Does the narrative above strike you as the story of someone who started with a silver spoon in his mouth to whom everything was given? If so, you are wrong in your assessment. My first few years out of high school were filled with mediocracy and one significant failure. My father had died when I was 15. I finished high school, and my mother tried to support me in college. I was neither financially nor otherwise motivated to continue my pursuit of an engineering degree at Georgia Tech. I dropped out and went to work as a clerk in a branch office of a bathroom fixture manufacturer. Six months or so later, I found that the Air Force was open to applicants for a training program for pilots and navigators called Aviation Cadets. While a degree was not required, passing rigorous tests, and physical requirements was essential. I did all of this and entered the 11-month navigator training program. Four months before getting my wings and commission as an air force navigator, I washed out (no excuse), finishing my six-year obligation in the enlisted reserves. I spent the three years after active duty in the office supply business in mediocre sales jobs.
Along the way, I married a wonderful woman and had a son. This changed my whole perspective on life and responsibility. The opportunity for FAA came because of something my mother had seen in an article. I saw this as an opportunity to get back into aviation and provide a career that could support my little family. The rest is the history that you read above—a total reversal of the directionless path I was traveling. I had entered the road of personal leadership and responsibility. I approached my new career with a totally different outlook. As I rose in the organization, I took a retrospective look at what strategies I took to move forward in the organization as outlined in the paragraphs below.