He was larger than life. It was my first squadron in the Air Force and he was the Chief Master Sergeant. We’d be working on aircraft in the hangar and you could sense when he was around. Everyone would stand a bit straighter and anything that didn’t look like work would instantly cease. We knew where his office was located, but none dared more than a sideways glance when passing by the open door.
He was a deity in military camouflage.
Then I was invited into his office. I’d been in trouble with underage drinking and he wanted to talk. He expressed his disappointment in a few words. While I’ve forgotten much of what he said, I’ll always remember when he added, “I don’t want you in my Air Force.”
I felt complete rejection, a loss of hope, betrayal, and pain. The words resonate to this day.
The words he spoke fueled my drive and forged my resolve. I marched out of the office with a new purpose. I would prove him wrong. I’d show him that I was the Airman this Air Force needed.
It changed everything.
I began making lists of goals. I enrolled in college, studied aircraft manuals in between shifts, and deliberately chose to be the best at everything I did. I’d fail and learn. I’d succeed and double down. A year later, the same chief would hand me the squadron’s annual maintenance award.
Ever wonder how cancer survivors bike across the country and climb far off mountains? They have found the secret of purpose from pain.
What were the most painful moments of your life?
How can you use the strength of these memories to fuel success today and in the future?