Category Archives: Transitions

How to Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Make Growth in These Two Areas Your Obsession

2-½ minutes to read

Feeling bombarded with advice on becoming more successful? I’m hip. With Christmas and New Year over, ‘tis the season for personal development. And that’s fine. But so much of the guidance contradicts itself. These days you’re told to set goals rather than make New Year’s resolutions. But others say setting goals will demoralize you. Here’s my favorite dilemma. Should you focus on building up your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses? Allow me to cut through the static so you have simple, actionable steps to apply to your life now.

How to Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Distinguish Among the Realms of Your Life

Have you seen the movie Nuns on the Run? Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane play thieves masquerading as nuns to hide from a gang who wants to kill them. In one priceless scene, Coltrane tries to answer the question of how G-d can be One and also a Trinity. It’s like how you are one person embodying physical, mental, and spiritual domains.

As a runner, I’ve learned to achieve top performance by combining hard physical training with a determined attitude. At times, with mind and body integrated, I reach a spiritual connection to my surroundings. I remember the transcendent experience of a late summer run along Puget Sound. Running in the snow at Camp Fuji in the shadow of Japan’s highest mountain gave me a similar sense.

At the same time, there are different ways to train for physical and mental resilience.

You can increase your physical stamina without improving your mental focus. Think about the last time you did a boring activity like running on a treadmill. Likewise, you can create a distraction-free environment that will increase your focus. But it won’t increase your physical strength or endurance.

You could practice mindfulness while on the treadmill. But the need to be aware of not falling off tends to interrupt your focus. You could stand on a balance board while working at a standup desk. But staying balanced will intrude on your work.

Even though they’re not integrated, you will benefit from training that isolates the physical and mental domains.

Keep this principle in mind as we simplify personal development.

Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Perhaps as an offshoot of science, coaches seem to be looking for a unified theory of self-improvement. Some recommend you build only on your strengths. Others insist you work solely on overcoming your weaknesses. Each applies his theory to the physical, mental, and spiritual domains. By following either one, you sacrifice gains in one domain for no gains in another.

Two main areas will impact your professional success:

  1. Skills, knowledge, and experience
  2. Character

The first one is obvious. The second one includes issues such as punctuality, relationship building, and maintaining your reputation.

Unless you have a glaring omission in your skills, knowledge, or experience, focus on building your strengths. The job market pays a premium for expertise. Strive for top-level ability in what you’re best at now. This will benefit you more than middle-level ability in more skills.

With character, usually shortcomings are what hold back your career progression. If you have trouble getting to work on time or you procrastinate you need to overcome these weaknesses to succeed. Conquer them with action-taking and learning to network well.

Become obsessed with growing your professional strengths and overcoming character weaknesses. Your success will spiral ever higher each time you make ground with one or the other.

Which do struggle more to deal with - Growing your professional strengths or overcoming character weaknesses?

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The Truth Is Logic Prevents Success

How to Break Through the Confines of Rational Thinking

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shemos – Exodus 1:1-6:1

My mom spent her career in bookkeeping and accounting. Even as a kid, I knew she didn’t like it. Now retired, she feels she can pursue her passion. My mom has always wanted to be a writer. Her father taught art at Yale University. His paintings adorn the walls of all the families’ homes. Her younger sister has published a book. But logic dominated her work life. She had to support a family. Maybe if I’d understood Parshas Shemos sooner I could have convinced her to take a different path:

"Now the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives…and the second one’s name Puah." (Shemos/Exodus 1:15)

The Truth Is Logic Prevents Success

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the second book of the Torah. A new Pharaoh reigns over Egypt and enslaves the Israelites. He declares all male infants will be killed. Moses is born and Pharaoh’s daughter raises him, nursed by his own mother. He flees to Midian after killing an Egyptian to save a fellow Hebrew’s life. There he meets and marries Zipporah, the daughter of Reuel, also known as Jethro, the priest of Midian.

Moses encounters an angel in a burning bush. G-d appoints him as His messenger to obtain the release of the Children of Israel. Reluctant, Moses bows to the Almighty’s will. He leaves Midian for Egypt. Aaron, his older brother, meets him on the way and becomes his partner in dealing with Pharaoh. They have their first meeting with him. Rather than agreeing to their demands Pharaoh makes the enslavement harsher.

