Just over a year after I joined the Navy the twin towers fell. I remember watching the event on the mess decks of the USS WARRIOR. I remember the CO gathering us together and talking and telling us about how this will be a “formative experience” in our career and from now on “nothing will be the same”, and I remember clearly thinking in the days that followed how quickly “Things got real”.
Well, California is on lockdown, and things just got real.
While we will certainly get through this. I believe we have a long road ahead with many weeks, or months, of severely restricted social interaction and movement. As I look into my crystal ball I believe most of our summer exercises will be canceled or delayed, and that we may spend weeks to months in a virtual limbo just waiting until next week to see what happens.
To further complicate things we are dealing with the paradox of the “Two Bell Curves” By stopping social contact and flattening out the bell curve we are reducing the impact of COVID-19 but also EXTENDING the length of isolation. As a point of reference China started their draconian lockdown January 23; nearly 2 months ago.
In the midst of chaos lies opportunity – Sun Tzu
So what do we do with this chaos? Clearly and the first step in any crisis is to take care of yourself, your family and your shipmate. You are no good to me or anyone else if you are laid out sick. The second thing is to start building some type of personal and professional routine. The quad is working on a professional routine for DIV-31 but I encourage you to also consider expanding on your personal routine. Habits and the Miracle Morning would be two books to consider reading. Third, I’d like you to start on a journey of self-directed professional development with a focus on benefiting yourself, your command and your Navy.
Here are some examples of what I mean by “Self Directed Personal Development”
To Benefit the Navy
- Contribute to the Navy’s body of corporate knowledge by writing for journals such as Proceedings, Strategy Bridge, Task and Purpose, or Small Wars Journal.
- Start on your MBA, 6 Sigma, Joint Professional Military Education, project management, ECT. Many online schools are opening their doors for free or a reduced cost. Take advantage of this.
- Join one of NAVPERS many committees. I was recently on the committee planning the Navy’s new FITREP/EVAL system, and while it has not yet been implemented, it was a great learning experience to peak behind the curtain and see how the Navy operates. The added benefit to these committees is they are nearly all already operating in the virtual space.
- Mentor: You hear me constantly talk about the value of mentorship and network. Why not reach out to that guy/gal you were working with on your last ship, check in, and see where he/she is at. Maybe you can provide some career advice, or help thinking through some personal/professional issues.
- Write: JD Kristenson, the former CO of the CHAMPION was one of the co-authors of the Naval Officers Guide. The Naval Institute Is actively looking for authors that can assist with similar projects.
- Join a professional Online Group: I am part of a Naval Mastermind Group on Slack, and a Commanding Officer’s group on LinkedIn. These groups already have an online presence and are very welcoming of new members.
To Benefit the Command
- Work with our Training Team: I’ve tasked our N7 to maximize the remote training our command can do. At a minimum this involved grinding through NKO/GMT courses for the year, this also may involve some type of synthetic dispersed exercise. Do you have an idea? Let N7/XO/SEL know.
- Battle Watch Instruction / SOPs: Over the last two years we have developed a great product; however with any product it can always get better. What can you do to take it from a 90% product to a 95% product.
- Command processes: What frustrates you about our command? Do you have an idea for change? Are you willing to vet that idea through the stakeholders? Can you get the SEL’s and XO’s buy in? If so you have a good shot at leaving MCMDIV31 better than when you checked in.
- If you need to brainstorm think through our command DOTMLPF ( Doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership, personnel, facilities. )
To Benefit yourself
- Mentor: Who was that former CO / XO / CMC / CPO that you really respected on USS LAST SHIP? Why not call him/her up, ask them some questions about your career, next job, how to deal with your skipper’s crazy ideas, ect. If the phone call goes well, do it again next month, and before you know it you will “your guy” in the Pentagon, “Your guy” in BUPERS, “Your guy” at FFC, ect….
- Fitness: The PRT is canceled for the Spring Season. If you are tired of cutting weight or training for sit-ups here is your opportunity to do something totally different. Ever walked a tightrope? I’m considering buying a slack line and putting it in my front yard for my kids and the neighborhood kids.
- Family: Last night my family took a 2 mile walk; what is remarkable about this is we’ve never taken a walk before. I want my kids memories of COVID to be full of family walks, games and playing with dad outside.
- Online Courses: Interested in playing the harmonica? Learning small engine repair? App Development? IT security? project management? Photography? Now is a great time to pick up one of those “important but not urgent” skills. Linda.com, with a free 1 month trial is a great place to start
- Read: While most libraries are shut down, nearly all libraries, including the Navy’s library, have an online presence.
- Mental Health: We all know the importance of taking care of both Mind and Body; with all gyms getting shut down, spend some time focused on the mental side.
In the meantime our battle rhythm continues. Daily musters on slack, daily meetings in the #conferenceroom, and daily tasking by the #N-Codes. We are also a few days away from a periodic VTC where we can get “eyes on” each other to check in.
Take advantage of this once per career opportunity.