Lessons my mustache taught me

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- In February, Mustache March was a grand idea. In my mind's eye, I saw myself proudly strutting through the squadron bristling with masculine whiskers, fending off fawning admirers while humbly accepting effusive compliments on my bodacious mustache. Yet, as with many things in life, reality was far different.

Let's just say that my grooming time was spent less on keeping the mustache within standards than it was staring into the mirror, begging - no, pleading - with my follicles to burst forth a prodigious growth of facial hair. The first week's growth was unimpressive and really, so was the second and third. One thing was obvious though - there was way more grey in there than I expected.

Since it took my mustache so long to grow in (and some might say it never really did), I had some time to think. I was reminded of a few things that apply as much to life and Air Force service as they do to trying to grow a killer 'stache.

Be patient: Each morning in March, I sprang from the covers and dashed to the mirror, anxious to see what the night's rest had done for my whiskers - and each morning, I was disappointed. Why? I had to give it time. As a young lieutenant, I remember wanting to take on the world and leapt at any opportunity to prove myself. I couldn't wait to take on more and more responsibility. Wanting some advice on how to succeed, I called a friend, who advised me to just shut my mouth, open my ears and learn all I could - just enjoy being a junior officer, because before I knew it, I'd be knee deep in responsibilities. Boy, was he right. We must always be ready when opportunity knocks, but appreciate where you are right now - wherever that is - because the job you are doing today is preparing you for tomorrow; make the most of it.

Don't compare yourself to the person next to you - it'll only frustrate you. By the middle of March, I was despondent over the feeble stubble my face had produced. Around me, I saw Airmen mustachioed with varying success, ranging from the beefy "Wyatt Earp" to the less-impressive and scraggly "Bieber." Seeing my sad state, my wife provided a few words of encouragement, not unlike the speech she gave our 5 year old who kicked the ball into the other team's goal.

"It's OK honey, not everyone is cut out to grow a mustache. Don't worry, you'll find something you're good at doing. Here, have some cookies," she told me.

It's the same with your Air Force career. If you look around you and wish you could compete with those around you, there are two choices:

┬ĚKeep wishing and see what that gets you
┬ĚDo something

You want to win an award? Ask your supervisor for ideas for how to do that. Want to be recognized as an expert in your field? Do outstanding work, study hard and make yourself the expert. You define what success means to you - if you really want something, you can achieve it - but you have to know how to make it happen. Talk to your supervisor - we can't help if you don't take the first step.

Break the routine and try something new. For many people, this March was the first time we "tried" to grow a mustache. It was ridiculously itchy and irritating for the first two weeks, but for those who decided to stick it out, it became more comfortable. Same goes for trying something new in the Air Force. It can be intimidating at first, but sometimes you just need to get over those first couple of hills before it levels out. It doesn't have to be a huge leap - it could be as simple as stepping up to lead a wing event or serve as an officer in your unit Top 3 or Company Grade Officer organizations. The point is - try something new to stretch your comfort zone, learn something new and acquire a new skill. You'll be glad you did.

Overall, I'd say Mustache March was a success - it was entertaining (and humbling). I'll probably play again next year, but for now, let's just say I'm glad it's April...and so is my wife.