Category Archives: Transitions

How to Create a Cadence to Overcome the Transition Blues

2 Cornerstones to an Unbreakable Reintegration Foundation

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Nitzavim-Vayeilech – Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30

A few weeks ago I heard sailors in formation calling cadence for the first time in quite a while. They brought back memories of my days as a Boy Scout. World War II and Korean War veterans ran my troop. Among the military influences, when we hiked someone called cadence. They were corny…

“I had a good wife but she left.” “You're right!”

“Look what the horses have left.” “You're right!”

“Sound off…” “One, two…” Sound off…” “Three, four…” “Cadence count…” “One, two, three, four, one, two, THREE, FOUR!”

But to a scrawny kid struggling to carry a 50 lb. backpack they kept my spirits from flagging. Civilian life could use some cadence calls, especially when the transition blues hit.

How to Create a Cadence to Overcome the Transition Blues

The Timeless Formula

No matter how meticulous your plan, you’ll have bumps when reintegrating to civilian life. In my case, a week before the movers came to pack up my on-base house, the business venture I had worked on for six months fell through. We got to Los Angeles with lots of expenses and no job.

I could have used a cadence, even a corny one, to help me lift my feet. I felt anger toward the partner who deceived the rest of us. Worse than the lost money was the lost time. My internal dialog flooded with doubt.

I had to make some changes. Fast. I’ll bet you can relate.

Parshas Vayeilech holds the clue for what to do:

“For, the matter is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:14)

The Israelites stood on the cusp of the Promised Land. Moses reminded them they didn’t have to go to extraordinary lengths to figure out the right thing to do. Though daunted by having to change their mode of life, the Torah would still direct them. G-d would provide comfort and protect them. If their hearts remained true to the Almighty, they need not despair.

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Concerned they don't know the new requirements for success. Needing to change their way of life anyway. Being hopeful and apprehensive at the same time. Sounds familiar?

The Burden of Previous Transitions

If you ever struggled to transition, you carry that baggage now. Starting school. Changing schools mid-year or going from middle to high school. Trying to make a team. Crossing over from Webelos to Boy Scouts. Acclimating to your parents getting divorced. Long forgotten emotions from these events can resurface during times of uncertainty.

You may have made an irreversible mistake. You vowed to move on only to find yourself caught in an emotional loop. Realizing you're in a similar situation now, you doubt your ability to prevail.

If destiny haunts you, remember it’s in your mouth and your heart, to move forward and succeed. You’ll ease your way with a cadence to overcome emotional inertia. Create yours by:

1. Purpose. Reimagine who you are. As you transition to civilian life, you’re no longer solely a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, or Coastguardsman. These remain a part of your identity. But now you’ll add new facets to them. Write down a word picture of you reintegrated to civilian life.

2. Mission. Your values don't need to change. But the focus of your life and work does. Family-wise and professionally, create a plan for a lifelong journey. Does your religion give you direction? Consider what 10 to 30-year work goals will motivate you. Don't worry about their changing over the years. Encapsulate your current vision into a powerful sentence or two that describes your life’s trek.

Post these on your bathroom mirror and read them aloud every morning. Keep a copy on your phone so you can read it when the transition blues hit.

Each time you start over, you strive anew. Obliterate worries about the times in the past you said you'd change but didn't follow through. Recognize all that matters is what you say and do now. The required tasks are neither too extraordinary nor too complex for you to handle. These weren’t empty platitudes for the Israelites. Nor are they for you.

Fill in your knowledge gaps. Create a cadence to keep you marching when your energy flags. And always remember, G-d is there to comfort and protect you.

Do you have a mantra that gets you through a difficult situation?

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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 Improve Your Company by Hiring Veterans

25 Benefits Military People Bring to the Table

2-½ minutes to read

(NOTE: I wrote this for civilians who want to help veterans transition better. If you’re current or former military, pass this on to a civilian friend.)

