Chiefs View: ‘Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward’ — John C. Maxwell

  • Published
  • By By Chief Master Sgt. Ericka Kelly
  • Command Chief Master Sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command
The journey for John Maxwell began more than 50 years ago in a small Ohio town where he learned that leadership started with development within himself and connecting with others. Since then Maxwell has become a renowned author, coach and speaker, influencing people around the world by teaching ways to embrace failure rather than allowing failure to cripple us.

As leaders, we must strive to create a culture free of the fear of failure in order to provide our Airmen an environment that promotes innovation and calculated risk taking. In the book “Failing Forward,” Maxwell shares that leadership should not steer clear of failures but rather should take ownership of failures and learn from them. The Wright brothers had many failed attempts to get their plane off the ground before they finally found success.

In today’s environment of constrained budgets and manpower reductions, it is important to foster a culture willing to take calculated risks. Since the invention of the airplane, there have been many legacies showcasing the rich history of our innovative Airmen.

Working with a 100-pound slab of aluminum, Master Sgt. John Vescovi and Tech. Sgt Richard Towlson, along with Gary Surozenski, metal technicians out of the 439th Airlift Wing at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, locally fabricated a C-5 elevator support bracket. After completing all the necessary tests and approval process, a part that was not available within the system, and would cost approximately $50,000 through an outside vendor, was produced for only $1,500 and kept the plane from being grounded until the part was available.

This is just one of the many stories of Reserve Citizen Airmen taking the risk to be innovative and paving the way for others to follow. Others like you.

Taking care of our Airmen, their development and their quality of life are all important to me and are essential factors into how we will look into the future. As an Air Force, we are constantly changing, but how we take care of one another and the innovation that has come from our Airmen does not.

Although not all ideas make it into production, the need for your ideas will continue and is critical to the shaping of our future force. I challenge you to pursue those ideas, stand ready and be willing to fail forward. Our Air Force Reserve depends on you.