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.


 
 

 

Quality of rituals determines quality of life

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFNS) — Over the last year I’ve been on a quest to identify and highlight simple success strategies that, if followed, will increase career success. Where does one start on the path to becoming successful? Some would say, “habits,” but it goes farther than that. Habits are repeatable actions that...
 
 

Is being good, good enough?

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – In today’s Air Force can you settle with just being good? I say, “No.” With the Air Force executing the deepest force cuts since the end of the cold war with programs such as the Quality Force Review Board and the Enlisted Retention Board, what you do and how well you...
 
 

Life is moving, move with it

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – “You can’t be neutral on a moving train” is a famous quote, and the title of a memoir and documentary about the life of author, historian and activist Howard Zinn. What this means is that things are happening all around us, and everything in life is moving in a certain direction....
 

 

Adaptability a ‘must’ in today’s Air Force

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – Three years ago, I entered the Air Force as a general dentist. After completing four challenging years of dental school, I was eager to serve in the Air Force and use my newly developed skills to provide quality care to Airmen. What I quickly came to realize was the misconception that...
 
 

Are You Ready?

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. – When Air Force leadership announced they would need to cut about 25,000 Airmen over the next five years, many people wondered if they would be affected. A variety of programs were announced, including several allowing Airmen the option to retire early. The Air Force also allowed some Airmen the option to...
 
 
DT_pict3

Chief Master Sgt. Dawna M. Cnota bids farewell

Letter to My Airmen The time has come for me to hang up my uniform after 28 years of service.  Many emotions have competed for attention since I made this decision earlier this year.  There is pride, for the honorable service...
 




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