Got Motivation?

U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Rene Castillo

U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Rene Castillo

After attending GTC (Government Technology Conference) Southwest 2013 in Austin I felt compelled to share my impressions of the keynote speaker from the second day of the conference.  In his presentation, “Never Fly Solo!  The Leader’s Flight Plan to Win,” Lieutenant Colonel Rob Waldman addressed four key principles in succeeding in business and life—commitment, preparation, teamwork, and courage.

Colonel Waldman (or “Waldo”, his call sign) shared several experiences from his life and Air Force career that tie into those principles including the fact that he overcame acrophobia and claustrophobia and went on to fly a total of 65 missions in Serbia and Iraq as a fighter pilot.  He fueled my passion to instruct and train, and he reminded me of why I am proud to also have served in the Air Force.

Colonel Waldman said his father told him to “do it right the first time or don’t do it at all.”  What about commitment?  Should you only manage your records when someone tells you to do so?  Should you wait until you’re running out of space before doing disposition?  Should you always take the easy road?  Not hardly!  I’m reminded of the story of a chicken and a pig.  The chicken was complaining to the pig that the farmer likes eggs every morning for breakfast and the pig said, “Heck, that’s nothing!  I heard he wants bacon with his eggs tomorrow.”  Now, who was committed—the chicken or the pig?  You don’t have to be someone’s meal but be committed in your job and your responsibilities.

Don’t be complacent.  We all face challenges and obstacles in our daily lives.  There are probably more than a couple mornings when you wake up and find it’s all you can do to get out of bed and go to work or school.  As Colonel Waldman stated, the only time your commitment is truly tested is in “the heat of battle.”  He told a story of when he was a young captain and flying with his squadron commander on one of his first combat missions in Iraq.  They had enemy aircraft approaching and his commander radioed the code word for engaging or taking action–“Commit. Commit.”  That meant there was no turning around, only giving 100% to win.  His commander trusted him because he knew he was committed to the mission.  Every day we have a choice to give in to the temptation to ease up or to engage (or as Colonel Waldman phrased it, to “push it up”).

It’s important to be prepared. Stay informed and have a contingency plan in case the “what ifs” occur.  Colonel Waldman mentioned how the software for the radar in his plane kept being updated and changing, and he and his fellow pilots had to stay current with those changes.  Prior to each sortie (mission) he had to consider things such as what if the enemy showed up, what if he had an engine failure, what if he got shot down, and how would he handle that.  An Air Force philosophy is “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in battle.”  You have to rehearse every hurdle and contingency.  Your customer, whoever that may be, expects and deserves that you’re prepared and relevant. What if there is a power outage and your computer system goes down?  Are your records, especially your essential/vital ones, backed up and accessible from another location?  What if you have freezing weather and your water pipes burst?  Are you storing records near those pipes or in the basement?  Are you truly prepared and do you have a contingency plan in place that’s been tested or rehearsed?   Will you be able to perform your duties, your responsibilities, if you’re not properly prepared?  Probably not.  And how will that affect your customers?

Colonel Waldman told us of how he once chewed out his crew chief (senior aircraft maintenance person) because his jet was short of fuel prior to a sortie.  His commander was aware of the incident and told him to walk the flight line and shadow that crew chief the next day.  After walking the flight line with his crew chief he then truly appreciated what all his maintenance team did to prepare his aircraft for each mission.  He suggested we ask ourselves whose flight line we should walk–who should we appreciate more.  He also suggested that we should create a “check six” (a pilot’s term referring to knowing what is behind him in his blind spot) culture where we help each other.  It’s easier to do this if your “wingmen” (your colleagues or coworkers) back each other up and if we look out for each other.  Do you share ideas or give each other a hand in your office?  No?  Maybe you should.  Strive for mutual collaborative support.

We also need to have the courage to be approachable, being open to feedback.  Trust each other and tell your coworker or boss what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.  When Colonel Waldman toured the U.S. Air Force Academy as a young man prior to entering the Air Force and flight school they stopped by the indoor swimming facility.  When he saw the 10 meter (~33 feet) diving platform, he asked the guide about it and was told he would eventually have to jump off it into the water wearing a 30-pound pack as part of his water survival training.  He was afraid of heights!  Did that stop him?  No.  His passion to become a fighter pilot was far greater than his fear.  Find what your passion is and face your fears.

Strive to be committed.  Ensure you’re prepared for any contingency by rehearsing those “what ifs” and keeping current in your chosen field.   Appreciate your teammates and lend a hand before being asked.  Have courage, not doubt.  Hey, if you haven’t noticed, life really is too short.

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