The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I have reached a point in life that shopping in “big box” stores disappoints me. Twenty-five years ago, the big stores were a curiosity, since as a single man, I never imagined the option to buy a year’s supply of toilet paper at one time, a 10-pack of chicken thighs or steaks, or ketchup by the gallon. People were nicer then, too. As you drove in the parking lot – at 2 mph – a customer might say, “hang on a minute and you can have my spot”. The clerks at the checkout would chat with you – both your kids play baseball at the same high school. The three people in line at checkout would not fume at a little friendliness. You might see your child’s teacher, or coach, or your co-worker shopping also. It was a time when buying something foreign-made ( Japan, Mexico, or Latin America) was a good deal, and not going to start a debate on politics or foreign policy.
When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home. Tecumseh
Judging from reports that superhero movies generate billions of dollars of sales around the world, people hunger for heroes, heroic actions, and feel-good-that-bad-guys-lose stories. As much as I loved watching the Avengers MCU franchise, I do not think of the big green guy, an Asgardian with a big hammer, or an Elon Musk -on-steroids, Iron Man, when I picture a “hero”.
A hero is the eighteen year old Kendrick Castillo who charged the murderous punks at the STEM school in Colorado, protecting his classmates at the sacrifice of his life. Let’s not forget his classmates, Jackson Gregory and Lucas Albertoni, who also rushed the shooters. I would hope the media and history books will immortalize them and not dwell on the perpetrators. It is that latter attention that inspires damaged people to commit other heinous crimes.
Dwell instead on those like Oscar Stewart, the Army veteran attending services who instinctively chased after the murdering coward in the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California. Honor also Lori Kaye who died defending her rabbi. They wore no armor, and doubtless, had any plans to defend their fellow worshippers that day from a hail of bullets.
A superhero is someone who, at some point or in some way, inspires hope or is the enemy of cynicism. Mark Waid Read
In a world that is always at the mercy of violent men (and women), we can be forgiven for indulging in fantasy where evil may triumph for a time. Thankfully, fictional heroes figure out a way to defeat it and save the universe.
In tragedy, unlikely people emerge as heroes, defending family, friends or strangers from evildoers. In troubled times, there is always a need for heroes, but not magic stones to combat wrongs.
As a member of a group of community-minded veterans, a calling grows louder in my ears the older I have become. Give back to the military community; be hospitable, and serve them and their families when they have need. During the Navy CPO “transition” season, veterans and civilians making a donation while getting a vehicle washed supports the new CPOs in training. A summer “Christmas party” for returning Marines and their families, encourages those who were deployed away from home during the holidays. Donations to military service organizations, participating in letter-writing campaigns on military -related issues, and in contributing to veteran-assistance projects at events sponsored by my employer all serve to help. In this blog, we find and highlight some of the “veterans-helping-veterans” support projects, enterprising ideas about self-employment, and share good news.
One of the community service programs I have yet to blog about, is the “Homeless Brigade”; members of my church congregation formed an outreach group to serve the homeless in San Diego county several years ago. Military veterans make up a significant percentage of the homeless in America; while showing kindness to the homeless, one often shows kindness to the veteran. Service is not just a “mission statement” however among those I worship with. The five congregations or “regions” of our San Diego church work in concert with a national and international fellowship of churches and a United Nations-recognized charitable organization.
I pray to be a good servant to God, a father, a husband, a son, a friend, a brother, an uncle, a good neighbor, a good leader to those who look up to me, a good follower to those who are serving God and doing the right thing. Mark Wahlberg
Called to model the ministry and compassion of Jesus Christ, some among our veteran community in my congregation have dedicated years to encouraging the poor and homeless. Inspiring younger church volunteers, who then made the mission their calling, our veteran community started a new campaign of service: practice hospitality serving Active Duty service members and their families on the military bases\units\ships where our members serve and work . Now we are organizing a day of fun, competition and barbecue at one of the San Diego beaches this summer. Perhaps this will lead to more opportunities to encourage young military men and women. They have dedicated their time, comfort, and often, safety, in service to the nation. Perhaps we will inspire them.
