Businesses need to run 24/7 ... individuals don't

  • Published
  • By Col. David Garrison
  • 81st Medical Group deputy commander
During a recent airport layover waiting for my connecting flight, I again found myself browsing the magazine rack, homing in on anything of interest that would help whittle away the time. Rifling through the latest edition of Fortune Magazine, an article caught my eye. The message in the title ran counter to our military culture -- the profession of arms -- that every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman is on duty 24/7.

The article highlighted senior partners at one of New York's top private equity firms who had recently left the firm or were seriously contemplating a departure. What more could these professionals, aged 35 to 50, have asked for ... they were at the top of their game. They had a sweet, seven-digit salary, political clout and professional prestige among Wall Street's top firms. In a nutshell, they were all missing "balance" from their lives. Spouses, kids, friends, prayer, sleep -- time for things critical to human flourishing was being squeezed by longer hours at the top.

The takeaway message from the article was the need for action; not discussion or planning but pure and simple action. Whether you're the newest Airman to arrive on Keesler, the spouse of a deployed member or the Civil Service employee who just received a 40-year pin, we all are bombarded on a daily basis by a hundred and one competing commitments. The easiest course of action is to complain about how busy, stressed and unmanageable our daily lives have become.

And I'll be the first one to admit that there have been many days that I've been disgusted with my own time management skills. I sincerely intended and even scheduled it on my daily planner to finish a report a few weeks early, carving out extra time for the gym or a phone call home to the family only to see daylight turn to darkness. Accepting and planning for the fact that we need balance in our lives is only half the equation -- changing gears to set aside time for family, friends and ourselves is the hard part.

Former Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. (Dr.) P.K Carlton Jr. was known for his analogy that each uniformed service member is a "human weapon system." His rationale was simple -- our technical training, combat skills preparedness, reasoning/intuitive skills and consistency of purpose made each uniformed member a lethal weapon system. Like an aircraft or missile system, we are capable of inflicting damage on our enemies.

However, just as no single aircraft or weapon system can operate 24/7 without occasionally being taken "off-line" for repairs or preventive maintenance, the same holds true for the uniformed member. If there's an expectation for us to operate at peak efficiency during contingency operations, then we must have a firm schedule for preventive maintenance. It is our individual responsibility to make time to take ourselves "off-line" at scheduled intervals in order to achieve physical/emotional and social/spiritual balance.

In the end, the stockbrokers' action plan to achieve "balance" in their personal lives was simple -- either retool their exhaustive 100-hour workweek or leave the firm. Likewise, our resolve to ensure "balance" should match that level of commitment. At the end of day, the message rings clear -- balance is possible only if you make it a priority in your life.