Life’s lessons

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- My grandfather was a very wise man. Although he never said much, what he did say often caught me off guard and I really never understood the underlying meanings until much later in life. My fondest memories of Grandfather are immersed in this quiet man's actions and the truth in his sayings. 

On one of my many summer trips to visit my grandparents, I would awake to the mouth-watering smell of Grandmother cooking breakfast as she did every morning; that wonderful smell drifting through the small Kentucky farmhouse. 

And most memorable were her homemade biscuits. They were flaky, golden-brown and stuck to my ribs. And every morning my grandfather would say, "Your grandma, she sure makes some mighty fine biscuits." 

My grandparents continued this for years. Grandma would bake the biscuits and my grandfather would comment on them. It got to the point where I wondered why Grandma baked those same biscuits every day. Didn't she know how to cook anything else? 

Then it hit me. She made biscuits because my grandfather loved eating them. My grandfather had learned a truth about human behavior - edification develops motivation. 
I'm pretty sure my grandfather never heard of Pavlov or Skinner, but he sure understood the power of praise. He knew that if he complimented Grandma, she would continue to bake those "mighty fine biscuits." 

Isn't that the truth? Reinforce the good and you'll generally get good behavior in return. It seems to apply in most all relationships. Do you want your Airmen to thrive and do great things? Be specific with your expectations and reinforce good behavior.
 
It's simple really: Tear yourself away from your desk, go out and see what your Airmen are doing and recognize them for what they do right. My grandfather, a poor Kentucky tobacco farmer, had this figured out - do you? 

My grandfather was also a man of deep personal convictions. "It makes no difference if anybody catches you doing wrong, ain't it still wrong?" and "Buddy, always do right." 

I can't remember what he caught me doing and as a young man he caught me often. But when he sat me down after one event and spoke those words to me - that event defined integrity for me from that point on. 

I've learned a person of integrity doesn't shift blame onto others or take credit from them either. A person of integrity lives honestly. Integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not. 

A person of integrity doesn't pencil-whip aircraft forms, write bad checks or falsify documents. People of integrity can respect him or herself and not lie to themselves in the mirror. Integrity doesn't depend on others. 

The importance of integrity in the work place is something that some people tend to forget. However, being in the Air Force and being entrusted with our nation's most valuable resource - it's sons and daughters, makes integrity in the work place all the more important. 

What befalls upon us when integrity is lost? Without integrity, valuable equipment and the lives of others can be endangered. Yes, my grandfather said it best, "Buddy, always do right."

My grandfather also had some sayings that, as young man, just made me laugh. One in particular, "Don't kill no dead snakes." I would repeat that one for years mainly because I liked the sound of it and more importantly it made me laugh. 

I thought surely it was meaningless, but it had kind of a ring to it that I just couldn't help repeat. Yet, that clever remark has taken a deeper meaning over the years. Why fret and fear over things that we have no control over? Why waste time and energy on things that have no value? 

I talk to Airmen every day that are frustrated because they're trying to revive relationships and issues that are already settled; frustrations about decisions and changes that are out of their control. 

My grandfather's grammar may have needed some work but his, "Don't kill no dead snakes" conveyed the right message. Don't worry about things that are out of your control. Instead, focus on what you do control and you'll be successful in your career and in life. 

My grandfather died many years ago. He was a wise man of strong convictions. What I've learned most from Grandfather is that wisdom isn't learned from textbooks or classrooms. I realize that wisdom is learned in the relationships we form and the principles we live by.