Category Archives: Transitions

How to Use Pain to Overcome Transition Hurdles

Do You Make Pain Your Reintegration Ally?

2-½ minutes to read

As many as a hundred and fifty sailors come through WTP Sembach each week. Few had an easy time during deployment. The heat and austere operating environment challenged them. Sometimes they had to toughen themselves to substandard leadership. You can quit a civilian job. But you can't quit deployment. At least not without leaving the military on bad terms. Such physical and emotional pain exposes weaknesses…

How to Use Pain to Overcome Transition Hurdles

The Power of Pain

The Navy deploys many sailors to Bahrain, home of the U.S. 5th Fleet. Those who go to Manama live in high-quality hotels, eat good food, and have access to lots of amenities.

But the sailors assigned to Isa Air Base live a Spartan existence. The heat is often unbearable. A few weeks ago, the air conditioning in working dog’s kennel broke. When discovered three hours later, the animal was close to death. With no veterinarian on base, a human medical team responded. Despite valiant efforts, the dog died.

Though it may sound trivial, the loss of this canine hit people hard. It traumatized more than one of the medical team. It desolated a young woman who visited the dogs to maintain her resilience. Bureaucracy moves slowly. But policy for checking on military dogs changed overnight as a result of this incident.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.
Pain has enormous power to drive change. It also has the ability to freeze a person as he is.

4 Steps to Using Pain for Gain

When in a painful situation, you can respond in two ways. Most people seek to free themselves from pain. The sooner they get relief the better. In doing so, they fail to take advantage of pain’s ability to help them.

Athletes know how to benefit from pain. They create training plans that push beyond their limits. Increasing strength and endurance requires suffering sore muscles and joints. In the crucible of intentional discomfort, they progress toward their goals.

Pain can strengthen your mind and spirit too. Such changes usually come through random events. But you can create a training regimen to adapt your identity, build up mental acuity, and toughen your spirit.

If a basketball player chokes when throwing free throws, he’ll practice them until it hurts. He’ll analyze every movement of his body. With painstaking precision, he’ll determine where he’s failing. Then he’ll drill himself to correct these flaws.

Life transitions are filled with mental and spiritual challenges. Train to overcome them like an athlete would:

1. Pinpoint Your Shortcomings. Is your identity holding you back? Do you get tongue-tied when asking the hiring manager for the job? When you get too many rejections in a day does your spirit let you stop job-hunting? Find your weaknesses by asking hiring managers who didn't give you a job. Talk with a transition coach.

2. Own Them. You won't endure the pain of change if you convince yourself everything is okay. Don't beat yourself up. Acknowledge where you need to grow.

3. Make a Training Plan. Develop a blueprint to strengthen your weak points. It's best in a controlled situation. Partner with another veteran. Brainstorm ways to overcome your obstacles. Practice them. Get feedback. Work with a coach. If necessary, use actual meetings to train. Some meetings for a job don't go well. Use them as exercises to build your abilities. Have a couple of strategies ready to try and see how it goes. What have you got to lose?

4. Push to the Pain Point. Make sure your plan takes you beyond your comfort zone. Don't injure your mind or spirit. But use pain as a tool to embed change.

Competition in the private sector is fierce. We win in combat by out training the enemy. Adapt the same strategy for reintegrating to civilian life. Use pain to gain.

Who can you partner with to train for your transition?

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

How to Adapt Your Identity to the Private Sector

Do You Know the Military Traits that Challenge Civilians?

2-½ minutes to read

Reservists who deploy for six to twelve months face a daunting challenge. They need to quickly adapt to military life. In processing helps awaken their dormant military identity. Dress, attitude, and demeanor shift out of civilian mode. But then they finish their deployment. And they have to reorient to civilian life again. This cycle of identity changes repeats itself…

How to Adapt Your Identity to the Private Sector

Certain Traits Identify You’re Military

The Marine Corps is known for instilling a strong identity in its people. Even Marines long out of the Corps call themselves Marines. Indeed, each branch of the military uses training to embed a unique ethos into its people.

