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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 LifebyDamien.com – views and thoughts are my own, and I welcome yours in the comments as well!

 

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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?

What better way to wrap 2014 at LifebyDamien.com than facing the fire and comparing myself to how I did on the 2014 Goals and Bucket list?  Well – I’ll do that, AND set a new list of goals and bucket list items for 2015.

Deep Run Pano

Deep Run Pano

I think this is a great exercise for anyone who is trying to ensure they are on track for progression – and especially those who are looking for and/or are expecting change in the near future (1-3 years).  I have heard more advice, and continued to develop myself through 2014 – which has shaped my goals and intentions as I carry forward in my professional, and personal lives.

First, how did I stack up to my 2014 goals, objectives and bucket list?  In some ways: fantastic and in other ways: dismal.   I completed 3 of my 5 goals.  Of the 17 objectives I needed to hit in order to reach the 5 goals, I completed 11 of them.  Oddly enough, completing all objectives for a given goal doesn’t mean the goal was obtained (note to self on better setting objectives).  I also noted some goals, for which none of the objectives were obtained – lets me know what I put priority on.  My largest defeat was only in completing 2 of 8 bucket list items.

I want to run through them briefly, before laying out goals and respective objectives for 2015, along with an exciting “bucket list”! For details, refer back to my earlier post HERE in 2013 in Review:

Goal:  Begin my MBA at NYU:  While I did study for my GMAT, take the GMAT, and obtain a desired score, I did not apply to NYU, or any other MBA program. That has been delayed, and I am not sure when I will pursue – but hopefully soon enough.  I admit defeat here.

Goal:  Meet face to face with my company’s CEO, Robert Benmosche:  I met all of my objectives, but not the goal.  I have made great progress in what I was working on, only the CEO changed and a new CEO stepped in.  The work I have been doing has been discussed and recognized by the new CEO.  I was also able to speak with him, just a few months before he took his role.  So – I chalk that up to “close”, but this goal isn’t horseshoes or hand-grenades.

Goal:  Travel Outside of the Continental U.S.  I NAILED this one!  Passport, work trip to Canada, and personal trip to the Dominican Republic – it was a great goal to fulfill!

Goal: Write, Produce, Record and Master a complete song.  Fell behind here… I have not had as much time to enjoy my musical side.  However, I have been having fun… and a fully completed song may not be too far from the future.

Goal: Buy a House : NAILED IT!  A little off, as we looked at all sorts of options for buying.  What came to reality was a weekend house in the Poconos.  With recent developments and investments by larger developers in the area, and in selecting a home that is in the heart of multiple ski-lifts and Summer resorts, I think we made a great investment.  Not to mention, The prices make it seem like a forced increase in retirement planning – but I can hang out here (I’m here in our Poconos House as I complete this article) as I contribute to my retirement, where as I can’t hang out in my Roth or 401k.

For Love of Country - SIgned

For Love of Country – SIgned

Goal: Begin Writing a Book:  Okay, so I have begun writing… but still very loosely.  I can’t say I have a full on, fully bought-into book and outline. I very occasionally write a passage to add to the book, and I still consider multiple book ideas to pursue. Just which am I currently pursuing?  I’ll keep that one to myself for now.

Bucket List 2014:  I was able to go Scuba Diving while in the Dominican Republic, and during the home buying process, we were able to enjoy a great family trip to the Poconos during the Summer.  The rest of my bucket list was left behind.  There were several attempts to go skydiving, but last minute scheduling conflicts made it difficult.  Once winter kicked in, I knew it was off the table.

Okay, so now for 2015 Goals:

Goal: Record & Complete One Full Song

2014-12-31 18.07.26

  • I have neglected a lot of my down time, with an increased work schedule. I need to remember to keep some balance.  Not to mention, I do believe growing musically will also sharpen my mind and allow me to think and trouble-shoot in new ways.
    • Objective 1: Record a complete “Draft” of a song.  This includes 3 verses, a chorus, and all original instrumentals (guitar, and digital Audio tools found in ProTools)
    • Objective 2: Enlist the help, pro bono, of a musician and/or musical engineers to complete the song.
    • Objective 3: Record, karaoke type songs to work on my own vocals.

