Wisdom Day 20, July 2016: Clean Sweep

Hi, Jocko troopers! Today’s chapter from The Book of Proverbs is just an awesome spring of understanding and insight, especially when it comes to leadership. I hope you can find time to enjoy the whole chapter. As I have said before and will likely say again and again, I just love The Message translation of Proverbs by Eugene Peterson.

At Biblegateway.com I can listen for free as Kelley Ryan Dolan reads The Message a chapter at a time. I can follow along in the text. I can highlight, star, and add notes. It’s a pretty impressive site. Hope you can enjoy.

And hey, this is not just for “Christians.” After all, King Solomon was not a Christian, and he was the primary author. Shucks, he didn’t even speak English. Pretty crazy, huh? Well, on to one great passage on leadership from Chapter 20 (There are several others. Hope you ferret them out on your own):

After careful scrutiny, a wise leader
    makes a clean sweep of rebels and dolts. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter  20, Verse 26, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

Well, here I am trying to figure out how this applies to me. I am not leading any company or military unit. I can see how this applies to high level leaders like Jocko Willink, Leif Babin, Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreesen. But to me?  Well, what comes to mind is that I am a follower of these men and many other purveyors of wisdom, including Jesus. So I guess I can start with scrutiny of myself. Yep, that works.

If I were working for me, I might have to fire me, given my high rebel and dolt quotient. OK. So today, I’ll see if I can’t line up better with operational wisdom, like being on time and catching up on my accounting. Then I can be better as a leader for the sons and daughters who call me Dad or Daddy, respectively.

Meanwhile, for improving skills as both leader and follower, I’ve found the following to be useful guides. May they also prove worthwhile for you:

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Wisdom Day 14 May 2016: A Good Leader

The mark of a good leader is loyal followers;
    leadership is nothing without a following. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 14, Verse 28, from The Message, BibleGateway.com)

Does Jocko Willink have a following? I wish I could see the numbers charted day by day. The growth rate must be exponential at this point. Why the big success? Jocko is not a pop singer; he is not an actor; he is not a professional athlete. As far as I can tell, he is none of the things our society normally runs after in a big hurry. So why the success?

My take is that Jocko manifests wisdom in virtually everything he says, writes, and does. He may have foolish moments, but if he does, his wisdom is to keep those private. What basis do I have for these opinions? I read Extreme Ownership, the book he and his colleague Leif Babin wrote. I listened to Tim Ferriss’  interview with Jocko and other interviews since then. I have listened to every production of the Jocko Podcast. I look forward to every new release. I follow Jocko on Twitter. Jocko always talks wisdom. Maybe folks are tired of foolishness. Jocko is a welcome change.

As I experience what Jocko has written and said publicly,  I keep thinking of the Book of Proverbs, the premier book of wisdom for me. So for all my Jocko bros and sis’s, I hope to share regular insights from the Book of Proverbs. This is the first installation.

There are 31 chapters in the Book of Proverbs. Thus, there’s always a chapter for each day of the month. Today’s chapter is 14. The Message translation is one that really reaches me. The audio recording by Kelly Ryan Dolan grabs my attention. It makes me think. I hope it will do the same for you. To get audio, click the speaker icon toward the upper right edge of the chapter when you get to the page on BibleGateway.com: The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 14, The Message. I found plenty of great nuggets of wisdom in this chapter. Please let me know what you think, pro or con, believer or non. I delight in the dialectic and in Jockonian Dichotomy.

For your own copy of The Message resources, here are some choices:

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Jockonian Dichotomy, Babinian Dialectic

The Jocko Podcasts make me more and more aware of the power of dichotomies in taking Extreme Ownership of one’s life. Dichotomy awareness makes one humble. Dichotomy awareness pushes one toward mindfulness in every situation. The dichotomy is central to much of what Jocko Willink and Leif Babin present. It is an essential concept because dichotomies beg a dialectic thought process: thesis vs. antithesis. At least this is what I am finding in my life. I have long been a believer in the necessity of the dialectic for moving closer to truth and effectiveness. The dichotomies Jocko and Leif put forward trigger in me dialectic analysis, helping to keep me humbly mindful and thoughtfully present.

So is it not time to enrich the English language with two new concepts: The Jockonian Dichotomy and the Babinian Dialectic? But where to introduce them? Introductory philosophy or graduate seminars? How about both and more! Let’s own even the academic and philosophical high ground.

And to accomplished philosophers, I apologize if my grasp of the dialectic seems rudimentary. It may well be. So I welcome insight from those more knowledgeable than I, which is truly a vast throng. Own it and bring me in line. Bring it on! Meanwhile, just in case you need further resources, here are some links.

