BTU #108: Team Red, White & Blue (Garrett Cathcart)

“To find meaning in what you do – that can be in anything. That could be in what you do for a living, or running a podcast to help veterans, that can be volunteering somewhere. For me, for so long in the Army that was my identity and who I was. And once I was out of that, I didn’t know who I was anymore. To do what you love and do what you believe in, as a living is a great gift.”
– Garrett Cathcart

Garrett Cathcart is the Southeast Regional Director at Team Red, White & Blue – an organization that enriches the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activities. He is also the Chief Community Engagement Officer at VETLANTA. He started out at West Point, after which he served in the Army for 8.5 years, with two years in Baghdad as a Recon Scout Platoon Leader and then as an Aide-de-Camp to Commanding General. After his transition from the Army he worked at NuVasive as an Associate Spine Representative before joining team RWB.

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

  • Podcasts & Websites
    • 80,000 hours – it was started by an Oxford philosophy professor who lives on $35,000 per year. 80k hours is about how many hours you work in your lifetime. It’s about what you should do for a living and what will make you happy
    • NPR – How I Built this podcast
    • Tim Ferris podcast
  • Books
    • Colin Powell – it worked for me

Show Notes

  • What would you want listeners to know about Team RWB?
    • We enriches the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activities.
    • They work in 43 cities, and 213 nationally. In any given week there are local events. Anyone can participate – yoga, crossfit, ruck, hike, pub trivia, bowling, etc.
    • When people get out of the military they miss hanging out with good people; they miss that camaraderie. They want to build authentic and genuine relationships
    • Leadership development program and community service projects
    • Veterans are leaders – get out there and lead and the community is better for it
  • Leadership Development Program
    • One of the best leadership development directors in the world
    • They are building their own content – some form the military and some outside of the military
    • 125,000 members and all are volunteers
    • The way they reward people is by developing them as a leader
    • Giving people the tools to make RWB better and their community better
    • Nike donates shirts, and each Team RWB member gets them – it’s a great sign up community
    • Building the airplane while they’re flying it – some of the content is created, some is not yet
    • It will be at EagleLeader.com
    • Sign up at TeamRWB and you’ll get access
    • Will send to seminars as well
    • This is open-soured leadership – wanting to serve veterans, enrich their lives, and make communities better
  • What’s the origin story on Team RWB?
    • Mike Erwin was an Active Duty Army Major in 2012. He saw a need and wanted to help wounded veterans. There were initially athletes and advocates.
    • Ran the Twin Cities marathon and started running money as a non-profit
    • As they grew they noticed that EVERYONE was signing up to be a mentor and advocate. Very few people wanted to be an athlete. Everyone wanted to serve and give back
    • So they reevaluated their model – what if we had a model where civilians could be part as well, and help close the civilian divide and no one is a helper or someone who needs the team… everyone is on the same page
    • There’s a sea of red shirts with the eagle on it at events now
    • Started growing into different cities
  • Based on your work with Team RWB, what would you want listeners to know about their transition to a civilian life?
    • You will miss the military; you tend to remember the great things and forget the bad stuff
    • 11:00
    • It’s important to have a network when you leave – you’re going to need people who have understood what youv’e done an where you’ve been
    • It helps you get your legs underneath you
    • There’s a lot of ways to serve once you get out
  • How to get involved
    • It costs nothing – just your time
    • They have great partners in the corporate side to make sure this is free for everyone
    • Activities range from anything and everything, just getting people together
    • Go to TeamRwb.com and click on Join the team
  • How would you describe your role at Team RWB to someone on Active Duty?
    • He’s in command – everythign that happens in a region good or bad is on me
    • A lot of folks make it happen, I adminster the budget, oversee the leadership and devel;pment program, speak on panels, engage with corproate sponsors and VA
    • The VA sends a lot of folks to them because TEam RWB is consistent – find other people who understand yuo
    • Relationship building – a little bit of a budget
    • They’re a 5 year old startup that is 120k people
    • The Volunteer leaders really run everything – they recognize them and help develop them and support
  • How did you make the decisions to leave the Army?
    • Always thought would be 5 years and out