Logic Can Be Harsher Than Reality

The Israelite men despaired over Pharaoh’s decree requiring their newborn sons be thrown into the Nile. Amram, the leader of the Hebrew judicial system and Moses’s father, felt hopeless. He concluded logically they should stop procreating since this only would cause needless death. Amram divorced his wife and became celibate.

Because of his stature, the Israelite men followed suit. Despite the miraculous population increase during the initial phase of the enslavement, reason dictated to the men that they stop having children rather than letting half of them be killed.

Along comes Puah, who we later meet as Miriam, Moses’s older sister. She respectfully reproves her father. Pharaoh, she notes, only wanted to destroy their sons. Her father’s example, followed by all the men, means no daughters either.

Perhaps, says Puah, the people will keep their faith in G-d. If so, they may not listen to the evil Pharaoh. But as a righteous leader, they will follow Amram’s precedent.

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To his credit, Amram accepts Puah’s rebuke and remarries his wife. The procreative lives of the Israelites restart.

Constraining Yourself Through Logic

G-d will let you construct a rational argument to limit yourself. We see this when the Israelites are at the Reed Sea. Trapped between an impassable body of water and the Egyptian army they cry in despair. G-d stands by and lets them remain in their “prison” built from logic.

Then Nachshon decides to take action. He walks into the Reed Sea up to his nose. Against all logic, the Almighty parts the water. The Israelites escape annihilation.

You can constrain yourself using logic to:

  • Avoid hard work. Aspiring to a more successful life takes soul searching and tremendous effort. It’s much easier to employ logic to convince yourself you’ve reached your limits.
  • Protect yourself from disappointment. Reaching for success means at times you’ll fail. You can shelter yourself from pain by building a rational case for not trying.
  • Justify a pessimistic view. If you have challenges that held back relatives or friends you may reason success will evade you too.
  • Reinforce negative belief. You may believe that dreams only come true for a select few. And you’re not among them. People will be happy to support this disempowering belief with “facts.”

Hopefully, you have a Puah who will reframe your life. If not, do it yourself.

Whether you strive for success or not, unshackle yourself by knowing:

  • You can work for someone else’s dream or your own. You get to choose.
  • Setbacks are unavoidable. Confront them on your terms.
  • You are unique. No one else’s experience can dictate the results of your life.
  • Motivation comes in many forms. When you were a kid, remember how committed you were to doing something your parents prohibited?

Amram left faith out of the equation. Don't make the same mistake.

G-d will allow logic to prevent your success. The Almighty will also help you transcend rationality on your way to building a brilliant life.

What logical argument are you using to restrain your success?

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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. It is named after 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 Gain the Edge Presenting Your Skills to a Civilian

The Best Free Tools for Bridging the Language Barrier

3-½ minutes to read

When you talk to civilians about your military experiences do you feel like a foreigner? You say something and you get that head nod. It’s the one indicating comprehension while the eyes tell you the person doesn’t know what you’re talking about. That’s what you face when job-hunting after military service. The vast majority of civilians have never heard of a military occupation code (MOC). They have no idea what you did.

How to Gain the Edge Presenting Your Skills to a Civilian

You Have to Learn “Civilianese” for Presenting Your Skills

Some military jobs, like hospital corpsman and medic, have clear private sector equivalents. But most, like infantryman and boatswain’s mate, have nothing similar in the civilian world. And, just because you served in a medical capacity doesn’t mean you want to continue doing so.

Like civilians not knowing military terminology, most service members can’t convert a skill, such as breaking down and cleaning an M-16, into valuable private sector expertise. Yet your ability to get a high-paying job will in large part come from just that process.

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To help you, I looked at the most prominent military skills translators. Here’s my assessment of if and how they can help you.

Tools for Bridging the Language Barrier

Skills translators break down into four types from least to most useful:

  1. Job board
  2. Occupation matcher
  3. Occupation matcher with detailed information
  4. Skills translator

They’re all free and easy to use. But, as I discuss below, those in categories 1 and 2 have little practical value.

