Category Archives: Transitions

How to Have the Civilian Life You Want

Are You Getting in Your Own Way?

2-½ minutes to read

Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational coach, tells a story about when he decided to lose weight. He started running. He ran in hot weather and cold, rain and shine. I’ve followed his example. Years ago while at Camp Fuji in January I ran ON the snow. Earlier this week, I ran IN it. That’s what you do when you’re a runner. You run…

How to Have the Civilian Life You Want

The 3 Facets of Your Identity

Military people, especially reservists, cycle their identities on a regular basis. We all start out as civilians. When we join the military, we gain a new purpose. Our service branch turns us into a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman. We adopt the mission of defending our nation.

The challenge comes when your service ends. A military identity doesn't work in the civilian world. Active duty service members have to shift out of an identity ingrained for years. Reservists need to cycle back to their civilian self.

When you know the components you can be intentional about making modifications. Your identity has three facets:

Purpose. This facet looks inward. It defines who you want to be. Aspects might include being a dedicated husband, a loving father, and accomplished professional.

Mission. This facet describes the impact you want to have on others. Your mission should put the person/purpose you are to work in the service of other people. You can do this as an employee of a company, by starting your own business, or working for a nonprofit organization.

Goals. This facet puts action to the other two. By meeting these objectives, you pursue your mission and fulfill your purpose.

These three facets should work in concert. Veterans get into trouble when their purpose and mission conflict. They struggle when their goals take them in the wrong direction.

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Creating a coherent identity challenges many reservists and people leaving active duty. Gaining clarity on each facet can be difficult. Eliminating conflict between them poses an equally daunting task.

2 Obstacles to a More Resourceful Identity

Two desires tend to prevent military people from figuring out their identities.

Opportunity. Such things as a job that looks too good to pass up may preempt a serious examination of your identity. Who cares about fulfillment when hard dollars are at stake?

Anxiety. Many concerns may prevent the intentional creation of a cohesive identity. It can be frightening to confront a side of yourself you don't like. Creating your purpose requires prioritizing various aspects. You may have to give up a part of yourself so you’ll have enough time for more crucial parts.

This isn't a new idea. In 1905, while a cadet at the Military Academy, it was evident:

Once you have a unified identity, the challenge becomes to live it. Most of the time, being a runner supports my identity. It keeps me fit and gives me time to think. But sometimes it unbalances me. Running in the snow was glorious in the moment. But it wasn’t worth it since it slowed me down for two days afterward.

Reintegrating to civilian life doesn’t require giving up your military self. But you’ll have to make some modifications to get along in this new environment. Begin by developing a revised purpose. From that, create a mission for civilian life. Then set them in motion with compelling goals…

What aspect of your purpose has/had to change so you can gain success in civilian life?

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How to Make Your Dreams Come True

Do You Know the 2 Steps to Fulfilling Your Dream?

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yayeishev – Genesis 37:1-40:23

When you decided to leave military service did you dream of a better life? Did your vision include a great job or starting a business? Most veterans dream of having more family time. Vacations and unfettered pursuit of a hobby are on most people’s agendas. But setbacks cause many veterans to give up. They conclude their dreams won’t come true…

How to Make Your Dreams Come True

Dreams Don't Look Inevitable Until They Come True

Scientists don’t have a good understanding of the images, ideas, emotions, and sensations we experience when dreaming. They know they occur mainly during the REM stage of sleep. But like with many phenomena, they can't explain why dreams happen or what they mean.

The dreams we create for ourselves have a similar murkiness. We can base them on a strong why. We can attach importance to that purpose. But they only look inevitable in retrospect.

Joseph’s dreams in Parshas Vayeishev are among the most famous in history:

“Joseph dreamed a dream…” (Beresheis/Genesis 37:5)

In fact, Joseph dreamed two dreams. He and his brothers were binding sheaves of wheat in the first one. At one point his brothers’ sheaves bowed down to his sheaf. In the second, the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him.

The sun and moon represented his parents, Jacob and Rachel. The eleven stars his brothers, who already hated him because he was their father’s favorite. Now they hated him even more. Even Jacob evinced skepticism about Joseph’s presumption to greatness.

We know years later Joseph became Viceroy of Egypt. His father and brothers had to bow down to him. Thus, his dreams came true. But before these events, no certainty existed.

Between his dreams and their fulfillment, his brothers tried to kill him. They settled for selling him into slavery. He rose to prominence in Potiphar’s house. But then he was imprisoned.

