Saturday, June 02, 2007

Weekend Funnies: Chad Vader Season 1

I recently found this stumbling my way around the Internet. I laughed my butt off. I hope you enjoy, too.

Season 1:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Episode 7

Episode 8

Friday, June 01, 2007

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in…Basic Training, Part 2

Basic Training has historically been a paradigm-shifting, life-changing experience that makes fighters out of people and cultivates the leadership ability within those fighters. Countless leaders throughout history came from the ranks of the military.

I am a man of logic, rational and linear thinking: I take pieces of evidence, investigate, analyze and process, and draw conclusions, insights, and make relationships between varying pieces of data. In this case the evidence is clear: Those things taught throughout military institutions worldwide are a strong basis and foundation for any leader to have. I like to half-jokingly quip that I was the only enlisted soldier in the Army training to become a General. Getting my hands on any information I could from all echelons of knowledge in the armed forces, I internalized it and found ways to enrich my experiences alongside other great passions of mine.

To that end the following are 5 traits that myself and many others have learned throughout Basic Training:

1. Always be prepared: Preparation is the key—whether that means having the right physical tools of the job or the mental preparation for taking on the next mountain in your path, preparation is paramount to the determination of success or failure. Good preparation means having a deep and broad understanding of that which you are about to embark on. Proper preparation allows you to know what your goal is, which result you desire, and how best to adapt to circumstances that are bound to change along the way.

2. Working as a team: Organizations exist to undertake those missions and see through those visions which are too large for individuals to take on. The grandest of missions call for teams to take them on: Whether that means a partnership or a multi-national corporation, working alongside like-minded complementary individuals allows for more to be accomplished. In Basic Training one of the first things that are learned is how to interact like a team: Drill and ceremony. Marching as a team binds a unit together in such a way that actions and intent become uniform, functional, and complement one another towards a unified goal.

3. Conquering personal fears: When someone enlists or is commissioned in the military they are about to start something that is very likely unknown and very foreign to them. I know it was for me. Basic Training forces you to confront many personal fears, especially fear of the unknown. Confronting fears makes you step outside your comfort zone, adapt, and increase the size of that comfort zone. This not only changes how you view the world, it also changes what you can do as a part of it.

4. Plan, prepare, execute: This seemingly simple phrase embodies a lot about what makes the military great in relation to what it means to leadership. Few successes were ever had without a plan. No meaningful success was ever accomplished without proper preparation. No success was ever had without execution. In their book, “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done,” authors Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, and Charles Burck pose that “the biggest obstacle to success is the absence of execution. Indeed, in my experience success has greatly hinged on the ability to execute and the subsequent follow-up.

5. Physical and mental fitness begets success: The biochemistry of a physically fit individual is important to sustain and grow mental fitness within the individual. People who are complacent and idle in their spare time find that their lethargy grows until such time that it consumes and becomes apathy. In Basic Training a day does not go by without physical and mental conditioning taking place. You will find this trait in many great leaders as well. Take a little time each day for physical exercise and something to test your mental prowess: You will find that it is beneficial.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in…Basic Training, Part 1

A conversation I had the other day reminded me of something that my drill sergeants would occasionally tell us in Basic Training: If you want to succeed in your military career, do those things which are being taught to you here.

For the uninitiated: Basic Combat Training is the Initial Entrance Training that every enlisted soldier, sailor, airmen and marine entering service is required to go through in the United States and other militaries around the world. It is a process that breaks down portions of a recruit’s personality removing traits that are not constructive to being part of a force entrusted with securing the peace of a freedom-loving nation and building that personality back up into one that prepares a full-fledged combat-ready soldier, sailor, airman or marine to serve.

In his book The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook, Sergeant Michael Volkin outlines traits that a new recruit should have going into Basic Training:

1. Patience: Pressure is a first-order force to an individual in Basic Training. Pressure from drill sergeants and other cadre, pressure from fellow recruits, and pressure from yourself to name just a few. Just like in the business environment, everyone has a shared purpose: Whether that is to see the business go forward or to learn basic rifle marksmanship, patience is paramount in ensuring that you don’t lose your temper and detract from the necessary goals being accomplished.

