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Career Advice from the Life Lessons After Serving 32 Years in the Military

As you develop your professional career, consider my advice for 2021.

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Few institutions teach leadership, discipline, management and efficiency – but the United States Armed Forces is one. Throughout a 32-year career in the United States army, I’ve developed critical entrepreneurial skill sets that have enabled me to become an Entertainment Executive at Walt Disney Studios and international best-selling author.

Over the course of my military career, I’ve received a fair share of leadership and career advice – some great and some awful. Here are three pieces of wisdom that I’ve received and learned that I consider invaluable when growing as a leader and corporate professional.

Your attitude determines your altitude.

This is about your mindset; choosing to be and remain positive in adverse situations is critical. I always fall back on Murphy’s law – an adage that is stated as, “if anything can go wrong, it will”, and it applies to all individuals – both personally and professionally. By embracing and understanding that you’ll be faced with obstacles on any given day with a positive attitude, you’ll create a positive atmosphere. Don’t lead with a poor attitude – as it can be contagious. Be confident in your ability to give direction and inspiration and convey positivity to your peers.

You can define what your success looks like.

Ask yourself, “who decides the definition of success?” I’ll tell you repeatedly that it’s you. You have complete control of your life. Throughout my lifetime, I’ve learned to become resilient. There was even a time when I was homeless before joining the military. Now, working in Hollywood – my journey might ultimately make for a “feel good” story but it’s much more than that. I’ve been faced with plenty of challenges, but I chose to conquer them. There isn’t one, single time where you are successful. Don’t be afraid to ask what you’re looking for, but be okay with not getting it. I asked and because I did, I’ve gotten this far. Success doesn’t always take the form of money or fame or buying “fancy” things – there are multiple ways to win. For me, I will never let anyone have leverage on me – that’s my happiness and how I control my success. Basically, this means to continue to stick with your own principles and keep your convictions.

Trust in yourself and the process. Transitioning from a military career to the corporate world was a fraught process for me. From networking my way into new professional circles and learning new cultural moves – it was tough. I knew what I wanted – and that was to be in the film industry, but I had to learn to trust the process. For me, the first thing I had to do was recognize the value of my military experience and trust in myself. I knew I had three decades of totally unique, impressive experience but to get where I envisioned myself required a lot of patience. Even with planning and preparation, there some things we just can’t know in advance which is why you must trust the process. There is no straight path. Recognize that there is no “perfect transition” – and it will become easier to do the work required to find that career you crave.

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