Goal: Return to a Committed Philanthropic Role (with Transitioning Veterans)

  • IMG_20141222_220743I really enjoyed working as a Mentor and Guest Instructor for the Fall 2013 FourBlock classes in New York. I would like to better manager my work schedule to allow me to do work with FourBlock once again.
    • Objective 1: Plan work travel in advance, working around dates and times needed to be in NYC.  I have previously only planned travel as I needed, and then schedule personal agenda items around work.  I think there is a way to make both work more harmoniously.

Goal: Run the Spartan Trifecta 2015, Tough Mudder 2015 x2

  • This last year I ran the Spartan Sprint (5 miles), and the Tough Mudder (11 miles). The longer I have been out of the military, the greater I appreciate the need to ACTIVELY seek and maintain physical fitness.  My body fat percentage has increase, and my physical stamina and strength have decreased.  So I guess the greater goal is to improve and maintain my physical fitness, and over all self-satisfaction.  But the goal of complete one of each distance Spartan event, and this year running the Tough Mudder TWICE back-to-back will be measurable, and indicative of my work to stay in shape.
    Tough Mudder Team Pic 2014

    Tough Mudder Team Pic 2014

    • Objective 1: Run a minimum of 6 miles per week.
    • Objective 2: Go to the gym, or complete at least 1 strength training work out per week.
    • Objective 3: Register for the races
    • Objective 4: Don’t let scheduling be an excuse

Goal: Confirm Education and Professional Value Building Plan

  • I have let work dictate my current actions, so much so that I have not allotted enough time/attention to the current time that should be allotted for an improved future. While I am not fully convinced that an MBA is exactly what I should be investing both time and money into – I know that I DO need to commit to some sort of professional development, and firmly commit to a career path.  This year should have a pivot point or two in it, and on the far end of those pivots, I should have enough vision to make an informed decision, and a commitment to my future.
    • Objective 1: To be honest – I think objective one is to speak to a career coach.  I am not sure what steps to take, but perhaps a conversation or two with some professionals I have looked to as mentors will be helpful.

Goal: Get Promoted and/or apply to AND Take On an Advanced Role

  • In the course of transitioning into the corporate world as a Military Veteran, I have completed the “step back and over” in order to take a step forward. Well… there is no time to get comfortable.  Now, it is time to step forward.  During the course of 2015 I will have been in my current position for 2 years.  2 years is my limit for staying stagnant without a move up.  As I see it, I am not here to make moves at an average pace.  I am trying to make up for a “late start” into the corporate world.
    Enjoy the now, but always be looking ahead.

    Enjoy the now, but always be looking ahead.

    • Objective 1: Self-Educate on potential roles within my organization
    • Objective 2: Communicate specific interest and my value proposition to the appropriate leaders in my organization
    • Objective 3: Take on a more active role in additional roles requiring leadership and decision making to help validate my worthiness to take on a more senior role than I am in now.

2015 Bucket List:

  • Go snowboarding at no less than 2 different resorts in the Poconos (Jack Frost and Camelback are in my sights).
  • Attend 1 professional sports game/event
  • Buy a small fishing boat (Jon Boat or Canoe/Kayak)
  • Attend 1 political event (something sponsored by or hosted by a local politician, etc)
  • Host a weekend retreat for friends in Poconos House
  • Build my first piece of large wooden furniture (likely a dresser for my kids)
  • Take an advanced Microsoft Excel Class (online or in person… but let’s be honest, likely will be online)
  • Attend at least 2 BJJ classes – just to stay in touch with it… I miss training 4-5 days a week.
  • Skydiving… maybe. I want to, but not sure I want to hold myself accountable to this one

Alright – that is all for now.

Big lessons from 2014’s goals – is that, for as many of the objectives/goals I did NOT hit, I would not have made nearly as many if I did not set them!  I am happy to have done so, and reflecting on the goals I didn’t make, or seeing how goals changed is a great learning experience – for me, and hopefully for those of you reading.

