Change is never easy. Sometimes the change is evolutional, occurring at a time-consuming pace. Sometimes the change is revelational, with a violence of action that surprises us all. However it occurs, one thing is certain: it will occur. Change is inevitable for all of us. We will all face some transition.
Transition – the act of changing from one condition or state to another. If you are a veteran or an athlete, it is certainly a definitive part of your life – at some point, you will leave the world you were a part of and become part of a new world. For some, it is a dreaded event that is associated with a loss of identity, loss of tribe, and loss of purpose; for others, it is an adventure filled with new hope and promise. Whatever your outlook – and I would recommend the latter before the former – it is a change, and it will be uncomfortable at times.
I transitioned from 20 years of military service five years ago, and to my surprise, I find myself still in that “transition period” today. This doesn’t mean I haven’t done anything since I left service; it means I learned many lessons after I left service and continue to learn today. While I have enjoyed the ongoing journey, I have felt the discomfort that comes with change throughout (though at times, I didn’t recognize where the discomfort came from, just that it was there).
While there are many different aspects of transition, for this article, I want to focus on just one aspect – learning a new environment and continuing to grow. I would love to talk about learning a new sense of self, relationships, etc.; the topics would be endless and could easily fill a book, let alone an article. For now, I would like to share some things I have learned, and while they may not seem like epiphanies to you, I learned them the hard way. I hope that sharing them may save you the pain of learning them yourself, and if you have already figured this out – good – drive on, and please share with everyone you can your knowledge. We need to make sure we get iteratively as a species.
So, a few things that I learned that I wish I knew earlier.
1) Find A “Civilian” Mentor/Coach – Read this as someone who has no military experience or experience in your sport. The “civilian world” is different than what we experienced in the military or on teams, with different folkways and mores from our military service and time on the field. It is not better or worse than our previous world, but it is different, and having that perspective is important. These people can help you see an unfamiliar world and help you identify how you see the world differently. For example, many veterans and athletes have an “I can do it mentality” – whatever “it” is, they think they can learn “it” and do “it” – regardless of the “it.” This is not a bad mentality, but it is different (different good – it is what made you who you are), and it isn’t always understood by people who have not experienced the same things you have in your life. Having people who can see the good in this trait and help you to communicate it in a positive and useful way is really important. I have a handful of people that I use to help translate a world that is sometimes foreign to me. They are people I can trust to help me navigate when things don’t make sense to my own sense of the truth.
2) Find a Coach/Mentor That Is Younger Than You – I learned that when I was in the military, I was able to stay current and innovative because I was usually surrounded by people younger than me. Same if you are an athlete, there is always someone younger coming onto your team. When you leave the military or your sport, it doesn’t take long to lose touch with what is current. I have found that touching base with younger people (I am almost 50, so not hard to find) helps me stay aware of current trends, keeps my energy up, and allows me to continue to innovate and grow instead of stagnating. We never think about how much our young Warriors/Teammates challenge us, but they keep us young – when you leave them, you risk growing old quickly.
3) Find A New Team – This hits us all differently and at different times. It was years before I found out how much I missed being on a team and having teammates. I am not a “joiner” and always prided myself on being independent. Still, after about three years, I realized how lonely I was and how I needed someone, beyond my family, to communicate with regularly. In short, – I had to find “my people.” There are many organizations out there that provide a new team – find one you like (it is usually not the organization you will care about, but the people in the organization) and join. Do not wait until you are lonely; do it while things are good – you will make better choices.
4) Stay Fit – this may be the only thing I have done correctly since leaving service. Many of us get out and fall out of routine (which is fine; I don’t get up super early anymore) and fall into bad habits (poor eating and no exercise of any kind). You don’t have to road march, do suicides, wind-sprints, or five-mile runs, but you do have to do something. Whether you were in service or played a sport, fitness was an integral part of your day – it should stay that way. Countless studies show regular exercise helps the brain; exercise helps a body that has been beaten up for years maintain; exercise improves mood; exercise helps us keep part of our past as an amazing foundation to build from as we develop into something new. It is easy to stop working out – I will tell you that you will regret it.
I hope this helps – until next time – keep growing.
J.C. Glick served in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer for 20 years, primarily in special operations and special missions units with more than 11 combat tours. Since retiring from the military, J.C. has brought his innovative and unconventional thoughts on education, leadership, and resiliency into the private sector, consulting with Fortune 500 companies, the NFL, NBA, NCAA, and professional sports teams including the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers, and the Charlotte Hornets.
He is considered a thought leader in adaptive and proactive programs of instruction centered on the development of leadership behaviors and values suited to dynamic environments and situations of ambiguity and adversity. J.C. recently developed the “Prodromos Developmental Model”, a capacity-building system designed to develop people and leaders for the future, which is outlined in his book. His methods have been featured in Forbes Magazine and the Huffington Post and his work has been referenced in Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur.