Category Archives: Resilience

How to Handle the Fragmentation of Civilian Life

Have You Prepared for All Aspects of Your Transition?

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ha’azinu – Deuteronomy 32:1-52

You may not have thought about it. But military life is integrated. On base, you have facilities serving your physical needs: exercise, medical care, food, and clothing. You can get mental and spiritual support. To a large degree, every unit in the field and ship is self-supporting. Civilian life is fractured. When you transition you need time to rebuild a whole life from scattered pieces.

How to Handle the Fragmentation of Civilian Life

Transitioning Creates Outer and Inner Conflict

The fragmented nature of civilian life makes leaving the military chaotic. That’s why I often talk about reintegration. Transitioning requires more than finding a new home and job. You need to restore a complete structure for daily life.

In the days of wooden sailing ships, rope makers twisted and wove strands of hemp, cotton, and other fibers together to make ropes as thick as seven inches or more. When pulled, any individual thread would snap. But entwined, they often withstood gale force winds.

It took at least four to six months to grow hemp and make such heavy rope. For a life, Parshas Ha’azinu explains the process:

“For the Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob a rope of his possession.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 32:9)

This week’s parsha ends this cycle of Sabbath readings. Moses taught how G-d and the Israelites’ existence would intertwine. He noted how Jacob combined the strengths of three generations. Abraham’s kindness and Isaac’s sense of justice integrated with his spiritual strength. So he overcame his struggle with the angel. (Genesis 32:22-23) He was ready to face life in all its complexity. The Israelites could follow this example.

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The multifaceted nature of life is just one of many ways rope symbolizes your transition.

Ensure You're Strong

Our military service binds us together. But if we braid our rope from delicate or worn out fibers it will break under stress. Each of us needs to revitalize himself. Then, despite some of us being so fragile we snap, the rest of us can maintain our unbreakable bond.

Each of us intertwines character traits that make up our personalities. Some will serve our reintegration. Others will hamper it. Transitioning entails strengthening the positive fibers. At the same time, we have to engage in the laborious process of unraveling the negative ones.

To rejuvenate, know a rope connects you to the Almighty. Each deed strengthens or breaks a filament connecting you to the Creator. Through daily work on this relationship, you create the ability to tug on the rope. This brings G-d’s presence closer to you in this world during times of trouble.

A rope made of inferior hemp will break in a hurricane. Likewise, transitions made in haste with insufficient thought unravel when hardship strikes. Focus on growing stronger through each step of your reintegration. Give yourself enough time to weave sturdy bonds before taking on extra burdens. And remember, G-d is a tug away.

What daily task strengthens your connection to G-d?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Want Greater Success? Learn to Tolerate More of This…

What You Want Lies Beyond a Wall of Boredom

2-½ minutes to read

The military holds the promise of an exciting life. If you haven’t seen the latest recruiting commercials take a look. Think of the adrenaline rush from jumping off that airplane. Is there any chance you’ll find being a Marine boring? Both of these pale in comparison to Special Forces. There’s never a dull moment in the military. Yeah, right. If General Military Training doesn’t put you to sleep paperwork will. But hey, it’s the government. You have to expect tedium. The private sector is different.

Want Greater Success? Learn to Tolerate More of This…

The Two Types of Boredom

Growing up not far from Hollywood, the excitement of making movies enthralled me. I had to be a part of it. In the late 1980s, I got my chance. My friend needed a producer for his next project. Count me in!

It didn't take long for reality to hit. Decorating the set. Focusing the lights. Practicing camera movements. Rehearsing the actors. Often it took several hours to set up a shot that took less than a minute to film. As the producer, I had to keep people from getting bored and mischievous to protect my investment.

Since then, I joke about the “glamour” of the film business. Don't get me wrong. Premieres are exciting. But such moments punctuate long periods of tedium.

Of course, it's nothing like the boredom of cold calling. The difference between film production and sales highlights the two types of boredom.

  • Passive Boredom – Sitting around with nothing to do.
  • Active Boredom – Repetitive tasks that aren't exciting.
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Most people can tolerate the first type. You may have trouble relaxing. Still, if your job requires stretches of getting paid to do nothing you can adapt.

How to Overcome Boredom

Active boredom is another story. Having to do dull, repetitive tasks saps most people’s endurance. But you can’t reach a goal without them.

About a month ago I had to start doing abdominal work again. My stomach has gotten too flabby. It is soooooo boring doing crunches and leg lifts. I tried listening to upbeat music while exercising. It didn't help. I had to set an ironclad goal and accept the tedium.

Many job-hunting tasks are boring. Always reaching out to your contacts. Writing lots of thank you notes. Practicing your elevator pitch and what you’ll say in a meeting to get a job. All these can tax your patience. I can understand why you just want the thrill of getting the job. But these boring tasks are what will make that happen.

It won't be different on the job. You’ll have exciting moments. But you’ll spend most of your time on routine work. Yet that’s where you’ll make your biggest impact. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is what matters. That means doing and keeping track of dozens of small, everyday tasks.

