Don’t get me wrong, I am “all in” on simultaneously writing the current chapter of my life, as well as contribute to the current chapter of the Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command story. And as the storyline begins to set the stage for the next amazing adventure for both, foreshadowing continues to become more evident. As you might imagine, and not to the detriment of my current responsibilities, I am using increasingly more of my time educating myself for an assignment like no other I have experienced. I am connecting with new teammates with more diverse backgrounds than any other team with whom I have served. And I am reaching across my current network to solicit continued partnerships so that I don’t navigate these waters alone. It is said that a careful look at our calendar and our bank account is the most accurate way of assessing what we truly value. As I look at mine, I am clearly placing a high value on my preparations to contribute as a member of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx).

Last week, I reached out to a long-time friend. As a retired soldier, he, like so many of us, is conditioned to the 2-3 year chapters that frame the military lifestyle and recognizing the length of time since my last move it didn’t take long for him to ask me about my next chapter. When I told him where I was going, it was clear that he didn’t share my enthusiasm. He simply asked, “Is that good for your career?” Given that there were only two other opportunities to serve that excited me as much as this one and they were both opportunities to serve as a Commanding Officer, his skepticism caught me off-guard. Of course, it is. Then again, that might depend on how you interpret the question.

What does it mean to be good for your career? I have been in the Navy for just under 25 years at this point, yet in some ways, I remain a bit naive. I translated the question as to mean…

  • Will I have the opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways?
  • Will I be surrounded by amazing people?
  • Will I personally and professionally grow as a result of the experience?
  • Is my family excited about it?

Given the answers to each of those questions is a resounding, ‘Yes!’, what was he getting at and why was he concerned? Then the obvious struck me. The mindset shared by many. He was really asking me, “Will this help you get promoted?” The question that guides too many of us these days. The answer to that question is both “I don’t know” and “Wasn’t even a consideration of mine.” It seems to me that our quest for the next gets in the way of making the most of the now. We put more emphasis on getting something for our effort than we do on growing as a result of our effort. And we spend too many days mindlessly checking boxes in favor of mindfully accumulating experiences. Over the course of my career, not once have I concerned myself with what would get me promoted. I have asked for and chosen opportunities using the four questions above as criteria. As a result, I continue to contribute, grow, and have a great deal of fun as a member of some amazing teams. Chasing the cheese of promotion is unhealthy; continuing to nibble on the cheese of fulfillment is nirvana. So yes, this is amazing for my career and my family.

  • How do you define good for your career?
  • How big of a part of your career aspiration algorithm is personal growth and making a difference?
  • As you write your current chapter, what are you foreshadowing?