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What can you do better - today?

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Throughout my career in the Air Force, I have read a lot of commentaries in base newspapers. I have heard a lot of motivational speeches from officer and enlisted leaders. I have even written a few articles myself, and presented a couple of mentoring thoughts at graduations and ceremonies. While most of them did serve an inspirational purpose, sometimes the ideas seem almost intangible, too abstract or philosophical to implement in daily duties.

Now don't get me wrong, as Airmen we need to be strategic and think big picture about how to embrace innovation, take care of our people, and prepare for tomorrow's challenges. But sometimes you have to ask, "As an individual, is there something I can do today" to make an impact on those unit goals, or any others you may have set for yourself?

The simple answer is yes, you can find something to do better today than you did yesterday. You don't have to discover the innovation of the year or identify the magic solution to the base's energy or water woes to be successful, but by striving to do just one thing better, you can make a difference. I ascribe to the philosophy of "leave it better than you found it", so there is always something I feel that I can do to make the unit break room a little tidier, enhance my continuity folder for my replacement, or propose an edit to improve a current process, policy, or document. But there are plenty of things to do at an individual level too, like doing one more push-up than yesterday, saying hello to one more person in the hallway, or performing that checklist item a little more crisply than last time. Sometimes it is amazing what a small change can turn into, how they add up, and what it can inspire in others to accomplish as well.

Now just because you did something better, don't expect or seek an outpouring of recognition for your achievement. You can take personal pride in knowing what you accomplished, but to steal a line from an ops officer I worked with, don't approach everything with a "juice boxes for everyone" mentality. Rewards should not be your goal. You should do it better because you can, and because it will make your office, your team, your Air Force that much stronger. Imagine what would happen if we all took a step along that path to self-improvement every day, not just for a bullet in that quarterly awards package, but because it matters. It could very quickly make our operations more efficient, probably make us safer, and even make it easier to mitigate some of the current constraints on manning and budgets. In his November 2015 Commander Joint Functional Component Command for SPACE and 14th AF commander's Intent memo, Lt. Gen. Buck said that we are to "use resources wisely and always look for ways to improve processes," and that is one way we will be able to conquer the challenges in the contested, degraded, and operationally limited space domain. So what will you do better today?