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  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Carlos Figueroa
  • Superintendent, 386th Expeditionary Operations Group
I recently overhead a verbal exchange at the local grocery store which got me thinking about some daily interactions I have had with some Airmen.
Cashier: Good afternoon sir, how are you?
Customer: I'm
Cashier: Now? Why's that?
Customer: I just got off work.
Cashier: Oh! I just started my shift.
Customer: I'm so sorry for that.
The customer didn't just give an unavoidable "sorry," he said it as if the cashier had just lost a loved one in a tragic accident. Why did the customer come across that way? Did he instinctively assume that she didn't want to be at work? If she didn't want to be there, I sure couldn't tell. She had a great demeanor and was extremely pleasant, even during the exchange. She performed her tasks with confidence and a sense of purpose. To me, her actions showed that she was glad to be at work. My hunch was right because her response to him was, "Oh no need to be sorry, I am happy to be here."

As the customer collected his groceries, I couldn't help but speculate how he acts at work. Apparently his day turned into "good" as soon as he left work and then he literally expressed condolences to the cashier for her having to be at work, I suppose he may have just had a bad day; however, he reminded me of several people I have served with...people that lacked spirit, energy and enthusiasm or people, who after you provide a resounding "good morning, how are you," just say, in a flat monotone voice..."hey." Or better yet, don't say anything and just provide a head nod. I suppose those people would understand why someone would say "I'm sorry" after learning that someone's shift just started.

The interaction between the customer and cashier didn't last more than 2 minutes, but the distinct differences were evident. Simply put, the cashier R.O.C.K.S and the customer did not. The cashier had a sense of Responsibility, a positive Outlook, Commitment to her job, plenty of Kerosene to fuel her motivation and a Sense of purpose. If after the exchange, I had to decide who I want to serve alongside, I would choose the cashier. Determination as to whether or not a person's job rocks is often a direct reflection of their attitude and enthusiasm.

Our attitude often determines the quality of our lives. Maintaining a positive attitude is tough because negativity is so rampant today. Just read the comments posted on, and you will immediately gain a sense of that. Any article even remotely connected to uniforms, fitness, EPRs is directly connected to emotional buttons. My goodness, if it wasn't for those topics, would we have anything to talk about? It's been said that a positive attitude causes a domino effect of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. People naturally gravitate to people who are positive. The same can be said for people who are enthusiastic.

People, especially anyone serving in a leadership capacity, need to be excited about what they do and sometimes it requires a lot of energy. The Air Force is always changing and some of the changes are hard to understand...they will be challenging. If a particular change in policy, standard, or mission is hard to understand, then seek ways to elevate your perspective...ask questions, read articles or news releases. Change is inevitable; resisting it is a waste of time. People who constantly complain and gripe for weeks, months and years do our organization no favors. Be enthusiastic and make the best of a given situation, as a leader, you set the tone and remember others are watching you. They will follow your lead. If the leader doesn't have enthusiasm, why should they? As the old adage goes, enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm.

No part of the customer reflected a positive attitude or enthusiasm; on the other hand, the cashier truly R.O.C.K.S! Who are you? Are you the customer or the cashier? Rock on!