Category Archives: Transitions

What Do You Do When Someone Disrespects You?

How to Handle a Hostile Civilian

1-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Toldos – Genesis 25:19-28:9

The sailors who come to WTP Sembach agree that civilians appreciate our sacrifices. When they say, “Thank you for your service,” they mean it. But what do we make of the small numbers who attack us?

What Do You Do When Someone Disrespects You-

Fear Hinders Advancement

People who hate service members like to get into your face. Such disrespect shows can’t reason with them. But if you understand one of their motivations, you can learn to ignore them. Parshas Toldos explains:

“And Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go away from us for you have become much mightier than we!’” (Bereshis/Genesis 26:16)

A famine forced Isaac to go live in Abimelech’s kingdom in Gerar. There his wealth increased a hundredfold. He bought huge flocks of sheep and goats. He acquired many businesses. As a result, the Philistines chose to envy him.

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They didn't have to be jealous. They could have learned from Isaac. Had they adopted his practices or faith, G-d might have enriched them too. Fear caused them to overlook the path to a better life.

Fight Your Anger with Pity

Watching a movie or TV show that portrayed actual military life would bore most people to tears. So unless you’re in it, you don't know what it's like. Nonetheless, most civilians choose to treat us respectfully. They may be atoning for the way Vietnam veterans were treated. We still benefit.

For a minority of civilians, the unknown creates fear. They know what we do is hard. Sometimes it’s dangerous. They can’t do what we do. Rather than learning about our work, they treat us like Abimelech treated Isaac. “Go away!” Without saying we’re mightier than them, they expose their weakness. Their attacks have nothing to do with us. They’re an expression of self-doubt.

Instead of getting angry, consider how sad these people are. Too afraid to learn something new, they lash out. We’ve never hurt them. But they seek to demean us and our service. We should pity them. Like the Philistines, fear has caused them to overlook the path to a better life. From that perspective, you can ignore them.

Has a civilian accosted you?

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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 Improve Resilience with Every Task?

How Botched Undertakings Lead to Success

4 minutes to read

Guten tag. You may not have heard. But a couple of weeks ago the Navy deployed me to the Warrior Transition Program in Sembach, Germany. My last active duty time was two years ago. A funny thing happened on the way to reintegrating to military life…

Do You Improve Resilience with Every Task-

My Bungled Cross-Country Run

Reservists and individual augmentees who have been in AFRICOM and CENTCOM come to WTP on their way home. The Navy calls our program a Third Location Decompression point. Sailors can catch up on sleep, learn about the transition process, and make plans for the future.

Among other duties, I go with the participants on trips off base. One trip takes place on Saturday, for me the Sabbath. So I can’t ride the bus there. I also can't ride a bike or horse. In other words, I have to walk.

Kaiserslautern is 13 kilometers from the base. Now I often run 8 miles. So last Tuesday I decided to make a test run there. I printed out a map and hit the road. The weather was great – cool with the sun shining. After three miles I had run through the villages of Sembach and Melighen. The trouble began.

German roads aren't marked. So I had no idea that when I hit the outskirts of Melighen I was already off course. A short time later, the road turned into a wide dirt path. Crops and paddocks of horses lined both sides. Rain the night before meant concentrating on avoiding huge mud puddles.

At the six-mile mark, I came to a crossroads. Realizing I was off my mapped course, I decided to ask for directions. Then I realized my German was limited to what I learned watching Hogan’s Heroes.

I came up with a plan. I’d interrupt a hiker with bitte (please). Then I’d name my destination and point in a direction. If the person responded yah, that’s the direction I’d go. If he said nein, I’d point toward the other one and repeat, “Kaiserslautern?” Soon a lady came walking toward me.

Me: “Bitte, Kaiserslautern?” pointing the way she had come. A quizzical look came over her face.
Her: “Yah, Kaiserslautern,” pointing behind her. Bingo, I was on the right track.
Me: “Danke!” (Thank you!) Off I ran confidently.

Two more crossroads necessitated further exercises of my limited German. The third was with a man walking four big dogs that eyed me hungrily and barked so loud we could hardly hear each other. He appeared perplexed as he tried to figure out how to direct me. Finally, he pointed me down the road at what I realized was a town.

Since my Fitbit showed eight miles, I thought this had to be Kaiserslautern. But I wondered at his confusion. Once there, I realized it was too small to be Kaiserslautern. Half a mile down the road, back on a main highway, I came to a sign that read, “Kaiserslautern 11 km.” It pointed to a leaf-covered dirt path blocked by a heavy chain. Discretion got the better of valor. I headed back to the town I had just passed.

Soon, I realized where I was. I had made a huge circular run through the countryside and was back in Melighen. Essentially, I was back to where I’d started.

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It hit me then. I was living the transition nightmare.

4 Takeaways to Apply to Your Transition

My two and a quarter hour run showed me:

1. Get the most precise map available. I’m still not sure where I got off course. The map I downloaded didn't give me enough detail to know. When you travel through new territory you can make a wrong turn without realizing it. You have to get pretty far down the road before you realize your mistake. With lots of waypoints marked on your map, you’ll have a better chance of catching an error sooner.

2. Make sure you can communicate with the people you ask for help. None of the people I asked for directions misled me. After all, I found the road to Kaiserslautern. But I couldn't ask them how far it was or if a pedestrian could traverse the road. A couple of phrases like “How far to Kaiserslautern?” and “Is there a footpath to Kaiserslautern?” would have helped me. Make sure you learn some “civilian” or find a veteran who can translate for you.

3. Learn from not reaching your goal. Though I didn't reach Kaiserslautern, the run was useful. I realized that by car the trip was 13 km. But by foot, it was much longer, even without getting lost. And, I would have to travel on a road with no sidewalk. I won’t meet my goal of walking to Kaiserslautern on the Sabbath. But that’s okay.

4. Be open to new possibilities. My commanding officer got a big laugh at my adventure. She gave me a good-natured “I told you so.” But she respected that I put the program first and made the effort. In the end, since some people don't go on the trip, I’ll spend time with those who stay behind. I’m living one of my most cherished aphorisms.

No doubt they’ll be more amusing lessons coming from the next ten months in Germany. You can be sure I’ll pass them on for your benefit. I’ll also write a few posts about the places I visit. In the meantime, if you're struggling with any of the issues above, or a different one, get in touch. I may not know my way around Germany. But I can help you navigate the transition from military to civilian life.

Where are you stuck or think you’ll get stuck in your transition?
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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?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below

 

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?

Please comment on this question or ask another question below.

 

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!

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