Excellence: the endless pursuit

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Before joining the Air Force, it's safe to say I had thought fairly highly of myself. I was in what I considered pretty good physical shape, I was socially active and felt I was at very least above average intellect.

I had come from a small town and done pretty well in high school without really putting in much effort. My first couple years of college passed in a similar fashion, and when I started to apply myself in the later years I really felt like I was hot stuff.

So of course, I figured the Air Force would be the same. I thought that I could simply come in, do my thing and the world would lay itself out in front of me.

What I quickly learned was that what I thought passed for excellence, wasn't even close, I came to realize exactly how small the pond I had grown up in really was, and that excellence is entirely relative.

I met numerous people that were better leaders, faster runners, had brighter minds and were faster learners... and that was just in basic training.

Since then I have met so many bigger fish that at times it was hard not to feel bad about where I was at.

However, I eventually began to see these people not as reminders of my own inadequacy, but rather as snapshots of the goals that I would eventually obtain and surpass.

What makes us as individuals and as an armed force excellent is the desire to continuously reset the bar, to push the standard. It's the understanding that excellence is intrepid, not stagnant. It is a light that is ever in sight yet just enough beyond reach to keep us striving for it. It is the hunger that no sense of achievement can keep at bay for long.

The thing that stands in the way of excellence most isn't absence of aptitude, but the presence of complacency. I thought, even for some time after joining, that I would eventually get to a point where I was comfortable, where I could just kind of coast. But the thing about excellence is that once you think you have attained it, and you think you can stop striving for it, you have let it go.

So if you ever find yourself feeling like a big shot, you had better get back to work, or risk falling behind.