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20150110_172457_Richtone(HDR)We are making the same mistake with returning Vets as we made in Iraq the first time.  We failed to promote the better option.

No 22 push-ups for me, no challenges, just actual work.  All of the foundations do enough awareness and believe me, there are enough egos behind the initiatives.  The awareness, beyond fundraising, can be doing more harm than good if you ask some epidemiologists, as highlighted by Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point”.  Find a brief review of the concepts here in the New York Times.

We hear PTSD and suicide as if they are near synonymous… and I will say the word or claim of PTSD is over used and overly romanticized.  PTSD is not a disorder, it’s a natural human response to exposure of a reality that we hope most will never know.  Beyond that, the knowledge is a burden that must be carried.  It’s not treated; rather learned to live with.  But, I’m not focusing on PTSD.  I want to focus on romanticizing the suicide rate and victimizing.

Want to actually impact the suicide rate for Vets?  Give them something better to do, a better option.  Show them they haven’t lived through the best part of their life.  Give them expectations, not excuses.  Just like American Military Generals recognized, one of the primary mistakes made in Iraq was failure to build an infrastructure after taking Baghdad.  An Iraqi is less susceptible to be convinced to become a suicide bomber, or be bought as a soldier, or fear their family starving, if they have a sustainable way of life, an income, and a contributing role in their community.

Don’t give Vets hand-outs, sympathy and aimless “hugs”.  They all have a time and place, but are not the solutions alone or collectively.   Put the Vets to work and demonstrate their impact and purpose that is still ahead of them.  Sometimes that means giving them expectations.  Sometimes that means giving them the chance to fail.  All the time it means guiding them to understand how they are translating and demonstrating themselves to others, and most of the time that means equipping them with a meaningful career path.

There is no, single correct career path for any person, Veteran or otherwise.  But with Veterans, going from a role of indescribable purpose, to a role where you aren’t sure if you have a purpose anymore, or if you add value, or if you can provide for your loved ones… it’s tough.  Add the burden of knowing what it really means to have friends, to love, and to sacrifice.  They know what it means, and why it is so important to put others before self.

No good gripe or complaint is worth it without a suggestion.  What’s my suggestion?  Spend less time romanticizing the visible symptom and create a solution for the source.  How do I do that?  Well, I chose to be a part of Four Block; we work on career development for Veterans.  Not a two day, or two hour workshop where we forget about you after.  Not a once a month phone call or Skype.  But a comprehensive, content retaining, and impactful, LONG-TERM solution to promoting successful transitions of Military Veterans into productive members of society.

They say idle time is the devil.  Well, idle ambition is a death sentence.  Let’s focus less on romanticizing the excuses, focus on holding each other accountable for desired expectations and reminding us all that we have a purpose.  Change the narrative.

As is always the case with my articles here on – views and thoughts are my own, and I welcome yours in the comments as well!


2015 In Review

It got lengthy, so my review of 2015 is at the bottom – but let’s summarize to say, I effectively completed 3 of 5 goals with some caveats.  I also completed… NONE of my bucket list.  At least none of the planned bucket list items.  Of the 9 bucket list items, I may have loosely filled one.  My career and priorities took a shift in 2015, which did leave less time and focus for recreational bucket-list items (there goes that whole “Balance” convo).  As far as balance goes, I’ll side with NYC’s most connected CEO, Hank Greenberg.  Feel free to read through Four Block’s Twitter feed for reference.

Also – in an effort to ensure I am writing, and thoroughly thinking through my goals and bucket list for 2016, I am only going to review 2015 in this post.  I’ll be sure to follow up with a list of Goals and a Bucket List for 2016 to which you can hold me accountable.

Unplanned Accomplishments in 2015

Sunset AheadIt is important to make goals – even at the risk of setting goals you fail to accomplish.  It can only do two things.  First, it sets you up with a small dose of ambition & focus to accomplish something.  Second, after measuring what was/wasn’t accomplished you can take a look at how your ACTIONS have demonstrated your priorities and how well that lines up with what you verbalize (New managers should really take note and think about that last line – because your direct reports certainly will).

