Category Archives: Transitions

3 Ways Excellence Is More Achievable than Ever Before

How the Barriers to Preeminence Have Collapsed

2-½ minutes to read

America was built on the idea that success comes from working hard and staying out of trouble. But there were always barriers to attaining elite status. Those who went to an Ivy League University had certain doors open for them. Wealth conferred privileges unavailable to people of lesser means. Large companies used their financial power and political muscle to stifle competition. If you follow the news it appears that not much has changed.

3 Ways Excellence Is More Achievable than Ever Before

The Military as a Path to Excellence

During the 20th century, the military provided the means to excel. As a result, men such as Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley could be born in poverty and reach the pinnacle of success. Most people know of Eisenhower’s rise from poor Kansas farm boy to President of the United States.

Bradley grew up as the son of a Missouri county schoolteacher. His father died when he was 15. He won an appointment to the Military Academy. During World War II, he led the 900,000 men of 12th Army Group. He rose to the rank of General of the Army (5 Stars) and became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After retiring from the Army he was Chairman of the Board of Bulova Watch Company.

Average GIs found success too. The GI Bill made college available to millions of service members who could not have afforded it. The world needed engineers, accountants, and other professionals in huge numbers. The World War II generation took the grit they developed during the Great Depression and the war, combined it with education, and pursued excellence.

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But Americans who hadn't worn the uniform lacked this advantage. For them, the path to excellence remained a struggle at best.

Changes that Benefit Your Future Success

Seventy years after the end of World War II, the world has changed. It has enough lawyers and accountants. It needs more doctors. But the economics of medicine have altered the profession for the worse. College no longer provides a sure route to success.

Yet, today there are opportunities to achieve excellence that never existed before. At least three factors drive this trend:

  1. A degree provides no guarantee you’re on a path to excellence. But education is available like never before. Someone teaches whatever skills you lack. Take valuable abilities like marketing and coding. Community college classes and online programs abound. Anyone can afford these courses. I’ve mentioned before all the large companies that no longer require a degree. Is there any doubt organizations such as Google, Ernst & Young, and Hilton want employees who pursue excellence?
  2. Social media has broken down barriers to the point that you have access to almost everyone. Derek Halpern at Social Triggers has a free video and download explaining how to email influential people and get a response. In his book, The 2-Hour Job Search, Steve Dalton gives you a more in-depth explanation. Here’s a summary. View the whole slide deck then focus on 27-32. Using my status as a veteran, well over 80% of the people I’ve contacted have responded.
  3. The Internet and social media have shrunk the cost to access potential clients. They have driven intermediaries out of the sales chain and robbed large companies of market dominance. Marketing and entrepreneurship gurus offer training on targeting a niche market. You can beat even the biggest multi-nationals. Check out Amy Porterfield and Pat Flynn.

Add these three factors to your advantage as a veteran and you can be unstoppable. Don't get me wrong. It will still take a lot of hard work. You’ll make mistakes and have setbacks. But the hurdles that past generations faced are gone. It’s now up to you to take advantage of this opportunity. Wading in mediocrity means your financial future will erode. Embracing the quest for excellence puts you on the path to the highest level of success…

What is holding you back from striving for excellence?

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Why Everyone Needs a Guide for Life

What You Have in Common with the Ancient Israelites

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Re’eh – Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Life in the military acclimates a person to oversight. Someone supervises your work. You have standard operating procedures to take you step-by-step through processes. You have to pass a periodic physical fitness test. The military uses surprise urinalyses to prevent drug use. Training in sexual harassment and assault emphasize how such behavior impairs mission readiness and hurts your comrades. Notice anything missing?

Why Everyone Needs a Guide for Life

The Israelites Needed New Guidance

In 2013, I participated in three rounds of sexual assault prevention training. The substance varied little from one to the other. It was clear the Navy felt the first two hadn't gotten through to sailors. But, there seemed to be no point in presenting the same material yet again. Before we embarked on the third series, I sat down with my commanding officer.

I pointed out to him a glaring gap. Nowhere did the training make an unequivocal statement that sexual harassment and assault are wrong. The Navy set the rules. But it wouldn’t make moral judgments. Each sailor had to fill in the void. Was it surprising that some came to the wrong conclusion?

In Parshas Re’eh G-d makes it clear that people shouldn't make unguided moral decisions:

“Beware for yourself lest you bring up your elevation offerings in any place that you will see.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 12:13)

This Sabbath’s parsha continues preparing the Israelites for life in the Land of Israel. During their wanderings in the wilderness, G-d was close by. Moses instructed them daily. Now they would live dispersed throughout the land. Moses would be gone, G-d farther away. Making the right moral decisions would be more difficult.

Lest people come to think they could do whatever they wanted, the Almighty gives a reminder. Don't fool yourself into thinking something that’s wrong is right. The rules still apply. In fact, now that I won't be so close, you’ll have less leeway in which to act.