You want to help veterans make a smoother transition to civilian life. But you don't know any or know just a handful. You’d like to make an impact. But you’ve got your job and family responsibilities. So it can't be a full-time endeavor. Everyone is so busy these days. What can you do that has a limited time commitment?

How to Improve Your Company by Hiring Veterans

A Quick Assessment of Your Knowledge

Last week I mentioned three things you can do to shrink the military-civilian divide:

  1. Understand military culture.
  2. Identify the benefits of hiring veterans.
  3. Use the military personnel structure.

Start by assessing what you know about the military and its culture. If your knowledge comes from movies and television it’s not accurate. Take this online course on the basics of military structure and culture. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Though it’s geared to mental health professionals, you’ll find it useful. Ninety-five percent of what it covers applies to anyone who wants to know more about the military.

Having figured out what you know, you can fill in the gaps. Check out these resources for learning military language and service specific values:

Summary of core value for each service branch

List of military terms and acronyms

Military lingo

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After an hour or two, you’ll be better prepared to understand military people. Keep the terms and lingo cheat sheets on your cell phone for easy access.

Qualities and Soft Skills

Now that you can communicate with veterans better, you’re ready to take the next step. To help military people find the right job, determine how they can help an organization. Start by the learning how military training and service benefits them. Not every service member gains these 20 qualities and skills. But by and large, you’ll find a high correlation between the list and what they bring to the table as prospective employees.

Other benefits of employing military people are:

  1. Mission-Focused. No organization is more mission-focused than the military. Service members learn to keep that end goal in sight. Hence they exercise creativity when bureaucracy makes reaching it more difficult.
  2. Respect Policies & Procedures. Military people know how to work within policies, even when they disagree with them. They find ways to finesse them from time to time. But they won't violate them, especially when they understand their rationale.
  3. Intuitive. Much of military training inculcates the ability to respond with little thought. Intuition takes over. Given the speed of commerce, such a skill has great value to a company.
  4. Candor. Hidden problems in the military cost lives and valuable equipment. When something is wrong, service members learn to speak up. They’re direct but respectful. In the private sector, such candor can be off putting. Veterans need to tone it down. At the same time, organizations have to get such input to survive.
  5. Leadership. Even junior enlisted people have leadership ability. Especially if they were in a community like aviation or submarines. On an aircraft carrier, an 18-year-old plane captain decides whether a $50 million airplane leaves the deck. It doesn't matter that the pilot outranks him.

These qualities and soft skills enhance technical proficiency and experience. Don't rely on a resume. Often service members struggle to capture their skills and experience on paper. Ferret out their qualifications using these lists.

You may choose not to use the military personnel structure to find the hard skills you need. Even so, knowing the benefits military people bring to an employer can help you find the ones that best fit into your organization. In doing so, you can substantially improve the quality of your hires.

How have you helped veterans transition?

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How to Battle Lack of Preparation for Your Transition

2 Lessons You Can Apply to Leaving the Military

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Savo – Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

You decided to move on, retire, or got told to leave the military. The prospect of civilian life fills you with excitement. New horizons are there to conquer. No kicking back and enjoying life. Then reality sets in. Job-hunting turns out to be harder than the TAP folks said. You face dozens of problems without a sponsor. Finding a decent place to live. Getting your kids in new schools. The excitement turns to trepidation.

How to Battle Lack of Preparation for Your Transition

A Whole Nation Disoriented by Change

If you're not careful, the blessing of civilian life will become a curse. Your confidence will change to uncertainty. How could things go SO wrong? How will you handle dashed dreams?

We’re not the first people to make a wrenching change. The story in Parshas Ki Savo will sound familiar:

“…so that you can enter the land that the Lord your G-d gave to you, a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 27:3)

Moses sets out the terms under which the people will live in the Land of Israel. The fundamental rules of life won't change. The Torah will still guide them. But in the wilderness, G-d led them from place to place. He prepared manna for them to eat. Their clothes didn't wear out and they didn't have to do laundry. They studied and celebrated the Sabbath and festivals. Some of them got into mischief.

