What Should I Do After Leaving a Life in Uniform?

With my coaching clients I’m often asked this question…what should I do after leaving a life in uniform? It doesn’t matter if you leave for retirement, voluntary separation, an injury, or even a disciplinary proceeding, you still face that question and its ramifications.

If you’re wondering what uniform I’m talking about, I’m talking about the military, police, fire, and EMS. Sure, I work with others on occasion, but it’s these folks I have a heart for and work with.

In my practice I help highly driven people in high stress/high danger occupations who are seeking significance through a second career. I do this by hacking and attacking the learning process toward action rather than numbing introspection. Through this my clients are empowered to live their dreams and embark on new adventures. Because of my military and public safety experience I understand the effects of losing that adrenaline rush, the desire to be in a uniform of some kind, the need for structure and order, and even potential complications of PTSD.


So, here we go with a few ideas on what to do after hanging up your uniform…

  1. Find another way to serve your employer. Doing what you’ve always done isn’t the only way to serve. Many employers have positions other than uniformed service, such as support staff or independent contractors.
  2. Find another uniform to wear. Just because you hung up one uniform doesn’t mean you can never wear one again. You can find another place to work or pursue a different career and still find the thrill you seek in uniformed service.
  3. Find a line of work completely opposite of what you did before. Some people leave uniformed service and never want to look back. You’ll need to decide if this is for you too.
  4. Find a way to help those still in uniformed service. There are many ways to do this, so, if you choose this route, you will have to find the one that suits your personality and goals.

When I left uniformed service after over twenty years in the military, Federal service, and EMS I chose number four. That’s what I do now. I speak at EMS conferences, I train civilians in emergency preparedness, and I work with my former colleagues as a coach. If I can be of any service to you or your team in this capacity, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

Quit Making Dumb Goals. Make them S-M-A-R-T.

I teach a lot on goal-setting at various conferences and with my coaching clients. Depending on my time with them, I may delve deeper into other related issues, but a core piece of my goal-setting process is the SMART method.

The SMART method is pretty easy and simple to remember. It’s one of the reasons I use it. It stands for…

S- Specific

M- Measurable

A- Achievable

R- Results Based

T- Time Oriented


Here’s an example from my own life…

At the beginning of the year I weighed 243 lbs. My goal for the end of the year is to weigh in as a light heavyweight at 206 lbs or less. That means a loss of 37 lbs for the year, 3.08 lbs per month, or 0.71 lbs per week. Now this is a SMART goal.

Specific– Weigh in at the end of the year at 206 pounds or less.

Measurable– I can look at the scales and see if I’m on track or not.

Achievable– 0.71 pounds per week is very achievable and healthy. Something crazy like 5 pounds per week would be unhealthy.

Results Based– The entire goal is based on my weight results.

Time Oriented– Get it done by the end of January 31. Maybe if I do better than expected I can eat more junk on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the end of the year and meeting my goal.

As of my weigh-in on Monday I’ve lost 5 lbs in 7 weeks, which is 0.71 lbs per week, give or take 15 or more decimal places. I’m right on schedule so far. This is even better than you think because I started my new lifestyle change halfway into January. I’m still going to stick with the beginning of the year as my start date though.

That’s it. I’m doing great on my plan, have set a great set of goals, and I’m well on my way to success. I want you to do the same. I recommend starting small, like this…

  1. Take something you consider a goal or a dream. It could be better fitness, a cruise vacation, or anything that sits unaccomplished.
  2. Grab a piece of paper and write that goal at the top.
  3. Go through the SMART method with your goal. Do not skip any steps. If it doesn’t fit SMART, then you may need to change the goal so that it does.
  4. Now complete it.

I hope this plan helps you. If you would like to delve deeper into goal-setting, please get in touch. I frequently speak at conferences on this topic and also use it to coach individuals in high stress/high danger occupations in career transition.

This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!


My fave goal-setting book by Brian Tracy

Disclaimer- I didn’t invent the SMART method. I first heard it taught in college. The method was first presented by George T. Doran in a 1981 issue of Management Review. 