The Bible tells us that there are some things worth fighting for. In fact, the Bible says there’s some things worth dying for. Rick Warren
A woman who has been running a business for some time offered me some insight tonight. In the military, particularly as an enlisted person, there is a tendency to wait to be “told” what to do next; to follow a “plan of the day” and be somewhat inflexible. While carrying out the “mission” that someone else lays out may be one aspect of a past military career, other experiences may be valuable to an entrepreneur. Overcoming the odds. Quick analysis and problem-solving in highly stressful situations. Seeing past all the bureaucracy to zero in on the objective. Developing camaraderie with team mates while also being very disciplined and accountable.
For someone who has equal ambition to that enlisted person. the lack of such boundaries, may be somewhat a blessing. In your own business, there are many things to learn and to adapt to, including not only the processes that are required just to set up a business legally. There is a need to learn marketing; developing a keen eye and skilled listening – not simply ‘pitching’ – to solving others problem, is probably that most important aspect.
And getting advice and mentoring from a neutral business expert or experts on an ongoing basis really helps. To which I also understand, interpreting a particularly resonating bible lesson tonight, an enterprise may not be without pitfalls, but as long as one trusts in God and perseveres, it will either succeed or be a lesson for future success.
In the manufacturing business as in the military, communication, particularly between two speakers of the same language, is not simple nor should anyone assume what you say will be understood by the recipient of your message.
This is painfully obvious when dealing through email.
An email sent to a group of people, including two managers, a technical peer, a manufacturing engineer, a logistician, and a quality assurance engineer, was received very differently. At least two managers told me my report was, in a word, unintelligible. My basic mistake? Adding too much detail, and confusing the recipients. I tried to answer / direct my answer to 3 separate audiences in one email.
To correct this, a man I respect offered this simple formula. In the email, subject line:” <project> <problem> will require < new part/ software/ repair/ test”. In the email body: “Approval request to issue a replacement <widget part number> for <internal customer/ test/ troubleshooting>”. (Period)
In a new paragraph, “DETAILS:”
And keep it specific to that ONE issue. And brevity is key.
After I cooled off, the situation reminds me of the time, long ago, when my Division Lieutenant asked me for a status on some equipment on his problem report. When he stopped me ( I was really a greenhorn then), he asked me to state my response in ten seconds or less:
” System requires a new <part>. $10,000 with exchange. Will arrive next Tuesday.”
I tried and failed at business ventures three times before. With a couple years of technical training, I tried earning a second income as a small appliance and home electronics repairman. It was cheaper to buy new than repair “old”. The next venture was selling solar-heated hot water systems. People could just as easily put garden hoses on their roof (it was southern Arizona) and save the expense of a metal system up there. And then, last year, I saw how my father-in-law’s young relative was making six figures in a health-focused business. She has Amazon- and Facebook- founders-level intensity which produces her ongoing results (building over the past 8 years). I was not interested, youth-focused, or charismatic enough to do what it takes. My prior ventures were great personally, just not rewarding financially for me.
the importance of a “niche”
This year, my wife and I found a “niche” business. A “niche” is a product or service need, that is not widely available, nor really has much awareness outside of the profession. But is necessary nonetheless. With a lot of support, name recognition, and professional experience, my wife one evening reported to me that a business opportunity was offered to her – that she wanted to do. This was due to pending retirement of the principal operators in the niche market. The business requires unimpeachable ethics, scrupulous attention to detail, military-like precision with clients and retaining or bringing on skilled employees (or contractors).
do not quit your “day job”
A mistake of many new entrepreneurs, is to launch a business enterprise with little financial resources. They then have few options when mistakes are made or customers are slow to provide payment. Then there is even more emotional and physical stress learning the “do’s” and the “don’t”s of operating a business. In just the few weeks after initially deciding to engage in this business, the guts required to seriously and diligently apply ourselves to learning,- particularly with family and job requirements always keeping you busy, is challenging.
In the United States, working for yourself, with the intent to make a profit – to separate your enterprise from what the taxman (the IRS) would label a “hobby” – requires record-keeping, talent, and effort. Depending on the venture, every business has local, state and federal tax statutes regarding individual, partnership, and incorporation to stay within the law. Similarly, there are permits, licenses, and fees with all the aforementioned, to conduct business.
