From the moment you entered the uniform, you had a clear path to follow to become your Chief or First Sergeant. The clarity came through your darkest moments in serving. Whether during indoctrination, on campaign, or in garrison, there’s always a clear path based on increased rank in a narrow pyramid.
While you fought for those you served beside, you also wanted to fight to continue serving. There’s nothing selfish or wrong in that. You were right to fight on both fronts; furthermore, you have to bring that same fight to life after the uniform.
Unfortunately, the environments supporting you in uniform change terrain after it. And often, you’re left in the reach without landmarks or a path to get out. The military provides a set of three overlapping environments: Cultural, Competency, & Communal. Each service has a specific culture. Within that culture are competencies craved & replaced. Look at how cyber warriors have almost guaranteed paths to leadership.
But then, there’s this communal environment. The idea that wherever you go, there’s a ready group of members, facilities, & expectations to fall into. Then you get out, and you can do anything you want. Say again, ANYTHING YOU WANT!
That freedom is empowering & excruciating. And it comes from how complacent you can be in that standard promotion & development path. Whether Officer or Enlisted, you know every 4-5 years you’ll come up against a growth point. Make the growth point, you continue on. Don’t make that point, the long knives come out.
The corollary of doing anything you want after serving means the fixed growth points go away. To solve that loss in structure, you have to impose your own. What if you created your own growth points?
Bill Burnett & Dave Evans, authors of “Designing Your Life,” offer guidance on making your own Growth Point: “We all contain enough energy & talents & interest to live many different types of lives, all which could be authentic & interesting & productive.”
Their solution: Create three separate Five-Year Plans. Then review them with three to six of your closet friends. Their Five-Year Plans are exactly what you need to create Growth Points after the uniform.
Imagine if you can’t decide between school, opening a business, or working in a company. Using their template, you would define annual outcomes for the next five years. Then, send those templates around to your inner circle. Your spouse, close friends, peers in uniform. This close circle takes a cut & you listen. And listen hard–like you do when you send your shopping list around.
After defining the growth points, you decide the resources, confidence, identity, & enjoyment needed. With both defined, you have clarity towards your path after the uniform. In even a better context than being in.
You can find a blank template here.