Category 1 - Job Board: Military Skills Translator asks for your service branch and MOS, AFSC, or rating. It returns a list of related jobs. MOS Code to Civilian Occupation Translator and Stars and Stripes MOS Code to Civilian Occupations Translator are identical. I don’t know if they’re using the same software vendor or one has licensed the other’s. Suffice to say they request the same input, MOC, and give you the same output, a list of available jobs. These two have an interim step confirming your military job whereas goes straight to the jobs.

All are better than a regular job board where you would have to input a job description. But other than that, like all job boards, they’re a waste of time. Only a small percentage of people get a job using job boards. As well, they treat everyone in a MOC the same.

Category 2 – Occupation Matcher:

Department of Labor CareerOneStop Military to Civilian Occupation Translator asks for your MOC and returns a list of occupations. Because it gives such limited information don’t waste your time using it.

Category 3 – Occupation Matcher with Detailed Information:

O*Net Online Military Crosswalk Search asks for your service branch and MOC. It returns occupation matches. When you click on one of the occupations, you get:

  • Detailed Tasks – a list of the duties you would perform
  • Tools & Technology – that you’ll use
  • Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities - required for the job
  • Work activities
  • Work Context – the environment in which you’ll work
  • Job Zone - the preparation you need to qualify for the job including an SVP Code summarizing the level of preparation difficulty
  • Education – typical education level of people holding the job
  • Credentials – you need
  • Interests – the characteristics of a person the job will satisfy
  • Work Styles
  • Work Values
  • Related Occupations - note those with a “Bright Outlook”
  • Wage & Employment Trends
  • Sources of Additional Information

Such comprehensive data gives you a broad and deep picture of a particular job. Spend some time using this tool. The biggest negative comes from not treating you as an individual. You’ll have to research various jobs and decide which ones your unique skills and experiences best qualify you for.

Category 4 – Skills Translator: Military Skills Translator is the only actual skills translator. You input your service branch, MOC, code status, and code category. It gives you a group of skills in civilian language. You can use this group, and ones you add to it, in the Resume Builder function on the website.

O*Net gives you a lot of information. But think about what happens when you’re in a meeting to discuss a job (a.k.a. interview). When asked why you’re qualified, do you say, “Because I plugged my MOC into O*Net and out popped this job”? gives you crucial data you need to create your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), which is the heart and soul of your self-marketing effort.

One caution, I input the same MOC into the skills translator three times and got three different groups of skills. You should do the same thing. Have it generate several sets of data. Then analyze each skill to determine whether it applies to you.

Next Step

O*Net and give you powerful free tools for constructing your UVP. Combine them with what you’re passionate to do. Now you have a path to the kind of job you’ll love. Get started now.

Where are you stuck figuring out your Unique Value Proposition?

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How to Breakthrough the Fog of a Transition

Why You Must Discover the Genuine You Now

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayechi – Genesis 47:28-50:26

Have you noticed the longer a colleague stays in the military the more his identity merges with his service branch? Leadership encourages this in the interest of esprit de corps. As you move on from military service have you shifted to a civilian outlook? If you see yourself only as a veteran it’s going to be a tough transition. Take an object lesson from Parshas Vayechi:

“A lion cub is Judah… The scepter shall not depart from Judah….’” (Bereshis/Genesis 49:9-10)

How to Breakthrough the Fog of a Transition

This Sabbath’s parsha concludes the book of Genesis. Jacob was near death. He asked Joseph to swear not to bury him in Egypt. Rather, he wanted to be interred in the cave of Machpelah in Canaan with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah. Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim, thereby making them in effect of his sons. Then he blessed his own sons, though some of the blessings sound more like reprimands.

All Egypt mourned Jacob, testifying to his greatness. The grandeur of his burial procession impressed and scared the Canaanites. After his father’s death, Joseph assured his brothers he forgave them. He lived to see his great-grandchildren. Before he died, Joseph asked his brothers to bring his bones with them when G-d brought them out of Egypt.

The stage is now set for the enslavement of the Israelites and their redemption.

Judah’s Unique Blessing

Only three of the twelve sons got a blessing that dealt with his character and future impact on the Israelites. Jacob pointed out Issachar’s stubbornness. But he predicted he would teach the Israelites G-d’s laws. Jacob described Dan as a serpent and a viper (ouch!). But he appointed him the avenger of the tribes.