Several characteristics make service members readily identifiable:

Uniforms. Without a doubt, military dress identifies us. But even the civilian clothes we wear are distinctive. Khaki slacks, a polo shirt, and a dark blue blazer are standard attire when job-hunting. How are civilians in your field dressing for meetings and everyday work?

Grooming Standards. Most men in America don’t have short hair. Join it with clean-shaven and you can spot a service member a mile off. This doesn't bother most civilians but it does cause you to stand out.

Formality. Post-deployment you're used to calling people sir and ma’am. You refer to colleagues by their last names and/or job title. Both mark you as a military person. In the private sector, people don't call a coworker “team leader” (Sergeant) or “network troubleshooter” (IT1). Use first names unless you hear people doing otherwise.

Tone. Military speech is direct and abrupt. It sounds harsh to a civilian ear. Tone it down.

Jargon. If you call a restroom a head your civilian colleagues won't know what you mean. But, they may call HR and report you. Get back into your civilian field’s jargon.

Taunting. The way people pick on each other in the military used to be common throughout society. People poked fun at each other, including at race and gender. Most service members let it roll off their backs. In civilian life, it’s called harassment. Don't do it.

Some military traits have become common in civilian life. People swear in private sector workplaces. But they have a way to go to reach the level of the military. As well, many civilians have tattoos. But service members tend to have military imagery.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

During deployment, these characteristics root in military people without their realizing it. When they get home, family and friends see the change. But the service member just sees himself.

2 Steps to Adapting Your Identity

In the desire to get back to loved ones, reservists rarely take time to re-set their identities. They take off their uniforms. But they show up in the workplace with a distinctive military personality. Conflict begins.

What sounds like a request to a military person sounds like an order to a civilian. Sir and ma’am grate on the ear. Rules restrict work hours. It’s dismaying after having spent the previous seven months working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week making sure the job got done.

Some civilians attempt to adopt military jargon to connect with veterans. But lack of experience leads to clumsy results. Military people use the term “sandbox” when referring to Iraq or Afghanistan. But the term can sound dismissive when civilians use it.

Less than 0.4% of Americans are on active military service. About 7% are veterans. But this includes all wars. Many have long since transitioned to civilian life. No matter how much our fellow citizens respect our service, we can't expect them to overturn society for us.

We're the ones who have to reset our identities:

1. Assess which military characteristics you exhibit.

2. Choose the easiest one to change. Figure out a civilian mode. Practice it. Pay special attention to doing it when with civilians.

You have to learn to navigate the private sector using civilian practices. The sooner you get started the better your transition will be.

What is your most distinctive military characteristic?

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

How to Reduce Mistakes During Your Transition

Do You Know Your Worst Enemy and Best Ally?

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayigash – Genesis 44:18-47:27

The military exemplifies a can-do environment. Many a shipmate’s desk has the slogan, “The difficult we do right away, the impossible may take a little longer.” For many veterans, this attitude carries over to civilian life, at least for a while. But job rejections can sap your determination. Error compounds error, causing you to think the private sector doesn't want you…

How to Reduce Mistakes During Your Transition

The Power of Belief

No prison is stronger than the one a person creates in his mind. You may have seen how others box themselves in with their worldview. Even someone on a lofty spiritual level can adopt a mistaken belief. Jacob fell prey in Parshas Vayigash:

“…but his heart rejected it, for he could not believe them.” (Bereshis/Genesis 45:26)

All Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy more food. They still thought he was Pharaoh’s viceroy. Joseph revealed his identity and they reconciled. Then, he convinced his brothers to bring their father Jacob and their families to Egypt. He gave them wagonloads of food and clothing to take with them. When the brothers arrived in Canaan, they told Jacob that Joseph was still alive.

