Ex Scientia Tridens

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My name is Glenn Robbins.  30 years ago I raised my right hand as a plebe at the U.S. Naval Academy and swore an oath to serve my country.  Four years of school and 26 years of service later I hung up the uniform and came face to face with the dreaded, “what’s next?” question.  It’s a difficult question to answer for many, so I wanted to share my perspective through this blog with the hope that it will help you reach a decision of your own.

Keep in mind that I am writing this from the perspective of a military veteran who took advantage of GI Bill benefits to fund the decision.  I realize not everyone has this, but there are other sources of financial aid if you qualify.  We also set ourselves up financially to weather this brief season without a paycheck – good advice if you are in the initial stages of such a thought process.  In the end, though, money was never a driver, nor should it be.  I know…easier said than done…but the bottom line is that IYRS is an investment in your future for a number of reasons, so some sacrifice might be required to make it happen.

A few background sentences about me.

I was born and raised in Massachusetts and grew up not far from Newport.  We were a sailing family and my love of the ocean was forged early in my life.  I suppose it is why I pursued the Naval Academy and a naval career.  I served as a Naval Flight Officer and spent nearly 20 years at sea and ashore either flying from or serving on aircraft carriers.  After the excitement of flying, I moved on to more senior staff positions including four years as an executive speechwriter for the Commander of all U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa.  What I realized along the way was that the more senior I became, and the more time I spent preparing to deploy, deployed, or in an office, the less time I had to pursue my passions – sailing, boats, woodworking, tinkering around engines, and so on.

“Despite professional success, I felt like a stranger to myself as my career progressed.  The absence of time for hobbies or relaxation created significant internal conflict.”

Despite professional success, I felt like a stranger to myself as my career progressed.  The absence of time for hobbies or relaxation created significant internal conflict.   As the number of hours I spent at work increased, so too did my stress, which became increasingly apparent to my family and friends.  By the time I was ready to take the first steps in my post-military life, I found myself on the brink of personal crisis – mentally bankrupt, exhausted, and a complete stranger to myself.  Then, the day finally arrived when I had to make some decisions.

I had heard how stressful career change can be and I always thought I was tough enough to handle it.   My wife kept asking me how I wanted my life to look.  The question seems simple enough, but one of the challenges many career-changers face is the “you don’t know what you don’t know” conundrum.  Most of my friends went into finance, civil service, or defense contracting after they left the service, mainly because it was an easy transition.  Something told me that taking the easy route was not for me, and that’s when the idea of trade school entered my calculus.

Deep down inside I knew what I wanted life to look like, but the influence of 26 years of institutionalization in the Navy would not let me acknowledge that IYRS was EXACTLY what I needed at this point in my life.   All the negatives still dominated my thoughts – I am too old, too late, too committed to other responsibilities, too…whatever.  My brain was screaming at me.  “You need to get a high paying, high stress job!  You need to suffer in traffic like everybody else!  Suffering is good for you, you tell that to your kids, anyway!.  You need to keep up with your peers!”

So I bought some good 3M hearing protection to drown out the voices and did something that was not easy – I stepped outside of my comfort zone.  I had remembered driving by IYRS many times in the past, so on a whim I decided to stop in and chat.  I was impressed, but still wasn’t convinced.  This is for “other people”, I thought, but only because I hadn’t been willing to set myself free.  I went back for an open house event several months later and met a retired army Colonel who was a student, which was really helpful.  Still, I wasn’t able to mentally commit.  For all the wrong reasons I had allowed myself to get sucked into a corporate recruitment effort that culminated at about the same time I needed to make a decision about IYRS.  The money would have been decent, but my heart didn’t exactly leap at the thought of doing what my brain was screaming at me to do.  So, when the offer was about to hit the table, I balked.

For the first time in what seemed like decades, I took the opportunity to be completely honest with myself.  I took money out of the decision.  Then I asked myself what I would like to do every day if I didn’t have to go to work.  After that, I sought advice from a professional counselor because I was having such a difficult time seeing the forrest through the trees.  If you have ever met any naval aviators (past or present) you will know that admitting weakness is not in our mindset.  And by the way, if you aren’t sure if you have ever met a naval aviator then you haven’t.  We have a way of inserting it into conversations with overwhelming enthusiasm complete with hand movements and sound effects.  At any rate, I needed help, and it wasn’t easy to admit.   But I did, and I am so thankful I did.  Several counseling sessions and some serious introspection later, I felt empowered to take a leap of faith.  Once I worked through the self-imposed restrictions, I knew exactly how to answer the question “how do you want your life to look?”

