Failure Up Close (and retirement)

For the first time in nearly three years, the video conference would not start on time. This particular video conference is for all Air Force occupational safety professionals and is held bi-monthly to update the field, request feedback on subjects and to answer questions. But even with five people working the multiple IT issues, the delay was growing.

Then the phone rang, “Josh, is it going to start?”

I’m never late. And then I was. How did we get here?

It began in the morning with a blank blue screen on my computer. Several resets and I had it working again. Thirty minutes later it happened again. Again with a restart and I had it fixed (or so I thought.) Thinking through the morning’s events, I requested a backup computer.

Just before I was scheduled to bring up the teleconference, my computer went blue and shutdown. We told the audience to expect a 10-minute delay.

The backup computer was plugged in, however my slides were on the main computer and there was no video record capability on the substitute computer (I record the teleconferences for those in different time zones). So the IT tech used their administrator rights to grab my slides from the original computer and load them on the backup. But still no recording software.

OK, time to start this conference!

Wait, where is everyone? Oh, Internet Explorer isn’t working for those trying to log in. Someone discovers that Chrome is fine and the audience begins to filter in. We end up with about half the normal number of participants.

Failure on multiple levels. I should have had a dedicated backup with the proper software and built more time into conference set-up (among other risk controls).

And while it wasn’t a battle in an Afghan valley (and I’m glad it wasn’t because I’d have been late), it was a reminder on the importance of resilience under stress.

It’s also a foundational reason I requested retirement several months ago from active-duty, beginning December 2018. Not to escape from failure, not to get away from the stress and struggle…but to deliberately put myself in more opportunities for learning, for success, and yes…for failure. It’s a bittersweet step and one I’m glad isn’t for several more months.

I wouldn’t trade this experience, these people, and these past 20 years for anything.

 

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