Another great thing about my goals for 2014… in my efforts to obtain them, I found myself making residual gains or achieved/did things I didn’t plan for.  While I didn’t get to a listed sporting eve, I did get to attend a professional soccer game at Red Bull Stadium, and went to the Eminem and Rhianna concert at MetLife Stadium.  I have also made myself more aware of looking towards the future and not delaying the future because I’m too busy with today.  I have been able to help many Veterans in their transitions just by happenstance even though I was not in an official role to do so – and I couldn’t be happier to do so!

2015 is about growing… as will 2016 and 2017.  I look forward to another year of growth and enlightenment – and hopefully to be made aware of new goals to make for the years to come!

Happy New Year!

There has been a lot of controversy – and make no mistake, regardless of one’s stance – our Country, and New York City particularly, need to make a move towards unity or the worst will only be to come.

Daniel Pantaleo and Darren Wilson were not indicted by grand juries – and neither should have been.  The NYPD Cop who killed the innocent Bronx-bodega worker, Reynaldo Cuevas, should not have been indicted either.  The two NYPD officers that shot 9 innocent bystanders in front of the Empire State building while pursuing Jeffrey Johnson, who murdered his former colleague moments, earlier have also not been indicted for any wrong doing.

However, there is a great amount of responsibility that has not been accounted for – and that is what truly bothers me.  And that problem is not tangible.  It is not something that can be easily scape-goated and protested about.  It doesn’t give you one, single person to hold as the guilty party.  But, until that problem is resolved – we will only continue to see “killer cops”.  Sorry to make it less sensational – but let’s also get one thing out of the way – it’s not about race either.  Making it about race is only going to distract from the true problem.

A 23 year old, NJ Police Officer was killed after less than one year on the force.  That trooper, Melvin Santiago responded to an armed robbery – and was shot & killed before he could get out of his car.  This problem, the problem that killed Melvin Santiago, Reynaldo Cuevas, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, resulted in the shooting of 9 innocent bystanders and left families on both sides mourning and scarred for life is the same problem.  Failure in leadership and training.

Every one of these officers, and victims/participants in the associated events, responded to each incident in a way that was reinforced by their training and the expectations that were reinforced upon them – by both the citizens and more importantly, their leadership.  For that, I do not hold any individual officer or person guilty for their actions.  Police Officers have been given a task that is far more difficult than any person who has not held the position will be able to imagine.  At the same time, when given that level of authority, or should I say, nobility – it comes with increased responsibility.  I’d like to go through and briefly recap each incident.

On July 13th, 2014 Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago was killed by failed training and leadership. He responded to a call of an armed robbery and was the first to arrive on-scene.  When he arrived, he pulled his squad car up, with the driver’s side of his cruiser facing the entrance to the Walgreens.  Before he could exit his vehicle, the armed gunman had an unobstructed avenue of approach and used it.  He shot and killed Santiago on the spot.  Proper training would have left Santiago without a doubt that he is most vulnerable when exiting his vehicle.  That said, he should have never pulled in the way he did – his driver’s side, his vulnerable and exposed side, should never have been in direct view of the suspected avenue of approach.  Failure to have been trained to respond properly killed Melvin Santiago.

On Sep 7th, 2012 NYPD officers responded to an armed robbery in the Bronx.  With the suspects held up inside the bodega, officers took positions outside.  When they did, the suspects ran to the back of the store, while 2 bodega works made an attempt to flee.  After just being ordered to the floor by the armed gunmen – Reynaldo Cuevas bolted out the door for his own safety.  A 7 year Veteran-NYPD Officer, was standing outside, gun drawn.  He was positioned poorly and unready when Cuevas ran into the officer, and the officer’s gun.  The officer, who had never fired his weapon in the line of duty during his 7 year career accidentally shot Cuevas – killing him.  As you see the video, you can see it unfold.  The bottom line, in 7 years on the force, there is no way that officer should have been standing where he was.  He was not trained properly – and that lack of training and the leadership to validate training – is what killed Cuevas.

