At first I was repulsed. Even now, I must take care not to listen to some things too late in the day. Why is Jocko Willink bringing the evil of human behavior in war to the front in Jocko Podcast after podcast? Won’t this turn away listeners?
Now, though, I begin to get it. Jocko is not toying with popular subjects. He is facing into the ugliest subject of all: evil. Jocko is owning evil. He is executing in keeping with the philosophy put forth in Extreme Ownership. He is a leader owning his world.
First Principle: Great does not equal popular
The most important missions are not necessarily popular missions. In fact, quite to the contrary. That is the essence of leadership. If everyone knew where to go and how to get there, we would need no leaders. A true leader knows how to set the objective, get the right people on the forward team, charge the hill, and take it. Later more and more followers can occupy the high ground. So Jocko is aiming to seize, clear, hold, and build on that hill we all confront: Mount Evil. To do this, he clearly is not trying to pander to the masses, hence the second principle.
Second Principle: Gaggles rarely take the hill.
Weed out the lukewarm troops. They may make great occupation forces. Save them for that. Take the hill with Chosen Warriors. The story of Gideon provides an example:
2 Then the Lord said to Gideon, “There are too many people with you for Me to hand over Midian to them, otherwise Israel will boast [about themselves] against Me, saying, ‘My own power has rescued me.’ 3 So now, proclaim in the hearing of the people, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men returned [home], but ten thousand remained. (Judges 7: 2-3, AMP, BibleGateway.com)
With 10,000 remaining, God ordered the final sort:
4 Then the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many people; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” 5 So he brought the people down to the water, and the Lord said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels down to drink.” 6 Now the number of those who lapped [the water], putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men, but all the rest of the people kneeled down to drink water. 7 And the Lord told Gideon, “With the three hundred men who lapped I will rescue you, and will hand over the Midianites to you. Let all the other people go, each man to his home.” 8 So the three hundred men took people’s provisions [for the journey] and their trumpets [made of rams’ horns] in their hands. And Gideon sent [away] all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but kept the three hundred men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. (Judges 7: 4-8, AMP, BibleGateway.com)
So what was the result of this counter intuitive move? The 300 routed an army of Midianites that were “as countless as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore (Judges 7:12, AMP, BibleGateway). Well, yes, even in the Bible war stories get “amplified.” And yes, there is more to the story. And, yes, it makes good reading, even if the Bible is not your favorite field manual. And yes, one asks why those who lapped water from their hands were chosen over those who knelt to drink. Well, somewhere I found the explanation that those who lapped water from their hands had their heads up and could drink while maintaining situational awareness. Those who knelt were for a few moments all engrossed in quenching their thirst and thus vulnerable. Check it out.
There exists another historic example of a great leader who weeded out his followers in preparation for battle, in this case prolonged societal and spiritual warfare. When Jesus talked about his body as real food and his blood as real drink, people were outraged. It’s still tough to take such talk.
60 When many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This is a difficult and harsh and offensive statement. Who can [be expected to] listen to it?” . . . 66 As a result of this many of His disciples abandoned Him, and no longer walked with Him.
So only the die-hards remained. The result was a movement that persists today.
It is the die-hards, the hard core who change society. These are the ones who lead and own their worlds. They are the ones who face into evil. Some die and some live. But the movement wins.
What’s the point relating to Jocko’s Podcasts? You can get more and more insight on this if you choose to listen to the podcasts. My interpretation is that Jocko is after an elite following, those who will own their worlds, lead, and win. He is not talking to make himself famous. He is talking to make a difference in an evil world. Just my take.
And the take away? Hang with the Jocko podcasts, even if you find them sometimes repulsive. I think you will gain much insight. I know I am. So I will keep on listening, albeit not right before bedtime.
Also published on Medium.