They had sent Asher’s daughter Serach to prepare him for the startling news. Still, He didn’t believe them.

Jacob had seen Joseph’s torn bloody garment. He had concluded his son was dead. Now ten of his sons assured him Joseph was alive and brought ample proof. But Jacob clung to his mistake. His belief trumped reality.

Jacob had gotten comfortable with his erroneous worldview. He may have considered believing Joseph was alive. It would have removed a tremendous weight from his shoulders. But it didn't matter. Rather than risk getting hurt again, Jacob held on to his belief that Joseph was dead.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

In the end, the brothers gave Jacob a message only Joseph could have known. Finally, Jacob let go of his mistaken belief.

Your Enemy and Ally for Reducing Mistakes

Belief can be a powerful ally when it spurs you to go after what you want. But it is a sly enemy. Believe failure is inevitable. Almost for sure, you’ll get that outcome.

In even the best of situations, military people feel foreign to civilians. We talk and act more formally. They don't understand our jargon. We prize loyalty and camaraderie more than they do. Such differences can make a meeting to discuss a job uncomfortable.

Think civilians don't want to give you a job. No matter how you hide it, people can sense your attitude. They may not be aware of it. But they’ll pick up on certain subtleties. Negative beliefs compound an already uneasy situation.

Are you struggling to find a job? Does another aspect of your transition have you down? Follow Jacob’s example. Let go of mistaken beliefs. Many veterans like you struggled yet reintegrated to civilian life with jobs they love. You can too.

Question – What do you believe about transitioning to civilian life?

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. 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!

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2018

Are You Surging Your Growth Through Reading?

3 minutes to read

As in past years, reading a book per week hardly makes a dent in all the great ones out there. This year I focused on personal development and history & biography. My guilty pleasure is detective fiction but didn't find any good new ones.

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2018 (1)

I keep abreast of current works. But I also look back to see what older books and classics I've missed. Here are the best from this year. Why not treat yourself to one for a Christmas or Chanukah gift?

Personal Development

No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career by Larry Smith

So many service members leave their first post-military job within the first year. Larry Smith’s insights will convince you to hunt for a job you’ll love. His practical advice will show you how. He is as generous as he is perceptive. His counsel during a telephone conversation helped focus my book publishing efforts.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

You can increase your income by working long hours for low pay. Or you can work less doing high-value assignments. Cal Newport teaches you how to organize your day to maximize time for problem-solving. If you think you're not creative or innovative, I beg to differ. You do need to find time to focus and go deep.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Don't believe me about your ability to innovate? Carol Dweck will explain why you must develop a growth mindset. A fixed mindset not only limits you. It will inhibit your children’s success. I had to make this change 30 years ago without her help. Mindset would have reduced the time it took me by at least 50%.

The Strenuous Life by Theodore Roosevelt

Written before he became president, Theodore Roosevelt’s short book has guided men for over a century. He presents straightforward principles for pursuing a worthwhile life. Look no further if you’re a veteran looking for meaning in the civilian world.

Finding Gobi: A Little Dog with a Very Big Heart by Dion Leonard and Craig Borlase

I don't care for “heart-rending,” mellow dramatic stories. So the title of Dion Leonard’s book turned me off. But my wife urged me to read this story about an everyday guy turned ultra-marathoner. At times we’re all plagued by self-doubt. Leonard will inspire you to overcome it.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

I struggle to communicate with my daughter. And she feels sometimes she can't get though to me. So we listened to the audio version of Faber and Mazlish’s book. It has taught millions of parents and children how to bridge this gap. We learned and took action. It works.

Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom

It may sound strange that I’m recommending this book. After all, isn't religion about empathy? No. Not when it leads to immoral results. Paul Bloom makes the case that our society has focused too much on empathy at the expense of other values.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

History and Biography

Gene Kelly: A Life of Dance and Dreams by Alvin Yudkoff

Gene Kelly appears to be the poster boy for “born with talent.” Except he wasn’t. Raised in poverty, all he had was hard work and self-discipline. So he trained harder than most other dancers. As a result, Kelly became one of the most successful of all time. Patricia Kelly is writing the definitive biography of her husband. Until then, this will do.

