One such chance encounter came about when I started selling part time for Rand Brands and their nano-infused CLP for firearms. Josh was another former Special Forces guy who signed onto the gig.
We spent hours chatting over the phone about selling strategy, business and life in general. We have never met in person, but thanks to the Brotherhood of the Special Forces Regiment, I would trust him with my life.
His experiences mirror my own and many other veterans who have separated. Read and learn! Expect to see more from Mr. Wathen.
Today I am a co-founder of a business, a territory manager for a nano-technology company, an intern, and a student.
When folks ask how I know how to do all of these things, my first inclination is to tell them that I used to be a Green Beret with a “Duh” kind of attitude.
These days I know that this will only lead to a look of confusion or snide disbelief, so I refrain. Instead, I tell the inquisitive party that I am a jack of all trades and a master of the basics. Then I translate my transition.
I remember sitting in my room in Fayetteville, North Carolina not so long ago thinking about how easy conquering college would be.
I was one of the world’s most elite soldiers and knew that the horror stories of soldiers having trouble transitioning out of the military simply didn’t apply to me. As it turns out, what I ‘knew’ was wrong.
Going from a long-tabbed, barrel-chested, steely-eyed pipe hitter to an unappreciated community college student was a severe blow to my ego.
Going from an autonomous tactical decision maker to a ‘sit in your seat and check the box’ drone will do that to a person. I vividly remember the absurdity of being graded on having the right color dividers in my binder.
I was being treated like a child instead of being given the respect that a driven professional like myself deserved. This is when I learned patience, and as my self-esteem dwindled, I drove on.
The scholastic difficulty and pressure of college was a joke compared to the Special Forces Qualification Course.
I was getting A’s & B’s with ease, so I looked to the private sector for employment as a means of fulfilling my need to succeed. I had no earthly idea how to go about finding a job.
I had attended the first five minutes of most of the transition classes when I was out-processing the military.
Five minutes was more than enough to realize that the only jobs the Army thought possible were security services, some sort of mechanic/craftsmen, or a low-level shift leader (if you were an experienced E-7 or higher).
I was lucky enough to have family and friends who helped me put my resume together so that I could apply and receive the obligatory multitude of rejections and no-replies from every online job opportunity imaginable.
I knew I had the know-how to do difficult work, but I had no idea how to communicate that in a way that gets past the keyword search engines (that I now know exist) that are embedded in most job posting web services.
Slowly and surely, I shifted my priorities from unemployment and disappointment to drinking and partying. This is when I learned ignorance, and as my motivation disappeared, I drove on.
In the midst of my lack of success, I managed to stay in touch with my old teammates religiously. I was one of the first people on the planet to find out about the death of Andrew Britton, my former ODA’s Communications Sergeant.
That news fucked me up. I was furious with myself for not being there for my brother when he needed me down range.
Since I had no authority to find and shoot terrorists anymore, I focused my anger on myself. I thought about what a big piece of shit I was for leaving my brothers behind to do nothing of significance.
What an asshole I had become. I became short with everyone and waited for opportunities to break grown men’s teeth when they mouthed off at the bar.
Don’t misinterpret me, I would never harm an innocent person, but if you were looking for a fight and I was nearby, you found it. My grades, my relationship with my fiancé, and my civilian friendships suffered dramatically.
This is when I learned self-awareness, and as my value for life turned gloomy, I drove on.
My fiancé saved my life. She didn’t give up on me when I gave up on myself. She encouraged me when I needed it.
She didn’t tolerate my abrasive behavior when I would vomit hate. Most importantly, she was brutally honest when I needed to be told that I was wasting my potential.
This is when I learned that everyone needs help, and as hope hung by a thread, I drove on.
I began to reconstruct my future. I got a job at the local Pizza Hut and worked like a dog. This lead to a promotion to a managerial position within weeks of my initial start date.
I applied to the University of Houston’s Bauer School of Business and was accepted. I moved back to Houston (my home town) and linked up with lifelong friends.
I learned how to network and used my Special Forces groups on LinkedIn to find and acquire my Territory Manager position with Rand Brands.
I applied to the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship (WCE) and began the educational experience that challenges and consumes me today.
The instructors there recommended me for the internship that I learn volumes from everyday this summer.
One of my fellow WCE students invited me to become a co-founder of our online retail business, Zodist.
This is when I learned to translate my previous experience into current advantage, and as life grows bright, I drive on.
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