It is never too late

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Recently, I found out one of the 21st Space Wing members that I most admire had decided to return to school in pursuit of a bachelor's degree. This is a man who doesn't need to continue his education - he has already completed one incredible career, retiring as a highly respected chief master sergeant, and he is currently excelling in a second career, serving in a key leadership position at the squadron level. In fact, he would tell you that he is exactly where he wants to be.

So why go back to school at this point in his life? Only he can answer that, but I think I know what my paternal grandfather (who happens to be the wisest man I have ever known) would say ... "it is never too late."

As a young man every time I broke out the "I should haves" or the "I wish I hads," my grandfather would say, "Chuckie, it is never too late." In fact, it was my grandfather who convinced me it wasn't too late to make the Air Force a career after I had passed on the option a couple of years earlier.

I lost my grandfather far too early, and until recently I hadn't thought about his philosophy for almost 25 years. It took a retired 50-something (I'm being polite here) chief's action to remind me that "it is never too late" is a pretty good approach to life.

As I prepared to write this article, I was amazed by how many examples I could come up with of people I had crossed paths with who decided to take charge of their lives by tackling their "it is never too late" moment. For example, earlier this year I presided over the retirement of another respected E-9. As I reviewed the chief's records, I was amazed by how average his performance reports were for the first 10-12 years of his career - nowhere in those early records did I see a future chief. So what happened? The chief found himself assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense staff as a technical sergeant when he had his "it is never too late" epiphany. He realized that he still had time to ramp up his performance and get on a track that would take him all the way to chief.

We have another example at our own Silver Spruce Golf Course. Some of you may know "Jack" O'Brien as an outstanding golf instructor who excels at getting the most out of his students and inspiring Peterson's youth to take up the game of golf. However, what most of you may not know is that Jack didn't even take up the game of golf until he was in his 40s. Yet over the years he has had a positive impact on countless golfers. It is pretty clear Jack had his "it is never too late" moment.

On a more personal note, my maternal grandmother provided concrete evidence that it is never too late to accomplish your dreams. My grandmother dropped out of high school in the early 1940s, and she spent the next 40 years raising 10 children (yes, 10). Then in her 60s she decided to earn her GED, which motivated her to complete a bachelor's degree. Sticking with the theme of "it is never too late," she became the first member in her family to ever earn a graduate degree, and oh by the way, she was almost 70! If that doesn't convince you it is never too late to accomplish your goals, then I don't know what will.

So, my challenge to you, good reader, is to find your "it is never too late" goal and then set out and accomplish it. It doesn't matter how old or young you are - go get the degree you have always wanted to earn; take up beach volleyball, run your first marathon or earn your first "Excellent" PT score; buy your first home; seek out a long-lost friend you have lost touch with; travel to the four corners of the world. As for me, I think I'm going to climb a mountain.

No really, I'm shooting for Kilimanjaro. I figure "it is never too late."