Tag Archives: starting a business

The Truth About Military Versus Civilian Life

Have you ever sought to communicate with someone who did not speak your language? If you sensed that there was little common ground did it make relating even harder? Something similar is impeding the effectiveness of people helping veterans transition to private life.

The Truth About Military vs. Civilian Life

A couple of weeks ago I spent the day with a friend who runs a program providing financial assistance to veterans. She admitted having trouble relating to her clients’ transition challenges. Never having served, her knowledge of the military came from movies and television, inaccurate at best. Likewise, when I speak with veterans I find some of their impressions of civilian life mistaken.

To create mutual understanding here are some key points to ponder:

  1. During World War II, approximately 9% of Americans served in the military and perhaps a similar percentage of civilians worked in support roles. Currently, active duty and reserve personnel make up about 1% of our population. Though about 8% of Americans are veterans, almost half are at least 65 years old. These statistics mean that seventy years ago around 75% of Americans had direct military experience or were closely related to someone who did. Today, The New York Times estimates only a third do.
  2. While being in the military requires discipline, life is very structured. Someone with moderate self-discipline will be successful. In general, civilians are less disciplined yet succeeding as a civilian requires greater self-discipline since it lacks the structure of military life.
  3. The military ritualizes paying respect. Typically, as long as customs are observed, a service member is acting courteously. In civilian life few if any such traditions exist any longer. With co-workers coming from such diverse backgrounds, it can be easy to inadvertently offend someone.
  4. The military does an excellent job of training civilians to be warriors. But it has neither the time nor the resources to train warriors to be civilians again. Though some skills learned in the military have value in civilian life, e.g. using computers and teamwork, much of warfare requires specialized expertise that does not easily translate. Whereas having been a flyer in World War II and Korea virtually guaranteed the option of being a commercial pilot, such is not the case today.

With the basis for mutual understanding decreasing as fewer Americans are or personally know veterans, their desire to help is hampered. Though stories of bold operations, such as the one in which Osama Bin Laden was killed, capture the public’s imagination, they shed no light on the experiences of rank and file service members.

If you are seeking to assist veterans, you need to speak to as many service members and veterans as possible to gain insight into our lives. We who have served need to help you by objectively relating our experiences of military life. Is this a Mars and Venice divide? Perhaps not, but maybe it is an Earth and Moon one.

Question – What areas of misunderstanding between service members and civilians have you found?

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How to Get Rid of the Garbage that is Holding You Back

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Trite this may be, but true. You must train for a long run, not a dash. Aspiring entrepreneurs commonly make this mistake. They plan months ahead when their window should be years. Of course, such lengthy preparations will have to be recalibrated frequently.

How to Get Rid of the Garbage that is Holding You Back

Not long ago a dental hygienist cleaned my teeth. During our rather one-sided conversation, she told me plaque is an invisible film on the teeth. If allowed to remain it turns into tartar after 24 to 48 hours. Long-term it will destroy the teeth. She knows the plaque is there if teeth are not smooth. To be effective removing it, she hones her tools after every cleaning since the heat that sterilizes them dulls them. Oral health requires a decades-long plan executed from several times a day to one or twice a year.

Every day you accumulate plaque: on your teeth, in your arteries, but also in your mind and spirit. If not removed in a day or two it calcifies. Left unchecked for months and years it can destroy you. You must remove it, frequently and thoroughly. Here is how:

  1. Work on developing the ability to detect when plaque is accumulating. How do you feel at peak performance? What are the circumstances at such times? What tasks cause the everyday buildup? Which situations cause unusual or rapid accumulation?
  2. Build into your day tasks to minimize the buildup. For your teeth this is easy. Consider prevention against mental and spiritual plaque. A proper amount of sleep is a start. Would a short, daily walk help? Can a bike ride with your children clear cobwebs from your mind? Will a quiet cup of coffee while reading a book for 20 minutes before going home after work suffice? Be intentional about what you do.
  3. Create a plan triggered by special situations. If you are approaching a crazy busy time at work, plan now for what you will do after it is over. Looking forward to a vacation or other activity will reduce the impact of the work and heal the damage.
  4. Periodically change your response. While systemized sterilizing and sharpening of dental tools is best, a human being acclimates to routine reducing its effectiveness.

General George S. Patton planned meticulously knowing that once a battle started opportunities would arise that required changes to the plan. By constantly keeping an eye on the long view while stressing daily conditioning during training, his soldiers were fit to take advantage of favorable circumstances.

Question - How will you prevent getting into a mental or spiritual rut?

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If You Don’t Research Being an Entrepreneur Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

Homework. As much as you may have hated it when you were in school, it is essential for entrepreneurship.

If You Don’t Research Being an Entrepreneur Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

Currently, I am considering getting into a new enterprise. While excited by the possibilities, I am tempering my enthusiasm while investigating the industry and assessing the financial risks. An inc.com article published today pointed out that British entrepreneurs are about four times less likely than the general population to describe themselves as adventurous and over half said they have at least one risk-averse characteristic.

