Key to success

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Richard Redman
  • 21st Space Wing command chief
As I've progressed through my career, I've come to know and have watched many people; one thing has become obvious to me. Individuals with the most chevrons on their sleeves or rank on their shoulders are not necessarily the most successful people.

Why do I say that? I look at success not as much a level of achievement as I do a level of happiness and contentment. Some of the happiest people retired in the middle enlisted or junior officer ranks, while some of the most miserable people were able to reach more senior ranks. I speak to many groups of young enlisted people and tell them just that. "Don't judge the success of an individual by the number of stripes on their sleeve."

What good does it benefit a person if they give up those things that really matter to achieve another stripe or reach a milestone that will not, in the end, make them truly happy? Thanksgiving Day just passed where many of us were able to relax and spend some time reflecting on what we are thankful for. Some of us may be thankful for our accomplishments, such as promotion at work, another degree or a professional certification. Those things are certainly great and representative of hard work. I would bet that most people, though, when asked what they are thankful for would first consider family, good health and great friends...things that really matter.

We should all have high goals and be willing to work hard and persevere to reach them. At the same time, we need to spend some time looking at the priorities in our lives that will be with us long after our careers are over -- family, friends, and hopefully, good health. Balancing our goals and priorities is the key.

For a single or geographically-separated person, balancing may be easier. Maybe this is the perfect time to work on an undergraduate or graduate degree at a faster pace. Maybe this is the right time to volunteer for tough projects at work or lead planning for a major base function. Maybe this is the perfect time to spend more time in the gym or put in more miles running on the track or around the community. The key again is balancing each of the goals and priorities.

For the many people who are married and raising families, balancing goals and priorities can be more difficult. Each professional or personal goal one sets and strives to achieve will require them to sacrifice time and energy with the family. Those of you in that position will have to make some decisions. You'll have to talk with your family and decide what is right for you. Do you spend all day working, all night studying and all weekend doing community projects? For an enlisted person, that will likely make you more competitive for awards and promotions, but done for too long and without buy-in from the family, may not be worth it. Children will not be young forever and precious moments lost now are likely lost forever.

I'm not trying to discourage driven people from striving to reach great heights. I'm simply trying to get people to realize that true success should be measured more in happiness and contentment rather than rank or position. Maybe it's better to take a little longer to get promoted or reach the next academic level. Everyone's situation is different and what is right for one person may not be right for another.

Take some time this holiday season reflecting on what you've accomplished and look toward to those things you want to achieve. At the same time, consider the real priorities in your life -- family, friends and good health -- and make some decisions you'll be able to live with now and in the future. In the end, remember the things that determine true success...for you.