Tag Archives: veterans

How to Handle the Demands of Transitioning

Have You Reached the Moment of Truth?

2 minutes to read

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

Back on active duty, I get those annoying emails. The training officer sends reminders of some online course that we have to complete. Again. The Navy means well. It wants us to know how to handle an active shooter and records with PII. But having done the exact same training for years makes it just a check in the box. You can tell what counts with the Navy because it has the rigor that leads to change…

How to Handle the Demands of Transitioning

Make an Affirmative Decision to Confront Change

During Officer Indoctrination School we crawled through sand with broken glass in it. Rubbing sand in cuts thoroughly drives a lesson home. I hope I never have to scrabble on the ground while someone is shooting at me. But I’ll remember to keep my backside down. Parshas Shemos describes a bigger lesson in change:

“Moses said, ‘I will turn from my course and see this great sight - why does the bush not burn?’” (Shemos/Exodus 3:3)

Moses encountered a bush that was on fire but didn't burn up. He knew from the moment he spotted the bush that something supernatural was at work. He had two choices: engage with the phenomenon or move on. If he got involved with the bush he knew his life would never be the same. G-d saw Moses’s deep conflict. He could stay the course and continue a life of ease. Stopping meant committing to the struggle leading to change.

The Almighty found tremendous merit in Moses’s desire to change. So He called out, “Moses, Moses.” And Moses began his rise to leadership of the Israelites.

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Moses chose to stop and confront his fear of the unknown. G-d understood Moses’s gut-wrenching choice to live a demanding life. Such courage made him worthy to lead the Children of Israel out of slavery.

Your Real Transition Begins with a Moment of Truth

Under any circumstances, change is a daunting process. It's hardest when you don't expect it. As right as my decision was to leave active duty, I felt unsettled. Even though I had prepared, I knew hard times were ahead. I wasn’t disappointed. But the struggle was worth it.

More preparation time helps. Servicemembers who start their transition 18 to 24 months before leaving active duty have the smoothest time.

But there will come the moment when you’ll feel a lump in your throat. At that moment, your faith can compel you to begin the journey despite your apprehension. You may not yet see the miracle that will forge a better you. G-d may not show you a burning bush. But He will find great merit in your willingness to confront new challenges.

Let the rigor of adjusting to civilian life help you make the necessary changes.

Do you regret leaving the military or think you might regret it?

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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 Use Pain to Overcome Transition Hurdles

Do You Make Pain Your Reintegration Ally?

2-½ minutes to read

As many as a hundred and fifty sailors come through WTP Sembach each week. Few had an easy time during deployment. The heat and austere operating environment challenged them. Sometimes they had to toughen themselves to substandard leadership. You can quit a civilian job. But you can't quit deployment. At least not without leaving the military on bad terms. Such physical and emotional pain exposes weaknesses…

How to Use Pain to Overcome Transition Hurdles

The Power of Pain

The Navy deploys many sailors to Bahrain, home of the U.S. 5th Fleet. Those who go to Manama live in high-quality hotels, eat good food, and have access to lots of amenities.

But the sailors assigned to Isa Air Base live a Spartan existence. The heat is often unbearable. A few weeks ago, the air conditioning in working dog’s kennel broke. When discovered three hours later, the animal was close to death. With no veterinarian on base, a human medical team responded. Despite valiant efforts, the dog died.

Though it may sound trivial, the loss of this canine hit people hard. It traumatized more than one of the medical team. It desolated a young woman who visited the dogs to maintain her resilience. Bureaucracy moves slowly. But policy for checking on military dogs changed overnight as a result of this incident.

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Pain has enormous power to drive change. It also has the ability to freeze a person as he is.

4 Steps to Using Pain for Gain

When in a painful situation, you can respond in two ways. Most people seek to free themselves from pain. The sooner they get relief the better. In doing so, they fail to take advantage of pain’s ability to help them.

Athletes know how to benefit from pain. They create training plans that push beyond their limits. Increasing strength and endurance requires suffering sore muscles and joints. In the crucible of intentional discomfort, they progress toward their goals.

Pain can strengthen your mind and spirit too. Such changes usually come through random events. But you can create a training regimen to adapt your identity, build up mental acuity, and toughen your spirit.

If a basketball player chokes when throwing free throws, he’ll practice them until it hurts. He’ll analyze every movement of his body. With painstaking precision, he’ll determine where he’s failing. Then he’ll drill himself to correct these flaws.

