Brown Bag Lessons

by Eric Jaren

Founder, Brown Bag Lessons

6/29/2014 - Bellbrook, Ohio

In 1992 Travis Air Force Base deployed a team to Cairo West, Egypt to support Operation Restore Hope.  After we landed and received briefings on the flight line we were bussed to the hotel.  Yes, bussed to a “hotel” ~ I know tough duty!!!

Once inside my room I opened the curtains to the balcony and was shocked.  The view from my room!  I could actually see the top of the pyramids.  Since we were off until the next day a couple of us went to the pyramids.

Then the mission started.

The days were long with 12-hour shifts and a one-hour bus ride. We had to maximize seeing the country when time allowed.  We had a day off every now and then and would arrange trips to see the many historical treasures.

During the deployment I barely spoke to one coworker from homestation.  He worked the other shift and the bus schedule barely left time for a high-five. We caught up in the passenger terminal on the way home and I asked what he thought of Egypt. I was shocked to hear he "couldn't stand it!"

I asked if he visited the Cairo Museum to see the ancient artifacts painted in gold that have been around for 5,000 years. There are countless statues of King Tutankhamen, Ramses, Cleopatra and Anubis and many other beautiful works of art. I went three times.

He said he didn't make it there.

Then I asked if he visited the Cairo Tower. The structure is crowned by a circular observation deck and a rotating restaurant. I had dinner listening to a big brass band. From the observation deck we could see views of Cairo, the Nile, Giza and the pyramids.

No, he didn't make it there either.

Then I asked about the Khan el-Khalili; the largest bazaar in Africa that dates back to the Middle Ages. Every day thousands of people flock there. This bazaar is packed with people, and you have to go!

You guessed it, he didn't make it there either.

Then I thought about the view from my room. I wanted to ask. I wanted to ask, but I'm afraid you already know the answer!  He didn't make it to the pyramids.

But this gentlemen could give me a laundry list of everything that was wrong with Egypt. His problem: he failed to see anything that was right.

Now I take this story of Egypt and place it before you. 

Your perspective sets the tone for the organization and everyone within your span of influence. Every day I hear complaints about doing more with less. Every day I hear complaints about working long hours and being asked to do new things. Sure, things are tough…but I have learned, “if it were easy it wouldn’t be worth doing.”  We need to create efficiencies, eliminate waste … and make the most out of what we have. 

Yes, our Nation faces great challenges, but the solutions to those challenges are right here!  They are in the people around you, they are in America’s youth headed your way, the solutions are already here; they are inside of you!

You must strive to see what things can be and have a perspective that says, "Maybe we don't have that anymore, but this is what we do have." But if you talk about what was or get hung up on what we don't have anymore, well, people will follow you there too. A half empty cup becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  What good does that do?

A short visit in Egypt could the best trip of your life, or the worst…it depends on your perspective!

View From My Room