Category Archives: Soul

How to Communicate with Private Sector Employers

Can You Speak So Civilians Will Listen?

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Chayei Sarah – Genesis 24:29

Many civilians consider the way we speak to people to be too formal and stiff. What military people think of as respectful can make non-military people uncomfortable. For veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and even Vietnam this divide was small. How do we handle its widening?

How to Communicate with Private Sector Employers

Everyone Used to Speak Formally

The conversational divide didn’t start 40 years ago. For millennia, people have broken the customary rules. Parshas Chayei Sarah records an early example:

“Laban ran to the man, outside to the spring.” (Beresheis/Genesis 24:19)

Abraham sent his servant, Eliezer, to Haran to find a wife for Isaac. When he arrived there, Eliezer encountered Rebecca. Soon he realized G-d had chosen her to marry Isaac. So he gave her valuable gifts of jewelry. Then Rebecca took him to her father’s home to stay overnight. When her brother Laban saw the expensive adornments, he ran to greet Eliezer.

Laban appeared to show hospitality and honor to a guest. But by craving to get close to the wealthy stranger, he disrespected his father. As the leader of his home, Bethuel had the privilege of greeting Eliezer. His son took that away.

You can see military rules come from these ancient roots. Among them, a junior defers to a senior when speaking. This tradition of respect and deference continues. People outside the military used to follow such rules out of politeness. The two realms differed because service members were more direct and used profanity.

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Since the 1970s, fewer people defer to age, education, or other norms when addressing another person. Conversely, civilians swear more than ever before. But these patterns vary by industry and company. How can you figure out what to do?

Know a Company’s Level of Formality

To find out an organization’s manner of speaking, do a little intel gathering. Focus on:

  1. How did the receptionist address you? Did she use your first name or Mr./Ms. and your last name? How was the person you’ll be meeting referred to? Gather clues about the organization’s level of formality by listening to the receptionist.
  2. How do others at the company speak? Don't rely solely on how the receptionist speaks. When you conduct informationals, collect information on what people say and HOW they say it.
  3. Review the organization’s website. How formal is the language? On the pages telling about people who work there, are they referred to by their first name?
  4. Ask your inside contact. If you got the meeting to discuss a job through an insider, talk to the person about how formal the company is.

None of these steps will take you very long. But they’ll provide you with the intelligence you need to know what to do. You may not have to alter your manner of speech. Or you may have to be on your guard to talk in a less formal way.

In general, start by speaking a little more formally than you assess the organization to be. That way, if you’ve assessed the level too informally you can tighten up. Otherwise, plan to relax into a less formal manner as the meeting progresses.

Are you comfortable talking to civilian employers?

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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 Fulfill Your Desire to Keep Serving

Have You Chosen the Right Role Model?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayeira – Genesis 18:1-22:4

One thing military people can take pride in is our basic decency. Countless veterans have told me they want to work helping other veterans. What could be nobler than continuing a life of service? Unfortunately many don’t have the ability to follow this desire. Some lack the knowledge base. Others have to support their families and it’s hard to make a living helping veterans.

How to Fulfill Your Desire to Keep Serving

The Two Paths of Greatness

If only they could expand their view of those in need. Why not find another arena in which to serve? It comes down to choosing whether Noah or Abraham will guide you:

“And Abraham approached (G-d) and said, ‘And You will obliterate the righteous with the wicked?’” (Bereshis/Genesis 18:23)

Contrast Abraham in Parshas Vayeira with Noah.

G-d told Noah to build an ark because He was going to destroy humanity. Noah complied. For 120 years he worked on it. People came by to ask him what he was doing. When he told them about the coming flood, rather than repent they scoffed at him. Still, Noah kept working to save his family.

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In counterpoint, when G-d told Abraham He was going to destroy Sodom, Abraham did not sit idly by. He bargained with the Almighty in an attempt to save the Sodomites. He acted more like a lawyer than a shepherd. While he didn't succeed, nonetheless Abraham demonstrated his concern for all people.

Consider Service in All Its Forms

G-d noticed the difference in their approaches to impending disaster. He calls Noah a righteous man, perfect in his generations. Why only in his generations? Abraham became the father of the Jewish people and one of the most righteous people of all time.

Compared to his contemporaries, Noah was righteous. But he fell short by not pleading for the lives of the people the flood would destroy. Abraham looked beyond the information G-d gave him and chose to intervene. Even though he didn't like the people of Sodom, Abraham tried to help them.

You have the potential to be a Noah or an Abraham. You can focus on helping your family of veterans. Surely such an endeavor is valuable. But what about all the other people in our country?

We have it easier than Abraham. Your fellow citizens aren't Sodomites. And they need your assistance.   Their businesses will pay better salaries than most veteran groups can afford.

