sure enough, two months later I was rejected. It was my first true failure in the road of life, but I have spent the decades since confident that I have done my best and grateful that I had learned to live a life without regrets.

Some of my fellow Airmen surprise me for not seeing that lesson. I have known people not applying for jobs for fear of rejection. I’ve known NCOs and officers alike retiring before finding out if they were selected for a promotion. All kinds of challenges are declined for some form or flavor of failure avoidance.

Life is short, and an Air Force career is fast. Not failing does not mean you are successful; it means you traveled too cautiously. Leap to your limits, learn from failures and live without regrets. That is a successful journey!




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airmen 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau)

Davis-Monthan Airman helps Tucsonan

One weather forecaster’s self-aid buddy care training quickly resurfaced when she witnessed a car accident outside the gates of Davis-Monthan. Senior Airman Amanda Boone, 355th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster, ...
 
 

U.S. Air Force to kick off COOL program

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) — The Community College of the Air Force officially launched the Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program March 16. Air Force COOL is a pathway for enlisted Airmen to earn industry recognized professional certifications and licenses to enhance their active-duty work and to prepare them as they transition to...
 
 

Military leads the way in equal opportunity

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — What does it take to change a nation? What force has the power to move millions of people in their fundamental views of the world? For Christopher Daniels, a U.S. Air Force colonel, that answer is simple: leadership. In his words, “The true agent of change is true leadership.”...
 

 

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

(U.S. Air Force photo) On April 18, 1942, Airmen of the U.S. Army Air Forces, led by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, carried the Battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a surprising and daring raid on military targets at Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, and Kobe. This heroic attack...
 
 

AFAF gives all Airmen a chance to pay it forward

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — It’s Sept. 12, 2005. Senior Airman Dennis Hutchison is recovering from a hard day’s work on the flightline of Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia, when he receives a call that tragedy had struck. “I got a notification from my family that my father had passed away,” Hutchison said. “I immediately contacted...
 
 

Rocketry Club ready to take flight this weekend

TUCSON, Arizona – On March 28 and 29, hundreds of rockets will soar into the Tucson sky at Desert Heat 2015. Rocket enthusiasts from around the Southwest will gather for this annual two-day rocketry event, where there’s no cost to watch, and kids always fly free. The rockets that will be launched vary in size...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin