Tag Archives: character traits

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!

4 Steps to Quickly Profit from Mistakes

How God Guides You to Success

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayikra – Leviticus 1:1-5:26

Most people view sins as bad. Rather than quickly profit when they make mistakes, guilt consumes them. They refuse to try again. People who think G-d wants such a world amaze me. Parshas Vayikra shows the Almighty wants you to strive:

“When a ruler will sin, and does unintentionally one from all of his G-d’s commandments that you will not do, and becomes guilty.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 4:22)

4 Steps to Quickly Profit from Mistakes

 

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the third book of the Torah by the same name. Throughout it details the duties of the Kohanim or Priests. Hence, its other name, Leviticus, since the Kohanim are part of the tribe of Levi. The parsha gives the rules for bringing offerings on the altar. Notice in verse 2:13 the Priests must salt them. So we dip Sabbath bread in salt.

Success & Humility Go Hand in Hand

An individual, the community, and the king have to bring a chatas for an unintentional sin. Hence why it’s translated as sin offering. The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) was the spiritual head of the Israelites. Members of the Sanhendrin (supreme court) had lofty positions of leadership. Why single out the king and not other high officials?

As part of his holy service the Kohen Gadol had to examine his conduct daily. So did the Sanhendrin members. Unintentionality didn't apply to them. Every day, each went through the process of uncovering and atoning for his mistakes.

The king exercised temporal power. When he issued a command it happened. Such authority could cause him to feel infallible. While engaged in worldly affairs, his mind could stray from spiritual matters. Self-examination was not part of his everyday life.

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So unlike other community leaders, the king needed a reminder. Like the lowliest of his subjects, he had to take responsibility for his mistakes. Bringing a chatas made a public statement. The pre-eminent leader had to account to the Almighty. By making amends and learning his lessons, the king could continue his life free from guilt.

Quickly Profit Instead of Feeling Guilty

When you wield authority, take pleasure in assessing your behavior often. Engage with G-d every day. Acknowledge your errors to the Creator. Unlike humans, He always understands. But G-d doesn’t want you to stop there.

Admitting your mistakes begins the growth process. Accountability has nothing to do with feeling guilt or receiving punishment. Both hinder change. Instead, see negative results as the prod to improve and try again. Apply this approach to developing your health, profession, mind, and spirit. You’ll quickly profit form mistakes when you internalize this process.

As I mentioned above, Scripture translates chatas as sin offering. It often uses shorthand to define complex concepts. A sin means you fell short of G-d’s expectations. Consequences incentivize you to learn from your mistakes so you won’t suffer them again. Imagine an animal losing its life because you made an error. The crucial step, assessment, gives trying again tremendous power for improved performance.

Here is the root of deliberate practice that I wrote about last week. You can use this method only in real life situations. Or you can drill yourself. Wherever you make frequent errors, create a way to practice improving your performance. That way you won’t fall short at crucial moments. And if you do, you can quickly profit from this mistake by pivoting your practice to deal with it.

Examine the pain points in your life. Rather than avoiding them, take G-d’s prodding to focus on them. Build assessment into your life. Especially as a parent, model this behavior. Then you and your children will gain greater accomplishment and success together.

So what are you waiting for?

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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 Be Genuine in Any Situation

The Reason You Must Give Your Heart

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yayakhel/Pekudei – Exodus 35:1-40:38

Job-hunting after military service sometimes feels like entering a foreign country. Doesn’t it? The differences in language and life experience make communicating difficult. Veterans and civilians struggle to bridge the gap. Parshas Vayakhel/Pekudei will help you be genuine while creating links:

“Everyone who is generous-hearted, will bring it, a portion for G-d.” (Shemos/Exodus 35:5)

How to Be Genuine in Any Situation

This Sabbath is a double parsha to keep on track with the annual cycle. Vayakhel reviews the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). You see the only time in Jewish history that a building campaign raised so much money people had to stop giving!

Pekudei details Moses’s accounting of those donations. Then it explains how he set up the Mishkan. You might have thought that as the leader Moses would tell others to do it. But when G-d gives someone a job it becomes that person’s responsibility. No one should feel he’s beneath anything that serves our Creator.

Get Out of Your Head and Be Genuine

G-d told the Israelites to give contributions for the building of the Mishkan. But why do they have to bring their hearts? Isn’t it enough to give the gold, silver, and other materials?