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols

Though not strictly a work of history, Tom Nichols shows how our society has devalued expertise over the last few decades. He also delves into why this trend bodes ill for solving the biggest challenges we face. If you think WebMD is as good as a human physician read this book.

The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray

It doesn’t matter where you stand on the issues of migration and immigration. Douglas Murray challenges every position on this complex question. He has researched it and interviewed migrants, illegal immigrants, and public officials. If you plan to debate this issue, read Murray now.

If you want to succeed you must read. Let me know if you have a specific challenge that none of these books address. I’m happy to recommend one to help you.

What was the best book you read this year?

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

How to Make a Safer Transition by Taking Risks

Are You Ready to Do What You Haven’t Done Before?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Mikeitz – Genesis 41:1-44:17

Even if transition assistance programs did their job, your reintegration into civilian life won't be smooth. You have things to learn. Much can't be taught in a classroom. Other aspects take time. Revising your identity and adapting to how our fellow citizens think doesn’t happen overnight. Civilian life makes another big demand…

How to Make a Safer Transition by Taking Risks

Accept You’ll Have a Bumpy Transition

You know the road to reintegration will have some bumps. You made sacrifices in the military. Civilian life has hard choices too. You’ll still face the tradeoff between time with your family and professional advancement.

Though well on in years, Jacob had to start a new life. In Parshas Mikeitz he faced a gut-wrenching decision:

“Take your brother, arise, and return to the man.”(Beresheis/Genesis 43:13)

A famine in Canaan was so bad Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy food. There, they met their brother Joseph, who had become Viceroy of Egypt. But they didn’t recognize him. Joseph knew he had to fulfill the prophecy that his brothers would bow down to him. So Joseph demanded they bring their other brother Benjamin to Egypt.

When the brothers returned to their father they told him about the Viceroy’s demand. Not knowing Joseph was the Viceroy, Jacob wouldn’t consent. But soon he’d be out of food again.

Jacob didn't want to let go of his youngest son. He still adored his deceased wife, Rachel. With Joseph gone, Benjamin was the only child of his beloved wife. A stark choice stood before him. Allow his family to starve. Or let go of his precious Benjamin with no guarantee he’d see him again.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

Transitions demand operating outside of your comfort zone. Jacob put his faith in G-d. He took the risk. In doing so, he set in motion events that would raise his family to eminence.

Gaining Satisfaction Requires Taking Risks

What do you want from civilian life? Does a quiet existence after the rigors of the military sound good? Or do you crave a greater level of success than you’ve had so far? No matter which path you choose, you’ll face difficult decisions.

Your plans may include a modest private sector job. Or you may aim for entrepreneurial greatness. Either way, you want something you haven’t had before. So you’ll have to do something you’ve haven’t done before. You may have to give up a part of yourself you hold dear. You may have to break through barriers to creating new professional relationships.

When an unappealing job seems like the safest option, consider whether you can hang on after six or twelve months doing work you hate. If you avoid confronting your current limitations, you're choosing not to succeed.

Jacob faced enormous hurdles during his life. Some he handled well, other less so. That he let Benjamin go shows he remained willing to face the reality of life. You’ll have to take a risk or two to get something you haven’t had before.

Settling isn't risk-free. It only postpones the day of reckoning. Commit to shouldering the new demands civilian life places on you. And keep the faith.

Question – What unreasonable demand has civilian life placed on you?

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. 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!

Get More Ideas Like These for Firing Up Your Life and a FREE Bonus!


  • The wisdom of Scripture
  • Battle-tested ideas from the military
  • Profitable business concepts

to design a better life for you and your family!

Plus, you'll get a FREE bonus, my 49 Day Challenge to Refine Your Character!