An organization doesn't need to be nonprofit to help people. Companies today have to serve their customers well. Otherwise, they’ll go somewhere else. No longer is healthcare the only sector that takes care of people. Service and products. Retail and wholesale. Commercial and industrial. Large and small. Every business must dedicate itself to service. In other words, anywhere you work you can pursue your desire to serve.

Who will be your role model: Noah or Abraham?

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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!

Do You See Yourself as Just a Veteran?

How to Use Spiritual Power to Drive Your Transition

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Lech Lecha – Genesis 12:1-17:27

Earlier this evening a shipmate asked me why veterans cling so tightly to their military identity. He’s known too many who couldn’t see the potential for enriching it in civilian life. Year after year they struggle to connect with non-military people. And their job prospects go nowhere.

Do You See Yourself as Just a Veteran

 

A Limited Self-Image Subjects You to Defeat

A large part of my work involves helping veterans see themselves in a new light as they reintegrate to civilian life. The process is age-old. Parshas Lech Lecha shows it's priceless:

“…his initiates who had been born in his house – 318 – and [Abraham] gave chase as far as Dan.” (Bereshis/Genesis 14:14)

Abram, later renamed Abraham, won a war against the armies of four kings. They’re the same ones who had defeated the armies of five kings. Yet Abram had just 318 soldiers. He had no tanks, jets, or other overwhelming firepower. Such a victory seems impossible.

At 75 years old, Abram took his wife Sarai, who was 65, and Lot to a strange land. You would expect the local inhabitants to overrun them. Yet they prospered.

As a small group, Abram and his family went to Egypt. Pharoah desired Sarai. How difficult would it have been for Pharaoh to kill Abram and take his wife? Instead, they leave Egypt with greater wealth than they brought there.

After that, Abram defeated four of the most powerful kings in the world.

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Do you see a pattern to these events? If you focus only on the physical dimension it would seem the stronger side would have had to win.

The Power of a Revised Identity

The four kings saw themselves as great warriors. They confused their enemy’s greater corruption with their own strength. So they thought they could take Lot captive and break Abram’s spirit. Had they had Abram’s, or even Pharaoh’s, perceptiveness they would have realized such an endeavor had to fail.

Pharaoh identified himself as a deified monarch. But at least he had more insight than the four kings. Since G-d afflicted his household, he knew he could not defeat Abram. So he let him go.

In all Abram’s trials, the moral and spiritual dimensions dominated. By following G-d’s commandment to leave his home, Abram enlarged his identity. Over time he gained deep clarity about his reshaped persona. The Almighty recognized his development by rewarding his effort and amending his name to Abraham.

Put spiritual power behind your transition to civilian life. Find a quiet place to think about these two questions. Play some music that will inspire introspection. Write out your answers. Longhand will produce a greater impact than typing.

1. Who are you now? You’re already more than a veteran. You may have the roles of spouse, parent, child, and sibling. You may have a passion that makes up a part of your current identity. Write them down. Develop a hierarchy among the various facets.

2. Who do you need to be? As you approach or navigate civilian life, determine the components to add to your identity. Broaden your professional dimension. Consider facets to discard in favor in new ones that will help you better reintegrate. Review and alter your hierarchy as necessary.

Gain clarity on your reshaped persona. Doing so will focus your spiritual energy on reaching your transition objectives. You’ll communicate better with people who can help you. And you’ll show the Almighty you’ve done the hard work worthy of reward.

Have you been in a situation where the spiritual factor meant triumph rather than defeat?

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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. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Gain Faith When You Think You Have None

4 Steps that Take You from Despair to Optimism

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bereishis – Genesis 1:1-6:8

My friend Bruce urged me to read Douglas Murray’s book The Strange Death of Europe. He told me it’s “probably the most important book of the last 50 years.” So, I read it. It may be the classic my friend asserts. But I found one glaring error. Time and again Murray asserts you can’t just have faith.

How to Gain Faith When You Think You Have None

Clearly, he misunderstands the nature of faith. Many of us do.

You Pay a High Price for Faithlessness

Lack of faith caused the most devastating event in human affairs. In the story of Creation in Parshas Bereishis, Adam says:

“‘The Woman who You gave to be with me . . .’” (Bereshis/Genesis 3:12)

Adam lacked faith in Eve’s ability to resist eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So he told her the Almighty commanded them not to touch it. By doing this, Adam made her easier prey for the serpent. It knew she could touch it without harm. The serpent convinced her to try. Once she saw nothing happened, she ignored the true constraint.

Then she gave some to Adam. And G-d caught him red-handed.

The Almighty gave them a chance to confess. But Adam compounded his lack of faith in Eve by blaming her. She, in turn, blamed the serpent. So the Almighty banished them. Now, instead of humanity living peacefully in the Garden of Eden, we struggle through life. We strive to create the kind of relationship with G-d that was the birthright of Adam, Eve, and their children.

