Mentor / Mentee – The Symbiotic Relationship
By Jim Kuiken
In your lifetime, you will be a mentor, and a mentee. That’s the way life works. When you’re a child, you’re the mentee and your parents, teachers, older siblings, and lots of other folks will be mentors to you.
As you grow older, you will become the mentor to others, in your personal life, work life, school, and many other places. It’s the natural order of humanity. We learn from each other, depend on each other, and help each other throughout our lives. That’s how we survive and grow, as people – and as a species.
In my life I’ve been honored (and humbled) to have been a mentor to many folks, in all walks of life. I’ve actually been amazed at some of them who were so intelligent, so accomplished that it seemed ludicrous that I was their mentor…
In some cases, the mentee becomes the mentor, and vice-versa. One great example is David DeWolf. When I first met David, he was a beginning entrepreneur, just starting out as an independent IT professional who had 3 or 4 other guys working with him…and was beginning to put his own business together. I was a former federal Senior Executive Service member and retired Director from Homeland Security, currently working as a Vice President for a good-sized defense contracting corporation, and he was asking advice about government contracts. We maintained our relationship…and when I decided a couple of years later to start up one of my own companies, he was already very successful, and had grown his company to a highly successful business – which has since become an international dynamo…3Pillar Global.
I asked him to be on my Board of Directors, and he guided me on the path to successful entrepreneurship. I still count David as one of my good friends. I have been privileged to have had many great mentors like David.
Of course there were the personal mentors. My dad Gerrit Kuiken, who married my mom when I was very young, and raised me – was a big influence on my life in general, as well as my military career – since he was career Air Force. My father Bob Rose, who, although he didn’t raise me, was a strong influence, especially when I went into public service – and my favorite job of all time, as a firefighter…he was the Deputy Chief of the Boise City Fire Department. My Grandpa Hartley, who was a guiding light and career public servant – with a quiet, dry sense of humor. I still think of him often.
And now, as a writer. I have several people that I look to as examples, which is very important – but they are not mentors, just examples to learn from. The man who got me to get off my duff and start writing (the story that I had in my head for almost 20 years at that time), was “Jimmie” (Jim) Yates. He was a published author, next-door neighbor, and a good friend. I asked him how to write, and he said it was complicated. “Just go sit down and write!”
I did, and wrote the first chapter of my first book, The Making of a Warrior… And stopped.
Twenty more years later, I wanted to pick it up and start writing again, so I did…but needed some guidance and motivation. Welcome Clint Goodwin. I found him on LinkedIn, and was intrigued by his unique premise. He was writing a book about the Civil War, from the Southern perspective, with the viewpoint and understanding of someone who had actually been in war (he is a Veteran who has “seen the elephant” himself)…and here’s the unique part…from the perspective of a horse – the main character. He has gone on to write additional books in the series (with several more to come), but I found in him another soul with a great outlook on life…albeit from a slightly off-center viewpoint…like mine.
I asked him to be my mentor, and to my surprise and great honor, he did – as well as becoming a very good, close friend.
I have been highly successful, way beyond my wildest dreams, in my professional life. The Sergeant Major in the largest combatant command in the US Marine Corps, MarForPac (2/3 of the operational forces of the Marine Corps) during Op Enduring Freedom. Senior Executive Service (SES-6) and a Director in the federal service. International Diplomat. Corporate Executive (Vice President, then later, President and CEO of two other companies). US Congressional Candidate for the 15th Congressional District (Texas). And now, writer, speaker and advocate at JamesKuiken.com.
Nothing could have surprised me more…but I didn’t do any of it on my own. In each instance, I had some exceptional mentors who guided and motivated me to continue to push forward. And along the way, was deeply honored to be a mentor to others, and help them on their paths.
Who have been your mentors? Who and how many have you helped along the way? In anything you do in life, there is someone that can help and guide you, and someone you can help. Don’t be hesitant to seek out those that might be a good mentor for you – and ask them.
And when you see someone that might benefit from your help, or someone asks you to be their mentor…just tell them “I’m your Huckleberry”.
By Jim Kuiken
Isn’t that an oxymoron?
The popular characterization of Marines is knuckle-dragging, muscle-bound, loud-mouthed guys, either in battle gear running around shouting “Oorah!”, or overbearing bullies in “Smokie the Bear” hats screaming at recruits, and occasionally, in Dress Blues with all the medals, standing solemnly in a parade, at some public building, or folding a flag at a funeral.
Very few folks see them as highly intelligent, adaptable and professional military men…and women! Marines come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, genders, etc…because they come from the general population. I know it is hard to believe, but they’re not born in uniform, or like in some of the movies, made into super soldiers in some lab…they’re American people who choose to join the Marines and become “One of the Few, the Proud…”.
