Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Jon Jefferson
673d Communications Squadron
11/21/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Just
like life, a military career is a journey. As we travel down the road
of our career and life, we first need to have one or more destinations
in mind. These destinations are the milestones and goals we set for
Without something to shoot for, progress is haphazard, slower than it
should be, or nonexistent. That can lead to missing out on
opportunities, dissatisfaction, or in the worst case an end to our
career for not meeting expectations. During my career, my ability to
regularly and consistently follow four principles or guides has allowed
me to navigate through the challenges to reach many of my professional
and life goals.
The four principles are have the right attitude, be better each day, focus on the team, and find a balance
Have the right attitude
We need to approach each day with desire and effort, and in a positive manner.
Treat your career as more than a job; embrace it as a culture. That
means following our military's customs and courtesies, perpetuating its
traditions, studying its history, and changing it when needed so it
Honor those who came before you, share with those around you, and leave a
stronger legacy for those who will continue on after you. The right
attitude will see you through the hard times, magnify the good
experiences, and enrich your life as a whole.
Attitude is contagious. The wrong attitude is like a weight around your
neck or a dark cloud that stretches out over those around you. It may
not lead to failure, but at a minimum, it requires additional effort and
time by you and others to overcome it.
On the other hand, the right attitude will attract subordinates, peers,
friends, and people who care about you to your side. With their help,
you can join your abilities together to achieve and enjoy more, rely on
each other when times are tough for either of you, and share in the joy
of your or their success.
Be better each day
We each have the opportunity to learn something new every day. The key is to take advantage of this opportunity.
I'm not talking about taking a huge leap of knowledge or understanding
but smaller, more subtle steps. It may be learning a topic you didn't
know before. It may be not repeating a mistake you made yesterday. It
may be taking a step outside your comfort zone in order to broaden your
But we need to make small improvements regularly. It's the only way to
reach our potential in our current duty position, professional
responsibilities, or life. It's the only way to ready ourselves for more
responsibility whether it comes with the next rank, with becoming a
parent, or assuming a new role. And it's the only effective way to
prepare ourselves to be able to manage the unexpected.
The long journey to success begins with a single step. And each step you
take should be a purposeful one of gaining knowledge and experience.
Focus on the team
In our military careers, and I'd argue in our lives in general,
true success comes not from individual achievement, but from what we
accomplish together. It doesn't mean much if you succeed, but your
co-workers, section, organization, or family struggles or fails to
deliver. Instead of keeping your expertise to yourself so you're the
only "go-to" guy or gal, share your strengths with others to widely
spread your knowledge and abilities. We can all benefit from sharing
with one another the tools and things that work for us.
While I've come up with a few methods on my own, I've borrowed/stolen
many more from the mentors, leaders and peers I've been fortunate enough
to meet throughout my career. Because of this, my Airmen benefit not
only from my strengths and abilities, but also from those of others as
Look for areas in processes, programs, and individuals that can be
improved. Be a mentor to your subordinates, a wingman to your peers, an
advisor to your leaders, and all of the above to your family.
Be honest with yourself and look within to identify areas needing
improvement and then take action. Also, keep in mind that teamwork isn't
a one-way street. Ask others for their view. It's always good to get an
Be willing to learn from others to bolster your own weaknesses.
Ultimately, the more sharing that occurs, the more successful the "team"
Find a balance
This can be the most challenging of the principles due to the diversity
and volume of demands on us. You need to find and maintain a balance in
the different facets of your life.
Make sure you devote enough time each to your career, your family, your
community, and the one too many often forget about, to yourself.
When looking within, develop yourself physically, mentally, emotionally
and spiritually. You need to deposit enough in each internal and
external "account" so you're able to make withdrawals when needed. Do it
frequently enough so none of the accounts reach a zero balance.
If you're able to make these life deposits, you'll minimize the negative
impact that can occur when one particular demand dominates your
attention and energy to the exclusion of the others.
Any facet in your professional and personal lives to which you don't
properly attend will degrade one or more of the others and ultimately
hurt your quality of life and those around you.
I encourage you to adjust your attitude, approach, focus and balance as
needed. And I hope you willingly share with others what's helped you to
reach your own career and life goals so they can benefit from your
experiences. We not only owe it to ourselves; we owe it to our families
and our fellow Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and
civilians of all ranks. It can be the difference between success and
failure in our personal and professional lives.