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What would life be like had Adam acknowledged his lack of faith and asked for forgiveness?

Faith Is Like a Muscle

Because of this grave error, Adam’s abiding faith goes un-noticed. Despite his doing no work to cultivate the garden, he knew G-d would feed and take care of him. Adam may have sinned out of boredom. Amidst the carefree life the Creator gave him, perhaps he wanted some excitement. Indeed, Adam had complete faith in G-d.

Almost…

Adam’s lack of trust in Eve reveals a lack of faith in G-d. The Almighty gave him his mate. So she could only be for his good. Whatever decisions she made were part of G-d’s plan. For some reason, Adam didn't see this. Like most husbands, he needed time to develop faith in his wife and her judgment.

Dormant faith often masquerades as lack of faith. You’ll gain or recapture faith when you:

1. Review Your Life

Think about past events. Identify one when you felt secure and confident.

2. Identify Why

What made you feel safe and self-assured? Did you feel in control of the event and your life? In reality, you weren’t. Training only helps you feel confident you can respond to future challenges. But you’ll never know for sure what twists and turns are in store.

3. Recognize Faith

Minimally, you had faith in your ability to handle the unknowns of life. You may have had broader faith: in your family, your colleagues, or G-d.

4. Build on that Nugget

Use this event to fashion greater faith. When you feel faithless, call it to mind. Bring back how you felt. Repeat what you said at that time.

Faith is like a muscle. If left unused, it shrinks and becomes flabby. But when exercised it grows and gets stronger. You can just have faith. Most of our lives we don't perceive it because it fits with the flow of events. If we get sideswiped and don't find faith immediately available, we think it’s gone.

But faith is always with us. The more you exercise it, the easier it is to call back.

Have you lost faith and recovered it?

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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 Increase Spiritual Fitness with Competition

Are You Competitive in Only One Way?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vezos Haberachah – Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

Competition has gotten a bad reputation over the last few decades. Children’s programs are notorious for giving everyone a ribbon no matter how abysmal their performance. One of the few places this idea doesn’t reign supreme is the armed forces.

How to Increase Spiritual Fitness with Competition

Competition with Others Produces Greatness

The military remains proud of its up or out culture. Annual reviews let service members know where they stand in relation to their peers. A process known as racking and stacking determines the performance hierarchy at a command. A select percentage at the top advances. The rest may see their careers stagnate.

Substantial improvement that doesn't place you in a high relative ranking constitutes failure. You might be able to hang on for a few more years. But if you don't advance, High Year Tenure forces you to leave.

Of course, the military only rates factors related to your military duties. Primarily these include physical matters, such as skills proficiency and leadership ability. Spiritual fitness doesn't come into play. The military relegates this to G-d. Parshas Vezos Haberachah reveals the rating system:

“And Moses, servant of G-d, died there in the land of Moab by the mouth of G-d.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 34:5).

As the end of his life neared, Moses urged the Israelites to reflect. The Almighty showed him the Promised Land from across the Jordan. Then Moses died as he lived, by the word of G-d. No mention is made of a eulogy. But the Torah names him the greatest prophet in history.

The Rambam, an exceptional Torah commentator, said anyone can be as righteous as Moses. How does this reconcile with the Torah’s declaration that there will never be a prophet as great as Moses? The answer lies in not confusing effort with effect. Moses dedicated his life to G-d. By doing so, he reached the pinnacle of virtue. The Almighty endowed him with unprecedented prophecy.

By dedicating yourself to G-d’s service, you can reach Moses’s level of righteousness. But you’ll receive a different reward. You won't become a greater prophet than Moses. But, you may get an outstanding marriage or amazing children. The Creator may bless you with wealth. He may hold a special place for you in the World to Come.

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It looks like the Almighty has created a competition for spiritual achievement. Moses appears to set the standard. But not all is as it seems.

Competition Against Yourself Produces Greatness

Spiritual accomplishment is not a contest against others but with yourself. Are you trying to surpass your finest effort? If not, it doesn’t matter that you know more scripture or give greater amounts of charity than anyone else. G-d’s interested in how much you know relative to what you knew last year or last week, not Moses. He cares how much you strive to improve.

Moses and many other outstanding religious figures give you targets at which to aim. But the Creator delights when you use your abilities to their fullest. In so doing, you build spiritual resilience. And, you deepen your relationship with Him.

Competition with others isn’t inherently bad. Nor is self-competition obviously good. A resilient life recognizes each has its realm.

Vezos Haberachah completes this year’s cycle of Torah readings. Like the rhythm of life: birth, death, rebirth, next week begins the next round of sifting lessons for our lives from G-d’s instructions to the world. Each will give you the opportunity to improve your inner life. We’ll pursue the self-competitive goal of perpetual growth, even as we deal with the competitive pressures of military and civilian business life.

How do you motivate yourself to pursue spiritual fitness?

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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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