Luck, Talent, and Hard Work (2)

Through all those years, I continued to learn new languages. In all, I worked in seven. Friends have expressed awe that I am so facile in languages, but I deserve no special credit. It’s an inborn talent I’m lucky enough to possess.

As I moved up in the ranks at NSA and became a boss with people working for me, I had a new challenge: how to make the unit I headed effective and productive. My years of working with the military in Vietnam had taught me that leadership, not management, is the key to creating an effective work group. So I made it my business not to control my subordinates but to support and encourage them, urging them to be the best that they could be. I got spectacular results and more promotions.

Once again, my choice of leadership over management was not for the purpose of getting ahead. I had learned to lead in Vietnam where, as a civilian working with the military, I had no authority but urged my military counterparts to achieve the best they were capable of. I loved being a leader who supports and uplifts those he is responsible for. And because I put the good of my subordinates ahead of my own, I earned the respect and loyalty of those working under me.

Through it all, I worked hard. Three times—once when I graduated from college and twice while an NSA employee—I suffered exhaustion. And because of my devotion to my job, resulting in much time in travel away from home and long working hours, my family suffered from my neglect. When I was home, I did more than my share and was something of a super father. But too often, my children had to do without me.

Before retirement time arrived, I was promoted into the senior executive service (SES) ranks. I served my last years in the agency as an SES-04, the equivalent of a lieutenant general in the army or air force, only two steps down from the top executive, the deputy director (the director was a military general).

None of my success in moving up through the ranks was the result of any intent on my part to do so. I loved my work and devoted myself to it. Talent and hard work were essential to my success, but the major ingredient was luck. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right aptitude.

So here I am with an income that allows me to fulfill my destiny: to write. I now have six books and 17 short stories published. I’m working on two more books.

Talk about luck . . .

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