By Kathleen Smith
Jason Redman is a keynote speaker on the second day of the CyberMaryland 2014 conference. Jason is a U.S. Navy SEAL Lieutenant (retired), Founder of SOF Spoken Speaking company, author of “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy Seal Leader” and CEO and Founder of Wounded Wear.
I feel really thankful. When you come close to the other side it makes you very reflective. At least it did for me. That really caused me to dig deep at who I was and what it was to lead, strengths, and weaknesses. For me to have such positive feedback from other people out there about the book is great. Because when I released it out there, I was wondering “how is this going to go over?” It has been resoundingly positive.
What advantages and disadvantages did you have in the job market as a veteran?
All veterans have been taught leadership, teamwork, communication and how to overcome adversity. We have been trained how to work in teams. Even teams where you might not like all the people you are working with, but you have to work toward that common goal and you have to make those benchmarks.
This is no different in business. Everything we learned in the military you can transfer those same terms into the business world. Frequently I talk about military mission process. I take the military mission process and show businesses it’s not a different process than what they are trying to accomplish. We may use different terms, but really the process to execute a mission to completion is the same.
This is where veterans have a tremendous advantage. They come into the workforce and they understand how to build a team, they understand how to step up and lead, they clearly understand how to follow. Many of the simple things that people need to learn in business when they come into the workforce, our veterans already have.
As to disadvantages, I think veterans coming into the workforce from the military community are frustrated because the civilian workforce doesn’t work as quickly as the military can in executing missions. I see this frustration a lot among our veterans.
Another disadvantage is we have a tendency to be very blunt. It’s just the nature of our community. We can’t always get away with being so blunt, but we can say to a colleague, you messed up, you need to fix it and this is why. In the civilian community, people are not used to this. Good or bad, over the last couple of years I have realized that while I am running both companies – Wounded Wear and my speaking company – that I need to temper my bluntness. I have learned I need to be more appreciative of the contributions of others and how they are contributing. I have learned that I need to build and foster my working relationships without the need to be so direct. It is useful and totally applicable in the military to be direct and totally accepted in the military, but doesn’t go over to well in the civilian community.
It is a bit of shock. I will be completely honest. I actually burned a potentially good business relationship to the ground because I was way too direct. There was some friction and I expressed my mindset and thoughts. Lesson learned afterwards when I realized you can’t just do that. I had to learn how to nurture relationships in a better, less direct way. You can still think these thoughts as part of your process, but vocalizing them may need some temperance.
Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur over joining a company and specifically a charitable endeavor?
I didn’t necessarily choose the entrepreneurial venture, it chose me. This came about through needs of the community.
As I went through my transition process as a wounded veteran, I saw that we could do things better. I saw gaps in services that I thought that we could fill. As with anything it started out as an idea, and this is a great strength of mine to take an idea and turn it into reality. I am also very fortunate that my wife is an entrepreneur. While I was serving, she ran several businesses just like many military spouses have done to support their families. So when I brought up the idea to do Wounded Wear, she said okay let’s do it. She was very instrumental in shaping the venture and driving it forward. My wife reminded me that many other wounded veterans felt the same way I did, that there were gaps in the support provided.
Now here we are four years later after creating Wounded Wear, and I have started my second company, SOF Spoken, the speaking company. I think everyone who served in the military understands the process of how to step into any role in a company and complete the mission. If you are a career military person, you now have all the skills and abilities to assume a leadership role. I think it would be hard for some individuals to step out and take a couple of steps back. So many of these career veterans are well suited for running their own businesses and shaping the direction of where their company is going. This really appealed to me and I have really enjoyed it.
To be able to run your own venture and make a difference in people’s lives through Wounded Wear is just an added bonus.
What advice do you have for transitioning military?
It is a totally different culture. As I said earlier, learning how to foster relationships and not being so direct is one piece of advice. The two main points that I illustrate in the book are leadership and the overcome mindset.
Getting out into the civilian community is no different. This is where veterans have a tremendous advantage, especially veterans who have been in for 20 or 30 years who have held higher lever leadership positions. The civilian organization that they may go work for may not recognize their leadership ability immediately. I strongly believe in leadership by example. So even if you feel that the company doesn’t have that mission focused culture or that tight knit camaraderie yet, I firmly believe the veteran can foster a similar type of community feel in their civilian position.
The veterans will see quickly that people want to be around leaders and around those individuals who are making a difference. A veteran should come into a civilian organization not with the mindset of changing, but applying the lessons they learned in the military. Motivating and inspiring those around you by example, I think the veteran will quickly find that they will be welcomed and quickly have opportunities to move up.
Another point I make in the book is the concept of living greatly. Too many times people do not want to step outside of their comfort zone out of fear. Fear is the number one thing that drives us not to do things. In the situation of a veteran looking at transitioning to civilian life there is some of this. How is this next phase in my life going to be? How is it going to be working in an environment that is so different from what I was doing before? Some of these thoughts are preconceived notions in our mind. Usually these thoughts we create in our mind are the biggest things that stops us from accomplishing things. 90% of the time those things that we perceive don’t even come to reality.
If you do take that step, that leap of faith, to move past these preconceived notions most of the time we find out that it is not nearly as bad as we thought it would be. I tell people all the time you have to take that step.
One thing I do with wounded warriors and families of the fallen is take them skydiving. I tell them, it is not about jumping. It’s not about skydiving. It’s much more about overcoming fear. It’s about standing up on that ramp and stepping off into the great unknown. It is recognizing you are alive and you have the ability to overcome. This is what people need to get into their minds.
This is what veterans need to get in their minds, I am afraid of this new endeavor, this new stage in my life because it is unknown but there is so much opportunity there and this life is too short to let it pass by so you can’t sit around and wait. You need to step off that ramp and go.
How can veterans benefit from inner reflection as they embark on a new career?
For those who think that tapping into your inner reflection is weak, you have a very short sighted view of life. You can never truly achieve your greatest potential unless you truly know who you are. That is the reality and something that I figured out after I made some mistakes. I realized that there were parts of me, things that I was doing whether consciously or unconsciously, that were holding me back.
All of us have different personalities and talents. These are things that define who we are and drive us to be successful. These are also sometimes the things that drive us to fail. It is only when you are able to look at all of your strengths and weaknesses, looking at what are all the things that have helped you but also what are all the things that have hindered you and might hinder you in the future. It is only when you can truly understand all of these components of yourself can you move forward to success. You begin to recognize that you have certain tendencies.
This is what I experienced and wrote about in the book such as my tendency to be a bit impatient with my decision making. I am very aware of this now and try to slow down my decision process to make sure that I am thinking through all the things that might happen. This is totally applicable to anyone out there. If you see this as a weakness I think some day you will figure out that you are missing out.
In closing I would like to share what I say to all veterans: Our country is at a time right now where it is starving for leadership in business, politics and community. We are starving for leaders who have conviction, who have accountability, who are willing to step up and lead and set the example. And these are all the things that we have learned in the military and we need veterans to get out there and do it.
I tell veterans, step up and lead because we need it. Maybe you don’t want to run a large company, or get into politics. At least get out and be active in your community. The military has taught us veterans so much about how to lead, overcome, make a difference and accomplish the mission. We need to share these lessons with the American people as it is critical to the future of our nation.