http://abclocal.go.com//story?section=news/local/new_york&id=8801415

Having taught Combat Marksmanship, and hand-to-hand combat in the Marine Corps, I am confident in identifying improper tactics.  Where that officer was standing – he left himself blind, and in a position where he did not have enough time to react appropriately when ANY person came out of that door.  Cuevas, nor any suspect should have been able to reach and touch the officer before the officer identified him as a threat or not threat.  Members of our most elite forces could have properly made that decisions and saved Cuevas’ life (assuming sub-second decision making time).  As a patrol officer, the NYPD officer should have been positioned so that he would have no less than ~3 seconds to properly conduct a threat assessment, from the time of sight of a person to time of action (I might even be a little generous to offers as little as 3 seconds).

On Friday, August 24th, 2012 – Two NYPD Officers, with little warning are responding to shots fired just less than a block away as Jeffrey Johnson just assassinated his colleague.   As you see in the video, the police officers approach Johnson (without their weapons drawn) and then begin demonstrating their poor training as soon as Johnson pulls out his .45 caliber handgun.  Johnson has his gun out for nearly 2 full seconds, pointed at the police, but doesn’t fire.  In those 2 seconds, the police nearly STUMBLE over each other, BACK PEDALLING until their weapons are drawn and they begin firing from an unbalanced position.  Not to mention, how close the second officer is to shooting his fellow officer that is nearly directly in his line of fire between himself and Johnson.  The police fired 16 shots, killing Johnson, and also injuring 9 innocent bystanders.

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/48791269#48791269

What went right?

  • The officers reacted as they were trained to. They cannot be blamed for that.

What went wrong?

  • Their training.
  • Responded to an active shooter situation and their guns were not drawn at the time they had the shooter in closing distance.
  • They stumbled over each other, retreating until they could get their guns drawn. As sworn officers, whose DUTY is to protect the population – they do not have the luxury to fall to the natural human reactions to danger.  They have to go INTO the danger.  If Johnson wanted to pull the trigger – one, if not both of those officers would have been dead.
  • They fired 16 shots! Many of which, were taken while off balance and not well-aimed. There is no reason that a target that is only 10-15’ away had anything less than 100% shot accuracy.  For someone who is untrained, or not trained properly, this is actually normal when considering the psychology that happens in a situation like this.  It is likely in the moment, each officer was not aware of how many rounds they heard, or how many times they pulled the trigger.  By no means is that negligent – but with proper training it can be mitigated.

NYPD, and all police forces must hold their leadership accountable for the training and acceptable performance standards.  Firing on a paper target at a controlled range does NOT prepare officers for an armed confrontation.  The bad guy is not going to wait for you to take a deep breath, exhale, focus, and slowly squeeze.  Proper use of stress inoculation in training will be a helpful tool – but still useless if NYPD leadership continues to reinforce these types of performance as meeting the standard.  The police officers did exactly as they were taught, and for that, cannot and should not be held at fault.

——-

Darren Wilson, and Daniel Pantaleo… I wanted to go into more on these two – but I think the point is made.  Both officers acted in accordance with their training.  When adrenaline goes and actions are taken – detailed thought is not what prevails.  Training and reinforced decision making is what prevails.  If the training is not sufficient, then fear takes over.  When fear takes over – things are rarely taken care of at a level that should be expected from those we entrust to be our domestic protectors.

Watch the video of Eric Garner… the hold that Pantaleo uses to take him down, is not a chock hold.  It is a head and arm manipulation, also known as a controlling technique.  The hold Pantaleo uses on Garner once on the ground IS a choke hold… it is the first, and only point during the choke that Garner tries to speak and can’t.  At that point, he truly could not breath – and his blood-flow (and oxygen) to the brain is stifled.  This sensation doesn’t end for Garner once released, and you begin to hear his pleas that he can’t breathe (at this point he CAN breath, but his blood flow to the brain is still stifled, likely giving him the sensation he cannot breath).  Anytime you even momentarily stop/pause blood flow to the brain during a time of adrenaline and increasde blood pressure – you risk the chance of the person going unconscious in a VERY short period of time.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2014/dec/04/i-cant-breathe-eric-garner-chokehold-death-video

