Last weekend I ran the Virginia Beach Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon. I woke up at 0430 and drove with my son to the designated parking area. We got on one of the 85 buses lined up to transport us to the starting line where we met up with what was reportedly 15,000 runners. From registration through the finish line and post-race festivities, it was an extremely well planned, well-executed event. When the race started, the streets were lined with cheering fans, the course was effectively closed by security, the refreshment stops were well stocked and filled with smiling faces, and bands were strategically placed along the course to inspire the runners to finish strong. As great as it was to be among the thousands who crossed the finish line and enjoy the fruits of the training that led up to that moment, I couldn’t help but think of all the work that had gone into the planning of and executing this massive event. The heroes of the day were not the finishers, they were the enablers.

If you really think about it, we clap for event participants, we give the glory to those on the respective field of play, and in the military, our focus is on those in harm’s way. Yet, we often overlook the supporting cast, the enablers. Many fail to acknowledge the camera crew who brought the football game into our living room, the timers who made the swim meet possible, or the team parent who ensured logistical accommodations were made. Fortunately, I work in a profession that is composed of teammates who are very quick to acknowledge those who make progress possible. Those who operate on the “pointy end” are quick to thank the intelligence professional who enabled success. Those who are injured on the front lines are quick to acknowledge the first responders and healthcare providers who helped enable their recovery. Those who have reason to celebrate a career milestone are quick to shine the light on those who continue to enable their professional development. Acknowledging the enabler is the rule, not the exception. And though it’s not about being acknowledged for being an enabler, it’s a testament to the awareness we share about the partnership that enables outcomes.

I’ve long been a fan of the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt…

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

As much as I take issue with the critic and as much as I respect the man in the arena, the role of the enabler is overlooked by President Roosevelt. As a parent, a leader, and a human being, there is nothing that makes me smile more than knowing that I enabled someone else to do something meaningful. As an individual who does my best to spend time in the arena, there is nothing I appreciate more than those who enabled me to not only get in the arena, but also realize as much success as possible while there. Truth is, my passion in life is to enable others; my role as an intelligence/cyber professional is to enable others to succeed in combat, when necessary; the mission of the Command I am currently partnering to lead is to “enable global power projection through proactive network defense.” Personally, I don’t consider myself a warrior. I am an enabler, proud of the many outcomes that are realized as a result of the efforts of enablers across the globe.

We understand that every action enables another action; not all positive and not all with intention. The volunteers who enabled others to have a great run last weekend may be participants next year. The child who is being enabled to reach her potential will grow into the role of enabler for her children. The interdependencies between enablers and warriors should give us more reason to stand tall and proclaim ourselves as enablers.

  • How much effort do you put into enabling others?
  • When was the last time you acknowledged the many enablers in this world?
  • What did another person enable you to accomplish?