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leadership is not always comfortable

In the absence of leadership, he who holds himself and his peers to a higher standard than is demanded will rarely have 100% approval ratings from peers. Those peers who actively seek self improvement will show interest; those who don’t might show resentment.  A key tool in leading peers, particularly without any given title, is to carefully monitor and manage your methods of communication.

This doesn’t mean you will gain the 100% approval rating, but it may help to ensure you don’t earn disapproval on account of unintentionally sending the wrong message.  You may also need to check your own definitions, to ensure your own definition of seeking self-improvement and performance is not blinding you from seeing the ways others may do the same – just in different ways.

Still, I remain supportive of those who maintain a higher standard.  Even at the risk of not, “pleasing everyone”.   The reward of positively influencing one, or being an influence in the development and growth of another, far  out-weigh the cost of an unambitious collegue.  They are only the few, and will either catch on eventually, or just weed themselves out.

Whether it be the advances in technology that we use daily such as electricity, cell phones, refrigerators, fleece or the internet – or – the awe inspiring accomplishments of our world such as landing on the moon, the space station, virtual reality, olympic world records or your favorite theme park – We wouldn’t have any of it, if we all settled for the standard.

We’ve become the society we are, we’ve made many accomplishments and will continue to accomplish more – on the backs of those who didn’t let us just meet “the standard.”

#whoisleadingyou

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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.

Management is tangible.  It is about the effective and efficient completion of task items.

Leadership is intangible, and it is NOT about you.

If you are developing those in your charge, they will grow and will be offered opportunities.  Don’t be bitter; be proud.

If you are NOT developing those in your charge, they will FIND other opportunities.  Don’t be bitter; be better.

When I heard the statistic that 22 Veterans were committing suicide a day I was shocked at the number.  It is clearly too many.  But then… the more I’ve experienced life after the uniform, life as a Vet, I wonder how it is so few.

I try to keep things positive, and be a common voice for many.  But this time, this is just raw honesty – for better or worse.  Every day I ask myself if I will ever be worth something the way I was when I was  a Marine.  The one place I felt like I fit in, and I had a purpose worth sacrificing for, I will never be able to go back to.  But I also lose hope every day that I will ever find a place to fit in like that ever again.  So now what?  Does that make me spoiled?  Maybe.

Now – maybe I’m tainted, maybe I have too high of expectations of people, or maybe I’m just broken.  I have lost my ability to cope with persons in positions of leadership who fail to lead; People in the world who will sacrifice others for their own gain.  I can’t stand to see people in positions of leadership being falsely led to believe they are leaders – but just aren’t.  But worse, that they have been placed in that position and NOBODY has given them an honest education, expectations, or development on/with leadership skills.  So – is it really that person’s fault?

I was drafting my next post to be about the leadership failures within the NYPD, highlighted some of the tragedies that happened at the hands of the NYPD officers.  The cliff-note:  There is leadership at the top, and cadets get leadership training during the academy – but nobody is qualifying the leadership between the very beginning, and the very top.  And that lost leadership is costing NYPD their own lives, the lives of NYPD Families, and the lives of those whom they are sworn to protect.

I can type until my fingers bleed, I can speak at college campuses until my face is blue and my voice is shot.  But the situation is not going to resolve.  It is not going to resolve for me, and I am still lost.  I’m still left wondering where, if I’ll find my place of value – and that hope diminishes daily.

Every day I look at my accomplishments since I’ve been a “Veteran”, and every day I am not happy with them.  To some others, they may see some as actual accomplishments.  But, I’ve lived beyond that – and to me, I question if I am meeting the minimum requirements.

It’s true, and I’ve poured countless hours of my own time, my work time, and the time of others I’ve asked to help me – to figure out why the population doesn’t understand Veterans.  They don’t, and won’t.  But – maybe the bigger fix is correcting how Veterans don’t understand the rest of the world.  Before the 9/11 attacks 13 years ago, only 3% of the U.S. population was made up of Military Veterans.  Currently that population has increased to 10-12%.  It is expected to move back closer to the 3-4% mark after we move beyond a post-conflict era.  So – why should we work on educating the 90% + population for the sake of the less than 10%?  Maybe because the 10% have been enlightened in a way the 90% haven’t, and that enlightenment came at a cost that the 10% bare on behalf of the 100%.  I can only think back to the book, “The Giver”, and the strife that was brought to the one chosen to be the “Giver”.  Maybe not all of us can handle being enlightened, and still live among those who are not.  Maybe that is why the “Giver” lives a life of an outcast, and away from those who will never have the capacity to know.

