I was a very average soldier. That’s right, I admit it, I was all about doing the bare minimum to get by. There were quite a few of us like that, we didn’t really care, we just wanted to get back to video games, TV, and drinking. We had so much potential, but for me it took a kick in the butt and an end to my military career to realize that potential. Luckily the lessons stuck with me and being a very average soldier helped me to become a successful civilian.
There is a concept that leaders are managers. I remember during my promotion board we were asked the question, "What is a Sergeant?" The answer they were looking for was a leader. While this may be true in a sense. it is more accurate to realize that we are all leaders. In his book “Tribes”, Seth Godin explains that being a leader is not about managing people, not about being in charge. It is about being taking your passion and turning it into a movement. Go determine your passion, look at the market place, reconcile the two, and be a leader in your area. When we stop limiting ourselves to what we have always done or what we have been trained to do, we can unlock our true potential. At work, I manage people, but I am trying to avoid becoming a ‘manager’. My goal is rather to inspire others both on my team and those around me. I want them to be excited about our mutual interests and lead them, not manage them.
Dave Ramsey, a financial counselor and author, talks about how we become like those we admire and hang out with. "You want to find out what people who have money do, and do what they're doing.” It is a pretty simple concept, if you want to be good at something you are going to need a mentor, someone who can help you learn. Of course for this to work, you need to be a mentor to others as well. Think about the skills you have that you can help others with. Get involved, and mentor someone newer in a similar career field, or even a student. Giving something back is a great way to learn and get better at what you are doing. Having successful peer mentors is always helpful as well. In your job, find someone who does the similar job, or if you are transitioning, be a peer mentor to someone else who is on the same road. Sometimes we just need someone to commiserate with, who can be there when things get a little scary.
I recall starting in basic training and through my military career, we had a concept of "Battle Buddies". Early on there was at least one person you had to get close to and know everything about. You had each others back, a real peer mentor. In the St. Crispens Day Speech in Shakespeare's Henry the V, the King makes the famous speech, "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother.” This is an easy concept when we are a part of the military, it is something that we feel strongly. For all the rivalry between services, we have all shared many drinks, meals, struggles, and laughs with others. There are a number of social media outlets; if you reading this it is likely you are already on Rally Point, but there are veterans groups in all of them. Getting involved in Veterans Service Organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Team Red White and Blue to name a few, is one of the best ways to meet people. While some of these organizations may have a reputation for being a “drinking club”, or an older organization, many of us are working to change this. Join us and take charge. Get involved, volunteer, help other veterans out, make their transition better.
One of the most important lessons I have learned since leaving the Army was I will never be good enough, I will never know enough, but I will always be the one who shows up, the one who makes things happen, and that is enough. The transition from military to civilian life is a daunting one, but many have gone before, and many of us want to help make it better. Use your resources, connect with others, and help your brothers and sisters as you go. Civilian life is tough, but you are not alone.
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