Tag Archives: Air Force

Opportunity: Take It – Or Make It?

Key in Door

   Recently I heard a story about a teenage girl in high school who had been awarded an internship with a surgical department at a prestigious hospital. She was quoted as saying that the internship was “the opportunity of a lifetime.” Perhaps it is. But her story got me thinking: We tend to view opportunity as this random thing that strikes like lightning without warning upon whomever it will. But does it really? Is it really as arbitrary as we think? Or does opportunity “strike” some individuals more often than others? And if so, is it really as indiscriminate as we think?

   Turns out that the girl who was awarded the internship had a near-perfect grade point average and she won the internship based on her academic achievements. Not surprising then that this opportunity would come her way. In fact, given her grades, it’s likely other opportunities will strike – kind of like a metal rod attracts lightning bolts. Translation:

The more we plan for opportunity, the more opportunities we get.

   But how do we plan for something that’s such a chance proposition?

   First thing: Identify the Dream. First we have to know what the heck it is we want. What vision do we have? Is it a specific job or career path? Or is it a unique life experience: a trip to some faraway continent, an adventure like climbing that huge mountain or driving a racecar 100 mph (on a track)? Maybe it’s a chance to touch other lives: to go on a missions’ trip or to work with people who need assistance or money or education or the encouragement to succeed themselves. Maybe it’s to free up our creativity and have an art show or to design our own clothing line or to publish a book or even to patent and market that invention that’s been brewing in our heads all these years.

   Simply put – we have to know what we want.

   Second thing: Research the Dream. The next thing we have to do is to answer some questions: How possible or impossible is our dream? Is it easy to achieve or difficult? Does it take talent or education or an internship or money or investors or physical labor or a partnership? Do we have these things? If not, can we get them? What’s the time commitment, both daily and long-term? In terms of business, is there a demand for our product, service, or idea?

   So – let’s say I want to become an astronaut. (I don’t but let’s pretend.) I have to answer those questions: Is it possible to become an astronaut? If I’m 20, possible. If I’m 40, not so much. Will it be difficult to do or easy to do? It’ll be difficult – no matter how old I am. (However, “hard” does not mean “impossible”.) What will it take? It’s safe to say that becoming an astronaut would take some level of ability – mental, physical, emotional – and certainly it would take education. I’d probably have to join the Air Force and become a pilot or get a PhD in astrophysics or something. Internship? No doubt. Money? Either my own or someone else’s. Do I have these things?  No. If not, can I get them? With a lot (a lot) of work. What’s the time commitment, both daily and long-term? Probably 18 hours a day for years. Is there a current demand for astronauts? More importantly, will there be a demand for them after the 20 years it takes me to become one? Hopefully.  However, if NASA’s not hiring, then maybe I can find a job piloting very rich people to Mars.

   If too many of the answers to these questions are “no,” then perhaps we should look into Dream B. For example, I’d have to end the astronaut dream at the “Is it possible?” stage. (Let’s just say I’m not 20 and leave it at that.) However, if the answers to our questions are doable – even with hard work – then the only other question is: How badly do we want it?

   Third thing: Plan the dream. The answers to the above questions will be what we’d use to devise our plan to make the dream happen. In terms of getting into college or grad school or getting that prime job afterward, grades will count so we can’t wait till the last minute to make them; “making the grade” has to be part of our long-term plan – as it obviously was for the young lady who won the surgical internship.

   And let’s face it – most dreams cost money. Whether it’s for our education and associated costs, business start-up, costs to market the business or book or art show or product – it’s all going to cost money – and probably lots of it. The two most important questions are: How much and where do I get it? Now, if mom and dad’s bank account is an option, problem solved. However, for most of us, it’s not. So – can we get scholarships or loans or grants or investors or a job? The fact is, there’s almost always a way to get money; it’s just a matter of how long it takes to save up from the job or to make the scholarship grades or to write the business plan to get the loan and/or investors.

   Fourth thing: Work the Dream. Once we have the money, we can proceed with the rest of the plan. Will it take time? Of course. It might even take a long time. But as they say, time’s going to pass anyway. Even if it takes years, if we don’t pursue our dreams, will we want to have to look back and wish we’d invested the time once it’s passed? My guess is no.

   Opportunity is often something people sit back and wait for. Then, if and when it strikes, they take it. But let’s face it – that might never happen. A far wiser strategy would be to make opportunity happen. Identify the dream, research the dream, plan the dream, and then work the dream.

   Do this and you’ll be amazed at how often opportunity just happens to knock at your door.