In the Land, the Israelites will have to adapt to a different life. It may flow with milk and honey. But someone will have to feed and milk the cows. The honey won't gather itself. The Almighty will still guide them, though more hidden now. Each man will have to make numerous decisions.

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Civilian life should flow with milk and honey. But it doesn’t.

Combat Unpreparedness with Outlook

Remember in the military how you handled unexpected problems? You used your training to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Of course, therein lies the key. Your service branch drilled you to meet pretty near all contingencies. For the most difficult ones, someone senior to you had the answer. And, he took the responsibility.

Now you’re in civilian life. You may not have proper training. You haven’t drilled handling unforeseen problems. You're not sure who has the experience to give you sound advice. And all the responsibility rests on your shoulders.

The Israelites faced this situation. Moses gave them a choice: blessings or curses. The Torah lists twelve lines of blessings but an astonishing 54 of curses! You can learn two lessons from their experience:

1. Once you commit to negativity, you’re on an almost endless, downward spiral. The pain will be long and drawn out. You’ll think you’ve hit bottom, only to find there are deeper layers of garbage.

2. If you accept life’s problems as blessings, soon you’ll see some fruits of your effort. They won't come all at once. But living with gratitude for the struggles AND the good times means achieving greater comfort.

I’ve asked transitioning veterans to offer advice to service members about to leave the military. Some say, “STAY IN!” Sadly, they’ve chosen the first path. Instead, resolve to convert negative aspects of your transition into growth lessons. Make curses blessings. And put the excitement back into your transition to civilian life.

Where do you see or anticipate blessings in your transition?

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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 Help Military Veterans Find a Job

3 Things You Should Learn About the Military

2 minutes to read

(NOTE: I wrote this for civilians who want to help veterans transition better. If you’re current or former military, please pass this on to a civilian friend.)

I spent a lot of time traveling the last five weeks. Airlines work hard to show their appreciation for service members and veterans. None charge bag check fees, even for personal travel. All let military people pre-board. Though they're small, I welcomed them nonetheless. But what do you do if you don't work for an airline?

How to Help Military Veterans Find a Job

It Takes Two to Create a Gap

For most military people, re-entering civilian life seems a bit like moving to a foreign country. A couple of examples will show what I mean.

Daily interactions change. For example, military courtesy requires extending a greeting. You say good morning or good afternoon to everyone who passes by. In the civilian world, older people like when I do this. Young women give me a dirty look. They must think I want to pick them up.

It’s not because I live in a big, anonymous city (Los Angeles). Veterans in smaller towns have the same experience. It’s just one way the structure of day-to-day life gives way to disorder.

Another culture shock comes from the attitude toward work. In the military, commitment to job completion is near universal. Hours worked have nothing to do with it. You stay until the task is done. But civilian work is not life or death. (Health care professionals and a few others are exceptions.) So the work ethic looks different.

Barring a major war and mass military mobilization (G-d forbid), civilian life is not going to become more like the military. So as much as veterans might want things to change, they won’t. Still, many could use a boost as they leave active duty and become a part of your community.

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What can you do besides thanking them for their service?

Take on a Bit of the Transition Burden

Through my work with employers who want to hire veterans, I’ve identified three ways you can help.

  1. Understand military culture. Helping someone requires understanding. By learning about military culture, you can enter a veteran’s world. But forget movies and television. No matter how much they claim to be genuine, they're not. I mentioned a couple of issues above. Ask someone in the military to familiarize you with how it works. Keep in mind, everyone’s experience is a little different.
  2. Identify the benefits of hiring veterans. Many veterans, especially young ones, can't tell an employer why hiring veterans is good. People seem to know that military people have self-discipline and skills. But these benefits are too general. Check next week’s post for more on this issue.
  3. Use the military personnel structure. Anyone with even moderate success in civilian life has learned to market himself. Military people don't have this skill. We work in a structured personnel environment. Each service branch trains its members then codes their skills. Crack this code and you can pinpoint hiring for your organization.

