Two weeks ago, I enjoyed a nice telephone conversation with a colleague where I pitched him on how we (OUR Command) were going to create additional value for our existing customers and at the same time posture ourselves to significantly grow our customer base. He and I had a constructive exchange and his feedback helped me to tighten up the proposal. At the end of the discussion, we spoke about various side projects I have been championing that admittedly are outside of what many perceive to be the traditional Commanding Officer job description (I’m not one to constrain myself by the expectations of others). Knowing I am one who appreciates constructive feedback from a 360-degree array, he felt comfortable enough to remind me of the importance of engaging the support of others before taking such bold and deliberate action (e.g., inadvertently fracturing relationships in the name of facilitating progress). I appreciated the thought. He also proceeded to remind me that our journey was a marathon and that as much as I would like to see immediate progress, I needed to slow down, pace myself and strengthen alliances with other stakeholders.

As a person who grew up on the soccer, baseball and football fields playing team sports, and as an adult who has completed many endurance events, he was speaking my language. In fact, his points were the very ones I have been known to make to others in the past. I say in the past because as I grow older and acknowledge that there is as little as 20 months left in my Navy career (hopefully more), I realize that as true as the marathon analogy is, the pace of progress matters more and more. Truth is that time will run out on us at some point during the marathon that is life, a tour of duty or any meaningful project.

It should come as no surprise that I refuse to execute my professional duties at what is my literal slow and steady marathon pace. Instead, I sprint when needed, walk when I have to and take advantage of every aid station. As the so-called finish line becomes increasingly visible, I can’t help but run faster. Not because I am anxious to be done, but because I know the privilege of serving will not last forever and I can’t help but do my part to help us make as much progress as possible before our time is up. Like any other team player, I prefer running with the pack at a mutually acceptable pace. That said, it is evident we are each running at a pace in which we are comfortable (some faster than others), towards our personally defined finish line, yet fail to realize that our “race” is nearing its end (a military career flies by). When my time is up in the Navy, I want it to be clear to everyone, but mainly myself, that I ran as fast as I could for as long as I wanted and was not pacing myself in hopes of seizing an opportunity that never came along.

I very much appreciate the reminder from my valued colleague and ask that we all acknowledge that there comes a time to sprint to the finish line and for those of us entering the home stretch that time is now.

  • Are you running at a responsible pace?
  • Is the speed at which you are moving strengthening or fracturing alliances?
  • How do you respond when others tell you that you may be moving too fast?