Captain’s Corner-Centering on Optimal Balance for Success

By CAPT Bill Diehl, USCG (Ret.), P.E.

For the past several years I have been privileged to sit on Senator John Cornyn’s academy selection panel. I’m always encouraged when I see how qualified, dedicated, and mature these young women and men are who compete for appointments to our nation’s military academies. This year, one of the several essays that stuck out to me was from a competitive triathlete and mountain biker who wrote about mountain biking as a metaphor for how he approaches the challenges in his life.

CAPT Diehl: So where am I going on this ride?

The gist of this essay was that cycling, like life, is all about finding your center of gravity while not being too aggressive or too timid. He wrote about taking on life’s rocky and steep trails by maintaining his balance of family, faith, and friends. He spoke about how easy it is to let your negative thoughts paralyze you into inaction, causing you to become unbalanced and to fall. For him to ride effectively, he needed to remain flexible and leaning just slightly forward in the seat. As things start happening fast, like on a steep downhill, he reminded himself not to become too cautious. He’d think “attack” the hill – keep eyes forward, be confident in his chosen path, but be flexible enough to detour or hop over the bumps that he did not see at first glance. To me, his essay was memorable because when picking future military leaders we try to determine from a quick application review whether the individual will succeed in an environment that is extremely challenging—like a rugged mountain bike course.

When I returned home, I thought about the mountain biking essay and wanted to see if, in my more refined years, if I could still ride my unicycle around the neighborhood and show some situational awareness and balance like the mountain biker. So, I pumped up the wheel with air and steadied myself alongside my wife’s car before setting out for a lap around the neighborhood. Adults don’t know what to make of me, but the kids are fascinated with seeing an old man riding a unicycle down the street. It is not the ice cream truck, but it does get them running towards the street and shouting with excitement. My kids used to take great joy in escorting me on their bikes when they were young, but lately they have joined my wife in disavowing any relationship to me, which somewhat makes it more enjoyable for me.

So where am I going on this ride? Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” No matter how many wheels are on the trail or pavement, the attitude needed to succeed translates well to challenges in the rest of one’s life. When you see obstacles and twisting paths ahead, dwelling on the potential problems without focusing on how to overcome them is a surefire way to lose your balance. If you are so focused on what is behind you that you forget to look forward, you’ll miss opportunities to take new and better paths. And in all of it, you need to find your center of gravity, the things that help you stay balanced. For me, my balance comes from the same place the nominee mentioned: my family, my friends, and my faith.

As we roll into the winter holidays and look forward to the New Year, I hope all of you have a chance to regain some balance after the roller coaster year we’ve had. Let’s start 2018 at the top of the hill, ready to build up our momentum for whatever challenges we discover on the trail.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

CAPT Bill Diehl, USCG (Ret.), P.E.
GHPB President

  • Date December 19, 2017
  • Tags Dec 2017-Jan 2018