Fall Colors - Pontiac, Michigan
Even within flight test I've tried to do what I thought was right for me, even if the path was less conventional. I took that assignment up in Canada when most people would’ve gone off to a staff job. I retired without trying to get promoted to Colonel, unlike most of my peers. Actually, I purposefully set myself up to retire at 20ish years because I consciously did not do after work, at night Professional Military Education courses like most of my peers. I wanted to leave the active duty to do other interesting things. Not doing the prescribed training was a sure way to guarantee that result.
After retiring from the USAF, I left Edwards AFB for Holloman AFB, while most folks were saying, “Why leave all this?" (There’s a lot of “this” at Edwards.) What I knew and they didn’t was that Holloman AFB was yet another special opportunity with big impact. When I returned to Edwards AFB a few months ago, people were looking at me funny once again. “Why go back?”
I’ve tried to do "new and different"--emphasis on different--as much as I could. As wonderful as Holloman was, I was doing the same job for almost eight years. It was time for new adventures. Coming back to the Test Pilot School was a bit of an epic story in that it made no conventional sense since I’d been to TPS before. It is because I essentially created the duties I am doing. I hadn't done any of them before. It’s satisfying and definitely feels new and different. Looking back, the "epic story" philosophy has been a characteristic at every step in my career.
Why does this matter? I don't think it matters. I might have more feathers in my cap from doing cool interesting things compared to most people. The feathers certainly aren't what drive me.
What drives me is
doing things that make a difference,
doing things that matter.
If that is an allegory for the "epic story," then perfect, even if it doesn't make conventional sense. That's what I'm doing.
I'm not saying people who lead simple well contained lives are doing something wrong. Nor am I saying people who jump off cliffs for no apparent reason are doing things right. Leading a life that matters, a life with the "epic story," is much deeper than the simple day-to-day content of your life.
The key point is choosing what to do, making a difference while you are doing it, and embracing the circumstances of your life. Doing all that will certainly lead to "epic stories."