Special Operations Forces Career Transition
“I’m getting out when we get back”
“I want to make more money”
“There must be tons of companies that would hire me just because I was a Special Operations Operator”
“I’m going to start my own business”
“If the Military was a corporation they would be Bankrupt in a week”
“If I can make it through Special Operations Selection and training business will easy”
“People would pay a lot of money to do what we do”
What’s the problem with the most powerful country in the world spending millions of dollars training you to beat all odds, win at all costs, and produce an internal belief that there isn’t anything you can’t do?
You believe there isn’t anything you can’t do – to include being successful in business.
One and done was my plan. The problem was that I ended up stuffing a 4 year enlistment into 16 years.
“You’re getting out 3 years and 10 months away from retirement?” seemed to be all people could say when they realized I was actually serious about ending my 16 year military career short of any retirement. Once they actually came to terms with the fact that I was indeed serious all they could ask was “Why”? “It’s just math” I would tell them.
While a Military retirement is nothing to scoff at it’s certainly not the end of a working man or woman’s working years by any means. At some point or another you are going to have to get another job anyways.
The purpose of this article is NOT to convince anyone to walk away from their Military career. On the contrary in fact. For most it makes way more sense to stick it out. The monetized value of such a retirement is tremendous; but if you find yourself in a situation where it’s time to jump then “Jock-Up” and jump!
I had just returned from 4 man 90 day mission to a very hot part of the world only to turn around and head right back out the door for a 6 week school in Virginia. About 5 weeks into it I got a call on my government issued Smartphone. “Hey Eric – We got a good deal for you”. Oh man, here we go again I thought to myself. “When you get back on Friday we’re going to fly you out on Sunday for another 90 day school up in Washington…. Are you in?”
If you’re in, or ever have been in, any type of Special Operations Force you know the primal urge to step up, raise your hand, say yes. The deep desire to say “Ya – I got this”. You know the words “If it doesn’t suck we don’t do it”. An almost sick desire to see if we can push ourselves or our families even further. Lets face it. We were born to be Heros and we love to say “I’ll go”.
“Are you in?” my OIC (Officer in Charge) said. I paused for 5 seconds; but it felt like an hour. I felt the lump form in my throat, my stomach turn into a knot. “Dude I can’t” slipped out and it was done. A 20 year obsession that started when I was a boy had just come to an end. I knew at that moment that I had finally decided to no longer be a Navy SEAL.
You see that last trip I was on where there were only 4 of us really got me thinking about things. If we became compromised we would be so outnumbered that the prospect of survival would have been slim. So for 90 days I sat with an E&E plan (Escape & Evasion) that would consist of a single prayer and a faith in God that he would take me only when it was my time.
For myself these situations were fine. I have always been “Ready” to go in some strange way and as crazy as this sounds it wasn’t the idea of leaving my wife and three kids behind should something happen to me. It was the idea of my daughter getting ready to start high school and not having me around for those little daily conversations that could shape her decisions. It was knowing that this life couldn’t last forever. It was time for Dad to come home and stay home.
My enlistment was to be up in early 2008 – Exactly 6 years from the time I reenlisted while deployed to Afghanistan. Also exactly in the middle of one of the worst economies our country has seen. With a primary parachute that was crafted out of arrogance and pride and a reserve chute that – thank God – consisted of 90% humility and 10% resolve, I stepped off the ramp and began to free fall from Navy SEAL to Business Professional.
4000 feet I waved, reached for my cord, pulled and watched as all of my arrogance and pride spilled out of my chute and disintegrated quicker than a parachute made out of paper. Panicked and quickly plummeting to a Contracting job that would have me right back overseas, I was able to cut away the useless arrogance and pride and pulled my reserve. I got help.
Though I was naive regarding my expectations of the business world it had also legitimately changed over the past 20 years. No longer can anyone pay you for what you have done, who you were or who they hope you can be.
