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Ever take a break from working out? Go on extended leave and just be a dirt bag?

How much anxiety do you have the night before your first PT session after your prolonged “break”?

Why?

Simply put: you are doubting your own capabilities do to a lack of regularity, a lack of a certain scenario being “known.”

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This is why it is usually so hard for out of shape people to go to the gym, and even more so if they are significantly overweight or obese. Their anxiety about their own capabilities turns to outright fear – fear of being judged, mocked, or even laughed at. This is so commonplace that Planet Fitness has their “judgement free zone” which is no more than a marketing strategy that facilitates their own business model: lure in people who are highly unlikely to use your service while you can charge monthly for almost no services rendered.

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But there is no judgement free zone in life and the same momentum that applies to your physical fitness applies to your military transition.

Law of Inertia: an object in motion stays in motion, an object at rest stays at rest.

This entire article is a counter-argument to the idea of taking a [insert amount of time here – usually a year] off in order to REALLY understand “what I want to do.”

A year off from what? What exactly? Life?

What are you taking a break from? Yes you just got out of the service, but does that mean that everything needs to be on hold? Why are you not instead EXCITED and MOTIVATED to start IMMEDIATELY? Is it because you do not “know” what you want to do?

Taking that year off can be a giant risk.

If you are looking for a “judgement free zone” then a job interview scenario is… what? That’s right, you will be judged and hiring managers look for previous accomplishments in order to predict future accomplishments and potential. What does a large gap in time communicate to your would-be employer?

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You are most marketable right after a large accomplishment with the end of your military service being one of the biggest in your life.

This is much like why so many assistant coaches get offered head coaching positions after their team wins a championship. Even though they did not win the championship as a head coach, you are exhibiting more potential and are a more lucrative candidate because you have the fresh fragrance of success surrounding you.

But what is the counter to that fresh fragrance? Maybe the aroma of a shit bag perhaps?

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Your lack of momentum will stink all over you. Much like spotting people that are terrified by being so out of place in a gym, the same can be seen professionally. More than just in your resume, if you haven’t been leveraging all of your skills repeatedly you may be squeamish the first day you have to rise to the occasion. This squeamishness can correlate to a poor first performance and therefore lead to a lack of confidence other’s have in your abilities – and first impressions can last a lifetime.

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Ever have those days on the weekends that you sleep until 11 and automatically feel like a dirt bag because now you KNOW for sure that you are not going to get everything that you wanted to get done that day and you essentially just wasted time – a day of your life, a day not lived to its best. Too many of those days in a row and you building a whole different type of momentum.

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We are either getting better or getting worse, no one or no one thing remains constant forever. Mountains are either growing taller or shorter due to the direction of the tectonic plates below them.

You will be in good shape as long as you are repeated setting and achieving meaningful goals.

So you want to have a “year off,” do you have a plan for that year? Where will you go, what will you do? More importantly, why?

What does “off” even mean? Does that mean you are not working? Not going to school? Or simply not truly going after your goals?

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It is very easy to look busy. People can work for hourly wages, 18 hours a day, 7 days a week and be extremely busy on paper, but what if they are just staffing an area in retail or working as a parking attendant? Nothing against people who do those jobs, they provide a service needed in society, but how “busy” are they? How intellectually stimulated are they getting on a daily basis? Do people in these types of jobs typically make it routine to better themselves or wallow in their own misery?

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You may want to take an “off year” after the military before going to college and during that time you plan to work part-time somewhere in a low threat job. It could be physically demanding work, but if not in line with your long term goals you are just wasting your time. With the current threats of automation and Industry 4.0 you have no time to lose in gaining the skills needed to remain competitive in the rapidly evolving marketplace.

“It is you who has moved away by standing still” – Inherit the Wind

It may be easy work and after your time in the military I would hope so. But much like weight training, if you fail to hit the gym for an extended period of time your muscles will atrophy. Then comes the day when you need to lay on the bench and rep out 315 to prove you still belong in the man club… and the strength just isn’t there.

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Much like the boiling frog theory, you can be lulled into a state of contentedness that leads to your own demise.  The theory discusses that if you place a frog in boiling water it will immediately jump out, but if the frog is placed in the water at room temperature with the heat increased slowly, it can be boiled alive.

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The waters of doing nothing are warm and inviting.

Which is why it is so common in modern American society. Most people do not push or drive towards goals and instead bask in whatever comfort they can while outputting the least amount of effort possible. Then once it is too late, around 35-40 years old if not earlier, the damage is done and there is no going back. These people might not even realize that they have passed that precipice until years later – only to start lashing out to those who can. Blaming others for their current state instead of taking ownership of their lives and results.

Remember, you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Those people that you will be surrounded with while you are not on your true path – what impact will they have in your life, good or bad? What if those people have no goals? How will that impact you? What if they never did anything as big as serve in the military, would they like to cast their ill-fated view of the world on you?

The people that you will be surrounded by will not be speaking the same language. The people in your hometown are doing what exactly? How much life experience have you gained? Can you really move back and live how you did before?

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If you want time off, why not just go to school? Part time? Online?

If you have a fully funded GI Bill, then go for it! They are paying you to go to school. Wait tables if you have to, but try and get something more along the lines of a real job, something where you can get experience. You want to be getting the best return for the time you invest, since you are lacking in experience your compensation may be modest, but if you are gaining experience in an area that interests you its worth it.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing against waiting tables, I did it for years and learned a ton: task management, selling/talking trash, and general hedonism – but that time can be better spent working on other things.

Can you get a different type of work? Think beyond what other people you know do, what can you do online? What can you learn to start your own business? What skills can you develop that you can charge services for?

Think further ahead than this week, this month, or this year. Think ahead 5 years, where do you want to be?

How will taking that time off help you get there?

You’re tired? Yeah, so is everyone else. Keep pushing.

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You always need a project or a goal to work on to make yourself feel better and turn down the volume of your monkey brain.

If instead you are constantly looking for areas of improvement and acting upon it, how much further ahead are you to others who are doing just enough to get by?

Now go in the opposite direction of “taking a year off” – taking on more challenges and responsibilities than expected.

Most times the winner is determined by who is willing to do what others aren’t.

What if you took on a full time position in a demanding field while also going to school at night?

Are you running sprints after practice, lifting weights before work, or still deciding to volunteer when you think you don’t have time?

How do you start beating the person that is always working by 7am? You start working at 6am. If you aren’t even working, then you aren’t even in the discussion.

You are rewarded in public for what you do in private.

If you are grinding it out day after day, the compound of interest of those habits begins to show very tangible results.

Instead choose to build positive momentum with positive action everyday. Sometimes all it takes is showing in the proper place, proper time, and in the proper uniform – ready to train. A lot of your competition is not willing to do this.

If you have ever been around true high performing people you will know that their success does not happen by accident. They focus on the process, the steady dedication to solid work not rest.

Look to Walter Payton and “The Hill” as an example. The best running back of his day constantly seeking out an advantage over his opponents just by his work ethic.

Remember that while you’re taking that year off, someone else isn’t. Someone else is willing to work longer, harder, and for less money than you.

Don’t cry about it, do something about it. Gain experience. Make yourself a valuable member to any team you may join. Bring more value to the marketplace in your own unique way.

The best defense is always a strong offense. Put in the work.

What happens when you start a year earlier than your competition? Then you are a year ahead – any action is better than no action.

Pick something positive and get after it. You don’t give up. You never truly rest.

Cowards sit on the sideline.

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