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In the third round of briefs, my CO began each one by stating sexual harassment and assault are wrong. I followed up by asking the question, “How would you feel if a shipmate treated your sister or mother that way?” A crusty old chief petty officer got incensed at our moralizing. But younger sailors appreciated the guidance. One said to me he had never thought about it in moral term until I personalized the behavior.

You Have to Play by Different Rules

The rules of civilian life are different than the military. I asked the members of my veterans Facebook group, Passport to Success – Military Vets (click here to join), what they learned on their first day in a civilian job. Some of the responses were:

“Using F*** every other word was not ok lol.”

“Kill is not a proper response to anything, especially when talking to ER nurses.”

“Based on my coworkers shoes, a good shine is no longer a priority.”

“Your assumptions about civilians is no better than their assumptions about veterans. We have to work hard to break the stereotypes about veterans.”

Experience is a tough teacher. Better to get a trusted advisor who can help you learn the rules of the civilian world. Some are moral. Others are practical. But they're all important to reintegrating.

Earlier today I took sexual assault training again. The Navy still doesn't say it’s wrong. Don't make the same mistake. Find someone, perhaps a fellow vet farther along in the process, to be your guide.

Who do you know who can help show you the way in civilian life?

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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!

Want Greater Success? Learn to Tolerate More of This…

What You Want Lies Beyond a Wall of Boredom

2-½ minutes to read

The military holds the promise of an exciting life. If you haven’t seen the latest recruiting commercials take a look. Think of the adrenaline rush from jumping off that airplane. Is there any chance you’ll find being a Marine boring? Both of these pale in comparison to Special Forces. There’s never a dull moment in the military. Yeah, right. If General Military Training doesn’t put you to sleep paperwork will. But hey, it’s the government. You have to expect tedium. The private sector is different.

Want Greater Success? Learn to Tolerate More of This…

The Two Types of Boredom

Growing up not far from Hollywood, the excitement of making movies enthralled me. I had to be a part of it. In the late 1980s, I got my chance. My friend needed a producer for his next project. Count me in!

It didn't take long for reality to hit. Decorating the set. Focusing the lights. Practicing camera movements. Rehearsing the actors. Often it took several hours to set up a shot that took less than a minute to film. As the producer, I had to keep people from getting bored and mischievous to protect my investment.

Since then, I joke about the “glamour” of the film business. Don't get me wrong. Premieres are exciting. But such moments punctuate long periods of tedium.

Of course, it's nothing like the boredom of cold calling. The difference between film production and sales highlights the two types of boredom.

  • Passive Boredom – Sitting around with nothing to do.
  • Active Boredom – Repetitive tasks that aren't exciting.
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Most people can tolerate the first type. You may have trouble relaxing. Still, if your job requires stretches of getting paid to do nothing you can adapt.

How to Overcome Boredom

Active boredom is another story. Having to do dull, repetitive tasks saps most people’s endurance. But you can’t reach a goal without them.

About a month ago I had to start doing abdominal work again. My stomach has gotten too flabby. It is soooooo boring doing crunches and leg lifts. I tried listening to upbeat music while exercising. It didn't help. I had to set an ironclad goal and accept the tedium.

Many job-hunting tasks are boring. Always reaching out to your contacts. Writing lots of thank you notes. Practicing your elevator pitch and what you’ll say in a meeting to get a job. All these can tax your patience. I can understand why you just want the thrill of getting the job. But these boring tasks are what will make that happen.

It won't be different on the job. You’ll have exciting moments. But you’ll spend most of your time on routine work. Yet that’s where you’ll make your biggest impact. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is what matters. That means doing and keeping track of dozens of small, everyday tasks.

Now you can see why it’s important to have a mission and objectives. You need to work in a field you love. If not, it’s too easy to stop doing the boring tasks that take you to your goal.

Don’t let slick videos seduce you into thinking success and excitement go together. If you want to succeed, prepare to buckle down and power through boredom.

What did you do in the military to keep working toward boring goals?

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How to Focus Your Job-Hunt for Best Results

Why the Best Job-Hunters Think Like Entrepreneurs…

1-½ minutes to read

Think about the last time you bought an expensive item. Was it a television or a car? Did a salesman help you decide which one to buy? If he knew what he was doing, he had you describe what you wanted. Then he asked questions and listened while you answered. When he showed you options, he talked about how the features would benefit you. Throughout the sale, he never mentioned what he wanted from the transaction. If he knew his business you left overjoyed with your purchase.

How to Focus Your Job-Hunt for Best Results

Everyone Focuses on His Own Needs

The military always seemed interested in our problems. It’s one of its choicest benefits. The command stepped in officially or shipmates offered their help. Either way, you felt supported. Many private sector companies have adopted this perk. But you don't get it until they hire you.