There are many goals and bucket list items that I did not accomplish in 2015.  I did find that my aspiration to obtain them had an impact on making other – unpredicted accomplishments.  Here are some of mine that I don’t reference in my review:

  • Built a Bar height Table using with reclaimed wood. It was fun, although I wouldn’t call it a “large wooden furniture piece”.  I did get to work with epoxy for the first time.
  • Bought Road Bike – Started cycling (lightly). I never thought I would, but cycling has been a great addition for me, and my family.  It allows me to burn a couple calories while ensuring my kids stay active.  It’s a personal development activity, and can also be a family activity.
  • Public Speaking events. It may not sound humble, but I get SUCH a thrill doing speaking events.
    • SVA NatCon 2015 – Lucky enough to be on the Campus Culture Panel with Michael Stack of the SVA and MOH recipient Kyle Carpenter, all while in front of 1200 amazing Veterans.
    • Tri-State National Diversity Council – it was an inaugural event, and I was able to speak as the keynote on Diversity and Veterans.
    • UCONN EBV – Networking for Veterans. This was similar to the role I fill now, but such a humbling experience to be asked to teach “Networking for Veterans” at the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans at the University of Connecticut.
  • Christmas Presents for Kids.  A misnomer, but a big deal.  Not a big deal to get them presents, but to actually know what they are interested in and if the presents would be enjoyed.  Learning how to be present as a Dad and Husband is something I have to actively work on.  When gift time comes, my wife sends me a list of ideas for herself (at my request) and she lets me know what “we” got the kids for Christmas.  This year, I was much more active in identifying appropriate gifts.  With 9 of our 11 years of marriage taking place while I was in the military, I wasn’t held accountable for being present.  So I guess that’s part of the transition process.

2015 Bucket List (in review):

I did not buy a small fishing boat – but that was a matter of priorities.  Instead, we spent the money on house renovations.  It increased the value of our home, and gave me something to do that required craftsmanship.  I’ve completed all of our home renovations, personally.

I also did not build a large wooden furniture item.  I did however, refinish our kitchen cabinets where I gained experience with more miter saw work and trim-detailing.

For the remaining list of my failed bucket list items – take a look at 2014’s Review and 2015 goals here.

2015 Goals:

Record & Complete One full Song (INCOMPLETE)  Well, that’s the short way to say it – I just didn’t get this done.  To be honest, I think I probably spent less than 20 hours TOTAL, in the entire year, working on any sort of musical production (unless singing while driving counts…?).  This was a goal that was carried over from 2015 as well… this may be a sign, that I have not actively made it a priority.  I won’t be carrying this goal into 2016.

Return to a Committed Philanthropic Role (with Transitioning Veterans) (COMPLETE) Well – I nailed this, and further out of the park than I could have imagined.  As of April 2015, I didn’t just return to a volunteer role – I left “Wall Street” and took on the role as Program Director for Four Block Foundation in New York City.  It’s a 501(c)3 organization that (if I may say so myself) is the premier organization changing the Veteran narrative and increasing the success of transitioning Veterans entering corporate America.  Make no mistake about it, Four Block is effecting the lives of many Veterans, and is influencing the future of our nation’s business leaders.

Run the Spartan Trifecta 2015, Tough Mudder 2015 x2 (INCOMPLETE)  Peaks and valleys, right?  I only ranTough Mudder Wall - Cropped one Spartan race, and that was a Sprint – no big challenge there.  I also only ran Tough Mudder once – compared to my “x2” goal.  With my move to Four Block I was able to make a fund-raising event of the Tough Mudder – and I will be looking forward to doing so again in 2016, so keep an eye out!

