While out and about last night with our Wing Commander visiting the airmen pulling the night shifts around our base, our conversation moved to the subject of how our airmen do incredible performance on a constant basis. There were so many examples: defenders standing the wire in good spirits in the midst of a blustering cold wind, a MSgt (select) who gave his airmen the night off standing the duty shift himself, airmen coming in bringing Turkey dinners to those who were working and spending time with them to help the night move quicker... Young folks - huge work ethic!

I love the American work ethic. It is still alive and well in the Air Force. But our folks are human beings too. They get tired. They get stressed. Sometimes life hits them hard. Sometimes they have challenges. Yesterday I worked with an incredible airman who life has just sort of piled onto. I told her what I tell many folks, the first key is to not quit, never give up. And don't even think about the word "can't".

I truly believe we "can" do a lot more than we think we can. A story I enjoy telling, not to brag on myself, but rather to say that if I, an average human being - nothing special, can do this then all folks can do this. God creates us all unique and gifted with an emphasis on gifted. No one is good as everything, but we are all good at something and probably multiple somethings. One goal we all share is to find out what that is, maximize its potential, and use it to serve others and the one's we love.

Character development. Self-development. Reaching our potential. It is a great and rewarding life that seeks to do such. And very little can stand in our way. I tell this story often:

The year was 1985. I was a starting freshman in college. I was taking a major gamble with little money, I borrowed every penny to pay for school, room, and board. I had a very small paying part-time job. I was determined to pull straight As. (I did). I went to school with a few shirts and four pair of jeans my father bought me. I weighed 320 pounds and had a 48 inch waistline.

By March 1987 I had lost twenty pounds without trying because I simply could not afford to eat like I did at home. I wondered what I could do if I tried. My goal was to stop having to buy my clothing in the Big Men's shop and paying 4x the cost of clothes at Kmart, where that Spring I started working. I started dieting in earnest. My friend John talked me into going into the gym and working out with him. The weight began to melt off a few pounds a week at first, but it kept coming.

I tell people it is so true that a long journey begins with a small step. I started the full diet around 300 pounds. After my first week I weighted 299. Not that much difference and it was a hard week. I was not used to being hungry or weak from not eating. It was the worst at night and would remain so. I would tell myself, just suck it up for six more hours. Five more hours. Four more hours. You did it yesterday. You've done it all day. I can do this. I've done it before. And if I give in then I not only loose today, but I might eat enough that I loose the progress from yesterday, and I've worked to hard to get this far. So a little step at a time - I edged closer.

In the beginning I only wanted to loose 30-40 pounds. In the end I dropped all the way to 155. Once I built my habit - personal discipline - and my routine - I could hold. It was hard, but I could hold. I could leverage desire, habit, pride in what I accomplished, new found faith that yes I CAN! It was one of the hardest things I have ever done - but it was doable.

In the beginning 300 pounds looked like a mountain. To loose 150 pounds was unthinkable. I didn't start off thinking I could do this. I learned I could do this. My goal changed as I learned something about what a human being is capable of.

We are capable of throwing away our potential, being our own worst enemies. We are also capable of astounding and amazing personal growth. It's all about our attitude, our willingness to engage and work hard, taking responsibility for oneself and not casting blame or making excuses because of our present situation or what is outside of us (and sometimes even what is part of us).

Human beings can change things. We can change ourselves. We can become the potential we are gifted to be.

But again starting from 300, a small accomplishment, 1 pound, 3 pounds -- seems like such a small piece chiselled from that mountain. A few boxes of little Debbie cakes would have restored the gain quickly. But my discipline was rock hard. I would not be deterred because the path was long. I was walking. I was taking steps. I was gaining momentum. All I needed was time - and that -- that I had in abundance. It took a year. By Christmas I bought myself my first clothing at Kmart - some medium size shirts and size 32 jeans.

That was 23 years ago. That year of investment changed my life. It opened doors to potential growth and service from relationships, employment, military service. It changed my character. This is not the only investment I made in myself - school, relationships, intentional self-development - its a lifetime road. But the point:

If I can do it - so can you. The ability to achieve potential -that is a human thing.

Out and about with my new boss I told him that I loved one part of his introduction speech he gave all the airmen most especially because it is so true.

Life is great when you are working your tail off and having a good time doing it.

I remember going into a restaurant back home and seeing a small child's drawing of a person lettered with these words: "God don't make junk!"


You can do anything if you want it bad enough.