With certain businesses, providing products or services, there are many regulations, certifications, and insurance to purchase and renew yearly. While trying to classify whether there were workers considered by statute as employees to consider, we need general business and professional liability insurance. And probably, workmen’s compensation insurance: California is very strict on business operations. If you are still determined, you have done homework on your competition in the niche market, and calculated the profit versus expense projections before the first customer dollar is received – there is one consideration you may miss. You may find that your business needs to be funded almost entirely from your own “primary” income for a time. One of the first “rules” I have learned is to avoid going into debt while learning the “ropes”. Do not quit your day job before it sustains you.
seeking advice from experienced mentors
I have only just started to explore the business banking relationships we will need for our venture. We will explore and weigh options on credit, payment processing, and loans. Similarly, I have only attended one seminar run by the small business education group, SCORE, (there are chapters in most communities) taught by people with decades of experience in all aspects of business. But for the entrepreneur, anywhere you find someone to help with the pitfalls to avoid, is great. One can then make all new mistakes to learn and develop as a business person.
your “why” has to be bigger than your fear
After a career in the military, another in private industry, and still looking for challenge (and change), our own business will prove to be well worth it. After many years of doing without asking why and making someone else’s careers and dreams possible, you also can make your dreams, as well as those of your clients, become reality. But it takes ethics, drive, humility, implementing what others can teach and eagerness to keep pressing on to the goal.
The “San Diego Chargers” jersey worn by a twenty-something man I met near the summit of Angel’s Landing trail prompted me to ask whether he was a Los Angeles -based fan or one from San Diego. From Temecula, Californi, he and his buddies were up in Zion for a “men’s retreat”; among the faith community, that is “code” for a spiritual bonding time. We talked about our respective churches and our military service. As a Navy veteran, he asked me whether I had been to the Philippines; his father had joined the Navy from there. Eugene was an Army veteran. I told him about my son, an Army veteran. Eugene knew Fort Bragg. He and my son, were sort of, but not quite, following in each respective fathers’ footsteps. One of his companions was a veteran of the Iraq war. Both were now college students. As we talked, I encouraged him to endure the bureaucracy of the VA medical evaluation process (he had gone once and was discouraged by the red tape) to get service-connected injuries treated – or compensated. Being young men of faith as well as warriors, these newly encountered Brothers encouraged me. Like me, though my friends and several dozen people attempted the narrow and very physically-demanding ascent to the “Landing”, I knew these guys had nothing to prove to themselves. Military services do the difficult every day. The impossible generally takes just a bit longer.
There weren’t but one or two available seats on the crowded shuttle bus from the Temple of Sinawawa stop in Zion National Park. It was a thirty-minute ride back to the parking lot. Looking tired and a little irritated, the large man ( solid, not stocky) squeezed into the last available seat, directly across from me. He looked at my ballcap and thanked me for my service. We chatted. He was taking in Zion while his wife was at some military event in San Diego. He is a civilian archivist for the DOD, which lead to talking about history, this blog, and travel. Apparently, Lake Powell should be on my “bucket list”. One of the things that all this military reminiscing lead to was to get some coffee prior to starting back to the hotel in St. George.
On Saturday morning, the motel cafe was busy. All eight little tables were occupied. At one table, a man about my age wore a Desert Storm veteran ballcap. I asked him what service, and he responded Navy. I was also a Desert Storm veteran. He offered me a seat. Mike had been an Navy “airdale”, the Navy nickname for a member of the aviation support community. An aviation ordnance technician, he served a carrier airwing in the Persian Gulf during the conflict. We chuckled about engineers who design but never actually tried to use some things in aircraft he worked on; trying to remove an assembly where you could neither lay flat or reach overhead comfortably, but in one case having to crouch the whole time removing it. My companion, a retired DOD engineer, feigned dismay. A couple of comments he made, however, suggested he was a little more ‘dismayed’ than he let on. The trucker at the table across from us was also a military veteran, though from the prior conflict. As Mike and I chatted about the Navy, missed advancement opportunities (if only those darn Master Chiefs would retire so others could move up the career ladder!), and life after the military, the more I got to thinking how a community, a brotherhood, sisterhood, or more accurately – a large extended family one can meet all over the country.
Community. Often it starts with a ballcap, a veteran-themed t-shirt, or other, and an interest in getting to know someone.