The Airman in the Mirror

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Ron Luvisi
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe Personnel Directorate
I caught myself getting spun up the other day. To be honest, I catch myself getting spun up a lot these days. I am good at misplacing the cause of my stress too. It's his fault because of his incompetence, it's her fault because of her attitude ... heck, and it's their fault just because they are them! I vented to a chief hero of mine about how things weren't going the way I thought they should. How it seems the entire system was stacked against me and my goals. Well, the chief did what any good mentor would do (and should do). He told me to adjust what I could and get over the rest. Adjust what I can, get over the rest -- what the heck is that supposed to mean? How are those words supposed to help me? And for goodness sake, I thought mentors were there to help, not slam! 

Well, me, my pride and my ego have all had time to think about retired Chief Bob Vasquez' prophetic words, and here's how this old senior master sergeant decided to apply them. I share these with you on the outside chance they help you also. 

Adjust What You Can: Too often I catch myself allowing things (read people, decisions, policies, rules, norms, people) outside of my circle of influence to spin me out of control. I find myself getting spun up over things that I have zero influence on. From gas prices to the parking situation at work, I can get my blood pressure up quickly over not much. But wait a minute, just what is a circle of influence? I look at it like this, there are three parts to a circle: the outside, the circle itself and the inside. 

The outside: This would be those things outside my control -- things like National Policy, the price of gas, the work schedules of people other than me and my subordinates, and a list of things I don't have a say in that is longer than I want to think about. This part is simplified as those things that affect me but I don't affect them. Note to self -- "Dear me, get over them!" 

The circle itself: These are the things in my life that I have some degree of influence on but not total control (if there is such a thing). Things like my coworkers, my neighbors, and the person that sees me take a short cut or got the extra mile. The last time I checked, a senior master sergeant can't tell a captain what to do, but if the captain sees the senior master sergeant handle a situation with poise, control and a proper tone then the captain may, just may, follow the lead and do the same when put in a similar situation. 

The really cool part of this is that this "doing by seeing" mentality works across all ages and ranks. I think back to my time as a student at the Air Force Senior NCO Academy. We spent three days with a group of students from the Air Force Air and Space Basic Course. It was in this time that it truly occurred to me that the lieutenants in that room would one day be squadron commanders, group commanders and maybe even the next chief of staff of our great Air Force. What if the time that I spent with them gave them a bad example? What if through my words and examples I gave them a less than favorable view of our enlisted corps? I could make every enlisted person's life they encountered for the remainder of their career a bit more difficult if I chose not to use my chance for influence in a positive way. I feel very good about our newest AF leaders if the group I spent time with is an indication of tomorrow's officer leadership. 

Now, the last part of the three -- the inside: This is, without a doubt, the most important part and often, the most neglected. Inside this circle are the things I control, the things only I can say how they turn out. I'm talking about the important stuff here: my uniform, the words I choose to use, the thoughts I chose to engage in, how I treat friends and strangers, the quality of the work I produce ... all the way to my attitude. These are things that only this old senior master sergeant controls. 

It is in this part of the circle that my energy should be focused, but quite often I find myself focusing myself (fruitlessly by the way) on the outside, barely giving any time to the circle itself. If my bosses, my chief, my commander are the greatest people on the planet or if they are less than the greatest, neither of these two situations should influence how I interface with the people that count on my professionalism. My Air Force depends on me doing the best regardless of those things outside of my circle of influence. The greatest boss in the world can't give us a good attitude nor can the worst give us a negative one. When I stop to render proper respects during retreat, or when I take an extra five minutes to make sure my dress and appearance is above standards, these are the things that make me who I am. Now, let me be the first to say it, yes, a bad boss can make your day more difficult and can even make life itself a challenge, but ultimately, if I consider the three parts of the circle, then I can stay focused on what I control and not get spun out of control on the others. 

I end this with a final thought for you to think about -- where are your energies focused? Are you worried about those things you have no influence on or are you focused on those you do? I would offer that if everyone were to give more attention to our influence and the things we control, that our amazing U.S. Air Force would be just a little more efficient, a little more ready, a little more enthused, and a whole lot better. Well, I'm gonna go for now, I've got an Airman in the mirror to get refocused.