Do you “Carpe diem” or do you “Dream for tomorrow?"

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marc Wolfe
  • Operations Officer, 7th Space Warning Squadron
You may have heard the Latin phrase "Carpe diem!" It means "Seize the day!" It is an expression used to urge someone to make the most of the present time and give little or no thought to the future. Although the "Carpe diem" mindset has its place and application in life, one could argue that it is not compatible with military life and, more specifically, with one's career. Has the comfort of the present prevented you from dreaming for tomorrow and seeking new professional opportunities? There are a number of factors that can influence our behavior. For example, timing and workload can often delay us from taking action on new interests. However, I would like to focus on three other factors of life and careers ‒ comfort zones, measured risks, and failures ‒ and how you can harness them to your benefit.

Comfort Zones
We all have our comfort zones and it is human nature to try to stay within those limits. Let's be honest. Who wants to put themselves in uncomfortable situations for no reason? However, in the professional realm, expanding our comfort zones is beneficial to career advancement and to the betterment of one's self. Thankfully, our self-imposed boundaries are not immovable ‒ quite the contrary ‒ but it takes active involvement and personal desire to continually strive to broaden breadth of experience and expand boundaries. For example, you could sign up as project officer for a major base or unit event, volunteer to narrate a promotion or retirement ceremony, or apply for challenging programs at the Air Force Institute of Technology or Air Force Weapons School. How often do you step out of your comfort zone?

Measured Risks
When you hear the names Reggie Jackson, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey, Jr. what comes to mind? Most likely, you think about their baseball batting prowess. As a matter of fact, they are among the top 13 all-time homerun hitters ‒ the best of the best. However, did you know they are also in the top 18 all-time strikeout leaders? In order to achieve baseball greatness, they each had to take measured risks. The ball may have been a little too far outside their sweet spot (a.k.a., comfort zone), but more often than not, they trusted their talent and training and swung for the fences. When it comes to military professional development and training, the Department of Defense and the Air Force spend millions of dollars to equip each one of us with the tools to succeed in our careers. Although the base provides numerous training opportunities, such as Professional Development Center seminars, it is up to us to put our talents and training to good use, strive to better ourselves, and leave the Air Force better than we found it. How often do you trust in your abilities and training and take a chance?

"Failure is always an option" is a phrase that was popularized by Adam Savage from the Mythbusters series. His philosophy is that you do not learn new concepts, abilities, or talents unless you try new things even if, at first, you do not succeed. If you wait for an opportunity to present itself where you have a zero chance of failing, then you may never progress and you may never expand your limits. On the other hand, giving up should never be an option. Early in his life, Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper agency because his editor felt that he lacked imagination and did not possess any good ideas. Steven Spielberg was rejected on multiple occasions by the University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts. If these larger than life personalities had given up after failure, we would not be enjoying their later achievements and successes. If and when you expand your comfort zones, you may very well stumble, but it is what you do after the "failures" that will determine your future accomplishments.

Your struggle may be with public speaking and/or writing or you may have encountered "failure" when you were not picked for a special position that you applied for. How did you cope? Following failure, it is important that you conduct an honest introspective review, take your lessons learned and improve yourself.

There are many aspects and qualities that make the United States Air Force the greatest air, space and cyberspace power in the world, but Airmen are the single most important component. Throughout its history, the Air Force has relied on Airmen, and these Airmen have succeeded by following these three simple guidelines, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

So, do you "Carpe diem" or do you "Dream for tomorrow?" I challenge you to test your limits, expand your comfort zones, take measured risks, and do not be afraid of failure.

Actively seek ways to better yourself for tomorrow. Don't settle in the comfort of the now, but push yourself for the future. You might be surprised at the outcome.