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The path appears clear after the fact. But in the lead-up, Joseph had to be in doubt about his eventual fate. He must have struggled to maintain his belief that his dreams would come true.

Two Steps to Making Dreams Come True

G-d actualized Joseph’s dreams because he took the two steps to success:

  1. Belief. Engage your faith. It puts power into the why of your goal. Belief gives you direction. And, your conviction convinces people to help you.
  2. Action. Show the Almighty your commitment. Make and execute a plan. Acting gives a positive outlet for your energy. And, it allows the Creator to bring success to you through natural means rather than through an open miracle.

Setbacks are hard to take. A string of them can be demoralizing. Stories are legion about how successful people struggled. You are no different than the greatest among them. Take heart from Joseph’s life. Put the power of belief and action behind your dreams.

Have you become disheartened by too many disappointments?

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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 Have a Crusader for Your Transition?

How to Crush Your Own Resistance

2 minutes to read

Cold weather has come to Germany. Temperatures often drop to the low 30s. The application of tissue after tissue to my runny nose has made it look like Rudolph’s. So while on a trip to Heidelberg last week with my redeployers, I decided to get some soft cotton handkerchiefs…

Do You Have a Crusader for Your Transition_

A Small Quest with Big Implications

Heidelberg has at least two claims to fame. One of the oldest universities in the world calls it home. And it has the Philosophenweg, the Philosophers’ Way. For four centuries, professors and students have climbed this path, contemplating life’s great questions. Spectacular views of the Nektar River punctuate the first twenty-five minutes walking up steep steps.

Another two hours of walking consumed all my tissues. But I figured it would be easy to find handkerchiefs. One of the redeployers was tagging along with me. He wanted Cuban cigars. So we visited a tobacconist first. His need for high-end smokes filled, we set out to find handkerchiefs.

Europe is more old-world than America. So we assumed every men’s store would have them. To be sure, we picked one with an upscale name. The clerk didn't know what we were talking about. My friend had one so he showed her what we wanted. She shrugged her shoulders.

The clerk in the next shop responded the same way. Then we went into a shop with a Canadian clerk. He spoke English. Nonetheless, he laughed when we told him what we wanted. It turns out European men no longer carry handkerchiefs. He suggested we try TK Maxx, the European version of TJ Maxx. More shrugs of incomprehension.

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I was ready to give up and order them online. But my companion urged me on. To him, we had embarked on a quest. We couldn't stop until we’d met our goal.

You Cannot Transition Alone

We kept walking. Several blocks farther on we saw a department store. Sure enough, on the third floor, we found them, high quality and priced right. As I sit here writing, I wish I had remembered to put one in my pocket before leaving my room.

It’s easy to give up too early. You convince yourself that something isn't actually that important. In a perfect world, your self-discipline never falters. In reality, you’re human.

You can have clarity about your purpose and mission. Goals can align with your image for your life. And still, when the going gets tough, you can flounder.

In the hunt for handkerchiefs, a buddy will suffice. For your transition to civilian life, you need a crusader. The person needs to know you and your mission and goals. He should appreciate the struggle. Even better, he has been through it himself. When inner resolve wanes, this person can steel you to keep going.

Choose this person with care. He can be the impetus to stick to your goal for the few more steps necessary to reach success. She may be your spouse or a colleague who’s already reintegrated to civilian life. He may be a sibling or a coach. What counts is his commitment to see you through hard times.

Create your support element now.

Who can be the person who keeps you going when you falter?

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Has Searching for Employment Made You Angry?

How to Stay Calm Throughout Your Job-Hunt

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayishlach - Genesis 32:4-36:43

No one I’ve met has had a hassle-free transition. Plans fall apart. People who said they’d help don't come through. Sometimes even the simplest task seems impossible to complete. You start to feel abused. Irritation soars. Some veterans redline. Unable to tough it out any longer, they explode…

How to Stay Calm Throughout Your Job-Hunt

When Frustration Boils Over

People can appreciate the frustration that comes from transitioning to civilian life. Whereas, they may not know the specific issues you face. They’ve been vexed by their own. But Parshas Vayishlach shows they’re less likely to forgive an angry outburst:

“And they [Simeon and Levi] said, ‘Should he treat our sister like a harlot?’” (Bereshis/Genesis 34:31)

Shechem abducted and raped Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Then he begged Jacob to marry her. Jacob agreed on the condition that all the men of the city get circumcised. Debilitated by the operation, Simeon and Levi took revenge by killing them.