Eric Garner is a big guy – take a look at his shoulders, and his abdomen/torso in particular.  Once he is on the ground, Pantaleo has his knee on Garner’s head (as well as his palm on Garner’s lower jaw/side of neck).  The knee on the head is a trained controlling technique.  However, the windows that Garner is pressed against, has his left shoulder pressed into the far side of his own neck.  Looking at the size of Garner’s torso – the distance his head has to go, to get flat to the ground is further than the average person… this additional distance causes additional pressure to his arteries in his neck as does the pressure of his own shoulder shoving into the side of his neck.  The cops continue to put even MORE pressure on him at this point.  Why?  Because Garner’s animalistic, and basic HUMAN response to suffocating, is to fight – as if your life depends on it (because it does) for air.  He is pushing up to relieve the pressure on his neck that is obstructing oxygenated blood from getting to his brain.  His pushing up, triggers a TRAINED response from the Police Officers to apply more force until he “stops resisting”.

That lethal cycle is a result of poor training – and must be corrected.  The response, or lack thereof by both the police and medical units to provide resuscitation immediately is nothing short of negligent.  On behalf of the Officers, it is negligence by training.  On behalf of the EMTs – just negligence.   The EMTs were rightfully stripped of their jobs.  (But let’s take a moment, what set of standards was being enforced upon them to have even begin to think that their response was appropriate in the first place?).

A lack of leadership, in the areas we need it most is killing our citizens and ruining the lives of many more.  Further it is dividing our people, our neighborhoods, and defies the cohesion any community needs to be productive and positive.  Hating individual cops, or slaying innocent cops as they sit in their car is not going to save or rectify anything.  Race baiting and claiming racial motivations is only going to distract from the point.

Leadership must be held accountable.  Training must be must be enforced to a higher standard.  I don’t mean just at the very top – I mean at the most integral levels… the middle managers: The Sergeants, Lieutenants and Captains; the heads of the academies, and those responsible for sustainment training.  But also – Parents.  Parents, Teachers and Families.  Just as Police Instructors are to be held accountable for setting, and Sergeants for maintaining, accountability for the acceptable performance standards – so should Parents, Teachers, and Families hold themselves accountable for the behavior of their children.  As those children respond only in a way that reflects what has been reinforced as an acceptable standard.

On May 28th, 2014 Stop Soldier Suicide (SSS) will be hosting its 2nd Annual “Night for Life” fund-raising and awareness event aboard the USS Intrepid in Manhattan.  The name of the organization says it all.  It is a very harsh reality that after one of the nation’s most unique and longest armed conflicts, we are losing more Service members and Veterans to suicide than to combat – SSS claims that to be at the rate of 22 Service members and Veterans per day!  Needless to say, that is an astonishing number – but after spending more time than I’d like to admit to thinking about it, I feel like I unfortunately understand.

I’d like to reference something from my 2013 in Review Article posted here at LifebyDamien:

In the year that ensued I began to realize my greatest, most debilitating fear yet:  At 28 years old, I have already lived through the most rewarding, fulfilling, and greatest part of my life.  Now what? … realize[d] that MANY Military Veterans have feared the same after beginning their transition back into civilian life.

I’ve been separated from the Marine Corps, physically, for nearly 2 years now – after being a Marine for nearly 10 years.  I spent ages 18-28, critical development years (per insurance company actuaries and doctoral studies, the male brain doesn’t complete its development in reason and rational ability until the age of 25).  During that time I was exposed to a “normal” that nobody other than Vets will understand… and I’m not talking about combat.  I’m talking about love and companionship.

I’ve noticed that I’ve become a huge baby since leaving the Marine Corps – when I see heroic acts on TV, or examples of highly cohesive teams on Prime Time drama – I get mushy.  Seriously, NCIS, Hawaii Five-O, Band of Brothers, etc…  it’s not because of the psychological trauma the characters are exposed to – but because I see the unspeakable bond that can’t be put into words – and I miss it.  I miss it dearly.  I look back and from the outside, realize that the way we showed our appreciation for the sacrifices we made for each other were rather arrogant.  It was as if unspeakable sacrifice was not just the expectation – but deserved.  In the moment, the appropriate response to someone saving your life – or giving you the last canteen of water in the desert was “told you this was a bad idea – now what”.  Or “Thanks, I would have been fine anyways”.