On Becoming a Mature Student…a guest post by Dan Riney

Originally published in print in Transitions magazine…

This one is a guest post by Dan Riney. Dan worked with me as a research intern last semester doing research for a medical book I’m working on. DWP

               When my construction estimating business began to fail a couple of years ago, I made a mental list of possible job alternatives that included selling life insurance products, selling other kinds of tangible products, returning to teaching, or going back to college. I wasn’t eligible for unemployment insurance, so that option was out.  After a great deal of effort, frustration and wasted capital I came to the conclusion that I was a very poor salesman and a very dissatisfied teacher.  So that left me with one last possibility – return to college. To those of you who will quickly gag at the thought of more school, I would ask you to give me a moment of your patient consideration. To those of you who will dismiss the possibility of continuing your education because of finances, I would like to let you know that the availability of financial aid is so extensive that only a college or university specialist can sort out the possibilities for you.

                In case you think that your financial situation is too dire, and that my experiences have not been discouraging, let me share some personal history.  My house was foreclosed, my car was repossessed, I was evicted from my apartment, and my family broke up.  Oh yes, and I’m 70 years old.  I tell you all of this to assure you that returning for further education is still possible for you!

                I can hear the wheels of some of your minds turning as you read.  You’re thinking that I have found learning and education easy, and that your experiences have not been positive.  Let me share some more personal history.  When I took math courses in high school and in my early college years, I had a very poor record – “D’s” and “F’s”.  That bothered me, and so, I bought a book from Barnes and Noble to see if I could do better.  I found that with a more mature attitude, and a serious focus, I could successfully work my way through the text.  I then began taking college courses in Algebra, Trigonometry, Calculus, and Statistics.  I received “A’s” in all of them.  I also took courses in Computer Science, Accounting, Finance, Business Management, Surveying, Construction Management, History, Creative Writing, and several others.  My overall grade point average is 3.7+.  That’s a “B+”.

                I’m sure that this sounds quite egotistical to write so much about me.  My point is not to congratulate myself, but to illustrate that a person who had only modest to average success as a late teen to early twenties’ student can do much better with some maturity and a change of attitude.  I believe that you will find the same thing to be true.

                I had some misgivings before I signed up for my classes.  And when I first entered a classroom looking for a desk just right for a student one half century older than the young people around me, I thought I might be resented or scoffed at.  After a momentary surprise by the Professor and the students, things went very well, and in just a moment I felt quite at home.  In fact, I found a great deal of respect for the experiences that I could share in class discussions.  You will be surprised, I think, at how much you have learned in your lifetime that gives you special insights to many subjects in a college curriculum.

                Have you ever noticed that when you ask someone about themselves – especially men – they tell you what their occupation is or was?  “I’m a plumber.”  “I was an insurance analyst.”  Going back to further your education can change the answer to who you are: a plumber can become a teacher; a retail sales person can become an accountant or an artist.  The first point to recognize here is that you are much more than the title of a job.  You are a whole complex of interests, skills, knowledge, and potentials that may not have been realized as yet.  Returning to school could be viewed as a way to improve the abilities that apply to your previous career, or it can be viewed as a whole new definition as to who you are.

                Perhaps you have spent your life being “practical”.  Perhaps all of your life’s decisions have revolved around what is the best way of making a living.  With many of us who have made “practical” decisions all of our lives, we have ended up being broke.  Maybe it’s time to make some “impractical” decisions.  Why not explore your past dreams and interests that you dismissed, and consider whether you should explore those ideas once again?  If you can’t recall what some   of those dreams were, get a college catalogue of classes, and wander through it to see if anything inspires you or revives old images of yourself. 

                Let’s summarize the reasons for returning to college:

  1. You can redefine, and upgrade the marketable knowledge that you have for a future career.
  2. You can learn some very interesting information that, when put together with what you already know, can give you a much greater understanding of the world around you.
  3. You can become a very positive influence on your family, friends, and community; and on their education.
  4. I think that there is a health benefit as well.  I believe that when you are actively involved in learning, your attitude has a positive effect on your sense of well being.

                Whenever I’m faced with a great deal of new information, I get frustrated and uncertain of where to begin my search.  I hate asking questions that make me seem naïve, dumb, or uninformed – it happens a lot!  Here’s a suggestion: find a librarian, and explain to her what you would like to do.  I find librarians very, very anxious to be of assistance.  Plus, they are highly educated people who know how to find the information that you need.  Pretend that the whole search is like a ball of yarn.  Just pull one piece out and study it.  You’ll be surprised how your initial questions will unravel the whole ball of yarn.

                If you’re still reading this stuff, perhaps you’ve had some curiosity aroused.  Don’t let it just drift away!  There are terrific new endeavors that can become a part of your life!  Email me, and let’s talk! driney@peoplepc.com.