Tag Archives: determination


A friend posted a cartoon that caught my eye. The character looked over a list of resolutions and expressed frustration, knowing this year’s efforts – like so many others – were doomed to failure. Then he changed the list to negative versions. “Get fat. Become weak. Watch more TV.” That kind of thing.

The last scene has his son looking at the list, while he lifts weights and sweats in exertion. His son says, “You’re off to a horrible start on these, Dad.” And he replies, “I know.”

I like that. 

I thought about 2015 and what I accomplished:

  • published three books available on Amazon and CreateSpace
  • regained an additional aircrew qualification in the military
  • Deployed to the Middle East for three months 
  • flew 89 sorties in the fiscal year (October – October) — roughly 1 every 4 days
  • beat out the rest of my coworkers on flights (one friend made it to 85… the next highest had 20 less than us)
  • started a family devotion time with my wife and kids
  • knocked out 5 separate debts
  • crawled out of the unfit mess I’d gotten myself into
  • started a walk-to-run program after not running for about five years
  • reached my lowest weight in about 10 years
  • used my talents in professional settings – performing vocals for the Japanese and American anthems for a co-worker’s retirement and playing Christmas tunes for social hour at our squadron holiday party
  • Played and sang for the chapel while deployed

All that said, I know “the rest of the story.”

  • I struggled for years to put those books together and can’t shake the feeling they could’ve been better
  • I’ve dropped several balls at work that now need to be addressed
  • I’ve let my relationships with my wife and kids grow stale or routine
  • I’ve done the same with my faith
  • I continue to make terrible spending decisions based on convenience, impatience, and selfishness
  • We’ve added or increased a couple debts while eliminating others
  • I crawled back into the unfit mess by ignoring fitness while focusing on other things
  • I’ve gained back most of the weight I lost
  • I’m still not doing anything on a regular basis with the talents I possess.

So this year, I’m not making empty promises to myself about what I will or won’t do. Like the comic, my list is full of anti-resolutions–the bad answers to questions I ask myself whenever I consider what 2016 holds. 

And I took a cue from a friend who recently posted a verse she chose for the year. My selection speaks to my frustration and my desire for better answers.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9:24-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬


I look forward to what this year holds… not because I expect some “new me” to appear. I just want to find the one I know already exists deep down.

Dripping Water Cuts Stone

There’s a Bruce Lee “quote” I seem to recall from <em>Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story</em>. Turns out, it’s a quote of Lao Tzu, or very similar to it.

Water is the softest thing. Yet it can penetrate mountains and earth.

My Chinese teacher used a similar phrase to encourage me after I improved my language scores slightly: 滴水穿石 - di shui chuan shi

Found at:  http://theinkzenmaster.org
Found at: http://theinkzenmaster.org

It means “Dripping water penetrates stone.”

(Oh, you can see that clearly in the image. Well then.)

The intended meaning is clear: little by little, with constant effort, we make progress toward what might seem a difficult goal.

There’s wisdom in that, of course. Excellence and success aren’t often made of singular actions or short bursts of greatness. If they are born of an instant, it’s often because in that moment, we responded the way we do every day to the thousand pressures and stresses we face.

Yet there’s a darker side to the quote. When I think of the military’s loss of talented and intelligent officers and enlisted, this phrase comes to mind. In all the justifications I’ve heard my peers offer for why they do not wish to stay in, there’s rarely some defining moment or negative experience that drove them away from further service.

It’s dripping water cutting through stone.

Many of our soldiers, sailors, Airmen, and Marines chafe under blanket policies restricting everyone’s activity in order to attempt to prevent the troublesome few from doing anything wrong. We have servicemembers who are old enough to bear arms in defense of our nation, putting in twelve hour shifts standing guard every day, ensuring security for our bases and resources. Yet they are not old enough or responsible enough to make their own decisions while off-duty; many fall under policies establishing curfew hours, restrictions on alcohol consumption, and required reporting of planned holiday travel down to the estimated number of hours and miles of driving each day.

All too often, instead of leaders, we get babysitters – who are themselves forced to “take action” by fear of the consequences of any sign of failure.

However, the burden of being treated like a nursery isn’t all that wears our service members down. A myriad of individually minor grievances contribute to the problem.

Every day, our “best and brightest” wake up to face a shower of priorities, trickling streams from several directions, all clamoring for attention. There’s a new computer-based training or CBT that the whole unit has to complete within the month. Everyone has to turn in updated copies of some form so that someone’s program looks up-to-date. Binders need new cover pages and spine markings so that they all match across the entire unit. Someone found a requirement in an obscure regulation and all the aircrew members are showing up overdue.

The form you turned in isn’t the most current version. The certificate you received for completing a training course doesn’t have the blank back side, so it’s not a valid form. We need you to log four events so that you show up as having all your events logged because if you don’t get all your events, it looks bad for us, and we refuse to look bad. Also go get your flu shot, because you show up “red” on the tracker. And finish your CBT for skills you’ll never use. Finally, I know you’re outprocessing for your next deployment, but we need you to complete the post-deployment survey from your trip a year ago, so you need to schedule an appointment for that.

Our organizations are often cumbersome and entrenched in old methods of management and mission accomplishment. The figurative ceilings are pocked with holes. Every day, our Armed Forces members rush to place buckets under each of these dripping streams of water, scrambling from one “top priority” to the next whenever it overflows. This can certainly be true in the civilian workforce as well.

It takes time, but water will cut through stone, just as frustration and mismanagement can eventually defeat even the greatest determination and optimism.

People talk about the military bleeding talent, and wonder how we can stop the bloodflow. Maybe the holes we most need to plug up are the ones dripping from the rooftop.

Do It Now

I’ve got some freedom and free time on my hands while I’m on a business trip to the States.

And I have all sorts of grand plans for how to spend the time. Writing my current project, planning my NaNoWriMo project, catching up on other bloggers’ posts, reading up on a few subjects, playing some piano at the music room in the community center, maintaining a healthy diet instead of the junk food that’s readily available.

One of my goals is 2 hours of aerobic activity each day. Maybe not all-out soul-crushing intensity aerobic activity, but 2 hours of good exercise.

Of course here I sit in my room as the clock ticks away the remains of the day.

I messaged my wife to let her know I’m headed to the gym (where sometimes we can’t chat online), and the message captures something I’ll file away in my Motivation folder:

My inner procrastinator is crying and calling me a traitor.
My inner procrastinator is crying and calling me a traitor.

I don’t know what tasks you have on your to-do list, but one of the lessons I constantly have to re-learn is that none of them age well. If you can do it now, do it. Enjoy looking back on the completed task rather than dreading the task that lies ahead.

So, I’m off to the gym. See you in a couple hours.