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Bite and Ravage

If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? (Paul of Tarsus, Galatians 5:15, The Message, biblegateway.com)

I saw this morning on Twitter that there is a critical hubbub in the media about Jocko Willink and Leif Babin and their book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. I am all for freedom of speech and open debate in the media. I believe strongly in the dialectic and it’s power to keep a democracy on track and honest. However, for the dialectic to work, antithesis must be substantive. In this case, the attacks consist largely of opinion and some unsubstantiated polemic. It truly does seem to me a case of biting and ravaging fellow countrymen and patriots. Does this in any way contribute to defeating ISIS or protecting our freedom from Jihadists in general, or from any other enemy for that matter?

Since the public debate seems to have veered definitively toward the anecdotal, I will make bold to share my point of view on the work of Willink and Babin.

  • As a septuagenarian with a Ph.D. in education, an M.A. in French, and a B.S. in Humanties, I have done lots of reading and writing. I find Extreme Ownership substantive and well written. Books on leadership and business operations are favorites of mine. In that genre, Extreme Ownership is for me absolutely among the very best. For example I find it to be on a par with Good to Great and other favorites from Jim Collins. I find it just as effective as the work of Andy Andrews, e.g. Mastering the Seven Decisions. In one special way, Extreme Ownership sets itself apart from other books of the same genre: It offers one unifying principle applicable in almost any situation: ownership. This is for me easier to live and apply than twenty-one or seven or even three principles as presented in other leading works on leadership.
  • I am a great aficionado of audio books and have been for decades. I find the quality of the naration in the audio verison of Extreme Ownership superb, equal to or better than any previous listening experiences.
  • As a retired U.S. Air Force officer and Air Force Academy distinguished graduate, I believe Extreme Ownership should be required reading for every Air Force Academy cadet. I only wish I had understood how to take extreme ownership of my career when I graduated. The Air Force would have earned a much better return on its investment in me. Of that I feel quite certain.
  • I would welcome the chance to  meet Willink’s and Babin’s detractors in private or personal debate. I feel strongly that Willink and Babin are sincere and principled as well as highly competent. I believe that Extreme Ownership came along at a critical point, both for me and for our nation. Extreme Ownership is “for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14, New International Version, BibleGateway.com)

I am providing links to the various formats of Extreme Ownership below in the event any reader of this post wishes to become more familiar with the work.

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Own Your Nose

This post was originally a comment on the Medium post What School Won’t Teach You About Creativity by my great young friend Steve Moraco.

Steve is absolutely right about the link between creativity and curiosity. The wealthiest and most philanthropic man I know personally was a Rhodes Scholar. As he and I both prepared for the competition, he shared that he was building his presentation around the principle of “‘satiable curtiosity” as found in The Elephant’s Child from Rudyard Kipling’s collection Just So Stories.

In The Elephant’s Child Kipling introduces the downside of curiosity. In the event you have not already discovered it, some people do not appreciate insatiable curiosity. Some may make fun of you. Others may hit you. This is especially true if they think you are asking why they are doing something stupid stupidly, i.e. if they really know you might be right and they could and should be doing better. They may bite your nose and try to rip it off your face, as happened to the Elephant’s Child. Such a thing happened to my older son, Anton.

Anton was using a NEXT computer to design carbon-fiber golf shafts for a company in San Diego. It was his first job after graduating from UC San Diego with a degree in mechanical engineering. He realized that there was a much better way to do the job. In fact, he realized that there were several things the company could do much better than they were. He wrote it all up and submitted it to his bosses on Tuesday. He received his pink slip on Thursday. To me it felt like he was getting his nose pulled off his face. And I could tell it really was no fun for him.

So Anton came to bunk with me for a while. But guess what! He rewrote the whole computer program, not on the NEXT, though, because that belonged to the company, but on his own Mac. The company got wind of it. Since they were a company with a lawyer and money, they had Anton served with a restraining order prohibiting him from selling or in any way disseminating his new, totally from scratch code.

I was outraged. I told my son that we should fight this. I told him I would mortgage my home to fund a legal battle. His mom, too, committed to sell the farm if need be to fund the fight.

Anton is not an aggressive person. It took a while, but he finally accepted the idea of a fight. He went to talk to my intellectual property attorney David Branfman. David is a great guy and a very smart and capable attorney with a strong background. Armed with insights from David and knowing his family was standing with him, Anton approached his former bosses. A settlement was reached. The exact nature of the settlement is probably not supposed to be disclosed. So I won’t disclose it. What I can say, though, is that Anton went on to receive a Masters in Engineering Economics and Operations Research from Stanford for which his Mom and I did not have to pay a penny.

So what is the take away? Curiosity and creative ideas may not always lead to fun! If a crocodile grabs hold of your nose, do not follow him into the water, unless, of course, you like being lunch as opposed to having lunch. Pull away. It may be a struggle. It may feel like your nose is going to rip away from your face. Hang in there, though, and you may come out of it with a prehensile snoz or in other terms “a good nose for success.” I mean, could an elephant pick bananas from the banana palm without a trunk?

