Nukes and Ice Cream

Greetings Everyday Spy,

We are all trying to build something. 

The average person will spend 90,000 hours of their life at work.

I’m not just talking about career professionals. I’m talking about every person you see around you every day. People wearing aprons; people dressed in business suits; nurses in scrubs; roadside workers in coveralls. 

Some are just starting their 90,000 hours and others are getting ready to finish. But they are all working.

In 2005 I served as a nuclear missile officer for the US Air Force in Great Falls, Montana.

Montana is a beautiful state. There are wide open plains to the east and tall, rugged mountains in the west. The city of Great Falls lies almost in the middle of the state.

Anyone who has served with ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) will tell you that the job is hard. Whether you are in maintenance, transportation, or operations, every day you are dealing with a nuclear bomb. 

My job – along with 200 other junior officers living in Montana – was to sit underground with a nuclear launch key and await strike orders from the President.

ICBM officers are the first-line of defense against any nuclear threat to the American people. We are the trigger of America’s nuclear arsenal. The mission was great…

But the job was terrible. 

The hours were long. The work was tedious and repetitive. The lifestyle was lonely.

The men and women providing our ‘nuclear umbrella’ will spend a full year of their life living underground over the course of their career.

          A year without sunlight.

          A year without family. 

          A year living in a small space with one other person that they didn’t choose.

Such is the sacrifice they make to defend a nation.

You make sacrifices in your job, too.

Americans spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to and from work.

In a typical 30 year career, you will spend 3,000 unpaid hours – more than 4 solid months – sitting in the car driving to work.

That is an enormous amount of time! Time you could be spending with family, traveling, exercising…

Or building something special.

Every one of us works because we are building something; a career, a family, a business, a dream. 

It is one thing we all have in common. We are builders.

But despite the time we invest, the miles we travel, and the health we give up…

85% of American’s are unsatisfied with their job.

But why? Why are there so many people sacrificing so much for a job that means so little to them?

Because somewhere along the line people stopped building and started craving.

  • Craving attention
  • Craving praise
  • Craving reward

Satisfaction isn’t hard to find. People just get distracted by meaningless cravings.

I have yet to meet an ICBM missile officer who is satisfied with their job.

The type of person you can trust with nuclear launch codes is not the type of person who is satisfied sitting in an underground bunker waiting for WW III to break out.  

US ICBM missileers are some of the brightest, most driven people you will ever meet. They graduate from elite universities, have a passion for service, and are fiercely loyal to our nation. They have huge ambition.

Working with nuclear weapons teaches you to build what you want instead of waiting to see what you get.

In a typical 24 hour shift, a missile officer will work for about 8 hours. They will sleep on-and-off for about 6 hours. And they will dedicate the remaining 10 hours to building.

  • Building their knowledge
  • Building a plan for their future
  • Building their health and fitness

They do not seek satisfaction in the job. They find satisfaction by using the job to build the life they want.

Builders have to build. They will never be satisfied with anything else.

Think back on that last time you had a food craving. For me, the strongest cravings are always for ice cream.

My ice cream cravings started in 2002 when I first traveled to China. If you have ever traveled to East Asia, you know not to trust any food that is kept cold or frozen. You never know how old it is, how many times it has been thawed and refrozen, or whether the ice used to pack it was contaminated.

I had to learn the hard way that cravings don’t really satisfy. 

It cost me two nights in a cold sweat and about 1,600 chinese yuan.

I spent many years traveling to and from China. Every time I arrived in Beijing, my ice cream craving would rear its ugly head. I would wake up wanting ice cream, work all day thinking about my favorite flavors, and get more and more frustrated every night because I couldn’t satisfy my craving.

Frustrated, but healthy.

Your job is not what you are building. It just happens to be what you are doing right now.

Our culture has conditioned us to believe that what we are defined by our work; by our salary; by our title. 

As a result, we set ourselves up to be constantly unsatisfied. Because there will always be more work, higher pay, and grander titles out there.

We are all craving ice cream in China. And what happens when we get what we are craving? We end up with a bellyache.

Working and building are two different things. One is endless, and the other unending.

In the nuclear missile fields of Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming, hundreds of ambitious men and women are building.

  • Building our national security
  • Building their knowledge and experience
  • Building a new and better future

They realize the sacrifices they are making to do the job. But they do not let the work they do define them.

Neither do you.

Never stop building.

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy

Author: Andrew Bustamante, Founder of www.EverydaySpy.com. Andrew is a former covert CIA Intelligence officer, decorated US Air Force Combat Veteran, and respected Fortune 500 senior advisor. Learn more from Andrew on his Podcast (The Everyday Espionage Podcast) and by following @EverydaySpy on your favorite social media platform.