One of the hardest things I ever did was admit to myself that I was not prepared for a job I wanted. In my case it was to be a US Air Force Combat Controller. I wasn’t physically fit enough to compete for the job and by the time I was willing to admit it to myself, I didn’t have enough time to get ready. How poorly qualified was I? Here are some of things I remember:
- I was a weak swimmer. I completed a survival swimming class at The Citadel, but didn’t follow it up by continuing to swim. There’s an awful lot of water in the future of any Combat Controller candidate. It helps weed people out, among other things.
- I’ve always been weak on upper body strength. While I could do pull-ups like crazy because I didn’t weigh very much, push-ups were always my big weakness. I could do enough to pass the USAF standards as well as the US Army standards (which The Citadel uses), but going out for a special operations billet requires crazy fitness in the upper body.
- Because of a shoulder injury at officer training and heavy class loads as a dual major (excuses), I had let my endurance slip with respect to running. While I was still capable of going out and running for 1.5 hours while I was a senior, I felt I needed to be fitter than that.
I could fix #3. I didn’t have time to fix #1 or #2. Add to that the fact my left eye disqualified me, and I didn’t have a shot. I *might* (unlikely, but worth a shot) have been able to get a waiver for my eyesight if I was an exceptional candidate among exceptional candidates. As it stood, I wasn’t even a minimally qualified candidate. I was left facing a serious gut check: what do I do now? I ended up looking at my strengths and thinking about what I could do in the Air Force. This led me to stick with computers, where I still am today.
Once you’ve taken ownership of your life, it’s time to figure out what you want, what you can do, etc. All of this requires that you be honest with yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are things that you have to carry, even if you don’t want to? What are things you are capable of learning and developing and what’s a realistic time frame to do so for each one? If you lie to yourself on these types of questions, you’re only hurting yourself. You’ll come up with plans and actions that aren’t based in reality. Those plans won’t work out. And you’ll end up where you started or worse.
We all want to either think better or worse of ourselves than we actually are. Sometimes, being honest with ourselves means talking to people who will tell us the truth. I figured out I couldn’t be a Combat Controller on my own. There was a physical component I could measure myself up against to realize I wasn’t fit enough. However, not every situation, not every skill, and not every opportunity is that way. Sometimes we need to talk to folks who won’t sugar coat things to make us feel better. We don’t need cheerleaders at this stage unless said cheerleaders will be honest with us. We need the truth about ourselves. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broke. You also can’t rely on a tool you don’t know you have.
Be honest with yourself. Surround yourself with people who care about you who will be honest with you, too.