P.S. What’s the deal about owning your nose? Well, I remain all fired up about Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin: “The leader must own his world. There is no other excuse.” So just do a little arbitrage between Rudyard Kipling and the two SEAL warriors, and Voilà! “Own your snoz or someone else will.”

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Just So Stories

Jocko Owns Evil

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 OwnershipHe 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:

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.’ 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:

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.” 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.” 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. 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.” 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.

Conclusion?

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.

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Because They Live

If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men. (Acts 5:38-39, New International Version)

When I woke up this morning, I finally understood. It’s right there in the dedication to Extreme Ownership:

Dedicated to Marc Lee, Mike Monsoor, and Ryan Job— three courageous warriors, SEAL teammates, and friends— who valiantly wielded their big machine guns on the mean streets of Ramadi and laid down their lives so that others might live.

This is the source of everything that Leif Babin and Jocko Willink are doing with Echelon Front and all their Extreme Ownership activities. Because they live, they have debts to these dead brothers in arms. These are debts they can never pay back. They are paying them forward. This is what drives them. They will never hang up their Colts.

They are not bragging about this. It is easy to miss, or at least it was for me. I read the dedication and thought something like, “That’s nice!” Feeble words like “nice” have nothing to do with the motivation that drives these guys. At every step, maybe every breath, their dead friends walk with them. Not only that, they are part of a living brotherhood that is part of a family that is part of a community.

So my take on this is that Echelon Front is not just another startup driven by bright ideas and ambition. It is something else all together. Invest your money, your time, your life.

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Shine the Light

15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:15 (New International Version)

Yesterday, I saw some criticism on Twitter of Leif Babin and Jocko Willink and Extreme Ownership. At first, I was offended, but not now. Now I say,  “Bring it on!” Why?

First, Extreme Ownership has shined some light on my life for which I will be forever grateful. I have read and heard plenty about leadership over the years and even served in some organizational positions of leadership. Never, though, has a single book done so much to help me understand what leadership is truly about. I wish I had learned these lessons long ago. My life would be better for it. I firmly believe that anyone who takes these lessons to heart will do a better job at their roles in life, both occupational and personal. And Americans doing better jobs at all levels is what we need lots more of. Criticism and debate will serve to draw more attention to Extreme Ownership and garner more readers. Let the light shine!

Next, criticism is a sign that one is doing something challenging. Lack of criticism would be worse:

Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
    for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:26, New International Version)

No doubt we have plenty of false prophets these days who get lots of praise. That makes it all the more fulfilling for me to see a couple of guys who are straight shooters getting some praise along with the criticism. Let the light shine!

Then there is the issue or free speech. Leif Babin, Jocko Willink and the other SEALs of Task Unit Bruiser along with throngs of warriors both present and past fought to defend our way of life that allows criticism and public debate. It is free speech that allows the tremendous power of the dialectic to go to work. Thesis confronts antithesis, and the synthesis becomes a powerful new driver of understanding. So let the light shine!

I do however feel that to be productive, criticism should rest upon first principles rather than personal opinion. Based on what I saw yesterday, I don’t understand the basis of the criticism. Is it that our warriors should never publish? Or is it just SEALs who should not publish? The dialectic process can really serve it’s purpose when first principles collide. Not, however, when subjective rhetoric dominates. May principled dialectic prevail today! Let more light shine!

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Own the White House

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
(Joel 2:28, New International Version)

Last night, I dreamed I was at some sort of gathering. It was outside. I could see an open grassy area and some trees. It felt rural. I was interacting with some serious adults. It seemed like a political event. I wanted to get Leif Babin and Jocko Willink on the ballot. Someone took me seriously and set off to see whether it would be Leif and Jocko or Jocko and Leif.

I do not often recall dreams this clearly. I can’t remember ever dreaming about politics.  I guess the news coming in from the primaries and the debates is really impacting my psyche. At the same time, the Extreme Ownership “Lead to win” dictum has been resonating pretty powerfully within me over the past couple of  months. So these factors seem to have meshed in my dream.

What would it take for the Leif/Jocko or Jocko/Leif ticket to become reality at this point? I’m not sure, but probably a miracle. Never before have we been in greater need of persons of proven integrity to lead us as a nation and people. I have doubts about all the other folks campaigning, but Leif and Jocko would for sure have my vote. Whatever happens, I hope our new leaders will own up, lean in, and lead to win.

P.S. It actually could happen, according to an article on medium.com by Adam Nicholas Phillips.

It’s right there, hidden in plain sight in the 12th Amendment of the US Constitution:

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.

And Congress can pick whomever they damn well please.

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