How to Reinvent Yourself as a Successful Civilian
2-½ minutes to read
When a service member tells me he’s leaving the military I ask him what steps he’s taken to prepare. “I have to get my resume together.” Then I ask him where he wants to work. He gives a generic answer rather than specific companies. When I ask what he wants civilian life to be like you can hear crickets chirping. The confused look on his face says he hasn’t thought about it at all. Imagine getting the order to launch an attack before getting your objective. Can you say useless effort with collateral damage?
Your Past Is Not Your Destiny
Remember the film epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World? Starring Russell Crowe, it brought the British Navy adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin to the big screen. The movie is fun to watch. But it ignores the common characteristic that drove Aubrey and Maturin. Both faced many transitions.
The author of the Aubrey-Maturin books knew something about transformation. Most people know Patrick O’Brian as an Irishman experienced with square-rigged sailing ships. Neither of these facts is correct. Richard Patrick Russ was English by birth. He grew up in poverty and unhappiness. Rarely did he set foot on a ship.
After World War II, he decided to change his life. He began by creating Patrick O’Brian, an expatriate Irish writer living in the south of France. His legal change of name took a few months. Realization of his new persona took decades. Through decades of writing, he developed a reputation for mastery of nautical matters.
On his death in 2000, the world eulogized the Irishman Patrick O’Brian. People accepted his tales of experiences on sailing ships. All despite reporters having uncovered his secret years before.
A Clear Image Will Drive Your Transition
O’Brian should be a mentor for every veteran. During World War II he stopped identifying himself with who he didn’t want to be. Coming out of the war he created a compelling self-image. He spent the rest of his life engaged in making it a reality.
Although O’Brian’s first marriage ended in divorce, he prized marital harmony. He was loving and attentive to his second wife. Hard work made his 53-year marriage happy.
He believed in the benefits of an intellectual life. Writing, books, and learning had inestimable value. He had only middling financial success for most of his life. But O’Brian and his wife enjoyed what money he earned and shared simple pleasures with friends. Financial success did not come until well into his eighties.
Like O’Brian, you have the ability to transition out of the military into the civilian you want to be. Without a well-defined mental picture to pursue, other people will direct the steps you take. But once you create a self-image, your transition will stay on target.
- Focus time on getting a job at an organization that fits who you are.
- Be clear about the new friends and colleagues you want to have.
- Know where to spend your time to have the life you that will make you happy.
Follow Patrick O’Brian’s, ne Richard Russ’s, example. You don’t need to change your name. Nor do you have to get a divorce. Fulfillment begins with the intentional crafting of the civilian you’ll be and the life you’ll live.
What is your priority for having a happy civilian life?
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