It’s what you do next

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Sparks
  • 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In the Air Force, Airmen are constantly waiting on results. Weighted Airmen Promotion System tests, promotion boards, officer packages, award packages and many other opportunities to advance are in the minds and goals of almost every Airman. The cold reality is only a certain number of people will get the news they want. For those Airmen, going to work and working hard is easy because they have validation for their hard work, but what about the majority of Airmen who go home disappointed?

For those Airmen, it’s about what they do next. The ability to bounce back and be resilient when facing adversity is one of the most important tools in every person’s life. Every successful person has been a failure for a period of their life. Without failure, we can’t learn how to progress. The work put into a promotion or award doesn’t magically disappear when you don’t receive the promotion. It provides the foundation for what you do next.

I recently applied to be commissioned as an officer in the Medical Service Corps. I put every ounce of my energy into the process and even spent a significant amount of personal time and money to interview for the position. I felt great about the work I put in, but the day before my birthday I found out I wasn’t selected. I was devastated, I was angry, I was confused, I was discouraged, and I had no clue what to do next. I went home and didn’t talk to anyone besides my wife. I played with my daughter, and I went to bed. The next morning, I faced an important crossroad. I could either let the results ruin my drive and attitude, or I could use it as fuel and realize that I still have work to do.

I woke up to phone calls and text messages wishing me a happy birthday and, even though I was still disappointed, I went straight to work, I walked into my superintendent’s office, and I made it clear my goals and motivation hadn’t changed. I worked all day to finish a project I had been working on for months and left the next day for a TDY to complete another project. As soon as I returned from my TDY, I made plans to improve myself and prepare for the next chance I get to submit an MSC package. My goals didn’t change, my drive didn’t decrease and my attitude may have actually improved.

We all face adversity, and the only thing that matters is how we react to that adversity. You will fail, you will make mistakes, but people remember how you react to those failures and mistakes. If we spend weeks dwelling on one bad result, then we can allow our lives to be defined by that moment. However, if we use those bad moments for motivation, then we can be defined by how far we progressed from that moment. It’s all about resiliency, and resiliency is about what you do next. I know I plan to do everything in my power to improve myself as an Airman, father, husband and leader and not let one unhappy moment define my life. I will continue to work my hardest. I know what I will do next. Do you?