Life transitions are filled with mental and spiritual challenges. Train to overcome them like an athlete would:

1. Pinpoint Your Shortcomings. Is your identity holding you back? Do you get tongue-tied when asking the hiring manager for the job? When you get too many rejections in a day does your spirit let you stop job-hunting? Find your weaknesses by asking hiring managers who didn't give you a job. Talk with a transition coach.

2. Own Them. You won't endure the pain of change if you convince yourself everything is okay. Don't beat yourself up. Acknowledge where you need to grow.

3. Make a Training Plan. Develop a blueprint to strengthen your weak points. It's best in a controlled situation. Partner with another veteran. Brainstorm ways to overcome your obstacles. Practice them. Get feedback. Work with a coach. If necessary, use actual meetings to train. Some meetings for a job don't go well. Use them as exercises to build your abilities. Have a couple of strategies ready to try and see how it goes. What have you got to lose?

4. Push to the Pain Point. Make sure your plan takes you beyond your comfort zone. Don't injure your mind or spirit. But use pain as a tool to embed change.

Competition in the private sector is fierce. We win in combat by out training the enemy. Adapt the same strategy for reintegrating to civilian life. Use pain to gain.

Who can you partner with to train for your transition?

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How to Be Wealthy and Virtuous

Do You Know the Source of Money’s Value?

2-½ minutes to read

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

These days, few people question the virtue of military service. Most veterans want to continue to serve after they leave active duty. Many think the only way to do this is to work for a nonprofit or the government. When I say working for a FOR-PROFIT company is noble they look at me like I’m crazy…

How to Be Wealthy and Virtuous

Is Money Evil?

A friend once asked me whether the Torah supports capitalism or socialism. I told him, in general, you can find support for both sides of such questions. Like or not, our economic system combines aspects of both.

The Torah concerns itself with how to live a proper life. When you examine the morality behind a political issue, it has a lot to say. Parshas Vayechi clarifies a major aspect of political debate in our country:

“He [Zebulun] will be at the ship’s harbor, and his last border will reach Zidon.” (Bereshis/Genesis 49:13)

As Jacob neared death, he 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.

Jacob gives his blessings in the order his sons were born. But there’s one exception. Even though Issachar is older, Zebulun’s blessing precedes his. The reason shows G-d’s attitude toward money.

Issachar and his sons devoted themselves to studying the Torah. But they had wives and children to support. Either they had to take time away from learning or someone had to support them. In steps Zebulun. He and his sons engaged in commerce. Then they gave part of their wealth to Issachar.

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If making money were just an okay thing to do, Jacob would have blessed Zebulun in order. By having him precede Issachar, he showed the nobility that comes from earning more than you need so you can help others.

Money’s Value Comes from How It's Used

Nonprofits do good work. And government provides important functions. But for-profit businesses generate the money that supports them.

Money is neither good nor bad. The same is true of profits. It all comes down to how they're used. G-d finds no merit in is a Scrooge-like accumulation of wealth. But even mega-wealthy people such as Andrew Carnegie appeared worthy before teh Almighty. While they lived opulent lives they also used their money to build libraries, museums, and hospitals.

The Torah acknowledges that for various reasons some people will be poor. But it finds no particular merit in poverty. Nor does the materialism of people like the Sodomites entitle them to praise. G-d commends those who, like Zebulun, pursue wealth in service of taking care of His children.

Question – Can someone be wealthy and a good person?

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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 Adapt Your Identity to the Private Sector

Do You Know the Military Traits that Challenge Civilians?

2-½ minutes to read

Reservists who deploy for six to twelve months face a daunting challenge. They need to quickly adapt to military life. In processing helps awaken their dormant military identity. Dress, attitude, and demeanor shift out of civilian mode. But then they finish their deployment. And they have to reorient to civilian life again. This cycle of identity changes repeats itself…

How to Adapt Your Identity to the Private Sector

Certain Traits Identify You’re Military

The Marine Corps is known for instilling a strong identity in its people. Even Marines long out of the Corps call themselves Marines. Indeed, each branch of the military uses training to embed a unique ethos into its people.

Several characteristics make service members readily identifiable:

Uniforms. Without a doubt, military dress identifies us. But even the civilian clothes we wear are distinctive. Khaki slacks, a polo shirt, and a dark blue blazer are standard attire when job-hunting. How are civilians in your field dressing for meetings and everyday work?

Grooming Standards. Most men in America don’t have short hair. Join it with clean-shaven and you can spot a service member a mile off. This doesn't bother most civilians but it does cause you to stand out.

Formality. Post-deployment you're used to calling people sir and ma’am. You refer to colleagues by their last names and/or job title. Both mark you as a military person. In the private sector, people don't call a coworker “team leader” (Sergeant) or “network troubleshooter” (IT1). Use first names unless you hear people doing otherwise.

