How one retired SEAL is helping fellow veterans make the transition back into civilian life

How one retired Navy SEAL is helping fellow former military members make the transition back into civilian life through three targeted life lessons

  • Veteran Eric Muller, 51, and form Santa Monica, California, served 20 years as a Navy SEAL
  • He served in Mosul and Ramadi, Iraq, from 2003 until 2004 and 2005 until 2006
  • He retired from active military service in 2014, before being hired as a gun instructor at a shooting range
  • Now, he helps veterans with providing a smoother transition into civilian life after military retirement
  • He teaches three courses at Magnifi U and  is engaged to his best friend from high school from 35 years ago

SEAL veteran and author Eric Muller is helping other former military members with turning their lives around by helping them transition back into civilian life through  three life lessons he learned himself after he left active duty. 

Muller, who is originally from Santa Monica, California, served 20 years in the Navy, 18 as a SEAL, and completed seven foreign tours, including two combat tours in Iraq in the cities of Mosul and Ramadi, respectively from 2003 until 2004 and 2005 until 2006. 

During his time in the military, he was briefed on hundreds of counter terrorism operations and was part of several SEAL Team tied to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

SEAL veteran and author Eric Muller (pictured), 51, served in Iraq from 2003 until 2004 and again, between 2004 and 2005 before retiring from active duty in 2014

SEAL veteran and author Eric Muller (pictured), 51, served in Iraq from 2003 until 2004 and again, between 2004 and 2005 before retiring from active duty in 2014

Retired from the Navy in 2014, Muller’s first job outside of active duty was being a full-time instructor at Mid-South Combat Shooting in Mississippi, which only books training courses for U.S. Military, government and state or local law enforcement agencies. 

The 20-year Navy SEAL, who has four kids from two previous marriages and is now engaged to his best friend of 35 years from high school, speaks about the lessons he learned in moving from long-term military life into the civilian world, and how little veterans do not realize the skills they have learned in uniform are in demand.

He also runs a new online micro-learning platform Magnifi U since this year, to help and teach veterans how to successfully move into non-military life. For the course, he draws on his 2017 book, Set Up for Success, A Veteran’s Guide to Re-acclimation, and his own career to help and inspire others.

For now, here are three life lessons Muller recommends to follow for those seeking a successful career post-military:

Muller also wrote about his post-military struggles and experiences in a book called Set Up for Success, A Veteran's Guide to Re-acclimation, published in 2017

Muller also wrote about his post-military struggles and experiences in a book called Set Up for Success, A Veteran’s Guide to Re-acclimation, published in 2017

1. Plan your plan 

‘If you don’t have a plan, you’re just blown in the wind. Whatever storm comes, you’re going to go in, you’re flapping in the wind, you’re going to drown, right? That’s why it’s so important to establish a plan,’ Muller told DailyMail.com 

The California native added that whichever path you choose, whether that’s staying at home to take care of family, seeking employment or going to college, it’s vital to stick with your plan until the end. 

Jessica Di Ponzio, Director of Learning and Development at Magnifi U, works with Muller on further developing his courses and specified: ‘In all courses offered, it is all about navigating separation and finding your motivation. […] And also how to harness your motivation to go after what really matters to you,’ she exclusively told DailyMail.com.

‘Our second course is about finding direction, use your motivation to find what job field work, what will be fulfilling to you, what do you really care about? What do you want to explore? And then the third course is pulling that all to action, creating a plan, creating a resume, and really learning how your skills translate, like we’ve been talking about what role you had in the military, what branch you’re in the things that you did and what that translates to, and then have, you know, a curated custom skills translator.’

2. Make adjustments to your plan

After coming up with a plan, Muller recommends to stick with it and to make adjustments to fulfill it. He says that little too often, veterans tend to give up on their plans ‘because life and things happens.’    

‘If you’re going to school wanting a degree, and have a plan until the end but now all of a sudden [your] wife’s pregnant, now [you] have a baby thrown into the mix. You then ask yourself “Do I just stop that plan?” No, you don’t have to stop that plan.’