Confirm Education and Professional Value Building Plan (COMPLETE* with caveats). NYU Subway Well, my move to Four Block has done a lot.  It’s made me feel the most satisfaction with my career that I have had since taking off the uniform.  In a way, it’s what a friend and incredibly ambitious and inspiring fellow Veteran once coined as “getting my ‘give a damn’ back”.  Having a sense of purpose is like consuming the energy drink that Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster all wish they could develop.  It’s a surge of “get’r dun” that flows through you.  But to address the goal – I’ve began my MBA at NYU Stern, I’ve actively sought responsibility at Four Block that takes me OUT of my comfort zone as a professional- and I am seeing responsibility and empowerment to complete my role as a regional/city director that is far more encompassing than I had in my previous role (and I enjoyed my previous role – but it just doesn’t compare).

Get promoted and/or apply to AND Take on an advanced role (COMPLETE* with a twist).  Well, I’ll leave the nuances where they belong – but in order to see the promotion, growth, development and load of responsibilities that come with it – I moved externally.  As a career coach and advisor, sometimes that is the move to make.  We have ambitious goals at Four Block – which I fully intend to promote.  Looking at our stake-holders, they deserve nothing less.


Happy New Year – and Keep Achieving!

We don't often see "Purpose", but immediate or in long term, it's effects are remarkable.

We don’t often see “Purpose”, but immediate or in long term, it’s effects are remarkable.

Purpose is a funny thing.  People say it a lot; we hear it a lot; we reference it a lot… But I’d argue we don’t understand the effects of “purpose” a lot.

If we are lucky, our goals will align with our stated purpose.  When that is true, good things happen… actually, GREAT things happen.  We don’t often state our purpose, and I bet many of you reading this couldn’t give me your purpose this very instant.

Still thinking about it?  YOUR purpose.  Not your company mission statement; not your professional goals; not your health goals.  What’s your purpose?

It’s hard to say it, even after identifying it.  Why?  Because you become very vulnerable when you admit to your purpose.  There is a natural defensiveness in us all – to not allow ourselves to be “vulnerable”. It’s a survival instinct.  Stephen Covey is world known for conflict resolution – what’s at the base of, The 3rd Alternative?  Purpose.  Get past the superficial and get to what really matters for all parties, and there is almost always a 3rd, and better, alternative.

What have you done lately to identify your purpose?  Reflect lately?  I mean truly reflect.  Not brag at yourself for accomplishments, or complain about those “other things” that keep getting in the way of what’s “yours” – but reflect.

For me, I think it’s a huge question that I don’t know if I can answer.  But, I’ve figured out how to identify short-term purpose.  They’re called, “goals”.  You can endure anything if you have a purpose to do so.  Nobody I’ve ever spoke to would go to Boot Camp or Officer Candidate School if it didn’t result in becoming a military service member.  I didn’t go to Boot Camp for fun – I went to become a Marine. I didn’t go to OCS and trade my “rockers” for “butterbars” because I wanted to be a “Boot” again and enjoyed PT and getting yelled at; I wanted to be an Infantry Officer and lead Marines at the ultimate test of leadership – the world has ever known.

Take a look at what you do each day, and answer yourself:  Does this fulfill my purpose?

– Damien

Four Block alumni organizes Ruck March

Gene Wu (Left), Four Block Alumnus, Vet Hack Founder and Event Organizer pictured with fellow NYU Alumni.

Four Block Alumni Organizes Veteran Suicide Awareness Event in NYC

Published on Oct 12, 2015 posted by Damien Bertolo

New York City, NY – On Sunday, October 11th, hundreds of people walked through the streets of New York City wearing heavy packs, “silkies” shorts, and flags. They were participating in the 2nd Annual VETHack Ruck March to End Veteran Suicide and were joined by many veterans organizations, including Four Block, Team Rubicon, Team Red White And Blue, The Mission Continues, GoRuck, and the Bob Woodruff Foundation…

– See more at:

Happy to share my latest – as written for the organization I am a part of – Four Block!  Give it a look – and if it raises questions, give our page a visit!

