Muhammad Ali’s trainer, Drew Bundini Brown, said, “You gonna float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, aaah (in unison with Ali), Rumble young man, rumble, aaah (in unison, again).”
Every time I heard this as a young child, I imagined myself saying “aaah,” as if I was being spoken to as well. It continues to guide me as the leader I am today.
I grew up in a rough neighborhood in Las Vegas. Violence was an everyday occurrence and toughness was mandatory. A kind heart was unacceptable and hate was rampant.
As a younger man, I mistakenly used the hate in my heart for motovation. I hated where I lived, my situation in life and the unfair advantages others had. I desired a better future in life. After high school, I thought of all my options and settled with speaking to a recruiter after a friend told me about benefits the Air Force offered. The recruiter told me about an opportunity to become something bigger than myself, which offered a chance to improve my life. I was hooked. I met with the recruiter in October 2009 and started my Air Force journey seven months later.
I was happy just to be in the Air Force and performing my job, with every task I was given, I started to see the significance of doing something greater than myself. I wasn’t only protecting my nation’s air power, but the people who provided it. My fellow Airmen and I were putting ourselves on the front lines to ensure the safety of all who lived/worked at my duty location. Since air power isn’t effective if it stays on the ground.
I wanted to be the best Airman I could be and do all I could to support the mission. However, in December 2011 I scored an 87.2 on my fitness assessment, which was 2.8 points below an excellent passing score, and making me ineligible for many advancement opportunities. I was determined to “rumble” and improve that, as well with other things. It made me look at where I was and where I was headed. I had to ask myself, “Had I really hit my full potential in my career and life?” I thought being ambitious was no longer required since I had completed the goal of just improving my circumstances. In reality, I had just taken one step forward and settled, which I could no longer allow.
The Air Force strengthened the pride I have in myself, by demanding I pursue excellence in all I do. Along with integrity and service before self, the values replaced my old hate-driven motivation. They gave me the ability to “rumble” once again, this time, to become better and support something I believed in. It gave me direction to become the best Airman I could possibly be. I hustled to become a certified patrolman as an airman first class, something not done before at my duty location. I was also selected for the incredibly rewarding duty of protecting three former secretaries of defense.
Once I became a supervisor, I learned the ability to “rumble” was different for everyone. For a long time I was frustrated with my Airmen because I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t “rumble.” I found one common denominator with all my Airmen: They believed more in actions than words. They had to see someone float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. I worked on improving myself with any educational and professional development opportunity available. I took any task and always gave it my all. My “rumble” and passion became their motivation. It illuminated them to the possibility of reaching higher levels such as taking the lead in their own respective positions, working to attain higher education and always trying to out work the person next to them, which is what Muhammad Ali had did for me. More importantly, the joy of seeing the people I motivated with my hustle become successful was amazing. It has been one of the best joys in my life.
I now directly advise leaders at all levels on any equal opportunity matters civilian and military. This is a position with great trust and responsibility. I continue to “rumble” in my position to be the best advisor/counselor with the constant crafting and gathering of more experience. More importantly, I continue to motivate since the pride in myself makes me want to do more and uplift others. So I say to you Airman, “continue to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, aaah, rumble Airman, rumble, aaah, for a better today, tomorrow and future.