I don’t mean to imply that Marines aren’t respected by most Americans (and feared by America’s enemies), and that Marines don’t tend to have a high opinion of themselves and the Marine Corps…an opinion that has been earned, tested and proven… Whenever trouble starts, the first thing you hear is; Send in the Marines!
I’m just saying that the Marines are a lot more complex than you may think. As Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army said, “There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.”
One of the most misunderstood thing about Marines is that they are not strictly a ground-pounding bunch of Grunts, but are in fact made up of many inter-connecting facets; from ground and air combat units, to support units, administration and supply, artillery, armored vehicle units, and…wait for it…special operations (Marine Corps style) and intelligence assets, as well as many, many more.
So…back to the intelligence (not of Marines, but within the Marine Corps). The direct intelligence assets within the Marine Corps are varied, but mostly centered in the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity(MCIA) – a national intelligence asset, fully integrated with all the other 3 letter assets. In fact, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA, the military counterpart and partner organization with the civilian CIA) is headed up by a Marine as its director, LtGen. Vincent R. Stewart.
As for the collection assets (those who actually go out and collect information, particularly in the field) in the Marine Corps, that generally falls to the Marine special operations folks – up to lately, pretty well unknown to most people – called Force Reconnaissance, or “Force Recon”. I was privileged to have spent a good part of my Marine Corps career as a Force Recon Marine.
Force Recon has two main missions, which are; “Green Ops” (operations), or deep reconnaissance (DR) missions; and “Black Ops”, or direct action (DA) missions. What we’re talking about here are the deep recon missions, when the Force Recon teams are sent in, normally from 5 miles behind enemy lines up to around 500 miles behind enemy lines, to gather relevant information that can be sent back and processed into intelligence.
Force Recon Marines are highly trained and skilled, with most going through years of training, and many of the schools listed in this Wikipedia article. As an example, here are just some of the schools and training I went through – see SgtMaj James Kuiken (under Military Credentials).
For the guys out in the field, a couple of those schools are particularly helpful. I found the Army Special Forces (Green Beret) Qualification Course (Q Course), and the MAGTF Intelligence Specialist course to be very useful, because they helped with techniques of working deep in hostile areas without support, working with indigenous populations in a cooperative manner, and in differentiating between what were normal activities in those areas, and what was important raw information that could be useful in developing “actionable intelligence”, or real intelligence that commanders could use in planning.
Even though Force Recon Marines go through many special schools and training, we don’t wear any special patches, berets, or other identifying “special” uniforms. As our former Commandant General Alfred M. Gray (a former enlisted Marine, and a Recon Marine) when asked about this said, we don’t need any special forces uniforms. All Marines are special forces. Generally, the only way you can tell a Force Recon Marine apart from other Marines in uniform is that most of them have Jump Wings and a Scuba (or now, Combat Diver) Badge over their ribbons or medals. That isn’t intended to be a special operations identifier, they’re just qualification badges for some of the insertion methods used to get to where they need to be – by parachuting or swimming into the area to do their job.
In short, the deep reconnaissance operations, or Green Ops of Force Recon are an extremely important part of gathering information, deep in enemy, hostile, or not-so-friendly areas, with actual human eyes viewing and interpreting what is going on. The exploits of Force Recon teams, from 2 to 4, or up to 12 men, deep in hostile territories or foreign lands are very rarely brought to light, but you can be sure that they are out there right now – today and every day – gathering the information needed to keep us safe here at home, and supporting the combatant commanders during planning, and during wartime; unseen, but with eyes locked on target.
One Veteran's View
By Jim Kuiken
Veterans Day. What is that all about? “Veterans Day is an official United States federal holidaythat is observed annually on November 11, honoring people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, also known as veterans.” (Wikipedia)
But why do we honor veterans? I’m not going to go into all the whys and wherefores, history or national intent. I’m going to tell you about my Veterans Day.
3 of his 4 brothers also served in the military (Henry and Dick - Army Air Corps / Air Force, and Bob - Navy). They were veterans.
His father, my grandfather (Henry) – an immigrant, served his new country in the Army during WWI, and in the Navy in WWII. A veteran.
I come from a family with a history of service to our nation. My other grandfather (Andy) on my mother’s side, was not a veteran, but he also served, in a civilian (intelligence) capacity during WWII. Yeah, that’s great Kuiken. You’re a veteran. So were generations of your family before you. So what? You chose that life, what does that have to do with anyone else?
We already know what Veterans Day is, and there are a lot of folks that are talking about honoring our veterans, and what this day means to our nation. I’m not going to reach that far…I’m just going to tell you what this day is to me.
My Veterans Day.
As I mentioned, I served in multiple wars, operations and conflicts…but this isn’t about me. It’s about the others.
