Roaring lions, small dogs

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Mike Curtis
  • 435th Air Ground Operations Wing
Editor's note: Chaplain Curtis is the Wing Chaplain for the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing and the 435th Air Expeditionary Wing. He travels to small units in Europe and Africa to encourage Airmen as well as to provide free exercise of worship for Airmen.

The place to see a lion is in a zoo. Well-fed and exercised, the king of the beasts is there to be seen in all its glory. There's even a nice barrier to ensure that the lion stays on its side and the people stay on theirs, in other words, no unauthorized snacks for the lion.
But imagine this - the lion, wandering the plains of Africa, hunting and stalking prey, majestic as one of the great creatures. The lion knows that it is the top of the food chain, that it has its pick of the menu from what wanders the plains. Large or small, it could be dinner for the beast.

One night, the lion is waiting patiently for prey to enter a thicket of tall grass. There is plenty to distract it - sounds, smells, and movements. Things beautiful and things mundane are all around. What is the lion doing? Waiting, and waiting patiently. When prey comes, it employs another well-known lion-technique, stalking. Sneaking up on its prey, the lion is focused, so focused that if seen, it will freeze and look into the distance as if nothing was happening then go quickly back to its task as soon as the prey looks away.

How does the lion stay so focused? One of many African proverbs comes to mind. "A lion does not turn around when a small dog barks," the saying goes. "A roaring lion kills no game" is another phrase heard in the African world.

We can get very distracted at times. People, events and thoughts that in the grand scheme of things don't really matter can grab our attention. Critics, success, bumps in the road, fawning over an achievement, temporary setbacks and things that we don't understand or sometimes have any control over will cause us to lose our focus. For many, the focus is a long career, a legacy left, or a nice nest egg for retirement. Some get focused on one way to get to that end. There is nothing wrong with that focus until something distracts them or they miss the direction of an option they had not previously considered.

What is the goal? How is life to be lived? Many people believe many things, but there is wisdom in the words of the African proverbs. What are your long term goals? How are you working to reach them? What about your day-to-day goals? Are you stagnant and making noise or getting somewhere along the road of life? How are you conducting yourself as life happens around you?

Take a moment to think about, write out and review your goals, both long term and short term. What tasks go with those goals and how are you getting there? Ask what is distracting you from them? How do you best keep focus on what really matters?

Of course sometimes, the focus needs to be on a short-term goal, the prey that is walking up for tonight's dinner. Instead of whining and complaining about the latest in Force Management, or making noise about the drama at work, focus on keeping military paperwork in order and consistently do the right thing all the time, staying above the drama. Have a realistic outlook and a backup plan to the backup plan.

Sometimes people get distracted by the goal of careerism, forgetting that there really is life after the military when the real need is to have a strong family to weather change. Others get distracted by momentary fun only to have change thrust upon them in a way that was not anticipated. Distraction can also come through something that looks good in the moment but is really a turn down a different road in life.

The primary reason people tend to fail is not because they lack skills or abilities. Every day we learn new skills, hone our abilities, and increase our knowledge. People fail because they get distracted. Something grabs their attention and they lose sight of the goal. There will be plenty of chances to succeed, but there are even more ways to get distracted in life. When that small dog barks, keep your focus and move on through life's adventure.