Met two elected officials in two weeks

Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC) and County Commissioner Tangi Smith (D-TN). Political views aside (I’m a libertarian), I liked Ms. Smith a little bit more. She was hilarious.

Not only did she come off as an everyday, relatable person, but I really enjoyed how her speech as the guest speaker for our Women’s Month Observance just kind of… went nowhere in particular.


I enjoyed it. Right from the start, as a retired Army Sergeant First Class (SFC) (E-7), she mentioned that people often ask her, “Do you miss being in the Army?” Remember, she’s speaking to military audience.

She replies with, “…[long pause… mild hesitation…] eh… Yes!” Loved it. But then towards the end of her speech, “Would I go back? No. But I do appreciate all the years I spent.” Totally something I would’ve said or done – acknowledge the right answer, but still give the real answer.

I would probably miss a few things from having ended a job (as opposed to a career or let alone calling) after 20 years. Of this job? Yes, of course.

The friends I’ve made. The opportunities to have trained and traveled in the capacities afforded to me. Having positioned to meet some very interesting people or participate in certain high-visibility public events. The pay and benefits were great. The memories, which tend to get funnier as the years pass but many times feeling excruciating while during.

Negativity bias occurs naturally. It takes mental effort to see the whole picture, and all the positivity that did occur.

In comparison to my peers, even if I never achieve my dreams of entrepreneurial success, I’ll at least have finished a 20-year job, with a generous pension, benefits, at the age of 40 (with at least, I’m hoping, about 60+ years to go), and not worry about needing a job afterwards. I didn’t want to spend this long in the military, but I’m grateful for how my life turned out.


I enjoyed one particular direct piece of advice she gave during her talk, “Appreciate all the people who’ve been in your life, good or bad. Good or bad, they taught you something. Be grateful,” (paraphrased, as I wasn’t actually taking notes or otherwise recording).

Of all of the bosses – more specifically, my direct supervisors – I’ve had in the military over the past 18 years, I only admired two of them. Two. I only looked up to two of them and honestly said to myself, “I want to be more like this person, and for these reasons…”

All else, “A great example of what not to become in life,” and for that I appreciate their passing through my life nonetheless.


There was a brief moment in her talk, which probably lasted about 30 seconds, in which she shared the series of events that led to her getting elected.

She offered to work for free (i.e., intern) at a TV station as a makeup artist. She got to know celebrities, become friends with local key players in the industry, moved up to hosting a TV show, and then get positioned to run for office and defeat a 17-year incumbent. All the while, he didn’t ask for anything. She simply enjoyed retirement and giving of her time to others.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, early in the book talks about focusing on productive capacity (producing as opposed to consuming). I find it the equivalent of Carol Dweck’s concept of growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset) and focusing on the process, the work, more than the target itself.

In marksmanship, without a scope, it’s like focusing on the front sight post. Given our biology (e.g., the way the eye perceives, flinching, our natural fear of loud noises), the mechanical design of the weapon, and the natural interaction of man and machine, the best way to use the weapon is not to focus the eye on the target but to instead focus on the front sight post.

That means a clear (focused) front sight post, in the center of a blurry (unclear) rear sight aperture while also in the center of a blurry target (goal).

On the philosophy of success, it feels paradoxical. Focus on the goal without focusing on the goal – instead, focus on the work that produces the goal, the steps that lead to the goal.

If her goal was to become an elected official, that wasn’t what she actually focused on. She instead focused on being the best version of herself, to present to those around her. She said numerous times in her talk that she wasn’t going to conform or try to fit the mold or look for a normal safe job. She was a bit goofy. Funny. And I enjoyed her personality at the podium.

As she’s retired military with an active duty husband, it’s a little bit easier for her to volunteer or intern, and to simply enjoy life without feeling the weight of the necessities that other working adults feel. Still, the lesson applies. Why not volunteer now? Why wait to enjoy the present moment, later?

I was listening to Jim Rohn this morning speak on how we ought to have a day in which poor people take a rich person out to dinner. He implied that the poor person should bring a pencil and notepad, to observe, listen, and take notes. The point he was trying to make is that success leaves clues.

If someone has accomplished something that you want to accomplish, then that probably means that he did something to produce that accomplishment, thought a certain way, spoke a certain way, carried himself a certain way. He focused on something that led to that accomplishment.

And since he’s probably busy, offer something first. Ask only for learning in return. If that doesn’t work, it’s a big world. Ask again. Ask others.