‘Instead, maybe you have to get a night job for a little bit because your wife won’t be able to work for two months or three months. So there’s an adjustment there.’

The veteran said people often think adjustments ‘paralyze you or put you in a spot where you just throw that plan in the garbage.’

However, he says that’s mostly not the case and speaking to others about personal difficulties can make one overcome these feelings and stick to the right path. 

‘I think that having an individual that you’re able to openly talk to and use as a mentor, like I did with my brother, is super important and super helpful.’

Muller was living in his car after divorcing from his second wife, two years following his retirement from the military in 2014. He remembers that as being one of his life’s lowest points before turning to tapes made by motivational speakers.

He then realized that he could openly talk about his struggles with his brother. 

‘I finally had someone that was able to help me mentorship wise, but if I had realized that at the beginning then I think that would have mitigated a lot of things that I went through.’

Now teaching veterans how to transition into civilian life after their releases from the military, Muller is also engaged to his high school best friend of 35 years (right)

Now teaching veterans how to transition into civilian life after their releases from the military, Muller is also engaged to his high school best friend of 35 years (right)

3. Translate and showcase your value and military skills in a corporate setting 

‘I guess as a veteran most companies don’t see or don’t understand the actual value of a veteran because they don’t understand the terminology on what we (veterans) did in the military versus what you know, is in the civilian world, and how it translates from one to the other,’ Muller told DailyMail.com.

He added that companies are doing themselves a disservice ‘by not knowing that because there’s so many people out there that are more than capable of doing a job.’

Muller also revealed that the military only offers classes focusing on resume building and job interviewing, before active service members are officially released. 

‘They give a 10-day class to everyone before you get out. It’s two weeks long but the courses weren’t up-to-date. The resumes were old school [format].’

‘Now you have companies that have a seven second look or 15 second look, and they look over a cover page and if they don’t like what they don’t see right off the bat, then they set it aside.’

Muller found his first job as an instructor at a gun range in Mississippi due to his ties within the military. He said he enjoyed the job at first, finding it ‘super easy’ before realizing how unprepared he had been to work a normal job. 

‘I never took account, like the finances, of how much I was getting paid. And I really didn’t understand it until I got my first paycheck. And it was kind of shocking and then it really hit me probably two or three months down the line after that. That financially like I didn’t set myself up for success at all.’ 

He added that the sudden realization had ‘put a strain on his the relationship with his ex-wife. 

‘For me, trying to figure out who I was was the hardest party, because you know for 20 years, I was a Navy SEAL. That was my identify and then all of a sudden I come out and I’m trying to figure out who I am again. You know, it was it was as if I just graduated high school, right, because you know, I don’t have a college degree,’ Muller said.

Father of four kids (pictured with one of them), Muller is now a Risk Management and Business Development Contract in Mississippi

Father of four kids (pictured with one of them), Muller is now a Risk Management and Business Development Contract in Mississippi

After leaving his job at the gun range, Muller finally wrote a book about his struggles and experience to find his own identity post-military life. Then, he was offered to teach at Magnifi U, which made him realize that he could make a difference by helping out others in a similar position.

‘Our courses teach veterans how to write an elevator pitch, how to talk about themselves in an interview setting and and what to put on their resume,’ Jessica Di Ponzio, Director of Learning and Development at Magnifi U, told DailyMail.com. 

‘We have plans for a ton more. There are endless possibilities for these courses for veterans and for everybody else struggling but specifically what we’re talking about today is veterans,’ she added.

‘From soft skills and self awareness, understanding your values, relationships, communication, mental health, well being all the way, are skills that lead to being able to work functional jobs.’ 

Muller is now planning to re-enroll at San Diego State University, where he went to college before dropping out and signing up for the Navy. He said he was inspired by his fiancee, who just obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University. 

He is also a Risk Management and Business Development Contractor for a private company in Mississippi.

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