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NEWS | July 1, 2010

Life is a series of choices

By Col. Mark T. Allison 316th Wing Staff Judge Advocate

Every young person wants to know, or should want to know, what it takes to meet their goals and truly succeed in life. Tony Dungy, the Super Bowl winning coach and author of two books, "Quiet Strength" and "Uncommon" provides great insight for every person looking for the keys to success. The answer is relatively simple: Life is a series of choices. You may have heard this before, but let's break down what this actually means. If you make the right choices on a regular basis, you are very likely to succeed in life. If you make bad decisions, you will eventually fail. Every day, we encounter decisions that have the potential to make our lives better, or to ruin our lives entirely.

In "Uncommon," Dungy describes two young, college-aged males, who came from completely different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, but were on the path to success through discipline and good choices...up to a point. Both of them were attending college full-time, making excellent grades, and looking forward to their future as productive adults with wives and children. One of them made the mistake of choosing to use a fake ID card, drinking too much at a club, and then deciding to drive home. Tragically, he crashed into another car, killing one person and seriously injuring two others. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison, shattering his entire life and all of his dreams. The other individual developed a gambling habit and got himself into a deep, unmanageable financial hole. Unfortunately, he then decided to rob another individual at gun point. At the age of 19, this college student and classical pianist was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for armed robbery. These are two extreme examples of bad choices that turned calamitous for the individuals making them.

We all make choices throughout our lives that have the potential to greatly impact our ability to succeed. These include seemingly simple choices, such as whether to spend the night studying for an upcoming test or going out for a few beers with friends. The former choice, if made consistently, will give you the opportunity to meet your goals and greatly improve your life. The latter choice will obstruct your ability to do so. Another example would be deciding whether to work hard every day to pass the PT test, or to skip PT on a regular basis (not to mention eating those doughnuts and sweet rolls). We all know the ultimate results of those choices. Similarly, just doing the bare minimum to get by is a choice, or series of choices, that is sure to impede our ability to meet life's goals. It is a choice to not take advantage of the wealth of opportunities the Air Force provides us, such as to get a degree, or to work hard to improve our lives and standards of living.

As a wise man once said, "Life is tough, but it's tougher when you make stupid choices." Make choices that your parents would be proud of. More importantly, make choices you will be proud of five years from now. Make the right choice, the smart choice - the choice that will make your life better.