Learn what you can control, bloom where planted

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Lt. Col. Samuel Oppelaar III (50th SW/PA)

In the highly competitive environment of our normal day-to-day Air Force careers, it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the discussion of what you will do next.

Is it time to apply for your dream job in a highly selective unit? Should you enroll in a highly selective education opportunity? Is it time to move on to the next phase of your life? These are great forward-thinking questions, but don’t forget about here and now.

When I was a young company grade officer, a great mentor shared a simple idea we should apply throughout our careers: “Bloom where you are planted.” When he spoke to me about the Air Force promotion system and central selection boards, he regularly mentioned this concept.

It is natural to compare the position you are in with those of your peers, but you can’t let it affect your work. In our business there are many things that impact our careers that are truly outside of our control. My challenge to you is to learn about and then focus on the things you can control.

One thing you absolutely can control is your performance — an example of blooming where you are planted. The Air Force put every single one of you in the position you occupy right now, so own it. Make the job you do today the focus of your work life and try to excel. There are no guarantees you will get everything you want out of your career, even when you excel, but if you don’t try to bloom in your position, you can guarantee the things you want are less likely to happen.

One of the main things Air Force leadership, including wing leadership, looks for in Airmen is how well they perform their primary jobs. In my experience, a person’s work results are more important than everything else and that includes where they work. I’ve seen this in selectively manned units, professional military education and leadership positions. If you get discouraged because you’re not in your “dream job” or weren’t selected for a coveted position, and you let it negatively affect your job performance, you may unintentionally change the course of your career, possibly in the wrong direction.

If you find yourself in a position or job you perceive as less desirable than your peers, don’t dwell on it. Instead, I recommend you take the skills and training the Air Force offers and do the best job you can. Own what you do, learn as much as you can about your tasks, read what people have done well and not so well in the past, and innovate. These are some of the things you can control.

Remember, bloom where you are planted. Be the best services or mission support provider, base defender, cyber professional, space operator, etc., you can be.