Commentary

July 19, 2013

Leap to your limits

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

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. — 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 illustration by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis

CDOS 2014 comes to a close

U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis Many people view the Labor Day weekend as the end of summer and a last chance to travel, hit Lake Mead, fire up the grill or indulge in their favorite outdoor ...
 
 

Lomie G. Heard Elementary School faculty looking forward to new school year

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle Dominga Romero (left), special programs teacher assistant, and Terri Gravnitz (right), early childhood special education teacher, prepare their classroom for the start of the new school year at Lomie G. Heard Elementary School on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Aug. 21. The new school year...
 
 

Revisiting, examining four elements of leadership

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Whenever I see a new revision of the Professional Development Guide, I find myself reflecting on an experience I had meeting an awards board almost 20 years ago. I was a young staff sergeant and my flight chief was a panel member. He came up with a question from the 1993...
 

 

Deeds, not words make ‘quiet professionals’

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — As I was preparing for my assumption of command of the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, I was learning as much as I could about the squadron. One thing I immediately looked at was our squadron patch, because I wanted to see the emblem that represents the squadron to the rest of...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler

Joint U.S. forces train together during integrated Green Flag exercise

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 309th Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., taxis to the runway during Green Flag-West 14-10 at Nellis AFB, Nev., Aug. 21. Green ...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Get your caffeine at Coolbeans café

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay The Coolbeans Café, a coffee shop serving Starbucks is now open in Hangar 1003 to serve the Airmen of Creech Air Force Base. Airmen interested in getting out of their work cent...
 




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