A little over a year ago, I celebrated Independence Day at Osan Air Base in South Korea.  The 51st Fighter Wing put on a terrific 4th of July Celebration, with food booths, informative displays, and live entertainment.  One of the performing acts was Alien Ant Farm, a nü-metal band best known for their 2001 cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

Although Alien Ant Farm’s type of music is not particularly in my wheelhouse, I enjoyed the show.  The band put forth a ton of energy and clearly enjoyed performing for the crowd.  At some point, it struck me: they didn’t have to play to that level.   This was a USO show for a relatively small crowd.   They most likely were going to pick up only a handful of new fans (if any) and have no real measurable increase in album sales due to this gig.

But none of that mattered.   Alien Ant Farm meet the definition of true professionals. They approach their work with a level of focus, energy and enthusiasm that does not vary based on the payoff or who is watching.  They performed in Osan as if this it was the Grammys or a Super Bowl halftime show. And they constantly seek to hone their craft, no matter where they are in the arc of their career.

As leaders, we seek inspiration from a variety of sources.  The experience of watching Alien Ant Farm play their hearts out for us, and execute a flawless set, resonated with me.   Like the band, I get paid to do the job I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid.  Yet sometimes complacency slips in, the urge do the minimum required to fly safely and log the hours instead of ensuring we’re executing the most realistic and demanding training possible that day.   Or in my daily interactions with Sailors, I don’t always bring forth the enthusiasm I could and miss another chance to motivate and inspire.

It shouldn’t matter if it’s a local training hop, a Red Flag event, or a combat sortie.  It shouldn’t matter if it’s a conversation in the passageway, a five-minute talk at squadron quarters, or a Change of Command speech.   I can always do better.   Fifteen months is a short amount of time to make an impact on an organization.  Every day, every flight, every conversation matters.

Any and all opinions are solely my own and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense.

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