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My personal mantra: take it seriously, work as a team, have a good time

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Cohen
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Chapel
It was "0-dark-thirty," March 14, 2000, my first day of officer's training at Gunter Annex Montgomery, Ala. A few weeks prior, I had been in Rabbinical School in Jerusalem and did my swearing-in at the U.S. Defense Attaché's office in Tel Aviv, Israel. And here I was now, no longer studying tomes of Holy Scriptures from pious rabbis with long white beards. I was standing at attention, awaiting the dreaded steps of "Smokey the Bear" with clickers on his boots. When the training instructor showed up, a technical sergeant turned to the first lieutenant next to me and moaned, "Oh no! Not again!"

As those grueling days of basic training wore on, with the grind and the growls, and the psychological turmoil of "oh, geez what have I gotten myself into," I realized that this was a passing phenomenon, a test from on high, and that this too shall pass.

After the first week, it dawned on me that there were three keys to getting through this successfully, which has become my personal mantra for life. To succeed in basic training, and indeed to live life happily in general: one needs to take it seriously, work as a team, and have a good time. With that positive, energetic attitude, we'll make it through all of the exercise injects that God throws into our lives.

Take it seriously: Whether in work, marriage or family life, our social interactions, our civil activities, etc., one must have a serious attitude that proclaims "I care about what I'm doing, and how it impacts others, and I want to be of benefit to the greater good."

Work as a team: At the same time, we are social creatures, and we thrive best when working together. Individuality is crucial for one's input to be especially meaningful, and recognizing and appreciating each other's unique, defining characteristics is essential for getting along. But generally speaking, the synergistic affect of working together as a team has far-reaching impact, and usually for the better.

Have a good time: This most assuredly does not mean being frivolous. It means adopting a positive attitude, and having a spirit of enthusiasm. Receiving others with a genuinely happy countenance rubs off the right way. It means tackling adversity with an attitude of "This is an exciting challenge that God is giving me, and I can't wait to see how this will benefit me, my family and my team." From a positive attitude come positive outcomes, even when things don't go the way we think they should.

Twelve years in the Air Force has taught me that being part of a community devoted to a higher purpose in life is one of the essential elements in achieving happiness, all of which is underscored by having a deep and personal connection with the almighty--not just in times of need or fear, but in day to day life, and in times of celebration as well. By being sincere in one's walk with God, by seeing one's self as a part of a collective committed to one another and society, and by adopting an optimistic, happy outlook, one's life becomes increasingly purposeful and fulfilled.