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm says we need to give more than mere money. The Almighty wants us to invest emotion and spirit when giving. Open your heart by smiling at the recipient. Recognize him as an individual. Ask her about her experiences. By doing so you transform a simple monetary transaction into a holy act. As well, you mold your self-image into that of a useful person.

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People used to call being in the military being in the service. You were a service member. In this respect civilian and military life mirror one another. The quality of your life comes in large part from serving others. This ethos requires genuine connection with fellow citizens.

Charity Isn’t Only Money

These days charity refers to an organization that raises money to help less fortunate people. Or it’s the actual money donated and distributed.

But charity also used to mean the way you treated someone. Kindness and tolerance marked the behavior of a charitable person. No money changed hands. Rather minds and hearts connected in true understanding.

Recently, Jewish Friends of the American Military asked me to speak on their behalf. Few of the 60 people attending had any link to military life. Sea stories fascinated them. During Q&A, people wanted to know how they could support service members beyond donating to JFAM.

The answer came straight from this week’s parsha. I told them, “We’re very fortunate to live during a time when our fellow citizens thank us for our service. But for some veterans, the gratitude doesn't seem authentic. So before offering your thanks, take a couple of minutes to ask a veteran about his experience. Get to know her a bit. By connecting first, your gratitude will feel genuine.”

Whether giving money or meeting to discuss a job, bring your heart. The links you create will yield more than a short-term benefit. You’ll build the foundation to authentic, life-long relationships.

Question – If you feel you cannot invest your heart when giving to someone should you not do so?

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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 Maximize Your Inner Strength

Using Solitary Time for Spiritual Growth

2-½ minutes to read

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

Have you seen the TV show Rawhide? Clint Eastwood gained his first claim to fame as Rowdy Yates in a 7-½-year long cattle drive. Often you see a single rider out on the plains. Can you imagine being so alone? No cellphone to contact his fellow cowboys. No iPod to feed music through earbuds. Just the noise of cattle moving and an occasional shout carried on the wind. What did these cowboys do with so much solitary time? Parshas Vayishlach answers:

“And Jacob was left alone…” (Bereshis/Genesis 32:25).

How to Maximize Your Inner Strength

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Jacob preparing to be attacked by Esau. He defeats an angel who gives him the name Israel.  Then he reunites with his brother. Jacob settles in Shechem where the prince of the country abducts and rapes his daughter. His sons, Simeon and Levi, take revenge by killing all the males in Shechem.

Jacob travels to Bethel where G-d confirms his new name. The Almighty reaffirms He will give the land of Canaan to his descendants. Benjamin is born and Rachel dies. After reuniting with his son, Isaac dies. The parsha ends with a listing of Ishmael’s family and his death, a listing of the lineage of Seir, and the chronology of the Edomite kings.

The Source of Inner Strength

An army of 400 men doesn’t sound big by today’s standards. But it was a powerful force in Jacob’s time. As far as Jacob knows, Esau’s vow to kill him stands. Nor does he have any reason to think his brother will be merciful with his family.

Yet the night before a battle, Jacob goes off by himself. He sacrifices what may be his last few hours of life with his family. To what purpose?

Life can be summed up in two words: “emulate G-d.” The Almighty embodies all creation. In Him, the physical ∞ mental ∞ spiritual realms perfectly merge. In this ultimate unity, the G-d is unique. Jacob knew he needed the inner strength that comes from unity and uniqueness.

The Torah describes the battle between Jacob and the angel as a wrestling match. But beating an angel is a spiritual victory. It came through the innermost resolve in Jacob’s soul.

Jacob could not have mustered such spiritual strength amid the chaos of family life. He needed solitary time to model the Almighty’s uniqueness. By unifying the three realms, he became unconquerable.

Transitions Require Solitary Time

One of the best character traits you can develop is the ability to be alone. When faced with a major change in your life, you will need every ounce of inner strength. By keeping your soul focused on your desired outcome you are much more likely to achieve it.

Conversely, lack of spiritual commitment to a transition undermines your mindset. You may feel unsure of yourself. New friends, colleagues, and hiring managers you have to interact with sense your hesitancy. They get nervous about dealing with you. Each feeds on the other.

