Welcome to the True Calling Project. I’m your host John Harrison, professional psychotherapist and coach, and today I’m talking to a long-time friend, Lt. Col. Phil Forbes. Phil has been affiliated with Special Operations for the majority of his career and has supported numerous contingencies worldwide. He has commanded at the detachment, squadron, and group level in garrison and in combat and has been awarded the Bronze Star on two occasions. He presently works in the Pentagon for a three-star General as an Executive Officer.
“On a very small scale, we can affect great change in our lives by being a little audacious.”
Phil and I met as freshman at Virginia Tech and the Corps of Cadets, and like most of us he struggled with the regiment of military life. At one point a few weeks after we started he actually considered quitting. He was visited by Medal of Honor Recipient Col. Wesley L. Fox, who served as an assistant commandant, and was asked the fundamental question: What is your five year plan?
“It was a very diplomatic way of saying, ‘you’re missing the big picture, Phil.’”
This heart-to-heart meeting with Col. Fox meant a lot to Phil, and he came back from Fall break mature enough to accept that step into a new existence. This was a huge turning point in Phil’s life.
“It wasn’t so much the fact that it was the military or it was the Air Force or it was my uniform or shining my shoes. It was structure, and it was allowing yourself to become part of something bigger.”
Phil considers being a commander to be one of the rewarding experiences in his life. He has been a commander three times in combat and once in garrison, or in a peacetime setting. Each time has presented its own challenges and unique demands because each command was different in the extent to his control or what was expected of him.
“The most rewarding aspect of command is not that I was in charge of people, but rather that I earned those people’s respect.”
Phil shared a few lessons that he learned from 18 plus years in the military. He emphasizes that leadership is about being seen, not necessarily being heard or getting your fingers in everybody's’ pie. Good leadership is characterized by:
Phil lives with his awesome wife and children in Northern Virginia and is an avid cyclist in his first season of racing cyclocross. When he's not raging on his bike, doing something outdoors, or writing, he's probably listening to Best Coast while home brewing.
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