Keys to success help all meet milestones

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Melinda Screws
  • 8th Medical Operations Squadron commander
Hello Wolf Pack! This year has been packed with successes, tragedies, new relationships, celebrations, traditions, and lessons learned and shared, all to make us more resilient.

You, Wolf Pack, have added depth, character and color to my life, you've challenged me to lead, and you've made me get out of my comfort zone (and the proverbial box) on more than one occasion. Now it's my time to give back to you.

As I approach the summer, I will face many personal milestones. Many of you will have similar experiences while you are here and I thought this might be a good time to reflect and share what little wisdom I have.

Let's start with the obvious; I will complete my assignment at Kunsan as a full-fledged member of the Wolf Pack. What an honor to be a part of a living legacy! My son turns 20. Believe me, it's a milestone when you realize you no longer have a child, but a man for a son. I turn 50 and I celebrate 25 years of marriage to the same man -- no small feat and he'll tell you the same!

So here are my "keys to success." I won't promise these will make you successful, but they certainly have served me well through the years.

First, start off with a good self-assessment. The physician in me comes out now. Look at your history; what behaviors have been good? Bad? What in your past are your proud of? What would you like to change? If life to this point has been difficult, recognize it for what it is, learn from it and move on. You are an adult and you are responsible for the direction your life takes from now on. Many have heard the old 80/20 rule; 20 percent of the people cause 80 percent of the problems. Are you in that 20 percent? Once you've completed an honest assessment, strive to find a balance between spiritual, mental and physical health. Plan your days based on that balance and it will help you set your priorities. This is a tough one and requires frequent adjustments. Make a conscious decision every day about your attitude -- you set the tone.

Next, define what success means to you. If you don't understand it, you can't reach it. Success is different things for different people, and I'll wager to say your definition will change as you grow. Strive to find your purpose. Once you know your direction, take some time and actually write down your goals and your plan on how to reach them. My husband and I do this each year; we set individual goals, work goals and family goals. It's exciting and motivating to look back over the year and realize what we've been able to accomplish.

Reject mediocrity! Those two words epitomized my father's life. How do you want to be characterized? Cultivate your own reputation. Build your name. Core values are a great place to start.

Communication is also key. How's your vocabulary? Is it filled with four-letter words? Could you have a conversation if there was no "F" word? You only get one chance to make a first impression; what impression do you make? Someone once said (a passed-down family translation), "It is better to let people think you are dumb, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Choose your words, they can heal, uplift and encourage or they can destroy, oppress and undermine. And listen, really listen, when people are talking to you. It will save you time and it may save a life.

Plan for adversity; life is not easy and hard times will come. How will you cope? Prayer is my No. 1 strategy. Also, learn how to be grateful; say "Thank you" often. I promise you will always be able to find someone whose situation is better or worse than yours. Take responsibility for your actions and your decisions. Before you blame all your troubles on someone else, look in the mirror. You will often find the culprit there. Learn how to think and how to make a decision -- it might be a surprise to you, but these are skills you need to practice. Use your manners and if you don't have good manners, work on them.

Apologize when you're wrong, and sometimes when you're not. Say "Yes" every chance you get. It is empowering and it opens the door for new opportunity and challenge. Say "No" when you must, but not because it is the easier answer. Be honest, but not brutal. Work hard and if you don't know how, learn how. No one owes you anything. There is little more impressive than a strong work ethic. Do your best with whatever is asked of you. Think about how good it feels when you hear "Job well done" and if no one else tells you, tell yourself. If you are in a leadership position, lead from the front, otherwise, the view never changes.

To further guard against adversity, start now by building your relationships. We talk about the wingman concept often, but we don't always walk the walk. How do you treat the ones you love? The "Golden Rule" still applies today. Too often we take for granted those whom we love most. We forget what a word of praise can do. We all want to know our family is proud of us and loves us. They need to know the same.

When was the last time you wrote a letter? Don't get me wrong, it's important to stay up with technology to stay connected, but say what you will; an e-mail, text or Facebook message just doesn't have the same intimacy and personal touch as a handwritten letter. My most prized possessions are the letters and cards from my husband and son that I've collected through the years. The "Thank you" notes from my patients are what I treasure most from my days in private practice and when my father passed away, re-reading old cards and letters in his strong handwriting with his words of encouragement brought great comfort. Your family will cherish letters from you too.

I would also challenge you to get your finances in order. Financial stress is common and it tears lives apart. There are many services available on base to help if this is an area of need for you. Here is a challenge -- see how much fun you can have for free or at a minimal financial cost. You'll be surprised at all that is available once you start looking. Save that money or use it to pay off bills and you'll soon have the debt monkey off your back. And if life throws you a real curve ball, don't be afraid to start over. Some of the most successful people I know built their success out of adversity. Failures come, use them to your advantage and learn from them. The tough times make the good times all the more sweet.

Finally, I challenge you to learn something new every day, step out of your comfort zone, face your fears, and have some fun. Make the most of your time here, laugh often, share your joy and enjoy your life!