That’s because it IS expected – because the bond, the love, the camaraderie was so thick and inclusive that anything less would be disrespectful!  I was so incredibly naive to realize my “normal” was the exception.  Service members get out of the military – and that camaraderie is gone.  We realize that our coworkers don’t care if you have to work late – they have their own plans.  The new normal of compassion is “Oh man, I’m sorry to hear that – I hope everything goes well” and 5 minutes later they are on and about their business.  People are afraid to ask for a ride from the one person in the group who has a car.

How do you go from a culture that is so incredibly cohesive, so incredibly driven by camaraderie, that lives by the idea that your primary responsibility is the mission, and the well-being of everyone else OTHER than you – to a culture where meeting once a week for a beer is the norm for “best friends”?  This isn’t PTSD, this isn’t TBI, this – is depression.  This is isolation.  Have you ever felt alone everywhere you went – regardless of who is around you?

Now, take that isolated, beaten down feeling and add it to the thought that you have already lived through the most rewarding part of your life.  Add that, to the memories of experiences you can’t stop reliving but won’t verbalize because you wouldn’t wish the visual on anyone you care about – or anyone with a pulse.  I might say “add” but the effect is compounding, exponential – and enough to convince 22 people a day that their life is better left – behind them.

I don’t ask you to truly feel and comprehend what I am writing about – but I ask you to recognize that there are many out there who do.  Stop Solider Suicide is one organization trying to take the number “22” and instead say, “Not today”.

RIP Uncle Charlie

With Uncle Charlie – 2007 Post-Fallujah

As I write this – I fight, to not repeatedly look at the single picture on my desk… it is not of my wife, my kids or my dog… it is of me standing beside one of the best friends I ever had; who felt life was better left behind him.  RIP Charles B Lock, or as my son knew him as “Uncle Charlie” 19 Jun 1985 – 9 March 2009.

image

As a father of two, the quality of my children’s education both academically and socially is at the top of my priority list.  As I sit waiting on a flight, and begin reading Emily King’s book “Field Tested” I am reminded of a conversation I had with my wife.

After exiting the military and leaving Camp Pendleton and the accompanying Oceanside, CA public school system, my son began school in a NYC Public Elementary School in The Bronx, NY.  Needless to say, he immediately noticed a difference, and he was in the first grade.  We expected a culture change, and perhaps methodology, but I have begun to notice something else is not just different, but missing.

The Marine Corps is full of A-type, competitive personalities that enjoy pushing each other to be better.  Where one isn’t faulted for an inability, but if they aren’t in an active effort to be better.  That culture… a culture of ambition is translated to the children of service members – especially the children of Marines 😉  However, sadly enough, I don’t see that same culture of ambition in my son’s (and now daughter’s) elementary school. A culture of ambition is exactly what drives individuals to perform beyond expectations – in any setting, school, work, recreation or otherwise.

Usually I like to propose a solution before ending an article, but as I sit, awaiting my flight – this is something I need to think about more.  Where did the Culture of Ambition go?  More importantly, how does one, a team, or an organization develop, maintain and nourish a Culture of Ambition?

Your thoughts are encouraged!

NYSE Euronext celebrates 2nd Annual Veteran Associates Program

NYSE Euronext celebrates 2nd Annual Veteran Associates Program – Photo Credit to Ben Hider at Ben Hider Photography

Through an initial vision, or a Call-to-Action of NYSE Euronext CEO, Duncan Niederauer – the NYSE developed the Veteran’s Associate Program.  After Niederauer’s idea was relayed to the Human Resources department, a program was developed from the ground up and implemented for the first time in June 2012.  The program offers a paid internship to Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are currently seeking or have recently received a degree.  It provides key exposure, education and experience in the corporate world to Veterans.  The Veterans, effectively demonstrate their value by demonstrating the high-value, highly sought after, intangible traits they have developed during their military careers.  These are the same traits that have made Veteran Specific recruitment a multi-million dollar industry for multiple agencies across the nation.

