Hailing from the world of professional protection comes this phrase: “Do one thing every day to make yourself a better operator.” As the de facto protective agent of your family and loved ones, you are responsible for their safety. What is that one thing you can do every day to be a better agent?
Soon after my training academy days, a very seasoned protective services operator who had over three decades in the field presented a pre-deployment briefing. It was the usual safety and in-country information with nothing out of the ordinary...until he shared with us a golden nugget of advice that made an indelible impression which I follow to this very day: “Do one thing every day.”
His exact statement was “Do one thing every day to make yourself a better operator.” We were part of a protective services detail (PSD) and our job was to provide for the safety and well-being of others in high-threat environments. His message was that all skills are perishable and if you’re not maintaining or further developing your current skill levels, then they will attenuate, especially when you’re not working or training.
We all have responsibilities in our lives such as family and a job that require tremendous amounts of time and commitment. Sometimes we are so focused on fulfilling these responsibilities that we allow our own personal development, including our hard-earned skills, to suffer. The remedy for this common conundrum is to "do one thing every day.”
Delving deeper into what that salty old team leader (TL) was telling us, that I found out after further inquiry, is do one thing every day to be a better operator, one thing every day that will take you one step closer to your personal goal(s) and one thing every day that you enjoy – that’s fun for you!
A Better Operator
According to our TL, if you want to be a good operator, you must of course maintain your current skills, but also further develop them as to stay current with the changing times. It could mean ever-morphing technology, current trends, relevant information and the like. Looking at it from his perspective, we all share two categories of skills—physical or "hard skills" and mental or "soft skills." As both are essential to PSD work, he strongly recommended that we do one thing every day to further develop either or both our physicality and mental capacity.
Referencing the physical, do one thing. Get to the gym, go for a run, do a set of burpees, ride a bike or anything along those lines. Even if you drop face-down to mother earth and crank out a single pushup or a single sit-up or step away from your desk to squeeze out even a single knee bend, you are doing at least one thing every day to make yourself a better operator.
Physical strength, agility, and flexibility remain paramount to maintaining health and well-being. Going as far back as the third century BC, Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine, wrote about the dangers of too little activity. Tai Chi, a martial arts exercise system of flowing movements originating from ancient China, dates from the 12th century B.C. Traditional yoga practice originated in India and goes back even further.
Referencing the mental, do one thing. Read or watch something that engages your mental faculties. Stay up on current affairs, delve into an informative article, watch a training video, read a new book, play a word or numbers game and the like. Your mind, like any muscle in your body works the same way—if you don’t use it then it weakens and will serve you at a lower capacity.
One Step Closer
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make it at least one definite move daily toward your goal," Bruce Lee once said.
You either move toward your personal goals and life aspirations or you remain stagnant. If you don’t move even a single finger in that direction, then how can you possibly expect to make any progress? You can think about it all you want but there is a stark difference between thinking and doing. Thinking about it may help you formulate ideas and a mental approach but thought without action is as useless as doing without thinking.
If your intention is to write a book, or write an article, or keep a journal, to build something, zero or clean a gun or even clean out the garage, you can certainly spend hours thinking about it, but if no steps are taken in that direction, then your objective can never be met.
Do one thing every day to reach that goal. If it’s cleaning out the garage, then pick up one box. Look at what’s inside it and decide what you want to do with it. It’s at least one step in the direction you intend to go. Without physical action there can be no progress.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Most of us have quite a bit on our daily plate. Your job, family and other commitments take up the lion’s share of time in your day (does not include sleeping hours).
Looking at the total of 24 hours, how many of those are spent sleeping, eating, working, family time, and tending to your myriad other responsibilities? How many of those 24 do you allocate to yourself to do something fun for you?
The magic is in finding that work-life balance. We humans may be biological machines, but we do need to take breaks during the day. Such break times might allow us a phone call to an old friend, play a fun game, read or watch something entertaining, enjoy a few minutes to reflect or an hour of just “you time."
As with anything in life, finding that middle path is balancing what our responsibilities demanded of us with stepping off that hamster wheel for a bit to do one thing every day just for you.
Doing one thing every day to make yourself a better operator includes both mind and body. Attaining your personal goals is accomplished by doing and not only thinking. Life is too short to spend serving only the demands of your responsibilities without taking any time out for yourself.
In hindsight (always 20/20 right!) many years after that briefing did I come to realize that the old TL was really on to something when he shared that brilliant pearl of wisdom with us to do one thing every day.