Now you can see why it’s important to have a mission and objectives. You need to work in a field you love. If not, it’s too easy to stop doing the boring tasks that take you to your goal.

Don’t let slick videos seduce you into thinking success and excitement go together. If you want to succeed, prepare to buckle down and power through boredom.

What did you do in the military to keep working toward boring goals?

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How to Enjoy Your Job-Hunt and Career

Do You Want Passion in a Career?

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Balak – Numbers 22:2-25:9

Most job-hunting tasks aren’t fun. And, many private sector careers don't provide the enjoyment that we found in the military. So when employment experts talk about finding your passion in a civilian career, I see lots of veterans’ eyes glaze over.

How to Enjoy Your Job-Hunt and Career

Many of our parents taught us to believe work has nothing to do with fun. For them, work meant survival. Enjoyment was beside the point. Today, we see two powerful forces colliding. Most of us still have to work to afford to live. In this respect, nothing has changed.

But the rapidity at which industries and jobs evolve has surged in the last decade. Keeping a job requires constant upgrading of your knowledge and skills. Maintaining your motivation to stay abreast of new developments presents a challenge. All the same, you’ll have to meet it or lose your income.

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Twenty years ago, people used time after work for leisure. Now, they use it to stay competitive in their jobs. If you don't like what you do, how will you stay motivated?

The Difference Between Passion and Lust

In his superb book, No Fears, No Excuses, Larry Smith makes an irresistible case for passion being an essential part of the work you choose to do. He doesn’t define what passion means, so let’s unpack it ourselves. No surprise, it has ancient roots.

Pharaoh had passion for Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Such lust seems to be the image that comes to mind at the word passion. But this type is too easily sated to have relevance to a lifelong career.

We see another kind of passion in the story of Abraham and the near-sacrifice of his son, Isaac. He rises early in the morning to saddle his donkey. Then he rouses Isaac and his two young men. The four leave on their fateful journey. This story counterpoints another tale of passion in this week’s parsha, Balak:

And Balaam arose early in the morning and saddled his she-donkey… (Numbers/Bamidbar 22:21)

Balaam was a great prophet. The Moabite king, Balak, wanted him to curse the Israelites so he could defeat them in battle. But G-d refused to let Balaam go. Finally, seeing Balaam’s yearning to help Balak, the Almighty relents. Balaam wants to get an early start. So he doesn't bother to call a servant to saddle his she-donkey.

Balak knew of Balaam’s deep passion for wealth and honor. He catered to it by sending ever-higher officials to plead with Balaam. Though he pooh-poohed the huge sums of money offered him, Balaam’s desire for it almost leads him to his death. His passion for wealth and honor evinces lifelong self-interest.

Abraham also has a lifelong passion. His legendary hospitality to family, friends, and strangers shows he sought meaning from serving others. On this path, he never wavered. He lived for the next opportunity to take care of the Almighty’s children.

How to Find What You’ll Enjoy

Two men’s passions motivated them to rise early and saddle their donkeys. Both had many servants who could have done this work. Balaam had passion for self-aggrandizement. Abraham had passion for service.

Follow Abraham’s model. You’ve already started along this path in the military. You defended the Constitution, and hence your fellow citizens, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Build on this legacy in civilian life. Consider these questions:

  1. How can your leadership ability better help people meet life’s challenges?
  2. What team building skills do you have that can help an organization meet its mission?
  3. Where can you bring the unifying spirit of the military to bridge divides in our society?
  4. How can you use the idea of mission command to help a private sector company operate better?
  5. What organization can benefit from your ability to inculcate a sense of purpose in its people, the way your service branch did for you?

These represent a few ways to find passion in your civilian work. Too often, I see veterans grab at the first opportunity. Later, they regret it only to take other, passionless jobs. Not motivated to go the extra mile to develop themselves, their civilian prospects get dimmer each year.

Take the time to find a field of rich interest. Ponder the questions above. Come up with others that help you probe what you'll enjoy. Talk to veterans who found passion in their work. How did they do it? Make the investment in finding a field that captures your interest. It will pay huge dividends over the coming decades.

What prevents you from having work you’ll enjoy?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Rally Your Spirits When Job-Hunting

Will You Burn a Cow to Get a High-Paying Job?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Chukas – Numbers 19:1-22:1

Veteran reintegration mystifies people, even big supporters of the military. Last week, a civilian told me PTSD is the biggest reason we struggle to find a job. He didn’t know that PTSD affects 11% to 20% of OIF and OEF veterans each year. That’s double the rate for civilians. But it doesn't represent a majority of veterans who find transitioning difficult.

How to Rally Your Spirits When Job-Hunting

Another told me it’s a simple matter of setting up a website that matches a veteran’s skills to an employer’s needs. But such job boards have existed for years. If it were that easy, veteran unemployment would never have risen above the civilian rate.

The real problem is less obvious and more complex to solve. Not having engaged in a civilian job-hunt before, a lot of veterans don’t know what to do. TAP instructors say write a resume and network. But veterans don't know how.