I remember the names, the faces, and the stupid $#!+ we pulled together. There was a deep and abiding bond of friendship we shared as we worked hard together, played pranks on each other, got to know each other’s lives, friends and families – both from meeting them, and from talking about them “back home” when we were deployed somewhere. I had lots of friends over the years.
But what I remember most is when those bonds of friendship were put to the test, forged and solidified into something much more than friendship, more than brotherhood…during combat and in war. They morphed into something that is not easily described. Complete trust and confidence that they would give their life to save yours – as you would for them…without a thought. We see examples of this in the unbelievable heroic actions that we hear about, like Cpl. Kyle Carpenter who threw himself on a grenade to save the life of his fellow Marine.
Today, on Veterans Day, I think of my dad, my uncles, grandfathers, cousins, nephews, and all my family members who served. I think of all my friends and fellow service members that I served with, and some I didn’t serve with but who I still count as friends.
I think about the years I was not with my family. How I missed my daughter’s birthdays, those special moments that father and son are supposed to have, but that my sons and I didn’t. I think of those moments that are so special in a marriage that I never saw – and how those left behind missed out on so much…how that affected our lives and our relationships. Now, in the years that are left to me, how much I regret not having those times back. I will never have them back. My family will never have them.
I think of those (many of them my friends) who not only suffered the same fate, but whose bodies were broken, maimed, and destroyed by war, by their service, and who suffer daily the effects of their sacrifice. I know, I hurt…every…single…day. I think of the deep and devastating psychological scars that they bear, of the unthinkable sights, sounds and events locked away in their head – things that can never be shared with anyone who was not there. I think of their families who did not volunteer for it, but who have become caregivers, whose lives have also been deeply affected by not only having to take on that duty that they did not volunteer for, but who have to watch the deterioration and suffering of their loved one – and how that changes their relationships, their lives, destroys their dreams.
And I think of the selfless sacrifice that millions of our servicemembers, men and women, have given to keep our country safe and secure for us, our families. How can I possibly repay the debt owed for this freedom, our security, and a life that is unknown in most parts of the world?
I can’t. I can only honor those who have stepped up and taken on that title – a Veteran.
Expanding Your Reach
By Jim Kuiken
In pretty much any public venture; business, charity (not-for or non-profit), organization or group, etc.; getting the word out is imperative for success and growth. I’ve been in all these positions, and as a classically trained (and very successful) business development executive, I can verify that this is the critical piece of any successful venture.
Speaking as a writer – my current vocation – if you don’t get the word out, you don’t have people who know about your writing, then you don’t have a following or readership, and you don’t have sales… Lots of folks write books that never sell, or only sell to a few family members and friends. If you’re looking for a successful career in writing, you have to sell articles, books, or whatever you write.
So…how do you get the word out? Some writers have huge book deals, one of the top publishers, and/or expensive marketing firms that help. Two things – first, that is by far the exception rather than the rule, and make up an extremely small percentage (in the single digits) of all writers. And secondly, even they don’t get the full measure of exposure unless they take it upon themselves to do additional marketing and various techniques to spread the word.
This all sounds like a lot of work, something that will take a lot of time. Well…duh! Successful (i.e., profitable) professional writers do take time and spend a lot of effort on making sure they maximize their exposure, besides just sitting there writing and waiting for manna to fall from heaven.
But don’t fret – this isn’t an esoteric article about the theory of spreading the word…I have some very concrete suggestions for you. Things you can start doing now. Many of you are already doing some of these things, but hopefully I’ll give you a couple of new ideas to plug into your marketing portfolio. I know these things I’m suggesting work, because I went from a very small friends and family group to a direct reach of over 4K people in just about a year…and it’s growing daily. The good thing is that once you reach a critical mass, it starts to pick up on its own and expand even faster. Here are some (but not nearly all) of the things you can do.
There are many, many more sites you can look into, based on your interests and what you are trying to get the word out about. Also, make sure you look at the tutorials of these and other sites, and you will find that you can cross-post a lot of stuff…like on LinkedIn. When I post there, I click on “public and Twitter”, and it not only posts on LinkedIn, but automatically posts it (in a reduced version) on Twitter – saving me the time of going to both sites to post.
What is important is that you put out interesting posts on a regular basis. You can do this via a blog post (see Scott Attenborough’s article “Blog to Build Your Audience” on the JamesKuiken.com blog site), or regular postings on these or other sites – but you have to work to get a regular posting out there – on as many sites as possible – if you want to start getting readers interested in following you.
These are only a few very basic sites and techniques, but they are a great starting place. I know there are a lot of you that have other thoughts and suggestions, and I hope you will “comment” on this post to share those thoughts with others – and help them “Get the Word Out”!
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