LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — As a young man I grew up in a not so great area of San Antonio, Texas. My parents were not perfect people but they did invest in me. They taught me the basics and to be a man of my word. We were a family of little means but my parents instilled values and morals in me. I say this to bring to light a trend that I have seen in today’s youth. As I walk the halls of my Aircraft Maintenance Unit and speak to my Airmen, I ask them what they see themselves doing in 20 years, what aspirations they have for their military career and what accomplishments they hope to achieve before it’s too late. Often times the responses are that of earning rank or to amass a fortune. Sometimes it’s to be a better parent than what they grew up with. The responses vary so much that it would be impossible to quantify.
My response to their answers are too often met with blank responses. My response is, “How do you plan to get there, or better yet, what goals have you set for yourself to achieve this dream of yours.” My father had some very basic rules: use the right tool for the job, always work smarter not harder, anything worth doing is worth doing right and, finally, you’re teeth are not a tool. These rules seem to lend themselves to accomplishing one’s dreams. Maybe not rule four but it was still a good one.
I truly care about my Airmen, I try to learn the names of their spouses and how many children they have. But what good is it if I am not teaching them the same truths that my mother and father instilled in me? It is my job as a leader to prepare my Airmen to meet my success and hopefully exceed me and to mold them to become the next supervisor and invest in their Airmen. My vested interest in them is for not if I have not prepared them or set them up for success.
Success is a funny term. We often look at success as either winning or losing. I care to differ from that argument, moreover I challenge you to do the same. One of my professors in college spoke to me about a failure I had. He lifted me up by defining success. He said, “Success is defined simply as this: getting up one more time than you have fallen down.” That quote has stuck with me for many years and I often share it when the situation presents itself.
In order for our Airmen to be successful in their dreams we must teach them to align their goals. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered the commencement speech at University of Southern California, and in his speech he laid out six rules to success. Trust yourself. This hubris enables our Airmen to believe in themselves and work in confidence. Break some rules. To be clear this does not mean break the law but rather break some paradigms. Don’t be afraid to fail. After all, no one will get everything right the first time. Ignore the naysayers. Rather than letting the naysayers drag you down, use them to fuel your desire. Work your butt off. Hard work breeds success. Finally, give something back. This restarts the cycle to poise the following generation for success.
In closing, every leader possess the ability to aide our Airmen in achieving their dreams. What we are willing to invest in them is what we can expect from them.