The problem is – even though their cost, the cost of the 10%, was at the benefit of the 90% – those who stand to lose the most in all of this confusion, are the “Givers”… the 10%.

#22adayistoomany – but I can only wonder how it isn’t so many more.

It’s no secret that in today’s global economy, if you are not improving you are losing.  So if nothing else, you must be moving forward or in the general direction you aspire to go.

When guiding discussions about establishing “SMART” goals for students, transitioning Vets, or professionals I like to use the GPS analogy…  When using a gps, you must input the address in order to get directions to your destination.  With all the technology in the world, you still can’t arrive at your destination without identifying it.  Well, I’d like to add that – you don’t have the luxury of delaying your decision of where to go.  Actually, you HAVE to be driving… in some direction…At some speed until you can decide on a destination.

So… what happens when you are behind the wheel of a bus, that can’t slow down and you have no destination?  Well Sandra, stopping is not an option.  Thus, the title of this post… and what happens now?  What for those who have identified that you “don’t know what you want to be when you grow up” but have a career started?  You can’t stop the bus, but if you don’t identify your destination soon, you may be traveling in the opposite, or at least wrong, direction until you do.

Typically I like to propose a feasible solution or recommendation each time I highlight a conflict or hurdle.  This time, I don’t have one… or at least not a good one.  You might want to find your Keanu Reeves, a mentor, or an outside perspective that can help you get on course – before things blow up.

The Employer’s Equation:

Veteran Recruitment and Retention

One thing I learned in training to become an infantry officer or as a Marine officer in general:  You have to turn the map around.  In combat – that means you need to see how your enemy expects you to act, and then exploit their plan.  In the civilian world I see it as a mix of strategy and desire as described by the amazing and late, Randy Pausch, creator of the Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon University.

Randy says, in life there are walls.  But those walls are for other people; those walls help you because it keeps those other people from getting to YOUR dream.  If it’s your dream, you’ll find a way around those walls.  As a vet looking for a job, your opponent, your wall, is not an adversary; instead it’s the need of the employer.  If it’s YOUR job, then you will find a way to get over the translation wall and exploit the needs of the employer by demonstrating your ability to fill them.

But for now, I’d like to share an idea with Employers.  In the 1990s, only 3% of the nation’s population was made up of Veterans, while 8% of CEOs in the fortune 500 were Vets – that’s no coincidence.  That’s what happens when drive, technical expertise, and leadership ability come together.

When employers begin thinking about hiring Veterans into their company it starts with the question:  Why Veterans at [insert company]?  Truth of the matter is… they aren’t turning the map around, and they are asking the wrong question.  Let me correctly rephrase the question:

“Does [insert company name] deserve Veterans?”

Hiring Veterans makes business sense; it is not a philanthropic issue.  I’d like to point out a few issues that face employers who enact a Recruitment and Philanthropy only Initiative, and I present them as an equation that results in Turn-Over or Retention.

Philanthropy V. Business, PvB (negative values for Philanthropy; positive values for Business)

Culture Training, CT (a value of 0 for no training, and increasing positive value for added training)

Mining for Oil, MOe (An exponential, “force-multiplyer” of the sum of the previous two values)

Turn-Over / Retention, “Retention” (a negative product results in increased turn-over; a positive product results in retention and efficiency in recruitment)

Looks like:

Employer's Equation for Retention

Employer’s Equation for Retention

There should be a multiple in front of CT, as internal training on culture for the Vets, and leadership for managers is more impactful to the equation than the PvB in many ways, but I cannot identify a percentage to weight it.  I’m going to give a brief explanation of each component, and then I will explain aspects of the equation in my next article.

Philanthropy V. Business:

Recruiting Veterans is a business choice, and it makes business sense.  Just like any business venture with a measurable ROI, it takes investment and monitoring.   Philanthropy is more like what fighter-pilots refer to rockets as “fire and forget”.  You write the check, sign off on the agreement, and it generates smiles, warmth and a few positive PR effects without much follow-through needed.  It also has hard to measure ROI, and its effects cannot be controlled once committed.  If employers only see Vets as a philanthropy and PR topic, rather than the ability to increase training, retention and desire through-out the company – they will never get the value out of the investment.

Culture Training: 

As outlined well through experience and in documented surveys in Emily King’s book “Field Tested”, hiring a Veteran for their leadership and not helping them adapt to corporate culture is a quick way to increase turn-over (civilians don’t take well to command and control leadership).  However, adjusting this to more of a highly efficient, servant leadership style is easy to do if you plan for it.  Veterans also receive a full-time education on customs and courtesies of the military until it encompasses all they do –this needs to be readdressed with recently transitioned Veterans in the workforce.  Don’t think it is that powerful?  I will address this very issue in articles to come. In the meantime, feel free to revisit the second half of, Isolated.