That’s the difference with Four Block–they don’t merely give out tools for veterans to stare at; they teach veterans how to use those tools.

Source: Craftsmen of Their Careers


This is just a quick “Anchor” I drew on MS Word – I’ve tried to pick as neutral colors as possible – it is just an anchor made with MS Word art.

I may share opinion pieces on – but I do refrain from taking a political position.  If I may have disappointed you by breaking that rule, just continue reading and find out why this is about Marketing.  I am not nearly involved in Politics enough to make any political analysis of any given candidate.  But I can tell you why Donald Trump is the Anchor of the Republican Party – and his effect is already established.

The “Anchoring Effect” in marketing describes the effect of manipulating consumers/buyers decision making by presenting them with a new “anchor” or baseline to make their decisions when deciding to purchase or act.  This can be better explained in the article published in January 2014.  Let me set an example, first read the following two statements:

  • Statement One: I paid $800 for my roundtrip plane tickets to L.A. (from NYC) last month.
  • Statement Two: I am looking for tickets to make my next trip – they are looking expensive.

How much do you think tickets are selling for?  Odds are, if you didn’t go to a booking site before answering, you assumed the tickets are more than $800.  If I’m an airline marketer, I’m also hoping you’ll find that a price that you’ll accept to paying.  When looking up info on the anchoring effect, I find most writers also referencing this great TED Talk by Dan Ariely – he is able to speak through the examples well.

Donald Trump, be it through choice, intent, or not – is making statement one.  Donald Trump has already made a case, that is followed enough to effect the decision making of voters – particularly those who will not vote for him.  Let’s set some assumptions for the sake of making this easier to explain:

  • the extreme Democratic position as the “Far Left” and the extreme Republican party as the “Far Right”
  • the point at where both parties meet is the “Moderate Middle”
  • Democratic Presidential candidates are somewhere on the “Left” and Republican candidates are somewhere on the “Right”.

Speaking from a Marketing perspective, Donald Trump has established a newly visible point of reference… effectively making the “Far Right” even further to the right, than before his campaign.  If the Republican Party stays its position in the “Right”, then the moderate middle is then pulled to the right to some extent… closer to the (hat is now considered) “moderate” republicans.  Think of it similar to the average or “mean” of a data sample being skewed due to an extreme value.

Without an Extreme Right, or polarizing candidate like Donald Trump – the “extreme” boundaries are held by the Republican Party.  I am not advocating any candidate, but I thought seeing this, somewhat hidden, example of the Anchoring Effect was too interesting to not mention.

Yes, we’re all dumb – enough to make mistakes – and then we learn.  In a way, that is a part of the self-deprecating culture I miss about the military.  We are all very hard on ourselves, and while also served with an occasional dose of – ahem – “confidence” we also ridicule ourselves more often than anything else.  Well, ourselves and each other.  I have grown to realize there is a productive measure to that ridicule that improves individual, collective and team performance.

When a working team establishes a communication environment that allows for straight, sometimes brutal, but honest and even more often comical, communication – there is very little left unsaid.  Why is that helpful?  Because it ensures that all members of a team are voicing their observations when they thinks something is awry.  If you are doing something that can be done better, you’ll be told.  If your performance is good, but can be better – you’ll be told.  If someone disagrees with you – you’ll be told.  The guess work is taken out, and the perceived friction point can be addressed.  This reduces what I’ve been introduced to as “office politics”.  If we’ve learned anything in a democratic society, it’s that “politics” and “efficiency” often get in each other’s way.

Of course, there needs to be moderation.  No team should suddenly start verbally lashing out at each other (nor should they ever really be “lashing out”).  First, everyone has to believe that everyone else in the team is more concerned about the TEAM’s goals and objectives than any individual’s objectives.  Team-orientation over self-orientation is a topic of its own, and gets into the foundations of team building.  But that will be it for today – let’s keep it short.  How honest have you been with your team lately?

