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 do it matters more now than ever before.
How well do you stack up? More importantly, can you say you don’t settle for good enough but strive to be great? To me, achieving individual greatness is a personal choice. Either you choose to be the best you can be, or you can choose to be good enough.
Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t,” wrote that “Good is the enemy of great.” Let’s think about that for a minute. Collins wrote, “It is so easy to settle for good rather than striving to be great.”
For example, the Air Force does not have many great Airmen because we have so many good Airmen. In the U.S., there are not so great schools because there are so many good schools. So ask yourself, “What are you doing ‘good enough?’” Work performance? Writing EPRs? Mentoring? Leading? Relationships? Sometimes good enough is the answer, but it cannot be the answer for everything.
I believe the first step to achieving personal greatness starts with making it personal. Do not be afraid to choose to be great because you want to be great. Don’t be afraid to choose to go to college because you want to get an education. You cannot expect to reach your goals if you are making choices to just check off a box or because someone else wants you to make them. If your desire to be the best you can be is not rooted in the correct foundation, it will not stand up to the trials and rigor of your journey to be great. Making it personal is the vital first step.
Next, if you cannot be honest with yourself and admit things are not as good as they can be, they will never get better. For example, my daughter got a B in one of her courses on her report card. School has always come easy to her and she has always received exceptional grades. The reality in this case was she did not apply herself, yet she stood her ground stating that she did her best and her best was a B. Bottom line, she was not being honest or realistic with herself, but once she did, her grade quickly transitioned to an A. Now, apply this to a career development course exam or physical training test. How many settle for good enough? Think about an aircraft flight inspection, a military pay question, or a building air conditioner repair in July? You will quickly realize that good enough is not the answer.
The final step is to go out and do it. Make the change, challenge yourself to be better and strive for greatness. Here is where I must put in the disclaimer: this will be a tremendous effort. It will not be easy at first, and it will take time to see results. You must push to build one success at a time, push to get the ball rolling and with each success or revolution you will break through and build momentum that will generate results.
The good news is everyone can be the best they can be. There is no discrimination in being great. Remember, good enough is not what the Air Force needs. Good enough should not be the way to live your life.