Mining for Oil:

Veterans are like Mining for Oil… especially the good ones.  If a company recruits and retains a Vet, providing them with a positive experience – the Veteran will tell his friends.  High-quality Veterans that employers are seeking are often connected with each other.  You find one – and you find many.  This works in reverse as well:  Burn one good one, and they will warn off their buddies.  The result is a greater negative effect on Employer desirability in the Talent Market, and increased struggles for the company to find good talent.  With companies like LinkedIn now tracking an employers’ “Total Brand Index”, this is a force to be reckoned with.

I will leave it here for now.  The equation is my gift to employers.  Stay tuned as I carry out the next series of articles centered on this very topic.  Touching further on the level of friendships and relationships Veterans once shared, culture of training, mining for oil, and how quotas (often a product of philanthropy) can hurt your company.

As always – please share, and please share your thoughts.

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

So, I think I have finally figured it out – I’m afraid they aren’t going to wait for me!  Who are “they” (Maybe “they” should be my readers, and I could use my fear of them not waiting for me as motivation to post more consistently, and more often)?

They – are opportunities.  As I fight my required yet despised daily ritual, going to bed (I like to be up at night, but the rest of the world requires me to be up during the day) I realize that I am not good at keeping a routine.  Actually, I am always telling myself that I need to do many things more “consistently”.  But, I never do.  More importantly I realize that, I can never keep to strict routines, because I am afraid that by committing to a routine I will miss out on an opportunity!  What if I neglect passing opportunities because I’m too drilled into maintaining my routine?

Time is not waiting for me, and this is not the world that would allow me to miss out on an opportunity… can anyone afford to turn away when opportunity knocks? 

In business planning, you always have to calculate the “opportunity cost” of investing in something new, or just moving forward with a plan.  The amount is measured, for analysis reasons, by estimating the single most impactful opportunity you would lose out on by making your choice.  THE SINGLE most, not all the potential opportunities – just the single most.  This opportunity cost is often, if not always, mutually exclusive from what you will gain from the choice or option you pursue.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been good at only assuming or measuring just one, identifiable, most-impactful opportunity – and I’ve never liked that I have to miss out on it.  I’ll take that cake, and a napkin – because I’m eating it too!

I like to take these realizations and turn them into a question or challenge for myself.  So, this time I see two focus points: 1. I need to learn how to keep “routine” tasks exciting so that I don’t actually feel like I’m in a routine (and thus not blind to our distracted from passing opportunities).  2. I need to ensure I am giving full attention to whatever I am doing, and not allow myself to get distracted by fear that I might have mis-allocated my time.

Final Blog Post of 2013

2013 in Review – 2014 Goals

So, let’s take a look at 2013 so we can be set with a plan for 2014.  A lot has gone on this year for me personally and professionally of which a few points I’d like to highlight.  One of the things I am adamant about is having goals and objectives.  Not just dreams, but actionable plans to continue growing.  2014 will be a crucial year for me as I identify goals and objectives – mostly due to the happenings of 2013 and some realizations I’ve had to come to during that time.

Deltas Walking

Before I start my recap – I’d like to confess to my greatest fear; a very realistic fear that has influenced, for better and worse, my actions and motivation in 2013.  However, I am grateful for realizing it and I am happy to share it with you as it will be integral to setting my 2014 goals.  On my 28th birthday, in 2012 I spent my very last day wearing my Uniform as a U.S. Marine.  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?  Lucky for me I was able to recognize that fear, and come to realize that MANY Military Veterans have feared the same after beginning their transition back into civilian life.
So – 2013.  It was a busy year!

–          January 2013.  I left my less-than-successful career in Real Estate to develop a Veterans Recruitment Division for a New York City based staffing agency.  I didn’t know much about agency recruiting at all, but I knew about being a Veteran (which seemed to be the unique and valuable asset I provided).  I caught on pretty quick, and with a little luck – entered into a new career field.

–          March 2013. I was introduced to the civilian world’s lack of job security as the Staffing agency downsized by half, and my position along with my Veteran project were ended, on the spot and without warning.

–          March 2013. I became an independent consultant working directly for the New York Stock Exchange providing National Talent Acquisition work.  Perhaps the best kept secret was that my time at the NYSE provided far more value to me than I could have ever provided to them.

