I have long taken great pride in being a part of something far bigger than myself. For me, that happens to be serving as a proud member of the greatest Navy in the world. It is that very pull of being part of something bigger that gives so many great Americans reason to volunteer significant portions of their adult lives to serving our Nation. This is true for patriots who wear the uniform, as well as many others who serve as civil servants across the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. It is this calling to be a part of something that truly matters to us that unifies our effort and satisfies our soul.

Though most of my adult days have been spent as part of a rather insular team, I have always made it a point to engage far beyond my fellow service members. In doing so, I meet people who are equally passionate about their chosen profession. Some are motivated by the money and some are fueled by the contributions to society, and some are able to enjoy both simultaneously. The people that I am most drawn toward are those who share a commitment to do something far more than belonging to something bigger than themselves. We are committed to creating something bigger than ourselves. As important and fulfilling it is to belong, the act of creation takes things to the next level.

I was recently reunited with a friend, ‘Rooster’ Rossiter, who epitomizes life at the intersection of belonging and creating. He is a proud Marine and an even prouder family man. When he isn’t working to defend our Nation, he is leading the charge for inclusivity as the President of Ainsley’s Angels of America. I won’t tell his story, but I feel compelled to share my latest interaction with him.

My wife and I recently attended a fundraiser for the local chapter of his organization. We met amazing people who volunteer to make the charity real and amazing parents who shared the great joy that the charity continues to give them and their child. As with any of these events, there are tears of appreciation that accompany many of the conversations. While speaking with one of the mothers, I was inspired by her journey and the challenges associated with raising a child with special needs. Yet, she was inspired and appreciative of those who make Ainsley’s Angels real. In her mind, she has no choice but to be the Mother her son needs, but we have the choice as to whether we want to help bring the smiles to the faces of these children. Where I was appreciative of her example, she was grateful for the willingness of so many to contribute to this movement. As I spoke to more people at the event, the gratitude they had for my friend and what he created (far from alone as he is quick to remind everyone) energized me greatly. He does far more than belong, he creates.

I left the event thinking deeply about my life and role in this world.

Part of being a leader is creating new value. When we join an existing team, we can either do our best to manage the status quo or we can lead change. There are scenarios when each is the right choice, but I am continually reminded that it is the creation that fuels me even more than the belonging. In fact, it is the passion for creating that shapes my affinity for belonging to certain teams and partnering with specific individuals. I am reminded that many of my teammates are in fact doing both.  Those of us who are committed to creating value and doing far more than our assigned duties require are interested in shaping how things should be, not merely belonging to things that are.

As I contemplate my future and the inevitable transition from the Navy, I am excited about creating value that doesn’t exist. That said, I and many of my teammates are not waiting for that. As ‘Rooster’ visibly reminds us, you can, in fact, create something new without leaving the team you are on. And yes, as our less-motivated teammates demonstrate, you can, in fact, exist without creating anything new. As I reflect on the numerous initiatives many of my teammates have partnered to create behind the scenes and on the side, I am filled with pride. And though I am in no rush to get there, I am excited about the opportunity to venture into uncharted territory to create on a full-time basis, though I might argue that I am part of a team doing exactly that right now. As proud as I am to be a part of something bigger, my next career will focus on creating something bigger with inspirational partners. Until then, we will continue to do what we do on the side and in the background.

  • Do you feel as though you belong to a worthwhile cause?
  • What are you and your team truly creating?
  • Are you more committed to the way things are or the way they should be?