On learning of the massacre, Jacob pointed out the danger they put the family in. The brothers responded that they had to defend their sister’s honor.

Jacob withheld further comment on the matter until close to death. When he finally took them to task, he criticized their anger. He may not have liked their actions. But he recognized their justice. As a legacy, Jacob wanted his sons to learn that situations charged with emotion must be handled calmly.

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Blowing up can delegitimize even the most righteous act.

5 Steps to Keeping Your Cool

Have you ever lost your temper and missed an opportunity as a result? If so, you know that raises your frustration level. But keeping your cool isn't easy. Preparing for setbacks and practicing mindfulness can help. Still, you need to have a plan for when an explosion is imminent:

1. Triggers. Identify issues or events that shoot your anger through the roof. The more specific you get the better.

2. Record. Summarize these triggers on a 3 x 5 card or in a memo on your smartphone. Order them from the most difficult to the easiest to control.

3. Frame. At the top of the card or memo write “I will be calm when…”

4. Practice. Each morning read your card or memo. Stand. Put conviction in your voice. Make a commitment. Repeat this during the day before any event where your patience may be challenged.

5. Assess. At the end of the day, read your card or memo again. This time, begin with, “I was calm when…” and list the triggers you controlled. For the ones that got away from you, say, “Tomorrow I will improve by remaining calm when…”

This process may seem a little silly at first. But you have to indoctrinate yourself to change your behavior. By following the same kind of training regimen your service branch used to make you a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman, you’re using a process that works.

We want nothing to do with people who are angry at the military. Like I wrote a couple of weeks ago, we should pity them. In truth, we can't expect the same from civilians. They shut down when we get angry with them. Keep communication open by ensuring you keep your cool.

Has getting angry caused you to lose out on a job?

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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 Create Relationships When You Don’t Know How

4 Steps to Creating Solid Professional Connections

2-½ minutes to read

Creating the relationships you need to get the job you want can be difficult. When the military assigns you to a unit everyone understands they need to build a team. So relationships develop as part of the regular workflow. But for the most part, connections have little to do with getting your next billet. In civilian life, most of your success will rest on how depth and strength of your network…

How to Create Relationships When You Don't Know How

The Military Taught You Relationship Skills

Even though you don’t need connections to get a billet, you learned relationship-building skills. They went by a different name. Leadership and team building require understanding how to motivate colleagues to meet the mission.

Civilians think the military orders people around. We know that’s not reality. Most often, we seek to influence each other. And influence comes from trust. Trust comes from mutual understanding and confidence in a person’s motives. In other words, people with whom we have strong relationships influence us.

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Once you figure out how you built mutual trust with a person, you’ll know how to create other relationships.

Reverse Engineer Your Relationships

Have you ever thought about how you created a friendship? At some point, you met someone and hit it off. Over time you came to trust the person. Months or years later you look back and realize you’ve been friends for a long time. You reminisce about the crazy things you did. It seems to have just happened.

But that can't be. If you hadn’t interacted the friendship would never have grown. You talked about things. And you did things that created mutual trust. Probe your memory. What were the landmark events that solidified the relationship? Reverse engineer the process you went through:

1. Examples. Choose a solid relationship and a bumpy one. It’s best to use professional ones. They’re what you want to replicate. But if necessary, social friends or family members will work. Compare and contrast the two as you complete the next three steps.

2. Assess. Think about why the good relationship developed trust and the other one didn’t. Consider communication style, outlook, values, and mutual interests. Do you connect on several of these in the solid relationship and none in the other one?

3.Steps. Identify the critical points at which trust developed in the solid relationship. Did the other one lack similar waypoints? Steps 2 and 3 should give you a clear picture of how you built the good relationship. They should also reveal why the other one is bumpy.

4. Replicate. Can you use what you learned about the solid relationship to improve the bumpy one? Try using it as a test case. Did it improve? Now identify someone you want to make a part of your network. Apply what you’ve learned and assess how well it worked. Since everyone is different, make adjustments as you go.

This process may seem manipulative. But no one is forcing the other person to engage with you. You’re offering them the opportunity to get to know you.

You now understand how to build relationships. But that doesn't mean everyone will take your offer. People have their own agendas. If someone turns you down, move on. Set aside time each day for relationship development. Soon you’ll have the kind of network that will make for a smooth transition to civilian life.

Do you find it difficult to connect with people?

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