Tone. Military speech is direct and abrupt. It sounds harsh to a civilian ear. Tone it down.

Jargon. If you call a restroom a head your civilian colleagues won't know what you mean. But, they may call HR and report you. Get back into your civilian field’s jargon.

Taunting. The way people pick on each other in the military used to be common throughout society. People poked fun at each other, including at race and gender. Most service members let it roll off their backs. In civilian life, it’s called harassment. Don't do it.

Some military traits have become common in civilian life. People swear in private sector workplaces. But they have a way to go to reach the level of the military. As well, many civilians have tattoos. But service members tend to have military imagery.

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During deployment, these characteristics root in military people without their realizing it. When they get home, family and friends see the change. But the service member just sees himself.

2 Steps to Adapting Your Identity

In the desire to get back to loved ones, reservists rarely take time to re-set their identities. They take off their uniforms. But they show up in the workplace with a distinctive military personality. Conflict begins.

What sounds like a request to a military person sounds like an order to a civilian. Sir and ma’am grate on the ear. Rules restrict work hours. It’s dismaying after having spent the previous seven months working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week making sure the job got done.

Some civilians attempt to adopt military jargon to connect with veterans. But lack of experience leads to clumsy results. Military people use the term “sandbox” when referring to Iraq or Afghanistan. But the term can sound dismissive when civilians use it.

Less than 0.4% of Americans are on active military service. About 7% are veterans. But this includes all wars. Many have long since transitioned to civilian life. No matter how much our fellow citizens respect our service, we can't expect them to overturn society for us.

We're the ones who have to reset our identities:

1. Assess which military characteristics you exhibit.

2. Choose the easiest one to change. Figure out a civilian mode. Practice it. Pay special attention to doing it when with civilians.

You have to learn to navigate the private sector using civilian practices. The sooner you get started the better your transition will be.

What is your most distinctive military characteristic?

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How to Reduce Mistakes During Your Transition

Do You Know Your Worst Enemy and Best Ally?

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayigash – Genesis 44:18-47:27

The military exemplifies a can-do environment. Many a shipmate’s desk has the slogan, “The difficult we do right away, the impossible may take a little longer.” For many veterans, this attitude carries over to civilian life, at least for a while. But job rejections can sap your determination. Error compounds error, causing you to think the private sector doesn't want you…

How to Reduce Mistakes During Your Transition

The Power of Belief

No prison is stronger than the one a person creates in his mind. You may have seen how others box themselves in with their worldview. Even someone on a lofty spiritual level can adopt a mistaken belief. Jacob fell prey in Parshas Vayigash:

“…but his heart rejected it, for he could not believe them.” (Bereshis/Genesis 45:26)

All Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy more food. They still thought he was Pharaoh’s viceroy. Joseph revealed his identity and they reconciled. Then, he convinced his brothers to bring their father Jacob and their families to Egypt. He gave them wagonloads of food and clothing to take with them. When the brothers arrived in Canaan, they told Jacob that Joseph was still alive.

They had sent Asher’s daughter Serach to prepare him for the startling news. Still, He didn’t believe them.

Jacob had seen Joseph’s torn bloody garment. He had concluded his son was dead. Now ten of his sons assured him Joseph was alive and brought ample proof. But Jacob clung to his mistake. His belief trumped reality.

Jacob had gotten comfortable with his erroneous worldview. He may have considered believing Joseph was alive. It would have removed a tremendous weight from his shoulders. But it didn't matter. Rather than risk getting hurt again, Jacob held on to his belief that Joseph was dead.

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In the end, the brothers gave Jacob a message only Joseph could have known. Finally, Jacob let go of his mistaken belief.

Your Enemy and Ally for Reducing Mistakes

Belief can be a powerful ally when it spurs you to go after what you want. But it is a sly enemy. Believe failure is inevitable. Almost for sure, you’ll get that outcome.

In even the best of situations, military people feel foreign to civilians. We talk and act more formally. They don't understand our jargon. We prize loyalty and camaraderie more than they do. Such differences can make a meeting to discuss a job uncomfortable.

Think civilians don't want to give you a job. No matter how you hide it, people can sense your attitude. They may not be aware of it. But they’ll pick up on certain subtleties. Negative beliefs compound an already uneasy situation.

Are you struggling to find a job? Does another aspect of your transition have you down? Follow Jacob’s example. Let go of mistaken beliefs. Many veterans like you struggled yet reintegrated to civilian life with jobs they love. You can too.

Question – What do you believe about transitioning to civilian life?

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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!

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