The marketplace has become what I would call more of a “Meritocracy”. A knowledge and performance based, capitalist, global economy where you are compensated in direct proportion to what you produce in regards to how much help you are to other people. Being able to do hundreds of pushups at a time, shoot an eye off a bug from hundreds of yards away and stay up for 5 days straight was no longer going to be enough.
I needed knowledge and not the normal stuff you learn in school. I needed proof of knowledge. I needed to learn from those whom were already successful and that was the help I found and that is what I hope to share with you in this series.
Today I write this having, since the day I got out of the SEAL Teams, never been without a 6 figure income, never have sent out one resume’, and never have sat down for one job interview. In the next two parts of this article I will be breaking down some of the good bad and the ugly I learned along the way.
By no means do I have all of the answers and I’m not here to be something I’m not; but there is a type of formula, a strategy, a map that I found along the way that I’m anxious to share with my fellow Special Operations Forces Operators so that they can make their transition with “Higher Speed & Lower Drag” than mine.
Proof of Knowledge is the Only Knowledge
Proof of knowledge is always the ability to turn out the result, get on the gun and knock the opposition down. This does not include having a good story about how you might do that if given a chance or how you once almost did it in training. That is easy to relate to as an operator though in business the result is different.
As an operator you knock a target down and instantly you know that you have proof of knowledge. In business someone makes an assessment that you can do “it”. They give you a shot at “it”, and the ability to knock “it” down or fail to do so may take months or years. In the meanwhile either an employer is taking the financial risk on you or you are putting your own personal financial well being on the line.
For those of you who have survived as operators you already have a proven and unique ability to be a competitive student. If you can start your journey into business with humility knowing that you do not “Know” business you will be setting your self up for success.
You will know business only when you have the proof of knowledge by having turned out the results that were relevant to the role such as personal sales, profitable operations, joint ventures that work or invented products that sell.
By starting with clarity around what you know you do not know you can then use your ability as a competitive student to out perform those who have already been there for a decade, because they are lazy and have been anesthetized with a salary.
Most business people you will meet have not studied in over a decade and read only casually, not as if their life depended on it. You – a former Special Operations Operator already approach every detail as if your very life depended on it – because it always did. This focus on survival, clarity on the stakes of the game will help you become as fierce a competitor in the boardroom as you were on the battlefield.
In part two of three of this article we will discuss why business people do not relate to survival in business the way you learned to, and if you are not careful you will catch this weak mindset, it is contagious, we teach people to build an immunity to this marketplace mediocrity.
Eric actively recruits, trains and mentors high caliber talent to make and fulfill on highly valuable offers in the insurance and financial services industry. If this is a career path that you may be interested in pursuing he would be glad to discuss with you how your current skills in leadership, innovation and protection are applicable in a growing industry which desperately needs trusted leadership.
You can contact me directly.
About the Authors
Before joining Pacific Advisors Eric C. Davis served our country as a U.S. Navy SEAL and decorated veteran of the Global War on Terror. Eric has been recognized as one of the premier sniper instructors in the U.S. military and has served as a Master Training Specialist at the SEAL sniper school in Coronado, CA. He is an expert of technical and physical surveillance and was part of an elite group hand-selected to perform intelligence collection in denied areas around the world.
Since his departure from the Special Operations intelligence and training community he has worked in corporate training and sales bringing an unprecedented amount of innovation, efficiency and structure to the domain of business and performance. Eric has been able to use these skills to help Pacific Advisors develop and expand the Advisor Planning Group which has also been responsible for significantly reducing the attrition rate of new Financial Representatives while increasing the performance of experienced advisors.
Entering into the financial services business at age 18 Paul built a financial services career before the age of 27 that gave him the flexibility of time and the freedom of resources to earn top 1% household income while only working 3 and 4 days a week. Paul’s book Stop Burning Your Money was released in 2007. Now Paul is president of Sound Financial Group in Seattle Washington where he teaches advisors how to build uncommon success in an industry where failure is common. Watch for the new release of his book Sound Financial Advice.