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Jacob inherited his ability to grow through being alone from his grandfather Abraham. G-d Himself called Abraham unique in his world. No one exceeded him in pursuing G-d. But you don’t have to have such an illustrious ancestor.

To gain inner unity, you need to forge your ability to be alone.

  1. Explain to your family why you need to take time away from them periodically.
  2. Find a comfortable place where you can be alone with you thoughts.
  3. Plan to do nothing, just think.
  4. Meditate on what makes you unique. Reflect on your values, skills, experiences, and your goals. How do they form you into a unified individual?
  5. Write down your thoughts. Read them back to yourself. Do they make sense? If not, clarify them.
  6. Each time you practice being alone, go deeper. Like exercising your muscles, spiritual strength comes from overcoming resistance. In this case, the hurdles come from the heart and soul.

Before the crunch of a transition hits you, build your inner strength. Get crystal clear on your uniqueness. Create the foundation for an unshakeable mindset. Take solitary time to fortify yourself for the battle to come.

Question – How can you gain the most benefit from alone 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. 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 Things that will Boost Your Transition

How to Reintegrate to Civilian Life Quickly and Smoothly

2-½ minutes to read

You don’t know what you don’t know. Wouldn’t you love to have a dollar for every time you heard that during your military career? And its corollary → You can’t fix it if you don’t know what’s wrong. Both are true. And they apply to your transition to civilian life. It doesn’t matter if you’re already in civilian life or getting out next year. Knowing the most common pitfalls veterans fall into will help you avoid them.

10 Things that will Boost Your Transition

3 Areas Where Veterans Struggle

The three areas may not surprise you. But give yourself an honest appraisal of the specific issues within each one:

  • Skills
    • Poor job search skills
    • Cannot translate military skills and experience to the private sector
  • Support
    • Lack of camaraderie
    • Lack of proper mentorship
    • Unable to communicate effectively with civilians
  • Mindset
    • Rigidity
    • Lack of structure
    • Lack of confidence
    • Bad attitude toward civilians
    • Lack of preparation and follow-up
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My series on the 8 Deadly Sins of Job-Hunting shows you how to avoid the most common mistakes veterans make when looking for a job. You can learn to properly assess your skills using the four steps I outline here. Let me know what questions you still have. Look me up on the mobile phone app Carrot.FM if you want to do a quick one-on-one.

Create Momentum in Your Transition

With any long-term task, some early wins will motivate you through the inevitable setbacks. If you’ve been struggling for a while you know how a lack of positive momentum hurts your efforts.

Start by ensuring your job-hunting skills are up to speed. Be clear about you private sector value proposition. Know the outcome you want. Because you control these issues they’re the easiest to deal with.

Now you can overcome the bigger hurdles of support and mindset.

Support seems like a straightforward issue. But surrounding yourself with people who can and will encourage your aspirations can be difficult. Do you miss the closeness of relationships in the military? You may have to give up some friendships and create new ones. Be intentional when deciding whom you’ll befriend.

Not everyone who wants to mentor you can. Find one who has:

  1. Already succeeded in civilian life.
  2. Knows military life and culture well.
  3. Has the time to help you.

If any one of these is lacking you won’t get the support you need. A person can’t teach you to communicate in a realm he doesn’t know.

Most coaches will tell you mindset conquers all. Actually, your attitude and ability to market yourself mutually support each other.

Adapting to civilian life requires flexibility. Paraphrasing Helmut Van Moltke:

You have thoughts about how reintegration will work. You have dreams for what civilian life will be like. Fine. Just know reality won’t match what’s in your mind.

Despite all my experience and contacts in the civilian world, very little of my transition matched my post-navy plans. Some things turned out better. Others worse. That’s life.

At the same time, you must be self-disciplined enough to overcome the loss of military structure. Have a set wake up time and bedtime. Keep up an exercise regimen. If you’re looking for a job, work the same hours as you would on the job.

People get a gut feeling about your confidence level. If you have a negative dialog going on in your head here’s how to change it. Have your mentor on call to give you confidence boosts when you need them.

Check out Job-Hunting Deadly Sins #3 and #8 to handle a bad attitude toward civilians and follow up. I’ll talk about preparation in a future post.

Now you know the key issues supporting a successful transition. Examine each one in light of your own situation. If it applies to you deal with it as soon as possible. None of them are insurmountable. Put on your Kevlar and push through the obstacles.

Which issue is disrupting your transition?

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