Optimize: 10 Life Lessons from the 433d Troop Carrier Group

Life is busy.  You need short cuts.

Here are some tips and strategies to consider.  Courtesy of the U.S. Army Air Forces 433d Troop Carrier Group where my father Frank Vetakis served as Tech Sgt. during World War II.  Planeloads of young guys — sons of immigrants from tiny towns across America — were dropped onto South Pacific islands where they had to clear out the jungle and build operations bases for troops and guerillas.

Their mission: Create something from nothing – with minimal resources and limited time.

He brought home valuable lessons which he imparted to his daughters, providing an excellent edge when we embarked on life and career adventures.

To be effective and efficient — in the jungle, as well as the modern world —  you gotta OPTIMIZE!

1.  Get an SOP.  Standard Operating Procedure, that is.   Always put your glasses, keys and other essentials in the same place. Build a foundation of being organized and avoid wasting time looking for things you need.  Put some rigor into your routine. Then you can channel your energies into something important.

2. Make the most of what you have.  You can’t wait for circumstances to be ideal.  You have to riff a plan, jump in and execute.  With some basic supplies, ingenuity and determination, you can get a good result.  My sisters and I did not grow up with an abundance of material resources, but we know how to win in a competitive environment.  We are Git-R-Done girls.

3.  Don’t try to do everything.  Pick something and do it well.  My father believed in the power of focus and personal mastery. He taught us to pursue one thing at a time.  To savor the sense of accomplishment and achievement.  To appreciate the little things.  To enjoy the process and pleasure of learning something new.

4.  Fast in the bath and shower.   Zip zip! No one was faster in the bathroom than my father.  Very much appreciated by the VGirls.   Very important for busy moms and career women who want to Lean In.  Do the math and calculate the beauty/image/household regimen we women have vs. the men.  Always look for smart time trade-offs or spend your life in the dreaded catch-up mode.  Isn’t that right, Sheryl Sandberg?

5.  Find the Zen.  Frank was master of the tuneout.  He could catnap anytime.  Be in the middle of a female family frenzy, un-addled by the decibel level. Take his brain to an oasis.  He taught us to ignore distractions and focus on the work.  My own mantra: “I’m not dealing with that right now.” Or, the beloved “Whatever.”  

6.  Notes and tip sheets!  Don’t rely on memory.  Write everything down.  In our family, we love index cards, Post-Its, diagrams and charts.  Even better with technology.  Lists, reminders, ideas, product numbers  –  all on every device.  And the scanner!  Heavenly.

7.  Be 15 minutes early.  Prompt, reliable, ready.  Growing up, we were never allowed to be late.  Now I have a odd, but successful system of setting clocks and watches 33 minutes fast.  My husband calls it Nan time. (between Central and Mountain zones!)  You always feel like you have a little leeway.

8.  To hit your target, mark the spot.  Frank was master of the repeatable solution.  A stripe of red nail polish on his golf club for ball-striking purposes.   Pencil lines and dots before hanging and installing anything.  And a favorite:  The duct tape X. Where to aim the hood ornament of the family car to wedge it into the garage.

9.  Comfort counts.    Look good from the outside, but be comfortable on the inside.  I can race through airports in Manolo heels that are stretched, then cushioned with rubber soles + pillow inserts.  Get creative. You need endurance!

10.  Avoid crises.   Don’t leave your purse or technology unattended.  Keep your electronics charged.  Don’t drive on fumes.  No tailgating. Organize your things the night before.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  No one wants to hear a bunch of excuses. Plan ahead!

All good advice.  We miss you, Frank!

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Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene