Category Archives: Personal Development


One of the ironies of Air Force officership is the constant cycle between being in a position of leadership or being the Snack bar officer (Snack-O). Which job is more important? Snack-O. I could write a book, everything I learned about leadership I learned as a Snack-O.

During pilot training, on one of the first days I wasn’t scheduled to fly, an old gnarly Captain told me to get up and fill the snack bar. I looked a little perplexed. “Hey, I’m focused on learning to fly these jets and you want me to stock sodas?” I quietly thought. “Go to the exchange and buy an assortment of sodas, coffee, candy bars and other snacks to fill the bar, and work with the other Lieutenants to collect the funds to do this,” he snarked. We learned quickly to manage this little enterprise quickly building a small profit. The extra money was used to purchase Friday beer or going away gifts.

After repeating this in the next three training squadrons, I noticed every program I attended had a stocked snack bar. People needed ready access food for combat readiness.

But, it wasn’t until 2-years later after completing my initial mission qualification where the previously youngest Lt came over and handed me the cash box. Dagnabit, I’m a 25-year-old fighting machine and my alternate yet primary job is to fill the snack bar, again? Luckily, Doc Watson arrived at the same time so he was my “Co-Snack-O.”

Ok – I took it on the chin, I knew that soon the next Lieutenant would arrive and take over the coke hauling. But there was no next Lieutenant.

Soon thereafter, we received notice that our squadron would be closing in 18 months, and the pipeline of new pilots was empty. No more Lieutenants young guys coming to Zweibrucken. The older Lt’s looked to me with pitty and thankfulness and requests for chocolate bars. I would be the final squadron Snack-O.

So, it was my job to buy drinks and snacks, fill the vault and squadron snack-bar, tally the “chit-sheets,” buy and sell T-shirts, mugs, and track and collect monthly penalties and dues from about 80 officers. Sounds easy? Nope! If you want to hear pilots whine, it always had to do with unstocked sundries or their favorite alternative Soda in the bar. My God, if “Ho-Hos” were out of stock, I’d be scheduled for instrument practice approaches, or be conveniently left off of the schedule. I quickly understood what quid-pro-quo meant. If I got scheduled for a junky flight, the scheduler’s favorite “Fresca” might not make it into the fridge, and who likes warm Fresca!

More than once, the Squadron Commander (the revered flying God) would bring me to his office for a 30-minute lecture on how my job was more important than his. happy flyers are fed flyers. I got the point.

So, for 18 months I managed the squadron slush fund. I learned how to manage a spreadsheet and the politics of sundries. When we were sent to Desert Storm, my job persisted. While not flying or planning combat missions, I was driving the crew van loading up “Turkish” Coke Light.

I think it is important to mention that the other Lieutenants had my back. Every fighter squadron has a key organization called the LPA (Lieutenant Protection Agency). The LPA had enough power collectively (like a Union) to ensure that none of us were individually abused. And when it came to issues like cleaning the bar on Saturday morning (after an overly rowdy Friday night) they would meet and clean everything together. If a LT had a bad day, we would rally in support. The LPA rocked.

Being a Snack-O was incredibly important. I was connected to the deepest motivations of every member of the squadron. I had political leverage through power over sustenance. I executed experiments like providing apples to improve the squadron’s well being. The apples rotted and I think I was blanket-partied for wasting space in the refrigerator.

I didn’t understand this until much later in my career (another post).

But simply, in the words of Cal Newport after they make you Snack-O: “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.” The most menial job can be the most meaningful and memorable.

As a side – my son is a second Lieutenant in Florida as a Nuclear Physicist. He does nuclear treaty monitoring (and other stuff he can’t tell me). So as a scientist and physicist, do you want to know the first alternate duty?

He is his squadron’s Morale and Welfare Officer, otherwise known in the fighter business as the Snack-O!

Resistance Is Futile

I love this title. It reminds me of the Star Trek Federation’s nemesis, the Borg. The were assimilating everything in their path, telling those that try to undermine their effort, “resistance is futile.”   Interestingly, it is the futility of resistance that often prevents us from achieving the meaning, peace, and love we seek!

As I have progressed into meditation, one of the many benefits is the metaphors that Meditation highlights in our life.

I have been using a meditation app called Headspace ( Headspace is a Guided Meditation that helps build mediation skills (as self-diagnosed ADD, I have continued to tell myself that mediation is difficult of if not impossible for people that have limited attention).

One of the lessons that Andy, the guru, teaches us in Headspace is to let go of our resistance. He begins by having us take notice of our surroundings, connect to where we are sitting, and hear the noises of our immediate environment. Later, he also leads us in gaining awareness of our bodies tension, our emotional stressors, and finally, our spiraling thoughts. Eventually, through acceptance of these truths, we can move pass them toward the creativity, peace, or the spiritual connection we seek.

So, I was sitting in the Dental chair this week, and as I was being prodded, I became acutely aware of an incredible tension in my body.  My arms and feet were crossed, my glutes were tight, and my jaw was trying to clench down upon the hygienist’s finger.  The tighter I got, the more anxiety I felt.   In recognition of this state, I tried to let go. I consciously relaxed my body and loosened my jaw and then my mind.  Wonderfully, the next 45 minutes became, let us say, tolerable.

This metaphor plays into another blog post around “The Paradox.”

In summary, I believe and have been taught that, as humans, we often act in a manner that prevents us from achieving what we desire.

For example, I deeply want to be fit, but often find myself sitting and watching TV, or more psychologically meaningful example is if I deeply want to be loved, but fear not being loved or fear that I don’t deserve love, I keep myself isolated and protected from intimacy with others.   This could translate into the desire for a deep meaningful, authentic relationship with our spouse, but fear that vulnerability will be seen as weak or if I am authentic, she will reject me for my previous failings.

Imagine trying to get back to sleep in the middle of the night.   The more I want to sleep, the more frustrated I get and the less chance I have of going back to sleep (the paradox).

Applying the idea of accepting “what is” (stop resisting), when I wake, I grab my kindle and read in “low light”.  After 30 minutes, I struggle to keep my eyes open and return to the bed and soundly sleep the rest of the night; which is much better than the two or three hours of tossing I used to do.   By reading fiction, my mind stops spinning and starts to focus on the characters in thes books,  relieving myself of whatever ridiculous anxiety I am ruminating on.

To sum, when in paradox, I apply the exact opposite response needed and guarantee the exact opposite result that I desire.   And, it is my resistance to stepping away from these unuseful behaviors that prevents me from my desired outcome.

Where does this resistance come from? Obviously it manifests itself from our id, our shadows, or deep wounds that we use to protect ourselves.   Mine comes from a story I say to myself about “not being good enough.” Not good enough to be loved.  Not good enough to matter in the world.  Not worthy for success.

Imagine playing golf or tennis. When our body is tense or rigid, or our mind is stressed and frustrated, we can’t react or respond effectively. When I flew fighters in the Air Force, and got overwhelmed with input, my mind would darken and I could only react to what was directly in front of me.   This known issue was called “seeing through a soda straw or losing “Situational Awareness”.

Yet, when I am relaxed and engaged, I have the possibility of entering a “flow state” where time slows and my reactions are fluid and decisive.  An old commander used to say: “you need to get out of your own way.”

To sum, by letting go of my resistance, I am able to ease back to the true world and create the possibility of achieving what I really want. And for most of us, that includes creating personal meaning, being loved, or just living in peace and happiness.

As a side, I wouldn’t want to not discuss where resistance is appropriate.   I think this could best be summed as we should resist being taken off of our path toward personal integrity and mission. More on that to follow…

Blessings! – Pierre