Commentary by Lt. Col. Fred Taylor
50th Space Communication Squadron commander
I recently finished reading a book called “I Dare You” by William H. Danforth that I’d like to share. Danforth died in 1955 as the CEO of the Nestle Purina Company, but he passed on insights that still apply today. He articulated a personal development construct to help people achieve their life goals. He calls his construct the “four-square model” and it is predicated on the assumption that you are teeming with ambition to take yourself to a bigger, richer, more plentiful place than you are now. Allow me to share with you my version of Danforth’s four-square model — one that balances the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of your life.
This will require will power and given all the other demands on your time, maintaining a physical fitness regimen can be challenging. However, studies have proven that physical activity is a key stress coping tool for busy Americans. In addition to the long term health benefits, being in good physical shape will help you make better decisions, prevent injuries, increase awareness and help you pass your physical fitness test.
Emotions determine the quality of our lives. I define the emotional aspects of a person’s life to be the way you interact with friends, co-workers and our most intimate relationships. They are the things we care about most and often play a significant role in our critical decision making. Keeping promises to the people we care about and sometimes, more importantly, keeping promises to ourselves lays the groundwork for an emotionally-centered and caring person. From that foundation, you can build a magnetic personality and develop the kind of personal power that will attract others to you.
I consider intellect to mean learning the success habits that will determine your financial health and job performance. These success habits can be learned through books or experience, such as how to be efficient (Stephen Covey), how to win friends and influence people (Dale Carnegie), setting financial goals (Robert Kiyosaki), and takings risks (Richard Branson). It is under this aspect that all the AF and non-AF training you’ve ever had make you more productive and help you earn a living wage. Developing your personal skills and growing yourself intellectually are certainly key characteristics of a successful leader, but be aware of the common pitfall of becoming unbalanced in this area.
Often the spiritual side provides us with a purpose for life. The spiritual side of a person is not always defined by the religious beliefs or morals that one follows. In my view, your spirit or soul defines your character. It is your energy, your conscience, your values and your faith. Because your spirit cannot be broken, it is the piece of you that endures even during the worst of times. Growing your spiritual side will only enhance the other aspects; draw meaning and motivation to build the physical, inspire the emotional and develop the intellectual aspects of your life.
Finally, I’d offer that you can’t develop or grow as a person alone. You need to be held accountable for your growth and a trusted support group will help you to celebrate the highs and also push you through the lows on your journey. I have found this construct to hold true when I’ve been both balanced and off-balance in my life. I hope it will apply to you, as well. I dare you to live a life with purpose and meaning. I dare you to live balanced between your physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual sides. I dare you to succeed.