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Learn to adapt, overcome before becoming extinct

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Justin Walker
  • 60th Security Forces Squadron manager
While working in a joint assignment, an old U.S. Army lieutenant colonel whom I worked with was less than familiar with basic computer functions, so I spent a lot of time helping him format Microsoft Word and Excel documents.

He always asked me to "teach him how to fish," meaning he wanted me to show him.

Sometimes this took more than once, but, eventually, he would learn how to adjust line spacing in a document or add dates to a block in a database.

One day while I was "teaching him how to fish," he talked of himself as a dinosaur. I dismissed it just thinking that he was making a reference to himself being old. Then all of a sudden he asked me, "You know why the dinosaurs died, don't you?" As I looked at him perplexed he answered his own question by saying, "Because they couldn't adapt!"

That day, with a simple statement, I learned a valuable lesson. I must be able to adapt to any situation and continue to learn. The world will always continue to change and if I cannot adapt, my fate will be the same as the dinosaurs' fate, figuratively of course.

One could apply this quote to every day in the U.S. Air Force in reference to the change we continually see. Whether it is in training, manning, budget or technology, there is change all around us. Change is inevitable and is part of the innovation that we look for in the Air Force to improve the processes that affect the mission every day.

Many times, change is accompanied by stress since it usually challenges us to learn new processes, attend formal courses or simply disrupts our daily schedule. However, this is where we can affect the amount of stress that we feel based on our internal perspective regarding the change that we face.

A couple of options exist and they range from one side of the spectrum to the other. One is to be set in your ways, resist the change and stress-out, ultimately not adapting to the environment and, in turn, figuratively die due to a failure to adapt, as the dinosaurs did.

The better option is to recognize the change that needs to happen, understand what needs to be done to facilitate the change and adapt to your environment, thus continuing to live and not go extinct.

Ultimately, the choice of how we deal with things is in our hands and I know when those changes, opportunities, stressors or whatever else we decide to call them come up, I have a choice to make. As long as I have the continued desire to serve in the Air Force, I must continue to progress and learn. I will have to ask people to "teach me how to fish" or read a book on how to fish. If I cannot fish, I will not be able to adapt and, ultimately, I will realize that I am not serving the Air Force as I should and, in turn, will become extinct, meaning it's time to retire.