Hard work key to success
By Col. Timothy Cook, 366th Fighter Wing Medical Group
/ Published October 03, 2011
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- My recent promotion to Col. was an opportunity for me to reflect on my many successes spanning a 30-plus year career. I began my career as an enlisted member and have learned there is no single recipe or course of action to assure success.
The following is a collection of ideas I'd like to share. These ideas have been the mainstay in my life and have contributed to my many achievements as an officer. I hope these thoughts will be of value to all members of the Gunfighter community.
Persistence is a product of not becoming discouraged. It's the "hang-in-there" factor. It is applying a consistent behavior to not give up when faced with adverse circumstances or fighting through the obstacles to achieve your deserved reward.
There have been a few times in my career when I was not selected for a school, position, promotion or an accolade. During these times I had to resist the urge of self-pity, and more often than not, patience and persistence have yielded my just reward.
My favorite persistence quote comes from Thomas Edison who said, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
Have faith in your supervisors when mentored on a career path suggestion. Do your best and have faith in the system and promotion will take care of itself. Consistently strive to exceed expectations. Don't give supervisors a reason to mistrust or question your integrity or commitment.
Know eventually your effort will be noticed and the reward will come in the form of a promotion or position. Show up every day and thrive where planted. As a young lieutenant nurse, I was distressed to learn my first job in the Air Force would be as an obstetrics nurse.
My response was to do my time, maintain a great attitude and learn as much as I could. Ultimately, my efforts were recognized and I was moved to a pinnacle job for that timeframe which required greater knowledge and responsibility.
My supervisors had it right. The experiences and satisfaction gained from that first job laid a positive foundation which has served me well during my career.
Take advantage of opportunities and know them when you see them. Opportunities are most often hidden in the form of volunteering for a special project or an additional duty.
These opportunities often spring board into something grander. I never imagined serving as the project officer for a wing social would lead to further selection as a wing executive officer. I truly believe seizing the variety of opportunities our base has to offer is the defining "leg-up" for many of our most successful Airmen.
Finally, become an expert in tasks others avoid. Many medics dread dealing with hospital accreditation or inspector general inspections. I immersed myself in learning about and becoming an expert regarding these inspections. Taking the job no one else wanted has led to greater knowledge and assignments to countless upper level positions.
Reappraisal has been my go-to response when faced with a difficult situation. I've conditioned myself to identify the most positive consequence of a problem I'm faced with. Occasionally, when feeling burnt out or in need of rest, I will take what I call a "reappraisal vacation."
I work to gain new insight and renew myself simply by looking at difficulties through a more favorable lens. If you find yourself frequently frustrated on the job, look to reappraisal as an approach to resiliency. It often improves attitude and energizes your mood.
Receiving a commission as an enlisted member was a product of the many education opportunities all Airmen are afforded. I have sought professional board certification in every specialty I have worked. Additionally, I completed every professional military education requirement in minimal time and read professional journals as much as possible.
In my career I have seen programs, budgets, technology and people change. Through the years I have worked to stay relevant and not stagnate. As we have heard, change is inevitable. It is imperative to continually look for new skills to fill your professional tool box.
Make it a privilege to serve. Instead of saying, "I have to complete this task," rephrase it to say, "I'm humbled, honored and fortunate to do this task." You will be amazed how this approach makes even the most undesirable task more palatable.
Regardless of where you are in your career, look to the successful attributes of those you serve with. Determine and capture your own success story and share it with others.