Too often we allow what others are doing or what they think we should be doing to control our lives. This was evident throughout my career and especially as I was being “groomed” for Senior and Chief. Sometimes this was to develop me and sometimes it was to further their own career. The hard part was always discerning the two.

When I was TSgt and had my first real leadership role in the service, I had learned that many leaders have their own agendas and are just trying to control what is in their sphere. I saw some were very nearsighted and did whatever it took to clear their to-do lists. I saw these same temptations within myself when the pressure was turned up and I made the conscious choice to never become “that” guy.

I just came across the following story/parable/whatever it is classified as and it took me back to the period in my life when I had this revelation:

The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting him into the box. 

“There are 5 things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “Before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget and you will become the best pencil you can be.” 

One : “You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand.” 

Two : “You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.” 

Three : “You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.” 

Four : “The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.” 

And Five : “On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.” 

How this advice could be applied:

One: You can’t do anything worthwhile by yourself. We have to be willing to ask for help, allow others to provide input, be willing to follow those on our team if they can move the ball better than us. We need others.

Two: The pencil that never needs to be sharpened is not making a mark. We will fail and we will lose sleep as we are pushing ourselves past our limits. We will become dull and feel overwhelmed. But it is only for a season. You will get through it and better on the backend.

Three: One of my first lessons as a maintainer was, “Don’t be afraid of the plane. If you break it, it can be fixed.” We will make bad decisions and we will let our team down. If we are willing to try and willing to admit our mistakes, they will forgive.

Four: Be yourself. I am most proud that I was able to do my career as me. I didn’t sacrifice who I was for anyone or anything.

Five: What is your legacy? Are you going to be remembered as the person who got everything completed or the person who invested in others. What will be your mark on your team and those who follow after?

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