One Amazing Leadership Example

When I graduated from high school I decided to enlist in the Air Force. The idea of earning money for college, building a career and seeing the world intrigued and excited me. My friends were surprised. My parents were supportive. There was just one small problem – I had to lose 20 pounds to meet the Air Force weight requirements.

LaurieBasicTrainingSo all summer long I ate hard boiled eggs and tossed green salads. I ran around the neighborhood trying to jog off the weight. And slowly it did come off.

Then came the big day when my parents drove me to the Induction Center in Buffalo. I was eager to board the plane to basic training, but first there was a physical to face.

I sucked in my breath and stepped on the scale. The little old man with the bald head and wire rimmed glasses moved the weight slowly across the bar. I froze and watched as it settled in place just short of the goal. And my future fogged over as he said, “I’m sorry, young lady, but you don’t pass. You’re three pounds too heavy.”

I was devastated. Who knew how long I’d have to wait before I could join. Facing my siblings and friends would be embarrassing. We’d already said our good-byes.

So I waited for my recruiter to find me as I sat in the hall pondering my fate. He was a tall, thin man who had been very encouraging during my summer of sacrifice. He was eager to hear my news, but could tell something was wrong.

“I’m not going Terry,” I said with the tears starting to slip. “I still have three pounds to lose.”

He sat quiet for a minute, then jumped up and said, “We’re not done yet. Follow me.”

He pushed open the door to the stairwell and held it for me. “How bad do you want to go?” he asked. When I said it was the most important thing in my life, he started up the stairs.

“Then, follow me,” he said.

And together we ran up and down the stairs of the Federal Building in Buffalo NY until my legs were so wobbly I could hardly stand. He ran those stairs beside me when he could have just let me give up.

The little old bald man with the glasses was surprised to see me back. I stepped up on that scale and watched again as he moved the weight across the bar. And it stopped at half-pound-too-heavy.

Then he leaned over towards me and whispered, “Young lady, I’m going to let you pass. But if you EVER tell ANYONE about this, I’ll haunt you till the day you die!”

So at every speech I give and every chance I get, I tell this story and haven’t been haunted yet!

It’s what we DO that matters most. And sometimes taking that first step is all that’s needed for others to follow. Terry Nichols, thank you for being willing to lead. You made more of a difference than you’ll ever know.

Has anyone made a big difference in your life? How so? Please share in the comments below.


  1. Wow, that’s a keeper of a story. And yes, your recruitor went the extra mile (pardon the pun) under the heading of “Leadership.” And he got you into the AF. Good on him and good on you for making the extra effort.
    So glad you had the chance to serve our nation in the AF…and thank you for your service!

    • Laura Benjamin says:

      Thanks Mike! Yup, he really DID go the extra mile (or two) to help me enlist! I remember that day like it was yesterday and will never forget the face of that man who weighed me in. Thank you for YOUR service to our country as well!

  2. Think of how much more fun it is to stay in shape now that you live in Colorado? No need to climb steps in a dark, dreary building when you have the “Stairway to Heaven” in your backyard: the bright, colorful trails of the Rocky Mountains.

    • Laura Benjamin says:

      That’s for sure! Colorado definitely provides inspiration. Staying in shape is still a struggle, but so much more fun when you work on it outdoors!