[February 18, 2019] It seemed like only a few years ago, but my first Platoon Sergeant gave me some good words of advice. He said it was important to take on small opportunities that would lead to big opportunities. At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about; it made no sense.
When people can “see” small opportunities and take advantage of them, they are more likely to encounter bigger opportunities that can have a greater impact on their lives. Senior leaders are adept at finding large opportunities and naturally want to encourage people to make the decisions to take advantage of them.
Just before the radical Islamic terror attacks on 9/11, I took command of an Engineer Battalion. Years before I was given a chance to command a smaller Company. My boss seemed to think I had done a good job and indicated his appreciation by giving me a high rating on my annual evaluation. This was the small opportunity that propelled me into gaining more responsibility and authority.
Anyone who has the desire and aptitude to seek out opportunities will be noticed. My commander saw my good works as a company commander and gave this information to more senior leaders. When I became eligible to be promoted up to the battalion commander level, I was contacted and asked to submit my request for selection.
Years later I would also be selected by a board of brigadier generals for Brigade command. This was a command that had 17 company commanders that reported to me. Brigade command is a big opportunity for which only a few officers even get to compete. I was honored to be selected. Several board members told me that I could see smaller opportunities and take advantage of them that got me selected.
It was Sergeant First Class Robert Kneedler, my Platoon Sergeant when I took my very first platoon as a Second Lieutenant that gave me advice that I should have understood from the beginning. Thanks to his insight, mentoring, and patience, I was able to advance from an inexperienced Lieutenant with 33 soldiers to a General with 14,000 soldiers.
Today, I try to provide this same advice to those who I believe can “see” opportunities and take advantage of them. As the old saying goes, when opportunity knocks … get moving!