Now that there is some perspective, I wanted to boast a little bit about an amazing experience.  I also wanted to include the first ever, YouTube videos on LifebyDamien.com.  Below you will find the recordings of U.S. Military Veterans ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange.  You can find me in the July 5th closing, front and center as I push the button to ring the bell and my adjacent colleague strikes the gavel.

I have included all 3 closing bell ceremonies as participants of the 2013 Veteran Associate Program were part of, if not the entirety of each bell ringing.  Lastly, I have included a brief video documenting the 2012 Veteran Associate Program’s Inaugural class, and their closing bell ceremony.

Learn more about the Veteran Associate Program, and how to create a Value-driving program in your organization at the NYSE Veteran Programs and Initiatives page.

July 10th, 2013 – Celebrating the Veteran Associate Program 2013

July 5th, 2013 – Celebrating the Veteran Associate Program 2013

June 14th, 2013 – Celebrating the U.S. Army 238th Birthday with Members of the VAP 2013

As promised, Celebrating the Inaugural Veteran Associate Program, July 5th, 2012

I have published a handful of articles here on LifebyDamien.com that revolve around the phenomena of social interaction and interpersonal skills (namely their importance on a society).  That said, I feel like today’s article is applicable, provides value, and provokes thought.

I’ve began listening to the WSJ podcasts, and just a couple of weeks ago, I heard a story about the first class of students to graduate high school, from a 100% online curriculum starting from Kindergarten.  Wow.  That is one heck of a display of technological advancement!  For the life of me, I cannot find the article in print, online. I wanted to see what colleges some of the graduates were going to, and see what statistics could be had from the group.  But I am a bit concerned.

My first concern was, “How are these kids going to know how to interact with other people?”  Well, the founder of the institution was quick to address that all the students were given even greater chances of social interaction because the online curriculum allowed more convenience for travel and social clubs such as Cub Scouts, Camps, etc.  I’m a bit skeptical.

Some of you may recall my article “It’s not Education, it’s a Distraction”, where I emphasize the importance of a structured education environment not being the academia, but the social skills obtained when placed amongst a DIVERSE group of persons.  These online graduates, from their earliest stages, are sheltered from adverse social interaction, and are allowed, by default, to only learn how to interact with filtered groups of their own choosing (or their parents choosing).  How are these children to learn appropriate interpersonal skills for dealing with adverse and vastly differ-minded individuals?  When will they get their experience? At college? Or will that be all online also?

I would love to get Malcom Gladwell’s take on it.  If “The Rosetan Mystery” as described in the intro to his NY Times Best-Selling book, Outliers, has any truth, there may be great cause of concern.  The medical mystery of the Rosetan Italians of Pennsylvania took in a diet where 41% of calories came from fat, and they maintained the lowest levels of heart disease than any community in the nation! Arguably due to their Social and inter-personal activity and function as a community.

My concern here is that our own technological advances are numbing us to CRITICAL aspects of social and medical health for humans – Social Interaction.  Further, I am concerned that through the strict selection of those we expose ourselves to (such as in this instance where one selects to interact only in specific social settings) will further segment the social landscape, and reduce our ability to see, accept, and make advancements from differences in social make-up, adversity, and what makes America – Diversity.

I’m not overly religious, and I don’t use the following quote to be so (I’ll probably quote it incorrectly), but it applies: “The greatest feat the Devil ever pulled was making people believe he didn’t exist”.  Regardless of religious belief, it is a great example.  Are we slowly reducing ourselves as a nation, and as Society while we are leading ourselves to believe that we are advancing?

*Photography Credit: Ben Hider Photography Taken 6/28/2013 (Opinions and sentiments of this article, or LifebyDamien.com, in no way reflect that, or represent the opinions, sentiments or positions of Ben Hider Photography.  Ben just takes great photos!)

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