We are all born with equal rights under the Constitution, however we are all not born with incredibly well-developed skillsets. Some folks are blessed with natural talents; however, I am not one of them. I had to work hard on understanding which skills I wanted to better develop in my life and which skills I needed to use more judiciously.

In my life journey, I had some hard lessons to learn. One of them was coming to the understanding that I was an asshole and I wanted to be a better person. The most critical part of this stage in my life was being able to self-reflect and recognize the behaviors that made me the asshole that I was.

You have to learn and work hard at asking yourself the tough questions and be honest with yourself about how you interact in the world.

I was not a nice person when I was younger. I would be quick to point out people’s faults and make fun of them behind their backs. I would be quicker with the middle finger than with a kind wave. I had no problem making a scene for minor transgressions. I had no problem using embarrassment as a tool.

I can recall how I first came to the realization that I was an asshole. I was in the shop back in my active duty days, and I had tasked a younger Airman to polish the rain gauge. This Airman grabbed the Never-Dull and got to work. After he had spent several hours on it, I came over and told him that he could have gotten the job done in several minutes and I laughed at him for not using the faster method.

My shop supervisor called me into his office immediately after that exchange for a little chat. It’s a life lesson I will take to the grave.

I don’t remember verbatim what Sergeant Kris Kite said, but it was something along the lines of, “Hey Matt, that was an asshole thing to do. You embarrassed that kid and that’s a terrible way to teach someone anything. Don’t do that ever again.”

It took me by surprise at how blunt he put it, but it was one of the truest pieces of feedback anyone has ever cared to give me.

Right then and there, I had a moment off self-reflection, realizing that in that moment, I was an asshole.

There were two big lessons to be learned from the encounter. The first is that embarrassment should never be used as a training tool and it makes you look like an asshole. The second and maybe biggest lesson was that I needed to better understand how my actions affect others. I needed to take a hard look at my own attitude and behavior.

If you want to improve yourself, you have to train yourself to really reflect on your actions, attitude and behaviors. As they say, practice makes perfect. Before you go to bed, or maybe midway through the day, ask yourself how your doing. It’s easy to do when you’re having a good day, but incredibly hard to do when your having a bad day.

The bad days are when it’s most important to have a well-developed sense of self-criticism. Set yourself an alarm at noon with the specific task of taking several minutes to reflect on your attitude, behaviors and impact that you have had on the world and make an assessment as to whether you have been positive or negative. Ask yourself if you would have done something different or if you could have done something better. Do this before you go to bed at night. You can train yourself to develop this helpful habit and before long you may find yourself becoming a better person.

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