Borrow a Page from the Military Playbook

Civilians also find the military’s culture of risk avoidance surprising. Many don't realize the penalties for mistakes can be huge. The military reduces the passivity this might create through training. No such process exists for veterans transitioning to civilian life. You have to learn to job-hunt by doing it.

Meet fear of making mistakes with faith that you will overcome obstacles. But how do you proceed with confidence when the process remains a mystery? The Israelites in Parshas Chukas faced the same dilemma:

The one who gathered the ash of the cow will immerse his clothing and remain spiritually contaminated until morning. (Numbers/Bamidbar 19:10)

A kohen (priest) burns a completely red calf with cedarwood, hyssop, and a crimson thread. The ash that remains will purify the spirit of someone who touches a human corpse. That being the case, why does the kohen who gathers the ash become spiritually impure? The parsha's name, Chukas, explains. A chuk is a rule beyond human comprehension. G-d wants the Israelites to follow the process despite not understanding how it works. He intends that it be mysterious.

The transition process shouldn't be mysterious. But the military doesn’t have the knowledge base to train civilian job-hunting skills. You have to handle the vagaries of civilian job-hunting on your own. Take two actions:

Action 1: Get training from somewhere other than the military. This will help. But you’ll still need to put it into practice

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Action 2: Use faith to move forward with your job-hunt.

Inaction Is Riskier than Initiative

Like military training, quality civilian job-hunting training will give you procedures to follow. You’ll gain the tools to create contingencies for when your plan goes awry. Having drilled in these new skills, you can proceed with confidence.

No matter how good the training, you’ll suffer setbacks. Some hiring managers are jerks. A few may dislike veterans. Even so, they can’t stop you from getting a high-paying job doing meaningful work. But you can. Let your faith slip and you’ll stop taking action. Once you give up your hunt, the game’s over.

So keep trying new methods. If one tactic doesn't work, figure out another. Try it. If that one bombs too, go on to the next one. No matter what, don't do what most job-hunters do: hunt for an hour a day and watch television the rest of the time.

If you feel your faith start to waiver, try something outlandish. What have you got to loose? Cleanse your spirit with the ashes of a cow burnt with some fragrant wood, herbs, and red string. (Metaphorically of course) Who cares that there’s no logical reason it will work? Use it to replenish your faith. Then move forward once more.

Have you lost faith that you’ll find a high-paying job doing meaningful work?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

Train to Handle Problems Before They Arise

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Emor – Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Practicing to Defeat G-d’s Plan?

Angles and dangles constitute one of the more bizarre exercises onboard a Navy ship. At first, they applied to a submarine’s seaworthiness, tested by diving and surfacing at 30-degree angles. A surface ship maneuvers through high-speed turns until the deck leans over close to the point of capsizing. All crewmembers not working the ship stay in their bunks to avoid injury.

How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

On its face, putting a ship in such danger as training seems crazy. What if the quartermaster (the sailor who steers the ship) makes a mistake and capsizes it? But the crew needs to gain experience conning the ship. Better to get it under controlled circumstances than in the eye of a hurricane.

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Practicing allows the crew to face hazards with confidence. The more they feel in control, the better they’ll perform. So it may sound contradictory that the Talmud says sailors are pious. Most acknowledge the Almighty controls events.

Compassion: Nature or Nurtured?

As the seminal act of creating, having a child joins us to G-d. Producing a new life comes as close to a Divine act as anything we’ll ever do. But, birth is only the beginning. We see in Parsha Emor:

“…G-d’s festivals that you will appoint as holy assemblies…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:2)

This Sabbath’s parsha details the standards of purity for a Kohen who serves in the Temple. Then it gives the requirements of an animal for the sacrificial service. The various festivals are proclaimed. It discusses the pure olive oil for the menorah and loaves of bread, known as the showbread, for the table. The parsha ends with the story of a man who blasphemed.

When our children turn five we send them to school. We adjust from controlling their development to sharing that responsibility. Now teachers, principals, and their fellow students have a hand in whom they become. Yet we keep authority to direct their lives.

The Almighty created human beings to have as partners in fulfilling creation. Making us responsible for determining when festivals begin did more than putting us in charge of the calendar. He gave us partial control over time.

Two days before Passover is a regular day. The day before has a medium level of sanctity. Passover itself is a sacred time. When we set the calendar we help fill the world with holiness. G-d wants us to bring the spirituality of heaven to earth. Like teachers helping us fulfill our aspirations for our children. When we develop holiness, we fulfill the Almighty’s aspirations for the world.

Executing this vital task takes practice. Sailors train to conquer hurricanes – physical challenges in this world. Greater competence moves them closer to the Creator. The same applies to the mental and spiritual challenges we face.

The Almighty sends emotional tempests so we can practice overcoming them. Recognize that as you gain greater skill in the physical ∞ mental ∞ spiritual realms, you also move closer to G-d. Use this as motivation to keep pursuing your goal.

How do you train for emotional and spiritual resilience?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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