Both sons take a hit on character. But Issachar will turn stubbornness into tenacity. And Dan will bite only the Israelites’ enemies.

In contrast, Jacob compared Judah to a lion cub who will grow to become an “awesome lion.” With the character of the king of beasts, Judah inherits the mantle of kingship over Israel. None of his brothers received the double blessing of outstanding moral strength and leadership.

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After Jacob’s death, Judah alone continued life with an unambiguous purpose and mission.

Uncertainty Comes from Lack of Purpose & Mission

When I was seven years old I got a fortune cookie warning me to beware of becoming a jack-of-all-trades. Almost 50 years later I still struggle at times with staying focused on my purpose and mission. A shiny opportunity will flash before my eyes and before I know it I’m off chasing it.

Many people equate the two. But as you saw in the blessings:

  • Purpose describes your traits and character, who you are as a person.
  • Mission tells how you will impact the lives of other people.

They support each other. Your mission should grow out of your purpose. Notice the relationships between the two for Issachar, Dan, and Judah. You may struggle with a trait, such as stubbornness. But you can make it useful for achieving the right mission.

Choosing a mission out of sync with your purpose will cause frustration. Issachar’s inflexibility prevented his being king. Before you choose your personal mission, get clear on your strengths and weaknesses.

Leaving the military necessitates changing your mission. You won’t be on the front lines “support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic….” Your purpose will have to change as you transition your identity from service member to civilian.

Step one on your reintegration agenda requires that you uncover your purpose and mission for civilian life. No other accomplishment will have a greater impact on your future happiness and success. Get started now.

Question – Have you taken an inventory of your traits and characteristics?

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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. 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 bout? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Conquer This Obstacle and You’re Sure to Succeed

How to Crush Your Biggest Transition Challenge

2 minutes to read

Where do you want to triumph this year? Among the big three of health, finances, and family, which is most urgent? You want to pick all three, don’t you? I get it. How can you say you want to make your health your top focus? Isn’t family the most important? They bore so much neglect when you were on active duty. Are you going to prioritize your career over them now? Your mind tells you one thing. Your heart draws another conclusion.

Conquer This Obstacle and You’re Sure to Succeed

You Cannot Have Multiple Priorities

Though I left active duty in 2012, I went back on long-term orders during 2013 and most of 2014-2015. Each time my business training veterans to find high-paying jobs suffered. At the end of 2015, I had to make a choice. Was I going to take orders and continue helping active-duty shipmates? Or should I to commit to my business?

My heart pulled me both ways. My head was equally undecided. After weighing the short versus long-term consequences of each option and the impact on my health and family I opted for my business.

That decision did more than set a career path. It united mind and heart.

Fortunately, my health is good. But my family takes a hit. I can’t homeschool my daughter. My wife and I don’t have weekly dates as often. I’m away from home more.

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I could pretend to have two or three priorities. But that’s the same as not having a priority. You have to sacrifice to conquer this obstacle.

Conquer Fogginess First

If you want to triumphantly reintegrate into civilian life, you’ll have to align your heart and mind to crush your lack of focus.

You know your health and fitness undergird everything. Compare how you look now to a picture of you in uniform. Try on your uniform. Give yourself a physical readiness test. If you’ve forgotten the standards you can find them online.

Are you noticeably heavier? Can you pass the test? If you answered no to either of these questions you have your priority for this year. Accept that finances and family will take a hit.

If health isn’t your issue, examine your finances. Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Are you putting money away each month for a rainy day fund? If you don’t have a pension, are you investing for retirement? If you answered no to any of these questions, your priority is finances. Sit down with your family and talk about sacrifices for the coming year.

If both of health and finances are good, you can focus on family.

Now, Identify the main change you need to make. The foundation of good health rests on proper sleep, diet, and exercise. Stronger finances require a better job or starting your own business. Durable family life means developing your interpersonal skills and investing time in relationships.

Your biggest transition challenge comes from a lack of clarity. Crush the vagueness. If necessary. deal with the impact on your family. Now relentlessly pursue your priority.

Which of the big three is your priority this year?

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