The Kinship Shared by Veterans and Olympians: What’s Next?

Veterans and Olympians have a kinship in the weeds of discomfort, and “discomfort” may be an understatement. Olympians and military personnel retire their vocation then immediately feel lost. No matter how much one has thought about retiring after sport or the military, the brain and the body go into a form of shock. What do I do? Where do I belong? What is next that rises to the same level of passion and pursuit? These questions lead to a universal truth, “There’s no linear way out of chaos.” Let’s explore the solution to post-vocation chaos.

the ant and the elephantBack in 2003 I wrote a book titled, The Ant and the Elephant. It was inspired by a study done by Dr. Lee Pulos and my own story of recreational skier to Olympian in four years. With regards to Pulos, he found that in a second of time, the conscious mind processes with approximately 2,000 neurons while, in that same second, the subconscious mind is whirring away with four billion neurons. That ratio of activity is the same ratio between an ant and an elephant. The ant is on the back of the elephant thinking it knows what it wants and where it’s going. “I’m going West,” says the ant while marching West. But what if the elephant is headed East? Where does the ant end up? East, all the while thinking it’s going West. Let’s set the back story before we dive into the solutions.

To explain how I went from recreational skier to Olympic finalist in four years, I used a linear formula of how your antlike conscious intention creates alignment with the unconscious agenda of your elephantine, subconscious mind. Sounds like a winning combination. Align your ant and elephant and you not only reach your goals, but you will likely exceed your expectations. LeBron James quoted The Ant and the Elephant in Sports Illustrated. FedEx and DuPont used the book for improving leadership within their companies. The positive reviews about the efficacy of the this book’s 5C, step-by-step formula continue to roll in.

  1. Clarify your vision. 
  2. Commit to the process. 
  3. Consistently pursue your emotional buzz. 
  4. Confidently execute for peak performance. 
  5. Control the routines you bring to any pursuit you desire.

Then, I experienced a personal financial earthquake. Debts piled up in 2008. At times, my electricity was cut off and I had to juggle finances to get it turned back on. The more I tried to turn my elephant around, the worse it seemed to get. No matter how much I applied the 5C process, the more disillusioned I became. I was lost and didn’t know where to turn.

Veterans who experience personal devastation experience a similar thing. They are used to identifying an objective and accomplishing their mission. Yet, when a personal and/or physical trauma occurs, they each find themselves in chaos and uncertainty. A massive hole forms and there doesn’t seem to be any way out. Pile on any medical debt and it feels like, “No thanks for your service.” 

the earthquake

Dear reader, consider The Solution Loop for you or anyone experiencing a massive earthquake regarding a healthy mental state or physical life. Within the second journey of the ant and his elephant is a book titled The Earthquake. The characters in this narrative have their entire world shaken and destroyed. Everything has changed and they journey through The Solution Loop to find their way. The outline of The Solution Loop is as follows:

  • Grasp the Contradiction: Your ant and elephant are inextricably connected yet you will only find alignment when you let go of being right. You consciously assume what got you here will get you there. Your subconscious is riddled with fear and doubt. With your well-meaning intentions you come up against deep-seated uncertainty and limiting beliefs. Until your conscious and subconscious seek the contradiction of a new reality, you will remain stuck. 
  • Seek Alignment: Imagine two people, each with their own steering wheel, but in the same vehicle. Alignment will remain elusive until both let go of their steering wheel and seek a different way, a third steering wheel, to align the vehicle called “You.”
  • Stay Curious: There are unlimited possibilities around you. Which one catches your attention?
  • Be Creative: Think of creative ways to latch onto a new path, new pursuit, new activity, new opportunity.
  • Identify a Solution: Don’t assume this is THE solution. Simply embrace your approach as a possible solution. 
  • Take Action: See if this solution has any traction. If it does, you will escape the stuckness. If all this results in an inability to escape the aftershocks of your personal quake, loop back to the relationship between your conscious and subconscious mind. You have not grasped the contradiction between your ant and elephant. There’s more work to do on yourself by revisiting The Solution Loop.

As an example, apply the Solution Loop to a Veteran’s medical debt. A Veteran can grasp the contradiction of having served his or her country then feel the weight of medical debt. An alignment with #EndVetMedDebt campaign checks a box of curiosity for what solutions are possible. Creativity with this option leads to a tailored program taking action on eliminating those hospital and doctor bills forever.

Identifying a solution with organizations like RIP Medical Debt, founded by a former Navy journalist Jerry Ashton, may be the action that has traction out of crushing debt. Locking arms with a charity that has abolished over $6 billion in such debt for over 3 million Americans equates to not having to suffer the Solution Loop alone. Olympians have programs by the USOC or their sport governing bodies that are also designed to help retired Olympic athletes through their struggles of “What’s Next?” or financial struggles.

There is no shortcut. The process necessary to thrive after a personal earthquake for a recent Veteran, retired Olympian, or parent who has lost a child, a refugee escaping mortal conflict, an entrepreneur who has gone bankrupt, an employee who was fired, a young father who has cancer, a remote employee feeling lost, or anyone who has experienced a massive setback, the breakthrough they seek is a journey to be embraced and explored.

Article by: Vince Poscente

Despite any challenges, Vince Poscente helps business leaders with massive breakthroughs to accelerate growth. His, “Do what the competition is not willing to do,” approach to obstacles and resilience has been used by Fortune 500 companies around the globe. As a New York Times bestselling author of eight books, which include The Earthquake and The Age of Speed. He’s an in-demand, corporate presenter, an Olympian and Hall of Fame Speaker in both Canada and the USA. Vince has led expeditions to summit and name Himalayan mountains after everyday heroes. Meetings & Conventions identified Vince as "Meeting Planners' Favorite Speaker." His Full Speed Ahead and Accelerate Breakthroughs virtual or conference keynotes are delivered with energy, humor and practical takeaways.