*You might have noticed the title was intentionally, incorrectly spelled as “were” instead of “we’re”.  It’s a play on words… making “dumb” only temporary, until enlightened.

Recently I’ve been tossing around this idea of a “Third Identify” for Veterans when referring to career and life, post-military.  I call it a “Third Identity” because Veterans typically had an identity of who they were before the military; they then assume a new identify in the military (as their life and experience in uniform would warrant).  Finally one exits the military and who the Veteran identifies himself to be post-military is rarely the same person he was before or during his time of service.  With all the variables that come with it – there is one common trait that builds the person, and should be minded: Integrity.

I don’t mean just integrity as in honesty; I mean “integrity” as in the consistency, or truancy of behavior.  For this, I’m going to attempt to weave a common thread through the theories, observations and expertise of three gentlemen far smarter than myself – as I’ve interpreted from their books.


My Personal Jim Joseph Collection, Hardbacks and Kindle combined.

What do Jim Joseph, Joe Navarro, and Charles L. Allen all have in common?  They’ve all stressed the importance of consistency in behavior.  Why?

Jim Joseph is the largely successful, global branding guru – who has experienced success as an entrepreneur, corporate leader, professor, father and author – penning 4 great books (of which I’ve finished three and am due to order his latest “Out and About Dad”).  Jim’s series of “The Experience Effect” reiterates the need for consistency in business, employee, and personal behavior in order to gain positive rapport with a target audience (That is a gross over-simplification, but feel free to read up yourself J).  Jim says it best when wrapping up “The Experience Effect for Small Business”:

Live life consistently with the brand you’ve established for yourself and link it to your small business.  Make personal choices that are consistent with your brand, and make personal decisions that reinforce and support the decisions of the business that will aid in its success.”

Joe Navarro is an acclaimed FBI Interrogator and Investigator and has literally, written the book on detecting deception for the FBI.  You can read his work in “What Every Body is Saying”.  When Joe goes deeper into identifying deception, he repeats both the difficulty in doing so – but also, the importance of “Synchrony”.

Synchrony is as it sounds, when all elements of communication are synchronized in delivering a consistent message.  But, when the verbal message doesn’t match the non-verbal message (body language) something is off.  As Joe will explain, seeing this sort of “asynchrony” will cause discomfort in both the communicator and who the person is communicating with.  It makes sense – how uncomfortable is it to just say the word “No” while nodding your head yes?

Lastly, Charles Lawrence Allen is a published Psychotherapist and Counselor.  In his book, “Why Good People Make Bad Choices”, Charles describes the constant argument all people face.  The argument between stated (and ideally behaved/demonstrated) values, and one’s ego.  The ego, as Charles will tell you, has a purpose that contributes to human survival.  It also has a strong penchant for questioning one’s integrity.

In his book, Charles emphasizes, that peace within one’s self is found as consistency is established with stated values and demonstrated behaviors.  It’s a good read for anyone thinking about how their own brain operates, or why they keep grabbing the King Size candy even though they know beach season is coming up.

The common thread?  Consistency is good; Inconsistency is not.  Inconsistent brand experiences will end up losing your company money; enough so to constitute a national shutdown to commence a day of training (like Starbucks did).  Inconsistent body language – or non-verbal communication that doesn’t match what your mouth is saying, will result in discomfort and distrust with whom you are speaking.  Inconsistent actions that do not agree with your own stated values will cause stress and hyper-tension, discomfort, and lack of happiness.  These are all issues that we all face – and issues that Veterans must face in a condensed timeline when searching for their Third Identity.

That search will likely take longer than your savings account will cover.  However, making it through that identification phase as you find your identity will be much more likely if you take a moment to establish your priorities, and make conscious decisions to reinforce those priorities.  It will be visible with friends, families and on interviews; and to someone searching for a sense of purpose – it will be most importantly visible – in the mirror.

