My very first book All About Change: How to Successfully Make Personal Life Changes launched on Amazon Kindle yesterday. If you've been following me here, or on any social media, you know this has been about a year in the making. Many people have asked along the way "why now? What inspired you?" so here is that answer.
I know what I want to do. I want to be a life and leadership coach. I want to help people be better leaders for themselves and for those they lead. Those were the confident thoughts running through my mental monologue in May 2018 in Washington, DC as I stepped into the first, of several, classes required of everyone separating from active duty military service. I was ready for my next chapter to begin and this set of courses was one of the final hurdles to the finish line of my military career and the beginning of the next adventure.
The room was a typical beige, unadorned, multipurpose computer lab that can be found on just about any US military base around the world. That week it would be used for the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) classes and the next week it could as easily be used to brief the newest, most cutting edge weapons system. A generic, semi-uninspiring space to say the least. I was the second person there and before the first person and I could get into too much conversation the room began to fill up. There ended up being 30 people total of all branches of the service all separating from the military for various reasons. Most seemed prepared, put together, and eager to learn from the revolving door of speakers that were about to bombard us with information over the next four days. A few, however, had a distinct look resembling both a proverbial deer in the headlights and disdain for the whole situation.
One of these irritated deer sat down next to me and began to try in vain to not talk to me by staring into his coffee cup as if it was a crystal ball playing the most boring yet captivating documentary ever made for TV.
“Hi, my name is Sarah,” I said. “Is this your first time through TAP?”……..no answer. “When do you retire or separate?”
“Yes. In three days,” he responded without glancing up from the mystifying coffee but the cringe he morphed his face into said it all. He knew if he looked at my face he’d see shock, anxiety, confusion, and a healthy dose of pity because of the judgmental conclusion I’d come to before he told me. “I’m being administratively separated because of force preservation cuts,” and his shoulders sagged bringing him closer to his now cold, but consoling, coffee.
We sat in silence through the morning briefs about resumes, LinkedIn accounts, and general requirements to separate from the military. I took tons of notes while he barely showed signs of life or understanding. When the lunch break came, I gave him no choice, he was coming with me and I was paying. That’s all it took to get the story out of him. Over sandwiches at the food court for over an hour, he told me his predicament.
He was from rural Iowa and his name was Tim. He’d dreamed of being in the military his whole life and took the first chance he got when he graduated high school four years earlier. He played the trumpet and used that as his ticket into the band. While he knew he wasn’t Louis Armstrong great, he knew he wasn’t bad and he was dedicated to learning more about both his instrument and his service. He’d never been outside of Iowa until the recruiter picked him up the morning of his flight to boot camp and he hadn’t been back since. He loved everything about Washington, DC and spent his free time exploring the city.
That was all coming to an end though. His branch of service was paring down its personnel and anyone who didn’t make certain minimum requirements was being separated…immediately. Tim felt like he was living outside of his skin watching his dream evaporate and vaguely making plans to return to his family’s small farm because he had no idea who he was without his dream. Tim had no plan so none of the information I was absorbing like a gigantic sponge was reaching his memory cells, much less his give-a-heck cells. Tim was upset and adrift, and he wasn’t alone.
Back in the impersonally boring classroom, I saw the others like Tim. Eyes unfocused and downcast. Ears essentially closed by the panicked buzzing of anxiety in their heads. Not a single note taken because none of the information felt like it applied to them because they didn’t have or see a plan for themselves beyond the military they’d dedicated their identity to. These people needed help but a different kind of help. These people needed to know how to change on a different level than the mandatory TAP classes.
The people like Tim in that room that day needed to first identify who they were before making this big life change. “What about the military had you hooked besides the serving your country part?” I asked Tim and a couple of the other people like him. The answers they gave verbalized values they held dear and those values were their motivation for many life choices, not just their military service. Watching the light bulbs illuminate behind their previously glazed-over eyes as they realized this was inspiring. The key to making this big life change was knowing who you wanted to become at the end of it.
Over the next weeks, I’m going to be sharing excerpts, insights and stories from my book, All About Change: How to Successfully Make Personal Life Changes in this article series. All About Change launched yesterday on Amazon! If you want to read more stories/excerpts from my book - please subscribe here to get updates on when the next article goes live, and also HERE with the link to my book. If you want to connect, you can reach me here via email email@example.com or connect with me on social: Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram