Leadership: Choose your journey

  • Published
  • By Col. Alison T. Forsythe
  • 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron commander

There are three tenants that I live by; choose your journey, don’t accept “no” and fight for what you believe in. Bottom line never give up on you.

Throughout your life you will face challenges and may even feel like you are standing alone, but never give up on yourself or your dreams. Supervisors, peers or quite possibly loved ones may not fully support you. However, you know in your gut, deep down within your core, you must believe in yourself and take the next step even when the journey is difficult. Your journey is not like anyone else’s, you must be confident even when you do not feel confident. Take the leap of faith and take that step. If you do not take that step you will certainly have regrets.

Choose your journey

In my early twenties, I was excited about beginning my journey as a nurse. My first year of college was difficult and not my best academic year. I was away from my family, on my own for the first time and my older sister was fighting the battle of her life. Unfortunately, the summer after my freshman year, my sister lost her battle with cancer. This was devastating for me, Heather was my compass. I looked up to her. I couldn’t image going back to college, but I knew my sister would want me to. 

I began my sophomore year meeting with my college guidance counselor. She suggested I choose a different degree and college because she felt my grades were not competitive enough to get into the nursing school. This was devastating for me to hear.  Needless to say, I didn’t take the guidance counselor’s advice. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy journey, but I buckled down and worked harder than my peers for the next three and half years. My journey may have taken an additional semester, but I graduated in high academic standing and with my Bachelors in Nursing. Choose your journey, don’t let someone else pick it for you.

Don’t accept “no”

I know, as leaders, we challenge individuals within our squadrons daily. We have asked them to come up with processes that are more effective or efficient. The majority of the time the team will come back with excellent ideas; but there are times that they just say “no, it cannot be done”. As a leader, I believe it is our duty to never accept “no” as the final answer.  I believe this because there are always options. These options will for certain have risk associated with them, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go for it. Just because it is more difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it either. Accepting “no” inhibits creativity and quite possibly that almost perfect solution. As leaders we must continue to challenge individuals, and foster “outside the box thinking”, even if there is risk involved. We cannot accept the status quo. We need to continue to challenge individuals. 

Fight for what you believe in

Fighting for what you believe in, is passion. I do not believe everyone has it but we certainly all should strive to develop it. I am proud to belong to the Air Force organization for more than twenty-six years. Every day I come to work, ready to solve the issues with my unique passion. Over the years I have been told that I need to keep the emotions out of my passion, but I feel my passion is misinterpreted as emotion. I feel it is my duty as a leader to fight for what is right for the organization. Passion is essential part of being a leader, I will always support individuals who fight for what they believe in. I will continue to fiercely fight for my unit and teammates.

Our journey is our own. It is not like anyone else’s, so do not compare your journey to others. Fight for what you believe in. Fight for what you know is right. No matter the career choice, find what you are good at then grow, excel, exploit your talents and set your journey on that course. Be a leader who is a bold, passionate, authentic, and a vulnerable caring individual. 

Steve Jobs said “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by Dogma-which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”