In civilian life, most people can’t tell you their goals. Few people are pursuing the same mission. In any event, rarely is it about helping veterans. They have their own lives to live.

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When transitioning, you zero in on your biggest need, a job. Civilians focus on their needs. Nobody is selfish. Each person lives in his own world. If you’re smart you’ll use this to your benefit.

The Common Factor

The essence of entrepreneurship lies in figuring out what people need. Then you fill that void. The product doesn’t have to be new or revolutionary. But it has to improve people’s lives.

An astute sales professional knows to focus on the client. He realizes people don't care about his commission. Nor are they concerned with his cash flow or personal problems. Mentioning any of these will turn the client off. He’ll lose any chance at a sale.

When job-hunting, your clients are organizations that make good employers. Focus on finding out what they need. Your skills and abilities (features) must benefit them. Should a salesman trick you into buying the wrong car? Of course not. If you don't have what a company needs, you shouldn’t work there.

Like all sound concepts, it’s simple. Use your job-hunting energy to figure out what companies need. Qualify them the same way a car salesman qualifies you. He won't waste his time on a bad prospect. You shouldn't either. Once you’re convinced you can deliver the benefits, close the sale.

What prevents you from job-hunting by identifying employers you can benefit?

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3 Qualities to Highlight When Job-Hunting

Why It’s Not Enough to Want a Job

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eschanan – Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11

If I had to sum up Navy aircraft maintainers in one word it would be tenacious. Day and night, they toiled to make sure planes were ready to launch. They missed meals and skipped doing laundry. “No fly days” didn't mean no maintenance days. Often they didn't have free time until a port call. My Marine Corps fighter squadron had some of the oldest jets in the fleet. Yet they kept them flying. I called them the MacGyvers of the Air Wing.

3 Qualities to Highlight When Job-Hunting

Perseverance Not Perfection

Despite their resolve, most squadrons rarely had 100% of their planes ready to fly. Some matters were beyond their control. Material control struggled to get parts to repair older airplanes. One jet spent our deployment in the hangar. We couldn't get the parts to fix it.

I felt bad for the sailors of its squadron. Everyone on the ship walks through the hangar. They couldn’t disguise this symbol of their seeming defeat. Their plight reminded me of how G-d refused to let Moses enter the land of Israel. In Parshas Va’eschanan he makes a final, poignant plea:

“Let me cross, please, and see this good land that is on the other side of the Jordan…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 3:25)

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Yet because of one error, the Almighty decreed he would not take His people into the Promised Land. Moses didn't want to die with his mission unfulfilled. He made clear the depth of his desire in this last-ditch appeal to G-d. The answer was no. So Moses soldiered on. He did his utmost to prepare the Children of Israel for their new life even though he would not be part of it.

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The aircraft maintainers in my Air Wing inherited Moses’s determination. They turned the downed jet into a symbol of tenacity by using its parts to keep other planes flying. I’ve seen the same level of commitment among all service members. I cannot say the same thing about any other group.

Don’t Tell Hiring Managers, Show Them

Private sector employers value veterans’ perseverance. They know it’s a rare trait among today’s employees. Embedded in it are two other qualities they want:

  • Self-Disciplined. An integral part of tenacity, you’re not going to call in sick or slacken your effort when the going gets tough.
  • Overcome obstacles. You don't see them as hurdles. They’re what you have to do to get the job done.

You can tell employers you have these qualities. But you’ll have greater impact if you come up with two or three short stories highlighting them. Make them no more than two minutes long. Use this format:

Problem → Consequence of Not Solving It → Your Solution

Make sure at least one of the qualities is obvious. Here’s an example:

We’re in the Persian Gulf flying combat missions into Iraq. We couldn’t fix a fighter jet because there were no spare fuel pumps on the ship. With that plane down our squadron wouldn't be able to execute its part in flight operations the next day. That meant another squadron would have to pick up our slack. We spent the entire day contacting shore-based aircraft maintenance depots and finally found the part we needed. I coordinated with my squadron commanding officer to have it flown to the ship by 8 PM. They I worked with my crew through the night to install, test the jet, and ensure it was ready to fly by launch time.

It doesn't matter if you’re hunting for an aircraft maintenance job. The point of the stories is to prove you have the qualities an employer wants.

Take some time now to think about the times you came through in a clutch situation. Write them out as short stories. Practice saying them until your delivery is smooth but doesn't sound rehearsed.

Unlike Moses, you can attain your ultimate goal. A high-paying job is well within your reach. Companies are desperate for employees with the qualities you developed in the military. Rather than pleading for a job, give vivid proof you have them. Such confidence in your abilities will make a company scared you’ll go to work for its competitor.

When did you exhibit perseverance, self-discipline, and overcoming obstacles?

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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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