Our numerous experiences in life present many conclusions as to who we are and what we are capable of, but with every new day comes a new realization. Two months ago, I confirmed a feeling I held within and decided to act on a newfound initiative that could potentially fill a void I felt inside. I knew the decision I had made would present a challenging opportunity much different and much more difficult than I had faced before, but once the gates were opened there was no turning back. My determination in the American300 Rowing Challenge stemmed from the commitment each and every one of you demonstrate every day. I would like to share a few personal thoughts on commitment, how to recognize it within you, and how we can continue to employ its advantages in our everyday lives.
Commitment is something that holds value in the lives of us all. With it, we can effectively transfer our unique individual strengths into countless facets of life; all of which hold the potential to lead to great things. Without it, we simply possess the inability to follow through and accomplish our goals, which ultimately, will lead to nothing but failure. Since I was a young boy, my father always said to me, “Jarrod, failure is not an option.” For so long I have viewed this approach to life as a possibility, but recently I have discovered that the meaning behind the quote is actually a truth I only failed to recognize before. Like anything in life, committing to something that may very well lead you down some tough paths is not an easy thing to do. However, seeing as how “easy buttons” never really work when you need them to, eventually we have to establish a solid foundation toward success by committing to our goals.
Once we choose to commit, we cannot be stopped. Through commitment we can adapt and overcome any obstacle because we have implemented the most powerful tool in our arsenal — our minds. Within all of us exists the strongest, yet most frequently unrecognized potential for greatness. Every day, each and every one of us push ourselves further than the day prior, but how much do we really have to give? My answer to this question: as much or as little as you choose. The only difference between the strongest and weakest links in an organization’s chain is the amount of dedication put forth to accomplish the mission. Personally, I have always known how to push myself physically, but I only recently discovered that there was so much more. It was the unrelenting desire to discover more about myself and my perceived limitations that taught me to keep pushing and helped educate me on the true meaning of commitment.
Recognizing your true potential is not always an easy task. Often times such realizations require stimulation that may be painful and difficult; you may want to quit. This is the fork in your path that will either lead you to failure or show you that you are stronger than you ever knew. Six hundred miles into the American300 Rowing Challenge, I reached this fork, and I wanted to quit. The biggest influence on my decision to remain on course and accomplish what I thought to be impossible was all of you. The incredible support I received from my fellow wingmen during this challenge played a pivotal role in helping me realize I could keep going. At the Freedom Hall Fitness Center, the staff constantly pushed me to work harder and as the pain grew stronger, their support remained unwavering. Our wing commander, Col. Christopher Coffelt, recognized my commitment and challenged me to continue on by giving me every ounce of time I could handle on the machine. My leadership within the 90th Maintenance Operations Squadron, from Lt. Col. Tom Vance, 90th MOS commander, to Master Sgt. James Fultz and Tech. Sgt. Will “Bubby” Rogers, were all there encouraging me to keep going. Many friends, even individuals I had never met before offered words of encouragement, food and sports drinks. I cannot thank all of you enough for the contributions you made. In the moments when I thought I could not go on, you all made me realize that I could amount to something more.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when a questionable realization of self-worth attempts to surrender a conclusion as to what we, as individuals, actually amount to. Life’s ever-present moments of disarray will eventually lead one to ponder exactly what their purpose in life is, or what they were meant to achieve. Are we supposed to serve some sort of individual purpose? Is our destiny truly to accomplish something great? If so, is greatness defined by a common truth, or is it simply determined by the individual? The way I see it, greatness is what lies behind the most difficult of accomplishments in one’s life. Life will throw anything and everything it possibly can at you until you decide enough is enough. Looking outward for an explanation as to why things aren’t “going your way” will only reinforce the insecurity that you can be beaten. The time must come where you begin to look inward and define what it is that keeps you going despite life’s never-ending adversity. Once you can do this, you will discover that what you are to become cannot be limited by the underlying obstacles life so eagerly lofts into your path.
Never accept failure. Recognize failure as nothing more than an untraveled fork in the road and maintain the courage to fight for yourselves, your wingmen and your country. Commit to a purpose and never give up. When a challenge arises and the adversity seems too great to go on, realize this is not the case; there is always more inside of you. Prove to yourself that you cannot be restrained by a perceived inability to achieve greatness. Tap into the amazing potential within yourself and employ the advantages of mental toughness throughout all aspects of your life. Remember that our actions provide an outline as to who we are, but an external definition should never be accepted; we must define ourselves. With every new day comes another opportunity to do this. I challenge each of you to take advantage of all the opportunities that lie ahead; rise to the challenges that come, define yourself, and continue to grow stronger.