I wanted to put on a pair of Carhartt pants and a t-shirt every day and work with my hands, at least for a season.

“When I finally forced myself to close my eyes and let go of my inhibitions, all sorts of wonderful things happened.”

When I finally forced myself to close my eyes and let go of my inhibitions, all sorts of wonderful things happened.  First, my stress level went way down.  By choosing IYRS, I not only took a step towards the life I imagined, I also bought myself six months of time to get some fresh perspective.  That’s huge!   Second, my happiness went way up, especially when classes started.  I love coming to school every day dressed in my Carhartts and t-shirt.  I am working with people, young and old, who are as excited to be there as I.  Some of these people have been in the industry for a few years and are formalizing their skills with certification and education.  I learn as much from them as I do from our instructors.  When the music is going in the shop and everyone is busy with their projects I take a moment every now and again just to pause and soak it all in.  Awesome!

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So, here are the takeaways to ponder if you are considering a new direction for your life.

1. IYRS is a great choice for career changers

If you are like me, you don’t like letting go of one rope until you have a firm hold on another, even if it is the wrong one.  There is a real danger in that when it comes to career choices, though, especially when your decisions (and fears) affect other people, like your family if you have one.  I have faced a lot of hard decisions and undesirable situations throughout my military career, but training and practice prepared me for those.  This career change thing was different, and it terrified me…not because I was going to die, but because I would have to live with myself knowing I willingly (and compliantly) grabbed the wrong rope and swung off in the wrong direction, dragging my wife and children with me, when there were better options on the table.  When you choose IYRS, you aren’t just getting a course of instruction and the opportunity to pursue technical certification, you are getting the networking and marketing power of a well-respected institution and staff.  IYRS is a hub from which graduates spoke outwards into the marine sector at all levels and positions.  You are plugging into a community that recognizes what IYRS brings to the table, so for people starting out in life or shifting gears at a midpoint IYRS is a fantastic choice.

2. IYRS is a pathway to self-sufficiency, confidence, and empowerment  

You may not pursue a career in the marine sector but that shouldn’t steer you away from IYRS.  I am learning skills and absorbing information that I have wanted for a long time.  I call them “mad” skills – the kind that make you self-reliant and confident; the kind your friends respect because you’re the person who can fix anything, tackle any problem, and get yourself out of jam because you know what you are doing.  While they’re stranded with a dead battery looking helplessly at jumper cables in one hand and cellphone in the other, you will be the person who takes something like that in stride.

That’s powerful stuff.

I firmly believe we can outthink any challenge that comes our way, and IYRS gives you some pretty sharp mental arrows to stick in your quiver.

I want to own a boat, maybe take my family on a world cruise…I don’t know for certain, yet.  But what I do know is that I can’t imagine owning or operating a boat without the knowledge I am getting in this course.  I am learning about electricity, engines, wiring, and woodworking.  These are hardly useless skills in life whether on a boat or on land.  I have a 27 year old Land Rover Defender with a 4 cylinder diesel engine.  It’s the perfect laboratory for practicing the things I am learning in class.  I feel like once what was blurry under the hood is coming into focus as we study alternators, relays, fuses, breaker panels, solenoids, and so forth.  It’s powerful and I love it.

I said it already and I’ll say it again.  I love coming to school every day.  This is how I wanted my life to look.  This is the break I needed from the stress of work.  Even though I still have to study, and there days when I feel like information is coming at me faster than I can absorb it, but I feel so much lighter and fulfilled.  I am so happy I ignored the voices in my head and decided to come to IYRS.  I’ll never regret it.

I’ll also share this last tidbit, because I think it’s valuable to both write it and read it.  The more I opened up about my secret struggles the more I realized that I was not alone.  I can’t tell you how many people let out long sighs and told me they wished they could quit their jobs and go to trade school.  I even had a number of my friends and associates tell me IYRS was on their bucket list.  This surprised me.  Friends from California, Texas, and Washington had heard of IYRS and wanted to come.  I don’t know if they will commit, but I did, and it feels great.

“Saying, “one day” is the same as saying, “never”, and I am so glad I let go of my fears and embarked upon this new direction.”

Saying, “one day” is the same as saying, “never”, and I am so glad I let go of my fears and embarked upon this new direction.  If I hadn’t, I don’t know if I ever would have circled back and done this in ten or fifteen years.  I don’t know if I ever would have had the confidence to take my family sailing despite all of my experience.

All I know is that I am doing it, and you can, too.