Attitude is everything

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Joseluis Paucar
  • 496th Air Base Squadron First Sergeant

There is a great quote by Charles R. Swindoll that states “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”. This quote has resonated with me as I look back at my 20-year career. Like many of you, I feel like I’m a completely different person than who I was when I was walking into the barracks at Lackland AFB, getting yelled at and rushing to make a BMT doughnut (roll, butter, and sugar) before getting booted from the DFAC. Many of the experiences I encountered, and how I was able to react to them, have allowed me to be able to adapt to just about any situation. They have also allowed me to grow my capacity to understand and empathize with others. I wasn’t always this good though, it definitely took time and bumps along the way to get that point through my head (I have a thick skull).

My reason for enlisting in the military was simple. I needed a job. I joined the Air force after an unsuccessful attempt at college, and I had a 1-year-old I needed to support. However, my level of responsibility was just me, while I was still trying to figure life out. The attitude I acquired from growing up in Brooklyn, NY and being a brash 20-year-old was a definite roadblock to any chance I had at a military career. I was not good with authority, having many one on one, closed-door one-way discussions with the NCOs and supervisors in my shop. Luckily I had supervisors and mentors along the way that saw something in me, enough to continue to work with me to get that chip off my shoulder and create opportunities for myself. It was not until I was a SrA and met a young A1C from Idaho that my life and attitude began to change. I slowly learned to think about the responsibility I had to others and how my attitude and actions affected that.

As many of you know, the transition from Amn to NCO is the most challenging one to make. New NCOs are tasked to supervise, mentor and lead those who were just their peers. I had a difficult time adapting to my new role, trying to find that balance between being a friend and being a supervisor. How do we adapt as individuals to meet the needs of our Airmen? If we are not open to understanding and adjusting our attitude, how can we successfully develop the next generation? I realized I had to change my attitude. The first step was no longer looking at the Air Force as just a job but as something more. I now took pride and ownership in the position I held and focused on trying to develop my Airmen to succeed. It’s a funny thing when you start to get comfortable and good at what you do. Life has a way of telling you “don’t get too comfortable”. Congratulations you’re now going to be promoted to MSgt, oh and by the way, 7 months later, you’re going to be a First Sergeant. I couldn’t help but begin to doubt myself. How am I going to be a First Sergeant if I don’t even know how to be a SNCO yet? I had a choice, buckle under the responsibility that I knew was coming my way or adjust my attitude to choose to take this opportunity and run with it. Three years later, I am here and loving every minute of what I do.

Throughout my time as a First Sergeant, I attended many professional development panels for FTAC, ALS, CGOs, and the one question that always stands out the most is, how do you deal with the situations you encounter as a Shirt? If you haven’t guessed my answer as of yet, it’s attitude. I choose to have a positive attitude to get me through those moments. As First Sergeants, we encounter the good, the bad, and the ugly. We assist our Airmen through their lowest moments and celebrate their highest accomplishments and everything in between. You will see me in the office first thing in the morning walking an Airman through some NJP or administrative action and then going to deliver doughnuts and snacks to different work sections. Visiting a member in a hospital and then coming back to attend a promotion ceremony. In no way is my intent to demean the severity of the bad times but instead, choose to accept those little wins in order to not get consumed by the negatives. Those little wins help us get through the bad and ugly. Choosing to come in with a smile and positive outlook and having people swing by to grab a piece of candy from the candy bowl while sitting down to chat for a minute - those are wins for me.

The past 20 years of my career have been more than I could have ever hoped for. I learned and grew from the experiences I’ve had, and I am still learning to this day. I don’t know what life has in store for me from here on out, but I choose to take whatever it is and run with it. I understand that everyone has a different story but I urge you to ask yourself, “What would happen if I chose to adjust my attitude?” Remember, you cannot change what life throws at you, but you can decide how you react to it.