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Be yourself...

  • Published
  • By Maj. Sean Goode
  • 92nd Maintenance Squadron Commander
Years ago, when discussing my daughter's transition to a new school, I came across this quote and wrote it on the bulletin board in the study area of our house. "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken." It is hard to find the actual roots of this quote, but both Oscar Wilde and Charles Schultz (of Peanuts fame) are credited with versions of it.

The premise is simple, be you! Do not hide who you are, or worse, take on the personality or persona of another. Instead, take responsibility for yourself and be the person you are. Where you come from, how you were raised and your experiences in life differ from others. You are original and short of being a twin, you are one of a kind. Your character and individuality are rooted in the ideals and principles you learn in childhood and evolves based on your unique experiences you learn throughout life. Interestingly, it seems individuality is an extraordinary quality very few people have mastered.

"The complication in achieving individuality may be the difficulty that being different implies cowardice or the incapacity to think, both are possible," - Unknown. In short, being yourself is accepting responsibility for you!

Now, it is no surprise young people join the Air Force and over time, we grow up, change our views and evolve. You will continue to be influenced by your surroundings, but your character should be strong. I have read many leadership books over the years and occasionally I will find competing theories. Many leaders recommend subordinates find someone that inspires them and emulate that person. Others like Colin Powell recommend you take the things from their style that work for you and make them your own.

Many people, in lieu of being themselves, emulate others to the point they act more like the person they emulate. While emulating another person may be flattering, it can also compromise your character. Being yourself does not mean every thought is original. It means you understand what you read, hear or learn, and develop your own opinion and move forward with your view. You can see an example of exactly that in this article. I quote a number of sources, they re-enforce my view or I do theirs. However, I have taken that view and added my life experiences to offer my perspective. I have taken what I read and put my stamp of approval on it.

Now, military service comes with some unique limitations. I am not telling you to find the ragged edge of acceptable behavior by Air Force standards. I am encouraging you to take responsibility for yourself, reflect on your character traits and use your unique views to energize creativity and find innovative ways to solve problems. Norman Schwarzkopf once said, "Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy." I think you will agree that the most remembered and respected people are the ones who maintain their character.

I will close with these words; "Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else," - Judy Garland.