As many of you have come to know I post a weekly feature for the AIHA Mentoring and Professional Development Committee titled, “Wise Words Wednesday.” A thoughtful and inspiring reply was posted on May 20, 2015 to our LinkedIn Group and I wanted to share this piece with our entire community. This post is being republished with the consent of the author. The original post can be found here.
“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”
“There are no unfavorable winds either if there is no port to set sail toward. This is actually a fairly deep statement by Seneca, and relates to having goals in one’s life. Seneca himself was an interesting fellow, who apparently advised Nero.
Since this is a mentoring program discussion site, we can talk a bit about goals from an AIHA perspective. We each need a focus for our professional work, and as an industrial hygienist, our concern is with worker health. We also have personal goals, such as attaining the CIH designation. Sometimes, these goals are long-term goals. The CIH, for instance, took me from about 1992 to November 28, 2006 to achieve. Throughout this period, I had several jobs and titles. I was fired once because of ethical concerns I had which my company did not have, but maintained my vision of safety and health for workers. This led ultimately to another job in a different city, but which was an improvement. It led to new opportunities for both myself, and my wife. And throughout this period, I took the CIH exam three times, and finally achieved my goals. In the process, I also started an MSPH program through Tulane University, which expanded my vision of the industrial hygiene field by an order of magnitude.
So if I can give some advise for those who are pursuing work in the industrial hygiene field, it is this: set your goals, and don’t let any obstacles keep you from achieving them. The obstacles are actually opportunities to see things from a different perspective. You may need to regain your compass bearings due to the need to re-orient yourself due to these obstacles, but this is part of the process, part of life.
To illustrate this, here is an experience I had while in Survival School, headquartered at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, but in reality in the Cascade Mountains during a cross-country survival trek. This happened in 1967. We came to a spot where the compass course led us across a marshy pond, a thicket with lots of brush in our way. I was an enlisted man, and the officer in charge was a navigator in a jet aircraft. He wanted us all to go straight across this marsh on a bee-line. I said we should go around the bog, staying in the dry area that was less brushy and use a tree on the other side as a marker as to where we wanted to go. But the officer said,
“I’m an OFFICER and a NAVIGATOR! I know what I’m doing, and we’re going straight across this area!” He was pretty emphatic.
“Well,” I replied, “I’ll see you on the other side.”
So a couple of us (we were pararescue trainees) skirted this bog and went around the swamp in about ten minutes. The navigator and his followers came out the other side about twenty minutes later, wet to the bone and pretty tired. We helped them out of the water.
Sometimes the straightest route to a goal is not the best one. So keep this in mind when you come across an obstacle to your goals.
Most of all, enjoy life, and keep to your ethical standards.”
John Ratliff, CSP, CIH, MSPH