• Published
  • By Master Sgt. Steve Lovato
  • 21st Dental Squadron

I once met a person who was extremely successful in the Air Force, the quintessential role model and a leader anyone would wish to be like. They had no holes in their game, they appeared to be a natural at everything. How is this possible? Were they born this way? They can’t be “superhuman,” right? Surely they are human just like me, with all of our built-in human flaws. So I asked what their secret was, and no, it had nothing to do with radiation.

The answer was insightful. They started by really looking at themselves, examining both the good and bad. While most people stay in their wheelhouse and further their strengths, this person recognized their weaknesses and deliberately worked to turn them into strengths.

It began slowly with one small weak spot. Running had always been a struggle. They hated every moment they ran. They knew physical training was a standard of Air Force life. Mental switch flipped, they made the choice to deliberately focus on becoming the best runner they could be. They set forth, researching form, function and gear, and asking for help from successful runners. They committed the time, made the effort and worked very hard on the streets and in the gym, learning and adapting. Stubbornness and willpower carried them through their low points. They failed, too, developing shin splints, but they refused to quit and learned from their mistakes. Ever so slowly, they became a decent runner, then a good runner and in this case, running became a personal strength!

After this success illuminated that it was actually possible to overcome personal limitations, they proceeded to find and rectify another weakness. This time was different. They had the same deliberateness, but now they were on a roll. The previous success helped them push though the self-doubt and overcome another personal weakness. As life allowed, they kept working and improving their perceived shortcomings, always pushing themselves to face the next personal improvement challenge.

Over time, the hard work and dedication spent improving themselves made it clear they could be successful at anything and everything they put their mind to. No one ever saw the hours of self-sacrifice and struggle, only the results. In reality, all the flaws were there as they are with anyone. The difference was the time spent identifying things within themself that could be improved, making the choice and then committing to follow through.

As Colin Powell says, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure."

There are no “superhumans” or perfect leaders in the Air Force. Sadly, there is no magic, radioactive spider or comet from space. However, deliberate actions towards a goal can get you close. Recognize your strengths, but take the time to identify your weaknesses; don’t allow your shortcomings to limit you. Face them head-on and impose your will. You might surprise yourself and become the perceived “superhuman” or at least a better version of yourself.