    • Almost resigned from West Point to enlist after 9/11
    • Joined insurgency at its height and itwas a tough year – lost four of his guys and his commander, as well as his best friend from West Point
    • Non-stop trainign at home and then back at Baghdad
    • Took over advisign the infantry batallion and he really enjoyed the operations side
    • At the end was going to get out and join the State Department, mainly becuase he was tired from the op tempo. Turned in his resignation paperwork and 3 months later called into his commander’s office. He convinced him to stay in and mentored him. Gave him control of ALpha Troop, and move to Fort Collins in Colorado Springs time, and told him he’d be the first mechanized group to command in Afghanistan.
    • He took the post and went back to Afghanistan
    • Finally decided he needed to build a family and turned in his resignation letter again
    • There was a new 2-star and he was put up to be an aide
    • He couldn’t find a clean uniform top, and could only find a small one (which he doesn’t wear) – it was skin tight like a wetsuit
    • The General said, do you work out?
    • They had a lot in common and he said he didn’t want the job
    • The General called him and told him he had the job
    • Learned more in one year about Leadership from General Joe Anderson – he was an amazing leader and Garrett still applies lessons he learned from that one year
  • What was your first job search like and what lead you to NuVasive?
    • Met a gal in Beverly Hills
    • Didn’t care what he was doing as long as he was making money
    • Contacted a JMO recruitig firm – first two hung up since he had bummed around for a few months post-transition
    • Third JMO recruiting firm said he should do medical devices
    • He knew nothing about sales or medicine, but he was done for it
    • They flew him to Memphis – went to some concerts, slept a few hours and went to interviews
    • Went down to the lobby and everyone was way more prepared than him – copies of their resumes, black binders, pressed suits
    • He quickly printed out his resume
    • He had 5 separate one hour interviews
    • his first one was the person he asked to print out his resume!
    • He gave him 0 points for preparation and 100 points for innovation
    • he had lots of stories to share
    • he got an offer and the an 2nd offer, and one was in LA so he took it
  • What was your role at NuVasive like?
    • He was in operating rooms with surgeons, and he was so uncomfortable
    • He had no clue what he was doing
    • He was with the top surgeon at the hospital and he asked Garrett’s opinion… he didn’t even understand the words the doctor was saying
    • He took doctors to dinner told about products and got their business
    • he didn’t like it – lacked a sense of purpose
  • What lead you to Team RWB?
    • The girl and State Department job didn’t work out and he didn’t have a plan
    • Out of the blue a friend from Afghanistan called him (Joe Quinn) – he had gone to Harvard after the Army
    • They hit things off – hadn’t talked in two or three years adn he pitched him on working at a non-profit
    • Didn’t want to do this because thought he would be poor
    • He went to the website and checked it out and went to an event
    • Didn’t want anything to do with other veterans at the time
    • He got there and experienced it and was working out and felt a tension lifted
    • Without realizing it saw what he was missing
    • Two years have been incredible for me
  • Advice for non-profits
    • He had a short stint in the corporate side
    • Find meaning in what you do
    • 10:17 – could be what you do in your job, volunteering… anything
    • For so long in the Army this was his identity – a Cavalary officer who had been to Iraq and Afghanistan. Afterwards he didn’t know what to do
    • To love what you do is a great gift (30:52). It’s different every day and Im still passionate about it
    • You can make a good living and learn a lot
  • Any resources – books, podcasts, articles, etc – you’d recommend to veteran listeners to help them in their civilian career?
    • 80,000 hours – it was started by an Oxford philosophy professor who lives on $35,000 per year. 80k hours is about how many hours you work in your lifetime. It’s about what you should do for a living and what will make you happy
    • At a certain point – the more money you make it doesn’t make you happy… maybe $50k or $75k.
    • There are great books and podcasts here and resources to see what you want to do
    • NPR – How I Built this podcast
    • Tim Ferris podcast
    • Colin Powell – it worked for me
  • Final words of wisdom?
    • I don’t have anything fogured out
    • I was lucky in finding a job I love
    • I have a twin brother who was in the Army and got out
    • He got to go to Harvard & Dartmouth and is now a big consultant
    • Someitmes I get jealous of the paycheck
    • He tells me I have the greatest job in the world
    • I make my won schedule, have a big impact
    • Enjoy where you are – don’t always be thinking ahead and what the next step is