The definition of success
By Major JayCee Stennis, 14th Flying Training Wing
/ Published May 24, 2007
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Have you ever heard that practice makes perfect? Well that saying has a lot of validity in many areas and life applications. You pick one of your own and I'm sure you can draw an immediate correlation. I picked a few to mention: aircraft maintenance, academics or finances. Really practice can be another word for discipline. Researchers and writers from all walks of life continue to say that "repetition is the mother of success." And another word for repetition is habit and that equates to or results in the "discipline." I guess you have to determine what the definition of success is for you. According to Webster's Dictionary, the word success is defined as "(1) an outcome or result; (2) a measure or degree of succeeding; (3) eminence or (4) one who succeeds." You have to admit that the world that we live in screams for and demands certain results or an outcome. In the corporate world, success is defined by the "bottom-line" You see the executive and middle managers, zero in on net profit, minimizing cost and market share for owners and shareholders. In the medical field, success is defined as negative growth in malpractice lawsuits or settlements from loss of life or limb. In the military, success is defined as on time takeoffs, sorties flown, bombs on targets and even promotion to the next job or next higher rank. Success can mean many different things depending on your occupation or goals set. It can even be defined based on the measurement and standards you set.
In the Air Force, the military leaders, the congress and even the taxpayers have determined that standard. That standard is defined on our core values. The one core value of particular interest is "excellence in all we do." What that says to me is when we do our very best, then we all succeed and the AF mission succeeds.
As I sit here and write this article, the third core value really gets its foundation from the first two core values, integrity first and service before self. You see, if our Airmen, Department of Defense civilians and defense contractors practice or repeat the three Air Force core values every time when going about their daily lives making decisions about faith, family and the USAF mission, then they can't go wrong in the long term. It's when they don't use the core values as their guiding light and take a shortcut that things can go deathly wrong. For example, if the egress technician does not conduct the scheduled equipment inspections correctly and in a timely manner, the reliable Martin-Baker egress seat may not begin its emergency egress sequence needed to help the pilot to escape his non-flyable aircraft. What about the munitions loader who fails to load and arm the weapon in accordance with the technical order for the desired effect on the ground or in the air? The slightest deviation could prove to be catastrophic for the pilot, the ground crew or even worse innocent civilians to include children. That is why the Air Force concentrates on critical tasks to prevent air, ground and safety mishaps. They send 100 percent of the certified load crews through a monthly proficiency recertification program where the crew is recertified to load every munition required by that weapon system against a set time standard. If the crew performs a safety or technical data violations causing a possible munition malfunction, the entire crew fails and has to re-accomplish the munitions load. If the crew fails to load the munitions outside the established timeline, again they must be decertified, retrained, and recertified. The only way the crew can meet these crucial loading parameters is by establishing good habit patterns and coordinated teamwork. Each member must know what the other is doing and know their responsibilities to the team for the load.
Good habit patterns don't just happen; they are developed through ongoing repetitious behavior. When DoD civilians, contractors or military members don't follow our disciplined approach by complying with Air Force Instructions and other written directives and exercising good checklist discipline through practiced repetition to guide our habit patterns, it can prove to be disastrous with dire consequences. Behavioral scientists say it takes approximately 21 days to establish a new habit, or to break a bad one, but it starts out with a decision. That decision must be to do the "right thing" the "right way" every time. With established good habit patterns in our thinking and actions, it affords us the foundation required to make "right" decision in the absence of good clear guidance and directives.
Most of our mission related operations draw from the well of good habit patterns which are constantly being replenished by constant repetition. The one thing to guard against in repetition is the silent killer "complacency." So we must fortify or back up those habit patterns by thoroughly practiced checklists discipline. Following the checklist ensures that all the steps are covered not just the critical ones, thus while avoiding critical mistakes and minimizing needless deviations.
Regardless of how you define success, the most definite way to be successful and to succeed at your goal or mission in life is to keep up the constant learning, keep up your proficiency through passionately practiced repetitions and to on to establish good habit patterns. When you do these three, you are guaranteed to reach the benchmark standard: the USAF's third core value, excellence. Just remember, "practice does make perfect."