Mentors have responsibility to 'pay it forward'

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Samuel Hess
  • 673d Medical Support Squadron
Motivational speaker Blake Beattie once said "Sail beyond the horizon, fly higher than you ever thought possible, magnify your existence by helping others, be kind to people and animals of all shapes and sizes, be true to what you value most, shine your light on the world, and be the person you were born to be."

I believe this quote describes what everyone wants to achieve in their personal and professional futures.

During my career as a Air Force specialty code 4A0X1, health services manager, my mentors taught me many of these attributes - maybe not in those particular words, but I understood not to settle for anything short of the best.

To this day I continue to live by these lessons and often reflect on those personalities who shaped my growth.

Given the opportunity, I guarantee your past, current, and future supervisors will help shape who you are and who you will become in the future.

If you don't have a mentor, seek one out who will challenge you to grow beyond your comfort zone to be the best you can be. They can start by ensuring your commitment to aspire, believe and achieve your goals; encouraging you to seek secondary education opportunities, helping you become leaders in your personal and professional lives, and teaching you to "pay it forward."

All of us have had excuses for not getting back in school after high school. Some would say, "Going back to school is not for me," or, "I don't have the time," and others would say, "I'm always deployed."

There are numerous ways to rationalize not going back to school to pursue higher education. You make time for things that are important in your life. Education is that important.

It is something that can never be taken away from you. It is the building block to your future, and the lack of higher education severely limits your potential and opportunities down the road.

I cannot stress enough the importance of completing your education early in your career, before increased responsibilities make it more difficult to complete. With 18 years of excuses, I am guilty of waiting until later in my career to accomplish my educational goals and this has made it a challenge, but it has been well worth the time I put into completing those goals.

According to Bright Hub, the 2011 average cost of a bachelor's degree in a state public school is about $28,000. The Air Force offers the incredible benefit of paying 100 percent of the allowed cost of tuition for a recognized certification or a degree from an accredited school. You should take advantage of this free education, not only to earn a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or a Ph.D, but simply to "aspire" to sail beyond the horizon and fly higher than you ever thought possible.

Pursuing your education is an investment in your future as a leader; it develops your values, improves your perspective on a host of issues, and gives you a greater appreciation for what you have the freedom to do in this great nation. It doesn't necessarily mean you must pursue a college education but rather seek any educational opportunity to improve your market value.

We all gain very valuable skills in the military and those skills sometimes relate to a nationally recognized certification or trade.

Either way you decide to go, don't procrastinate; invest in your future by starting with the Community College of the Air Force.

Education is the foundation leadership is built on through continued effort.

For you Packers fans, Vince Lombardi once said, "Good leaders are made, not born. If you have the desire and willpower, you can develop into a more effective leader through a never-ending process of self study, education, training and experience."

Our former Chief of Staff of the Air Force Ronald Fogleman once stated, "Good leaders are people who have a passion to succeed ... If you are to be a good leader, you have to cultivate your skills in the arena of personal relations."

This implies becoming a good leader does not mean just leading at work, but also leading in your personal lives with family and community. Air Force members are held to a higher standard and we truly want to magnify our existence at work, within our families and in the community. So, I challenge each of you to believe in yourselves, step out of your comfort zones, and take that journey to honing your leadership qualities.

My last and most important point is to recognize what others have done for you to achieve major milestones throughout your career and to pay it forward. You could do this by helping others reach their own career goals, clearing a road block for them so they can be more effective, or being a wingman for them when they need one in the countless opportunities we encounter every day.

Without our mentors shedding light on the correct paths, I don't think any of us would be in this incredible Air Force. The way to make sure this happens is by being humble in what you have accomplished thus far and ensure you pay it forward to our future Air Force generation.

As you look to the future in your career field, leave a legacy to make things better than you found them and encourage everyone's commitment to aspire, believe and achieve.

Start today by earning an education, becoming a leader in your personal and professional lives, and by paying it forward.