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Jim Moran: Learning to Have Fun While Putting People First

Retired Coast Guard Officer Jim Moran served the nation for 24 years after graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in 1992. As the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Cushing, he is a recipient of several awards such as the Legion of Merit and the Coast Guard Foundation award for Heroism. Prior to Semper […]

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Retired Coast Guard Officer Jim Moran served the nation for 24 years after graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in 1992. As the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Cushing, he is a recipient of several awards such as the Legion of Merit and the Coast Guard Foundation award for Heroism. Prior to Semper Smart Games, the father of two earned an MSc from the George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science and has tutored students for over two decades. 

Moran’s passion for tutoring led him to the creation of Semper Smart Games. As founder and CEO, Moran’s mission is to teach invaluable skills and knowledge through educational games. Through Semper Smart Games, Moran encourages kids to have fun while also learning new things.

What was your experience in the military?

I served aboard cutters in the North Atlantic, Bering Sea, and Caribbean, mostly performing counter-drug, search and rescue, and federal fisheries enforcement missions. I was a deck watch officer, boarding officer, and operations officer, and my last afloat tour was as CO of the Coast Guard Cutter Cushing. Between sea tours, I worked in intelligence and strategy jobs, and served in assignments to the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

Tell us about your transition from military to civilian life? 
When I was serving as a senior strategist at Coast Guard Headquarters, I was also tutoring high school students part-time. Tutoring was something I always enjoyed since I was assigned the Educational Services Officer collateral duty on my first cutter. Spending several months at sea gave me the opportunity to help younger crewmembers prepare for tests and college entrance exams.  On long patrols that could last several months, you have to get creative. So, I started creating games and competitions to teach critical skills and knowledge. When my own elementary school-aged daughters started needing help with their homework, I started creating games for them too. Games that would establish a solid foundation in the trouble areas I saw with the older kids I tutored.  We put my first dice game I created, PlaySmart Dice, on KickStarter one day after I got home from work. It funded, and that’s when I kind of knew I could turn this into something bigger.

What is your business and what do you do? 
We make educational games that teach essential skills and knowledge and use cross-domain subject learning to reinforce long-term memory of those things.

What are 3 things you learned in the military that you have applied to your business? 

– 
People learn in different ways.  
On a Coast Guard Cutter, you don’t want people questioning themselves during an emergency. You have to find ways to help them remember the procedures and critical steps they need to follow when lives depend on it. If you think that there is only one way to teach things, you probably won’t be as ready as you think when you need it the most.  

– To be always ready you have to be always learning. 
The Coast Guard motto of Semper Paratus–Always Ready–is an impossible standard to meet, but one you have to always strive for. Things never go as planned, and you have to adapt, sometimes in seconds. The more you try to learn and train for previously unforeseen circumstances the better off you will be. This means you have to get comfortable with a level of humility and creativity we sometimes don’t cultivate in our service culture. 

– People first. 
No military mission or business enterprise can over rely on one person. If your people are not empowered or do not get what they need from the job, you are accepting a level of risk that could scuttle the whole enterprise. Effective interpersonal leadership is mission critical, in the military and business.  

How have you used your success to send the ladder back down? (pay it forward) 
I get a lot of energy out of helping people avoid pitfalls I have experienced. I run into vets everywhere doing great things. I love spiraling ideas and giving thoughts and advice. I still help young servicemembers apply for educational opportunities after the service, and with college applications. I also try to give work to vets. Our head of graphic design is a vet. I still tell vets if they think I can help with something, send a note (subject line “note for Jim”) to [email protected].

Where can readers find you on social media?
Twitter: @Semper_games

Instagram: @Sempersmartgames

Facebook: @Sempersmartgames

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sempersmartgames/J

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