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.
43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19, NIV)
Wow! This just shook me up. Not recognizing the time of God’s coming to us leaves us exposed to harm, terrible harm. I had never considered the personal take away of this word: I need to stay tuned daily to the right frequency to know when God has come to show the way out of danger. And might it be that God comes to me in the form of counsel from faithful friends? Do I stay in touch with friends? Do I seek their counsel? Do I heed it?
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you. (Proverbs Chapter 4, Verse 25, New International Version)
This morning the Spanish NIV translation of this verse opened my eyes to something I really needed to see.
Pon la mirada en lo que tienes delante;
fija la vista en lo que está frente a ti.
Essentially the message speaking to my heart was, “Open your eyes, face into the most immediate issues confronting you. Focus your attention on what you must deal with first.” This is really good advice for me. I tend to procrastinate. Now I consider this passage as anti-procrastination counsel. I no longer consider it a mandate to walk the path of life oblivious of what’s happening around me.
To see if my new understanding was consistent with the meaning of the passage, I checked out the French in La Bible du Semeur:
Regarde les gens bien en face,
et que ton regard soit dirigé droit devant toi.
This translation adds an additional dimension to my understanding. When I deal with people, I establish eye contact. No evasive side glances.
Well, now to get on with the challenges of the day with renewed determination to face into situations, to do those things I have been putting off and to keep eye contact human to human.
16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 6, Verses 16-19, New International Version)
Pretty amazing! From God’s perspective, stirring up conflict in the community is on a par with shedding innocent blood. Although I’ve read these verses hundreds, maybe thousands of times, today they speak to me with a new emphasis. They serve me with a double-edged warning. Stay away form such folks, and even more importatly, don’t be one! The community where you live is important to God! Build it up. Don’t spoil it. Who wants to be detestable to God? Not I. Praise God for his Living Word, for His Rhema Word that jumps off the page and into my life.
So how do you build up your community? There are wealthy philanthropists who fund libraries, parks, hospitals, and nurseries. Praise God for these folks. Then, there are guys like me. I like to walk and pray early in the morning. I take one or two small plastic bags with me as I head out to the park near our home. I use the bags to pick up trash and dog poop. The park is next to an elementary school. During the week, lots of parents and kids walk through the park on their way to and from school. On the weekends the park is full of families, little league soccer teams, picnics, etc. I want the kids to see a clean park. I want them to learn to respect nature and the public commons from a very early edge. So I pick up trash and dog poop. It makes me friends.
If you can, build a park for the community. If you can’t offer such a gift, just help keep the park or the sidewalk or the bus stop clean. It builds your community probably more than you can know.
17 Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise;
apply your heart to what I teach,
18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart
and have all of them ready on your lips. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 22, Verses 17 & 18, New International Version)
I pray, Lord, for more diligence in committing to heart all your words of wisdom. I need to have them ready on my lips. I want to please you by having the “sword of the spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) ready to draw at a moment’s notice, ready to use rather than my own words.
16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (The Book of Revelations, Chapter 1, Verse 16, New International Version)
Yes, Lord, teach me to wield the sharp, double-edged sword of your Word with skill.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Open Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 4, Verse 12, New International Version)
So I pray, Lord, that you will teach me to wield the sharp and double edged sword of your word against the evil around me and the evil within me!
Strange but true. It is pleasant to have a sharp and double edged sword ready to draw from my mouth.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Paul’s Letter to the Church at Ephesus, Chapter 4, Verses 4-7, New International Version)
Are you facing huge problems, challenges, pain, suffering, etc.? Strike back with praise! Strike back with thanksgiving. Do this from the very time you wake up. This will set the nature of your day. You and not the circumstances will own your heart. This is crucial, urgent, essential. This is the martial art of a grateful heart. Be grateful in spite of what is happening to you.
This is not Pollyanna dither. This is how you free your mind and emotions to fight back, to focus on the objective, and to move forward in spite of overwhelming odds.
On the other hand, if life is just great for you right now, then be especially diligent in thanking God for your situation. This will guard against pride.
28 Like a city whose walls are broken through
is a person who lacks self-control. (Book of Proverbs, Chapter 25, New International Version)
Oh, Lord, grant me today the neurology, biochemistry, endocrine balance and all other manner of personal state of mind and being needed to possess self-control. Please protect me from those challenges that surpass my capacity to accept with equanimity.