No Excuse, Sir!

One of the very first things I learned as a brand-new Air Force Academy cadet, on day 1, to be precise, was that in basic training, I was expected to spend more time listening than talking.  I couldn’t talk to my fellow basic cadets at all unless we happened to be in one of a handful of places in which talking was specifically allowed.  When addressing a superior, a member of the cadet cadre, unless otherwise asked or directed, I was to use one of the seven basic responses: 

  1. Yes, sir! (or Ma’am, of course)
  2. No, sir!
  3. Sir, may I ask a question!?
  4. Sir, may I make a statement!?
  5. Sir, I do not know!
  6. Sir, I do not understand!
  7. No excuse, sir!

Out of all of the basic responses, “No excuse, Sir” presented the most opportunities for failure.  The other six were completely straightforward.  If someone asked me a question to which I didn’t know the answer, I said, “Sir, I do not know.”  If someone asked me a question and I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, I said, “Sir, I do not understand.”  And so on.  

“No excuse, Sir,” on the other hand, was only to be used as a reply to a question that began with the word “why.”  It was tough to remember to use it because the natural inclination when someone asks a question is to provide an answer.

A typical exchange might sound like this:

Cadre: Orr, why do your boots look as though you polished them with a chocolate bar?

Me: Sir, I didn’t have time to…

Cadre: [cutting off my reply] I SAID WHY!

Me: NO EXCUSE, SIR! (more…)

There’s No School Like the Old School

Yesterday, I read an article written by a gentleman named L. Todd Wood.  One of my US Air Force Academy’s Class of ’92 (True Blue!) classmates had posted it on the class’s Facebook group.  The gist of the article (which you can read here), was that the Air Force Academy focused on training young men and women to be warriors when he was there in the mid-80s, but now thanks to PC culture the wheels have come off the place.  Sometime during the past 30 years, the cadets became undisciplined layabouts with no respect for authority and with [gasp] access to Dunkin Donuts.

Comments on the article roughly fell into two camps.  About half bemoaned the perceived loss of the warrior ethos at their beloved alma mater.  The other half pointed out that the article was mostly it-was-harder-back-in-my-day hogwash.  The comment I found most interesting was from my classmate Dana Teagarden who said “I would be more concerned if I showed up after 30 years and nothing had changed.”

Because, seriously, you may not have noticed, but the world has changed!

Millennials entering the workforce today have never known a time in which they didn’t have access to the sum total of human knowledge through a small device in their pocket.  500 years ago, the people in a city on the other side of the mountain range from yours might have a medical cure or a new tool people in your city might never hear about in their lifetimes.  250 years ago, something could happen in Europe and people in North America wouldn’t know about it for weeks assuming the ship with the message didn’t sink en route.  When I was in high school in the 80s, once I drove off in my car, I might as well have been on Mars for how difficult it was to get hold of me.   (more…)

Starting Out Matters Most

Starting out, even when things aren’t perfect, even when conditions aren’t quite right, is one of the most important of all success strategies. Because, the truth is, that for most endeavors, conditions are never really quite right.

I thought about this success principle as I stood high above the trees looking out on one of the most magnificent vistas imaginable.

The day hadn’t started out suggesting that such a moment might be possible.

Indeed, long before the alarm would go off, I could hear the rain beating against the roof of the motel: a cold, heavy February rain in the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire.

I pulled the blankets up and rolled over in the darkness, sure that it was way too snotty to even consider venturing out.

Two hours later, we sat at the Dunkin Donuts. Our climbing packs were packed; the gear was ready. And the rain continued to pour… just freezing as it hit the surface. Nothing suggested even remotely that it was a good idea to strap on snowshoes or crampons and disappear for a day into a range that routinely and indiscriminately likes to kill its visitors.Screenshot 2014-02-25 17.57.31

A half mile from the trailhead, the rain tapered to a light mist. The temperatures were mild. The wind light. And, before the day was out, the sun poked through the clouds. It was a glorious fun-filled satisfying day on one of my very favorite mountains in the world.

It would have been easy to stay in bed.

Now I am not suggesting that you should be reckless; or act without thinking; or start out unprepared; or not consider contingencies.

But that’s not the challenge that most people face.

Most folks when they’re thinking about starting out on a project – a new career or business, a book, a fitness program, a product launch, a new relationship – want to wait until everything is in place, until conditions are perfect, the set-up ideal. Life is not like that (in case you haven’t noticed). Conditions are never ideal; all of the pieces are never in place.

You’ve gotta start out… and see what happens.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Imperfect action is still action; imperfect progress is still progress. And sometimes when you start out – in fact more often than not – conditions turn in your favor. It’s as if the Universe recognizes your boldness and says, “Ah ha, she’s serious;” “Hmm, I guess he means it this time.”

You are rewarded for your audacity, for your courage; and for your faith: Faith in the abundance of a benevolent Universe; faith in the knowing that you will always find the path; faith in the power of your own inner strength.

Brené Brown writes, “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” “Be brave with your life,” she says, “so that others can be brave with theirs.”

You have gifts that the world needs desperately. Conditions will never feel ‘right’ to venture out with them.

You need to start anyway.


The handsome Walt HamptonAbout the author:

Walt Hampton is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Book Yourself Solid® Worldwide, an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, success coach, and bestselling author of “Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters.”

He delivers high-impact, multimedia keynotes at high schools, on college campuses, at corporate events and at gatherings of professional associations.

To find out more about Walt, click here to visit his website.

How True Visionaries Do Business Development

About two months ago, I started working with the Director of a consulting company in Canada in the healthcare industry.

She contacted me because she grew tired of how she thought she had to do business development and because she knew there had to be another way.

The company did very well but the Owner had lost her passion for her role, which was mostly business development, even though she is brilliant at it.

She fell into the trap of pursuing “more revenue” as her only goal and lost focus of her bigger vision for her industry and the entire human race.

So we started working on bringing that vision back to life, that she knew deep down she had, and integrate it into her business development.

Out of this, everything emerged.

Business Development as a Visionary

We came up with this highly energetic and clear vision about what she saw for the healthcare industry. A world where innovation thrived, where healthcare is a field of prevention and where organizations are tackling the source instead of fixing the problems.

And then, she naturally started to talk about what she saw to the people she met. (more…)

What’s Your Plan?

I train fighter pilots to be the best in the world at what they do.  By the time a pilot graduates from the Basic Course, he’s capable of climbing into a single-seat, single-engine F-16 and employing it anywhere on the planet, any time of day or night, in any kind of weather.  The stakes for the performance of his duties are deadly high.  In addition to his own skin, he’s responsible for the lives of untold numbers of people on the ground below him.  His combat responsibilities require him to make a constant stream of life or death decisions.  

I have about seven months to take this wet-behind-the-ears aviator and turn him into a steely-eyed fighter pilot.  In that relatively short period of time, I have to train him to perform a mind-boggling number of disparate tasks in the airplane.  Of all the skills in which he needs to gain proficiency, the most important one doesn’t involve aiming the gun, launching a missile or dropping a bomb.  The most important skill a fighter pilot needs to perfect is the ability to think for himself.  By that logic, it stands to reason that my most important job as an instructor pilot and as an officer in the Air Force is to ensure that I foster in my student pilots and in the troops who serve under me that skill.   (more…)

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