I was thinking about focusing on what can go right more than what can go wrong. I remembered Major Pat.
Pat McAdoo was the leader of our flight in Squadron Officers School (SOS) in 1977 when I was an Air Force officer. I think that my three months at SOS were my best three months ever in some ways. Marcia gave birth to our son. I was busy from early to late with 11 other people trying to get through the same challenges. We were expected to learn and grow and commit to one another. We did sports and PT every day.
Major McAdoo was (probably still is) a fiery little fighter pilot sort of guy. Fighter pilots tended to be like that because they had to be tough, brave, and fit into a small space. Pat was also a scholar and really embraced the leadership and management learning he wanted to impart to us. The thing I remember most vividly was about how we should focus on what can go right.
Our flight had many virtues, but sports wasn’t one of them. The 78 SOS flights in a class at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama all competed in 3 sports – soccer, volleyball, and flickerball. Volleyball was played per standard rules. Soccer was modified to take out headers. Flickerball was a mash-up of basketball, football, rugby, and maybe some other games.
We played 3 matches of each sport. One each Friday. Nine in all. We finished the class about 4 wins and 5 losses. Our first four Friday Night Lights were losses. 3 soccer games and one volleyball game. At volleyball game 2, we finally played well enough to win. Maybe the other team wasn’t very good, but we felt great. During the yelling and celebrating at the end, something different happened. After each loss, Major Pat, always an active player on the team, would ask “What can we do better?” We’d think of things and work on them at practice. In the midst of our celebration after the long delayed win, one of our more with it guys yelled “What can we do better?” We started to blurt stuff out. Pat stopped us. He said “Wrong question. Ask your self ‘What did we do right?’ Knowing what you did right is more important than knowing what you did wrong.”
So, that stuck with me and has always proved true. Understand and reinforce what can go right.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. While all this fun learning and struggle was going on, my amazing (pregnant) wife was living with me in Montgomery in late fall in a single wide trailer in a park with 300 other single wide trailers exactly the same. We had 300 pounds of our regular stuff with the rest in transit from overseas to the Pacific Northwest. She helped me, read about Lamaze in a book, showed up at all our games, and was the calm one at the birth of our son. What a woman! The things we do for love. Thanks, Marcia.