Smell the roses/regrets

SMSgt. Christopher Minnifield official photo

SMSgt. Christopher Minnifield official photo

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – With 25 years in the military, I quite often sit back and reflect over the course of my career.

I think back to special experiences, specific deployments and most often the personal relationships I’ve built over this time.

Reliving those memories, I find myself reflecting over thoughts, beliefs and the decisions I have made both personally and professionally. While I’ll never admit I have regrets, I will say I wish I had taken more time to simply sit back and smell the roses. By smell the roses, I am referencing two things specifically. I wished I would have listened more and spent more time taking advantages of the locations I have been.

Listening is the cornerstone of learning and to become a more effective Airman, you have to master the art of being a careful listener. Have you ever been in a conference with a lot of people and took notice to how many are having their own internal conversations? Or, better yet, been in a conversation with four or more people and two conversations are ongoing simultaneously? How can anyone learn anything if everyone is talking?

I can’t pretend to know all the answers, but I do know with the growing acceptance of social media in our professional and daily lives, everyone has a voice and we all want to be heard.

Having a voice has its time and place, but that should not come at a cost to learning. This is not solely limited to large group gatherings, but this also applies to mentors and supervisors giving daily and career feedback as well. I would like to think my military career path would have been much easier if I would have listened more and talked less.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been blessed with seven assignments located all over the globe. Each permanent change of station brought an opportunity to reflect on the previous assignment.

The one constant with them all is the daily grind. It is extremely easy to put your head down and bury yourself in unit’s mission and the nation’s work. I am guilty of this just like many of my fellow Airmen, but let me be the first to say that this is not ideal.

One of the popular reasons people choose to join the military is to travel but quite often we fail to do just that. We put off traveling, thinking we’ll have time and before you know it orders drop and we’re off to a new location. Many times we plan vacations to faraway places without exploring the beauty and nature that surrounds us. Use your leave effectively, don’t wait until the September’s use-or-lose crunch. If you joined to see the world, like Nike, “Just do it.” Take advantage of your opportunities at every location.  

Smelling the roses could mean different things for different people, but trust this “lifer” you do not want a career full of regrets no matter the length.