Could Be; Should Be?

Writing prompts are such fun. Whether the prompts come from events happening around you or funneled to you by one muse or another. Take the one below. It came from a Happiness Engineer but triggered a memory from decades ago.

What principles define how you live?

Back in the dark ages, 1981 to be exact, the United States Army first adopted the slogan “Be All You Can Be” as a recruiting tool. Now, that is a great-sounding principle. It was so great at the time it was recognized years later as one of the best advertising campaigns ever, which is why it was resurrected earlier this year.

One of the things I enjoyed the most during my years as a police chief was addressing a police academy graduating class. Looking at all those eager faces, young and not so young, inspired me to make my comments meaningful yet entertaining.

Who wants to sit there and listen to some old fuddy-duddy repeat things you’ve already heard from instructors and training officers more times than you want to remember? So, I always tried to say something unexpected or different, and this prompt reminded me of one of the last curve balls I threw at a class of graduates.

Yep, I took a shot at the idea that being all you can be is a principle to live by. Now, why would I do that? Who wouldn’t want to be all they can be in life? Isn’t that a principle to live by?

Sadly, as with all slogans, mottos, admonitions, etc., it is very subjective. That is why I changed it when I spoke to academy graduates. My slogan was, “Be All You Should Be!”

I am sometimes a hairsplitter; some people even see me as a bit of a Chicken Little guy. They see me running around shouting, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” whenever the stuff hits the fan.

However, those young men and women were preparing to start careers in a very difficult and complex profession. Telling them to “be all you can be” might be misleading. Instead, I suggested striving to be all they “should be.”

For instance, there are various formulas for being a winner and champion. Wouldn’t most of us think being a winner and champion is close to being all you can be? If that is what you think, here is one of the formulas that may lead you to that goal.

  • Winners and champions are passionate about what they do.
  • They are committed to what they do.
  • They have a strategy or a plan.
  • They have clarity of purpose.
  • They are willing to take action.
  • They have the energy to get things done.
  • They have bonding power and the ability to communicate.

Would you agree that if you had all these traits, you would have a good chance to be all you could be? Can you think of people who had these characteristics? People who did their best to be all they could be.

To me, names like John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa fall into that category. They weren’t perfect, but they were loved and respected. However, others did their best to be all they could be and are not held in such high esteem.

People like Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, and Jim Jones come to mind. They had passion and commitment. They had a plan and clarity of purpose. They had energy, bonding power, and communication ability. They sought to be all they could be.

Hopefully, we can agree they were not all they should be.

© 2023

Featured Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

About S. Eric Jackson

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3 Responses to Could Be; Should Be?

  1. The Hinoeuma says:

    You have noted an important distinction. Could be and should be are the “hair-splitting” you mentioned.

    I’m having trouble seeing you as the “chicken little” type. That is not a fair description of a cop, let alone a Chief of Police.

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