 

Killer Deal.

train-wreck

How would you like to start a business and have an immediate 100 clients? Maybe you’d like a quick trip from the high school locker room to the NFL? What about going from being weekend news anchor at your local station to anchoring the nightly national network news? Or graduating from college at 22 and stepping right into the directorship of a daycare center responsible for the care and feeding of fifty kidlets every day? What if Uncle Harry suddenly left you a cool million? Killer deal, right?

Absolutely killer. Lethal even.

You know where I’m going with this. There’s a great deal to be said for gradual promotion, for hugging the learning curve, for “working your way up”. In fact, it’s absolutely essential. The fast track to any dream rarely equips us to handle its fulfillment. In fact, many a dream has been destroyed because of overnight success. We’ve all seen the extreme examples: the actress who becomes famous after her first movie hits blockbuster status, and so she turns into an obnoxious diva because she simply doesn’t know how to handle all of the adoration from fans. Or a singer whose first CD goes platinum and he ends up on the road doing drugs because he hasn’t learned how to say no to the never-ending parties and the party animals who inhabit them. Or, sadly, the lottery winner who’s an overnight multi-millionaire and ends up broke because he doesn’t know how to handle the money or the sudden onslaught of “friends” who’d like to deprive him of it . . .

But – what about closer to home? What about stepping into a job or business where you’re suddenly responsible for a dozen employees – and you’ve never been responsible for even one before? There’s a lot more to managing people than learning how to fill out the paperwork. Or how about buying more house or car than you can really afford instead of working your way up to the beach house or the Jaguar?  Or – my personal favorite – jumping into a job teaching high school students when you’ve neither student taught nor trained for combat?

Right after I graduated from college, I thought about joining the Air Force and attending officers’ training school. I’ll never forget the advice my father, a retired NCO AF vet, gave me about joining as an officer. He said, “When you get your first assignment as a young officer, right out of school and knowing nothing, the first thing you need to do is to find yourself a seasoned Senior Master Sergeant who’s been around for twenty years. Then keep your mouth shut and do what he tells you.”

The learning curve. You can’t short-circuit it.

Take education, for example. Ever wonder why the U.S. has gone from #1 in the world in test scores and graduation rates to #17? It’s not money; we spend more per student than any nation in the world. It’s not the teachers; K-12 teachers in the U.S. have to jump through as many if not more educational prep hoops than any other country on earth: graduate degrees, practicums, national tests, video-taped proof of numerous masteries, professional development, and state-mandated workshops – all just to get certified. Nope, those aren’t the problems. It’s one thing and one thing only – the “dirty little secret” of education:

Social promotion.

“Social promotion” is the practice of promoting students through the 8th grade – whether or not they’ve passed the grade or mastered the subjects. Not kidding. (Wish I were.)

For example, I’ve seen numerous students passed onto the next grade after failing all four core courses – math, English, science and social studies. And why? Well, one reason is that a student who’s held back in a middle school might end up with facial hair – and there will be no facial hair in a middle school. (No lie – just ask the state administrator who told me that.) And the second reason for social promotion – money! (There’s a surprise.) Schools with lower graduation rates or those having students who take five years to graduate get less federal money. So they pass the kids on up to the high school and try to get them to graduate in four years – whether they’re ready or not. Ever have an employee who has no work ethic or can’t read? Now you know why.

My point is this: “social promotion” – whether through school or through life – is a guaranteed train wreck.

From a Biblical perspective, God doesn’t do social promotions. Ever hear of “going around the mountain”? Again? I thought you had.

Remember Moses? The man God chose to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt? He spent 40 years as a royal Egyptian prince where he became famous among both the Egyptians and the Hebrews. Then, after thinking he could get away with murder, he wandered the backside of the desert for another 40 years while he learned a thing or two about humility. Imagine what kind of leader Moses would’ve been for the next 40 years caring for a million people in the desert if he hadn’t learned humility.

And the Jewish people – how many times did they “go around that mountain” before they were ready to conquer the Promised Land? Forty years – for a trip that should’ve taken eleven days.

But what if they had gone from being slaves in Egypt to conquerors in a foreign land – in eleven days? They couldn’t even feed themselves. They had no idea how to fight, having never done it, or to conquer the land or to set up a government and rule. In fact, they didn’t even have laws at the time they exited Egypt.

The point is that making any kind of a deal to fast-track to the top of the dream is a really bad idea. You might get there – but then the trick would be to stay there. There is no substitute for prep time, however long that might take.

So if you’re offered a “killer deal” to skip to the big time, it might be an offer you’d rather refuse.