BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Leland Driggs casually enters the room, his stature is a bit intimidating until he smiles. He carries himself with a quiet strength. He looks tired but he’s attentive and very personable. He listens with patience and chats about why he believes that motivation to do well in all areas of his life contribute to his success with family, arm wrestling and the military.
“It's not good enough to be good at just one thing,” said Driggs. "It's not good enough to be good at arm wrestling and treat your family terrible or be successful at work but be a horrible supervisor. Be good across the board and be great in the area you want to go in.”
“The very first time I went to compete, my son came and sat down to watch me,” said Driggs. “He was so excited to see me compete, because I’m big and to him I’m like a super hero. He thinks I can do anything, right. Well, the match started and I got beat. The other guy beat me real bad and he beat me fast. I remember turning around and seeing my son crying. I saw these big tears in his eyes and it broke my heart. If I think about it now, I still start to tear up, because I remember the disappointment on his face after seeing his dad get beat. His reaction made me want to be the best in arm wrestling and the best in the military. I want to be an example to my kids," he said. "I want them to see how hard I work, the amount of effort, motivation and consistency I put into everything I do.”
A disappointment like that can really discourage someone. At that point, you have a few choices, you can quit or allow it to help you get stronger, motivated and driven.
Driggs said the mental challenges you face in arm wrestling are very similar to the mental challenges faced in the military. It’s not a life and death situation he said, but a lot of the battle is overcoming road blocks in your mind. It’s allowing disappointments to help you push yourself even harder.
“It’s the same in war as it is in arm wrestling,” said Tech. Sgt. Leland Driggs, radio frequency transmission craftsman, 140th Communications Flight, Colorado Air National Guard. “You have to have the ability to not doubt yourself in any situation. In sports, the mind is the biggest obstacle to overcome. For example, you and I are going to arm wrestle. You're into it, you trained; I’m into it and I trained. You don’t want to get beat and I don’t want to get beat. The first battle we have is a mental one. Walking up to the table, you stand across the table from your competitor, you look each other in the eye and either you or I start to feel like the winner. It starts to consume you before the match even starts. The same thing happens in the military. You have to be prepared mentally to do whatever could be asked of you. It's not life or death in arm wrestling but the mental process is the same. You’re standing up against someone that stands opposite from you. Only one of you gets to walk away.”
Driggs has walked away with several trophies and medals, to include his recent big win. He earned the state arm wrestling title, “The Best Arm In The State” in October 2017. It was the qualifying match for the Arnold Classic in 2018, an international competition among the best arm wrestlers in the world. Even in the middle of a huge accomplishment, Driggs focuses on the next big step. He’s thinking about the future, not the present.
“I have a bunch of trophies; I have a bunch of medals but I don’t spend much time thinking about that,” said Driggs. “That’s all past stuff. Getting hung up on a trophy case and being satisfied with what I’ve already achieved isn’t what it's about.”
It’s about pushing yourself and being better, doing better then people have done before you. It’s about people.
“I’m not like your normal competitor," said Driggs. “Most guys hoard their knowledge. They take a little bit of information that helps them with their sport and they only tell you a tenth of it. I tell the people I train that I’m going to tell them everything they need to know and everything I’ve done to get to where I am so they can take everything I just told them and do it better than me.”
It takes true grit, the stink with the stank, the coffee with the grounds, to learn from failures and care enough to teach people to become a better version of themselves. Drigg’s calls this “people building”. Something he has grown very fond of.
“I remember on my first deployment, there was this girl I talked to all the time,” said Driggs. “I used to take contractors, arriving on base through her entry control point to get them cleared and searched. I remember around December sometime, she volunteered to go to a prisoner run at camp Bucca, Iraq and her convoy got hit by IUDs. She was killed. I remember being at the service they had for her on base and them talking about all the achievements she had accomplished. I was so impressed by the level of effort and dedication she had to her military career. I remember thinking about that scenario and asking myself, 'how well am I equipped to help people?'”
“Through the military, I learned how to be a good supervisor and how to help people,” he said. “I learned to, not only serve my country, but to serve people, especially the ones I was responsible to train. Through that I realized I liked people building.”
“Driggs is someone who encourages you to better yourself and doesn’t only tell you to do something, but shows you how,” said Staff Sgt. Kecia Harris, radio frequency technician, 140th Communications Flight, COANG. “A mentor is just for your career but someone who builds people is a leader. Driggs cares about the whole spectrum of your life, not just how you are at work. It's about what makes your life work better as a whole and whether or not the career path you're on is best for you or if there’s something else that will work better with your lifestyle. He builds people so they can have a better life, not just better work. Out of all the supervisors and mentors I’ve had, he’s definitely the best, because he actually cares."
Driggs is a mentor to several people in his shop and continually strives to help people become stronger and more committed to making their personal and professional lives better, so they believe they’re capable to achieve whatever they want.
“I think I do a pretty good job helping the people I supervise,” said Driggs. “Part of being a supervisor is getting to know my people and talking about what’s going on in their lives. I try to help them with what I know from my experiences. I think they all look up to me, at least I hope they do.”
“He has a certain discipline about him,” said Harris. “I've noticed that when people are in something that's more competitive, they usually do. He does something he enjoys, like arm wrestling, and he has his career as well. Both of them take a lot of work. When he’s talking to people about what they should do, that definitely plays into it. If you want to do something you enjoy, work for it. He’s definitely a lead by example kind of guy.”
Driggs believes in himself and in building people. It's as simple as that. He believes in leaving a legacy to his family, his arm wrestling family and his military one, that speaks louder than trophies or medals. For Driggs, achievements provide a platform to teach and learn. They give him another opportunity to see how far he can push himself, how far he can go, so he can help others do the same.
“Whatever it is you choose to do, as long as you hit it with all your effort and everything you have on a consistent basis, the results will speak for themselves, but you have to put a lot of effort into it, you have to work hard for it,” said Driggs.
As for the Arnold Classic? Stay tuned…