Tag Archives: veterans

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2018

Are You Surging Your Growth Through Reading?

3 minutes to read

As in past years, reading a book per week hardly makes a dent in all the great ones out there. This year I focused on personal development and history & biography. My guilty pleasure is detective fiction but didn't find any good new ones.

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2018 (1)

I keep abreast of current works. But I also look back to see what older books and classics I've missed. Here are the best from this year. Why not treat yourself to one for a Christmas or Chanukah gift?

Personal Development

No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career by Larry Smith

So many service members leave their first post-military job within the first year. Larry Smith’s insights will convince you to hunt for a job you’ll love. His practical advice will show you how. He is as generous as he is perceptive. His counsel during a telephone conversation helped focus my book publishing efforts.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

You can increase your income by working long hours for low pay. Or you can work less doing high-value assignments. Cal Newport teaches you how to organize your day to maximize time for problem-solving. If you think you're not creative or innovative, I beg to differ. You do need to find time to focus and go deep.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Don't believe me about your ability to innovate? Carol Dweck will explain why you must develop a growth mindset. A fixed mindset not only limits you. It will inhibit your children’s success. I had to make this change 30 years ago without her help. Mindset would have reduced the time it took me by at least 50%.

The Strenuous Life by Theodore Roosevelt

Written before he became president, Theodore Roosevelt’s short book has guided men for over a century. He presents straightforward principles for pursuing a worthwhile life. Look no further if you’re a veteran looking for meaning in the civilian world.

Finding Gobi: A Little Dog with a Very Big Heart by Dion Leonard and Craig Borlase

I don't care for “heart-rending,” mellow dramatic stories. So the title of Dion Leonard’s book turned me off. But my wife urged me to read this story about an everyday guy turned ultra-marathoner. At times we’re all plagued by self-doubt. Leonard will inspire you to overcome it.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

I struggle to communicate with my daughter. And she feels sometimes she can't get though to me. So we listened to the audio version of Faber and Mazlish’s book. It has taught millions of parents and children how to bridge this gap. We learned and took action. It works.

Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom

It may sound strange that I’m recommending this book. After all, isn't religion about empathy? No. Not when it leads to immoral results. Paul Bloom makes the case that our society has focused too much on empathy at the expense of other values.

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History and Biography

Gene Kelly: A Life of Dance and Dreams by Alvin Yudkoff

Gene Kelly appears to be the poster boy for “born with talent.” Except he wasn’t. Raised in poverty, all he had was hard work and self-discipline. So he trained harder than most other dancers. As a result, Kelly became one of the most successful of all time. Patricia Kelly is writing the definitive biography of her husband. Until then, this will do.

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols

Though not strictly a work of history, Tom Nichols shows how our society has devalued expertise over the last few decades. He also delves into why this trend bodes ill for solving the biggest challenges we face. If you think WebMD is as good as a human physician read this book.

The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray

It doesn’t matter where you stand on the issues of migration and immigration. Douglas Murray challenges every position on this complex question. He has researched it and interviewed migrants, illegal immigrants, and public officials. If you plan to debate this issue, read Murray now.

If you want to succeed you must read. Let me know if you have a specific challenge that none of these books address. I’m happy to recommend one to help you.

What was the best book you read this year?

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How to Make a Safer Transition by Taking Risks

Are You Ready to Do What You Haven’t Done Before?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Mikeitz – Genesis 41:1-44:17

Even if transition assistance programs did their job, your reintegration into civilian life won't be smooth. You have things to learn. Much can't be taught in a classroom. Other aspects take time. Revising your identity and adapting to how our fellow citizens think doesn’t happen overnight. Civilian life makes another big demand…

How to Make a Safer Transition by Taking Risks

Accept You’ll Have a Bumpy Transition

You know the road to reintegration will have some bumps. You made sacrifices in the military. Civilian life has hard choices too. You’ll still face the tradeoff between time with your family and professional advancement.

Though well on in years, Jacob had to start a new life. In Parshas Mikeitz he faced a gut-wrenching decision:

“Take your brother, arise, and return to the man.”(Beresheis/Genesis 43:13)

A famine in Canaan was so bad Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy food. There, they met their brother Joseph, who had become Viceroy of Egypt. But they didn’t recognize him. Joseph knew he had to fulfill the prophecy that his brothers would bow down to him. So Joseph demanded they bring their other brother Benjamin to Egypt.

When the brothers returned to their father they told him about the Viceroy’s demand. Not knowing Joseph was the Viceroy, Jacob wouldn’t consent. But soon he’d be out of food again.

Jacob didn't want to let go of his youngest son. He still adored his deceased wife, Rachel. With Joseph gone, Benjamin was the only child of his beloved wife. A stark choice stood before him. Allow his family to starve. Or let go of his precious Benjamin with no guarantee he’d see him again.

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Transitions demand operating outside of your comfort zone. Jacob put his faith in G-d. He took the risk. In doing so, he set in motion events that would raise his family to eminence.

Gaining Satisfaction Requires Taking Risks

What do you want from civilian life? Does a quiet existence after the rigors of the military sound good? Or do you crave a greater level of success than you’ve had so far? No matter which path you choose, you’ll face difficult decisions.

Your plans may include a modest private sector job. Or you may aim for entrepreneurial greatness. Either way, you want something you haven’t had before. So you’ll have to do something you’ve haven’t done before. You may have to give up a part of yourself you hold dear. You may have to break through barriers to creating new professional relationships.

When an unappealing job seems like the safest option, consider whether you can hang on after six or twelve months doing work you hate. If you avoid confronting your current limitations, you're choosing not to succeed.

Jacob faced enormous hurdles during his life. Some he handled well, other less so. That he let Benjamin go shows he remained willing to face the reality of life. You’ll have to take a risk or two to get something you haven’t had before.

Settling isn't risk-free. It only postpones the day of reckoning. Commit to shouldering the new demands civilian life places on you. And keep the faith.

Question – What unreasonable demand has civilian life placed on you?

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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!

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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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!

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