Find the courage to listen

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As the son of an Air Force pilot, I learned some very pointed and quick lessons from my father early in life. One lesson he taught me as a young man and reinforced prior to his passing, has stayed with me to this day.

"Remember Joe, you don't learn when you talk, you learn most when you listen," he said.

I'll be honest, when I was young I had a hard time comprehending why my father encouraged me to be silent and forgo sharing the wisdom I had gained throughout my teen years. But after more than 16 years in the Air Force, having a family and after many lessons learned I realize how important those simple words can be.

Admittedly, I've tried to deal with the challenges of time management and personal interaction and have missed a few opportunities to really listen to those who speak to me. This past January, a former BEEliner and Vietnam veteran visited the 21st Airlift Squadron and drove home the significance of my father's point with some remarkable war stories.

As he stuck his head in my office, my initial reaction was to look at my calendar and decide how to respectfully and quickly help this gentleman get to his point. But as I ushered him into my office, I thought of my dad and realized the importance of taking the time to just listen. If I hadn't taken the time to sit down, shut the door and listen, I would have missed one of the greatest mentoring sessions I've ever had as an Air Force officer from a former loadmaster and retired chief master sergeant.

So, what is my point? As Airmen in the world's greatest Air Force, our time is very valuable to us. Pause for a moment to consider the investment you make in the people around you by simply listening. Take a step back from what you are doing, take a deep breath and truly pay attention to each person that speaks to you.

In our current age of technology where we are bombarded with email, texts, tweets and all the other forms of cyber-speak that add to the chaos of our personal schedules - we sometimes miss the opportunity to learn from others and be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

The great Winston Churchill once said, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." So take the time today and start with those closest to you. Sit down and listen.