LinkedIn Sign

Every college graduate, and every transitioning Veteran (hopefully) face a million dollar question before finding their first job after college or the military:  “What kind of career do I want?”

It seems that many times instead of answering that question, time, demand, opportunity (or lack thereof), and pride result in the answering of a substitute question: “What job can I get that pays enough?”

Today, Four Block Veterans visited LinkedIn and heard from LinkedIn employees mixed of both Veterans and Non-Veterans.  The first theme – no brainer: They all loved working at LinkedIn.  I was happily surprised to hear two different, yet consistent and related themes.

The panel all discussed what they enjoyed about working at LinkedIn, and they all described the things they like by comparing it to the things they didn’t like at previous companies.  I should point out, that half or more, worked at rather big named companies previously – companies that many of our Vets, and college grads would hope to work at.  In making the comparison and exposing the contrasting company cultures – it was enlightening to see what came up.

All of the panelists described an empty feeling they had while at previous employers, that has been filled while at LinkedIn.  While there may be many reasons for why they feel, well, filled – it seems all agree it’s the culture of inclusion, creative thought, and ambitious greatness all tied together with enjoying the people they spend most of their waking hours with.  They all also noted – while I am confident they all make fair wages – that their initial concerns of wages upon finding their first job may have misled them to their first companies and ultimately the empty feelings they had before joining LinkedIn.

We heard a lot of great things from the panel, and are incredibly grateful for all of the panelists to take their time to share their experience with our Four Block students.

As the economy, or more importantly the labor market, begins to shift in favor of the employee, keep in mind that you should make no substitutions when answering your million-dollar career question:

What kind of career do I want and what do I need to get out of it?

Be it Passover, Easter, or just the change of season – the Vernal Equinox and arrival of spring mark the vivacious new chapter in the New Year.  After the tumultuous shift into the New Year has occurred (If you are in the Northeast, you are particularly familiar with this year’s tumultuous “transition”) and now all look to the fruits to come – if they haven’t already arrived.  What better time to mark my own turn into a new chapter?

This week, I begin my new mission – or should I say new role in a continued mission – at The Four Block Foundation.  I will be closing a chapter where I served as a Campus Recruiter and leading voice in the company’s Veteran Initiative Committee at the world’s largest Insurance Company – AIG.  I accomplished quite a bit while at AIG, and I hope to still help them accomplish some of their goals that coincide with our goals at Four Block.

To AIG I say:  Thank you for the time and ability for me to continue developing myself while having a mission and contributing to value for something other than myself.

To Four Block: Thank you for inviting me in. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the team!

As I write this – I can’t help but think that in my move to Four Block, I’ve managed to directly address two of my 2015 Goals in one!  I will have a great involvement in Four Block (which if you have read, is not a new organization to me) AND I will be taking on an advanced role with more responsibility.  The ability for me to take on a role that is quite accurately a ‘passion project’ is incredibly humbling.

The role will be incredibly exciting, challenging, demanding and – rewarding!  As the Director of Programs in New York City, I will have the opportunity to work with some of the most: well-trained, ambitious and determined Student Veterans that the region has.  On top of that, I will have the privilege of being a part of their development.  At an operational level, I will have the opportunity to be a part of Four Block growing, and developing more relationships, more offerings, and more opportunities for Four Block students and the organizations that support them.

At a tactical level – I will have a new routine and a new balance of priorities.  It may sound simple or even silly, but I look forward to my new schedule allowing me to get to the gym in the AM, or go running, or complete an Insanity/T25/#Spartan30/WOD workout without having to get up before 5 am!  I might be a Vet, but I’ve never enjoyed getting up early – if it wasn’t for the excitement of getting to jump out of a perfectly fine aircraft over the gorgeously green fields of Alabama, I would have REALLY struggled at jump school.

I am very excited to share this time and new chapter with you.  Here’s to jumping into a new chapter, and to earning the fruits to come!

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