NYSE Euronext celebrates 2nd Annual Veteran Associates Program

NYSE Euronext celebrates 2nd Annual Veteran Associates Program

–          March 2013 – Sept 2013.  Eventually I started working full-time for the NYSE, as a Talent Acquisition Associate and a Veteran Associate as a part of their amazing Veteran Associate Program.  I worked directly for the man who became the most integral and influential person in my transition to the “civilian world”.  I was able to work additionally on Veteran efforts at the NYSE and in outreach of the NYSE to other companies such as AIG and Bloomberg, along with many additional partnerships.

AIG_NYU Networking

–          October 2013. HUGE MONTH.  After recognizing my desire to continue and develop my career in Talent Acquisition, I was referred to, interviewed for, and offered a role in Talent Acquisition at AIG.  Needless to say – I took it and am working diligently with my team’s objectives and additionally to build an official Military Veteran recruitment and retention strategy with partnerships across the corporation.  I also took on a role as a Mentor and Guest instructor for the FourBlock Foundation’s Career Development course for Veterans.  I provided resume review and assistance, and instructed on personal branding and goal setting.  I am not sure who gained more from the experience, myself or the students!

Back to my fear – It is now a motivation.  I may have lived through my most rewarding and impactful portion of my life… to date.  That just means the bar has been set, and now I have to set goals and objectives that will allow me to live a life that only grows and progresses.  For 2014 here is my “Bucket List” along with objectives and goals that will help me to reach new levels.

Goal:  Begin my MBA at NYU

–          Objective 1: Study for GMAT

–          Objective 2: Complete GMAT with a score above 650

–          Objective 3: Apply to NYU Stern School of Business Part-Time (3 year) MBA Program by the May 15th deadline

Goal:  Meet face to face with my company’s CEO, Robert Benmosche

–          Objective 1: Have a reason to meet with him (Official Veteran Program at AIG).  Meaning, he has to be aware of the work being done on the topic.  Which means, the work has to be solid, and provide value.

–          Objective 2: Complete planning and execution of a series of Veteran Initiatives in collaboration with Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Business Lines, and Diversity & Inclusion at AIG.  (I cannot make public statements about everything just yet).

Goal:  Travel Outside of the Continental U.S.

–          Objective 1: Obtain a Passport. (I’ve never had one, but just submitted my application last week!)

–          Objective 2: Complete a work related travel event outside of the U.S. (Likely to happen if I go to an event in one of our Canadian offices).

–          Objective 3: Go on an out of the country trip for FUN!  More specifically, a spontaneous location in the Caribbean, as my wife and I will be celebrating our TENTH Anniversary this Spring!  I think at least a 2-3 night trip is feasible.  Any LifebyDamien fans with connections or recommendations – please speak up! J

Goal: Write, Produce, Record and Master a complete song.Home Production

–          Objective 1:  Learn to play at least 2 complete songs on the guitar

–          Objective 2:  Obtain an intermediate-hobbyist level of expertise with ProTools and the MIDI equipment I currently have

–          Objective 2:  Upgrade my computer to handle the additional work-load.

Goal: Buy a House (Either single-family to live in, or Multi-Family to live in and begin a rental income investment)

–          Objective 1:  Build savings to cover all up-front costs (Will be using VA Loan)

–          Objective 2:  Identify investable markets (we have some areas picked out, but the idea of a multi-family unit within the city is a new development).

Goal: Begin Writing a Book

–          Objective 1:  Identify WHAT?!  I have had this idea for a long while, and I have been very creative in trying to identify a topic.  I’ve really considered all sorts of angles, so ideas are welcomed.  So far, I’ve considered:

  • Memoir of my military career
  • Memoir of my transition process with a focus on the psychology involved
  • Taking all of my LifebyDamien articles and tying them together
  • Erotic Fiction (sex sells right?)
  • Personal Branding for those who don’t know personal branding
  • Any sort of random e-book to test the waters

–          Objective 2:  Start writing

–          Objective 3:  Get someone to read an initial manuscript

–          Objective 4:  Include writing courses as part of my MBA curriculum/electives

There are more I am sure, but not sure how to articulate.  But to wrap up, here are some ideas I am considering, that are more “Bucket List” items – that if any fans are considering also, perhaps we can go in on a joint venture?

  1. Skydiving (Have jumped with a static-line in U.S. Army Airborne school, but never free-fall)
  2. Scuba Diving (Never have)
  3. Family Cabin trip to the mountains, fishing, hiking, etc
  4. Family Trip to Florida (undecided whether to make it a road-trip or fly)
  5. Knicks Game and Madison Square Garden
  6. Nets Game at Barclay’s
  7. Yankees Game
  8. Jets or Giants game at MetLife Stadium

Well – in 2013 I’ve taken my fear and turned it into motivation.  What are you doing for 2014?

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