Think about the last time you made a transition. Didn’t it feel good when someone reached out? Veterans appreciate straight talk and encouragement. If you want to move beyond these, you now have a road map.

How have you helped veterans transition?

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Do Your Know Your Most Important Quality?

How to Make the Most of Your Military Ethic

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Seitzei – Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

On the whiteboard in the medical department of my unit, someone wrote out the “Idea Quality Scale”:

Do Your Know Your Most Important Quality?

Ain’t it the truth? At times you’d think the brass designed regulations to thwart productivity. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lack of sufficient personnel requires long hours to get the job done. Old equipment means lengthy searches for spare parts. I’m sure you can add to this list. Wouldn’t it be nice to escape such frustrations in civilian life?

The Overlooked Source of Passion 

Good luck with that. Half of Americans feel no connection to their work. So they put in the minimum effort. Another 16% hate their jobs. With two-thirds of employees discontent, the civilian workplace isn’t a haven from frustration.

I couldn't find any statistics, but I’d venture to say reverse the numbers for the military. Maybe a third of service members are indifferent or loath what they do. More important, few put in minimal effort. We have a deep passion for our service. But confusion over the nature of passion disguises it. We attribute our dedication to other factors like work ethic and service. Parshas Ki Seitzei sorts it out:

“…you will obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens. Do not forget.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 24:9)

G-d gives such a strange command. Don't forget to remember to wipe out the memory of Amalek. Setting aside the self-contradiction, it looks like we’ve done it. When was the last time you heard someone talking about the Amalekites? At least we’ve fulfilled one of our duties to G-d.

Or have we?

Recall why the Almighty condemned the Amalekites to oblivion. The Israelites experienced the miracles of the Exodus and the splitting of the Reed Sea. They saw final destruction of the Egyptians. They ate manna from heaven in the wilderness. These experiences created a warm closeness with G-d. So the other nations of the world left the Israelites alone. Except for Amalek, who attempted to throw a cold blanket on this party by attacking them.

How do we know? The word karcha describes the meeting between the Israelites and Amalek. It means “encountered” and “cooled you.” By striking, the Amalekites hoped to cool the Israelites’ passion for G-d.

But, Amalek isn't only a people. It’s within us, attempting to cool our ardor for the Creator. This Amalek, a much more insidious enemy, we have yet to destroy.

No problem, right? Heat cures cold. Rev up your enthusiasm for serving G-d. Pray more. Take time to study. Do more good deeds. While this may work for a while, swings in your mood and energy will make your progress inconsistent. As well, your agenda may get in the way. Prayer may focus on what you want instead of seeking G-d’s will. Good deeds may curry favor with important people.

Better to fight the cool of the Amalek with ice. Ezekiel (1:22) tells about the “awesome ice, spread out over the heads of the Chayah.” An angel, the Chayah serves G-d with tremendous enthusiasm. But higher than its service is the “awesome ice.” Its devotion is steady, unswerving, a total commitment without a hint of ego. Moses, Aaron, and Miriam serve as examples. All were warm and compassionate. And they had rock solid connections to the Almighty. Heating up your relationship with G-d creates passion. Ice cold resolve steels it against swings in mood and energy.

The True Passion in Military Service                              

You see passion in the heat of military affairs. A drill instructor pumps up his trainees. A column runs with its guidon while calling cadence. A vocalist sings the National Anthem at an official event. But basic training ends after several weeks. The run and the song are shorter still. Then it’s back to the grind of daily life. Does the passion disappear?

No.

It lives on in the dogged commitment to meet the mission. Endless hours working while you grumble about missing parts, meals, and family time shows passion. Your fidelity to duty in the face of stupid policies exhibits passion.

No quality has a higher value in civilian life. Most people don't lead mission driven lives. They're filled with apathy. You embody the icy passion that gets the hard, boring, but necessary jobs done. Be as mission driven outside the military as you were when in it. Such ardor creates a relationship with the Almighty. It will make your transition to civilian life equally stellar.

When did icy passion get you through a tough time?

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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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