Excellence: not an act

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit,” said Will Durant, in his book “The Story of Philosophy.”

As Airmen, we hear about and are bonded together by the core value “excellence in all we do.” The question then is: how do we achieve excellence in our lives?

From my experience, I believe the above quote from Durant sums it up. We are not inherently excellent at anything, but we can achieve excellence through a constant drive for betterment by a habitual practice of our craft.

In his study on a group of violin students in Berlin – a study author Malcolm Gladwell later used to develop his “Ten Thousand Hour” rule in the book “Outliers” – Anders Ericsson concluded an individual can improve his capabilities in nearly any field through deliberate practice and training.

In the field of concert violinists, the most accomplished students had practiced an average of 10,000 hours prior to their twentieth birthday.
While the number of hours to become an expert varied from field to field, Ericsson proved that in order to get better, you have to put in the time.

To validate this research, we need to look no further than the example set by the 79th Fighter Squadron “Tigers” during their recent deployment to Afghanistan.

For months prior to their departure, Tiger maintainers prepared the deploying “Vipers” and suspension equipment while Tiger pilots went through a multi-thousand event spin-up program.

This pre-deployment practice and training, along with constant on-the-job improvement while deployed, enabled the squadron to meet our nation’s calling when Operation Freedom’s Sentinel shifted into overdrive during their six months of combat.

As a result of their prior training the Tigers excelled, providing over 9,000 hours of close air support and employing 635 weapons to advance our counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan. Truly a job well done!

As you consider your daily routine, ask yourself: “where do I focus my efforts? Where do I want to exhibit excellence and what habits would help develop it? How am I going to make time to better myself and improve my competence both personally and professionally?"

A small amount of time reflecting on these questions can result in large rewards, both for yourself and for your fellow Shaw Weasels.

Roll ‘em!