When I evaluate risk, I gather facts, draw my conclusions, bounce them off of people whose judgment I respect, then reassess. I also network to find people with experience in the industry from whom to learn.

So before deciding if entrepreneurship is right for you, some research is in order. With the Internet, it is easier than ever. Here are five of my favorite resources on entrepreneurship and business and why I like them.

Inc. Magazine Online Edition – a treasure trove of articles on starting and running a business, many written by star bloggers whose work is worth following.

One More Customer - remember Fran Tarkenton? This is his venture for promoting small business. Take his Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test.

Kauffman Foundation - a wealth of encouragement, information, and statistics to get you thinking and acting as an entrepreneur.

Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership blog - if you want to build a social media platform from which to market yourself and/or your business Michael Hyatt wrote the book, literally. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World takes you step by step through the process. And there is tons of great material on his website.

Patrick McFadden’s Indispensable Marketing blog - if your mind is hungry, Patrick McFadden will feed it with thoughtful and useful advice on marketing for small businesses.

You have your assignment. Don’t worry, I am not checking spelling and grammar.

Question - What resources do you use to learn about entrepreneurship and business? Please respond below.

What Decisive People Know About Success that You Don’t

Which is better - drilling down to perfect your idea before execution or getting a solid plan outlined then acting on it? Just about everyone knows that a plan is essential for success, but as General George S. Patton, Jr. said, “a good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Since business, like battles, rarely goes according to plan, in a planning versus performance face-off, default to performance.What Decisive People Know About Success that You Don’t

Remember in grade school when the teacher asked a question and you were brimming with enthusiasm to answer, squirming in your chair until called on to speak? Now think about how bad you felt when that answer was wrong. Is it any wonder that after a few times getting crushed by giving an incorrect answer you became much more skittish about speaking up unless you were absolutely sure you were right? Unfortunately, that lesson works against your success in business.

Patrick Lencioni argues that clarity about your plan is more important than perfecting it. Especially when working with a team, success comes from each member being clear about his part. Tom Hopkins says you should “put a little GOYA into your daily routine.” What is GOYA? Get Off Your Backside (polite word for Anatomy.)

Even if it turns out you made the wrong decision or had a bad plan, the experience and information you will gain by executing it will help you make adjustments as you move forward. You can only get to your goal by taking action. In most cases, as long as the next two or three steps are reasonably clear, you do not need to see a well-defined path all the way to your objective to get there.

Get moving, encounter obstacles, push beyond them. After a while, look back. You will be amazed how far you have come.

Question – How do you know when a plan you have formed is ready for execution?

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Five Steps to Discovering Your Potential

Remember when you were a child? Did your parents, a teacher, or someone else in your life tell you about all the great things you could be: an astronaut, doctor, or Olympic athlete? We may not have understood it then, but this person was helping us unlock our potential. For too many of us, the reason we do not fly is that we persist in seeing ourselves as earthworms, not just tied to the ground, but destined to eat dirt for the rest of our lives.


About eighteen months into my chaplain career, I was given the dubious honor of being made supply officer. Soon after I found that no one in the command had any idea of what or how much supplies we had on hand. Ever the practical one, I took an inventory at all the chapels and offices under our control. Among the many things I uncovered were over 40,000 candles. This may not seem so surprising but consider that we used only about 1000 to 1500 per year. We had at least a 26-year supply. Meanwhile, I kept getting requisitions for more candles.

Thinking about it earlier today, I was struck by how much light was lost through having these tens of thousands of candles sit idle. The intensity of light is measured in something called a footcandle, "the illuminance cast on a surface by a one-candela source one foot away." In a way, our ability to shine can be measured in footcandles, or maybe legcandles. How much legwork are we willing to devote to finding the things at which we are brilliant?

Here is a five-step plan for discovering your potential:

  1. Talk to friends and family. Ask them to tell you about the traits and skills they admire about you.
  2. Examine the lives of people you respect. What talents do you share in common? Which ones would you like to develop?
  3. Read several biographies of great people. The Penguin Lives series is a great set of short books. Highlight or list the abilities you share with them. Are there others that you can cultivate in yourself?
  4. Perform a skills assessment or meet with a vocational counselor who can do one. Be honest but not overly critical. List your accomplishments that support your evaluation.
  5. Take the lists and lay them side-by-side or make a spreadsheet with them. Which ones do people agree on? Which ones surprise you? These especially help you unlock latent talent.

Each of us has an internal luminance. Are we going to bury it in some unexamined storeroom? Or are we going to take inventory, uncover out hidden stock, and one by one light these candles until our brilliance shines through for all to see?

What did you uncover when you searched for your potential? How much still lays concealed? What is holding you back from taking stock?

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