2. Stamina: Basic Training time is longer than usual. Time passes by at a gruesomely slow pace throughout the days, weeks, and months of this Initial Entrance Training. My Basic Training Company had 180 graduating individuals after about a handful dropped out; my platoon had 60 soldiers, my squad had 16 troops, my room had 8: After a few weeks you’ve gone through the “who are you, where do you come from,” so on and so forth, and informed everyone about yourself. From there stamina is necessary to make it through the long periods of waiting (“hurry up and wait” was invented by the military) to the stamina necessary to endure the physical and psychological conditions of the entire experience. Methods of coping with the tension are necessary to help you make it through.

3. Honesty: It is the best policy. People lie to hide things or distort situations to make them seem better to others, themselves, or both. Relationships built around honesty are the best and the strongest over time—especially when it comes to your battle buddies in basic training. Furthermore, being caught in a lie by a drill sergeant will only go to degrade any confidence your leaders have in you. Honesty is absolutely the best policy and the only policy.

4. Submissiveness: Leaders need to learn how to follow as much as they need to be able to lead. Basic Training has no room for recruits with egos and entrenched pride. As it is in life as in Basic Training, if you are far too stubborn with your ego and pride someone else—in the case of Basic Training this means a drill sergeant—will do it for you.

5. Generosity: In Basic Training you will not succeed without some help from your battle buddies. In life you will not succeed without some help from your friends, your colleagues and others in your life. It is a principle that has existed in texts from multiple sources from multiple perspectives throughout all of recorded history: What comes around goes around.

In the next post in this set I’ll go over those pieces of wisdom-for-success that are learned through the experience in Basic Training.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Murphy’s Laws of Combat, Part 2

Murphy’s Laws of Combat, Part 2

· Remember, a retreating enemy is probably just falling back and regrouping.

I’ve already mentioned “don’t attribute to malice what can be attributed to ignorance instead.” However, in those cases when someone wishes to vindictively do you harm you’d be best not to surmise their retreat as a retreat: Just a regroup.

· If at first you don't succeed call in an air-strike.

I have a saying that I use when problem-solving: Try graceful, intelligent, creative tactics first…but if that doesn’t work use the brute force approach.

· Exceptions prove the rule, and destroy the battle plan.

This is a tricky one. When I first joined the military I served as a combat engineer: Trained in demolitions, minefields, other combat obstacles, it was instilled in us that we needed to be detail-oriented in things to the letter. When I was in personnel administration this notion was reinforced doubly. However, when I was in recruiting…I was trained to think in exceptions: Ninety-five percent of the rules were flexible and had exceptions; there were only a select few that couldn’t be bent.

· Everything always works in your HQ, everything always fails in the colonel's HQ.

Ever plan something within the confines of your own environment, but when you take it to someone else (such as your boss) for approval it fails? No plan survives combat—or the “real world—“ intact.

· The enemy never watches until you make a mistake.

You could be doing everything perfect all the time, but that one time you make a mistake—bet your hind quarters that someone is watching.

· One enemy soldier is never enough, but two is entirely too many.

Obstacles stack up quickly. Don’t “bite off more than you can chew.”

· A clean (and dry) set of BDUs is a magnet for mud and rain.

BDUs, or the Battle Dress Uniform (since replaced with a newer acronym for the Army and Marine’s digital camouflage uniform), is the standard uniform that you see anyone in the military wearing in the field. Few things—if anything—survive the real world intact.

· Whenever you have plenty of ammo, you never miss. Whenever you are low on ammo, you can't hit the broad side of a barn.

Isn’t this the truth. It’s like crackers: When you have one can of soup around, you have plenty of crackers, but the reciprocal—plenty of soup by few crackers—also tends to be true.

· The more a weapon costs, the farther you will have to send it away to be repaired.

Value and utility—usefulness—works the same way throughout the entire chain of manufacture to your hands: The more something is worth to you the greater ends you’ll go to fix it not only because it means that much to you, it’s because that’s simply what it takes to get it repaired.

· Field experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

It is difficult to learn from books what good old-fashioned experience, “trial by fire” can offer you. Experience teaches you how not to panic. Experience teaches you the full depth and breadth of the situational dynamics. Unfortunately, you have to experience it in order to get it.

· Interchangeable parts aren't.

I grew up in a family where my great grandfather was a top-notch automobile mechanic, as is my grandfather, my father, and my brother. Though I don’t proclaim to be one, I can do many of the basic things and have a fundamental understanding of how the combustion engine works from combustion to drive train and exhaust. What I didn’t learn in my youth, however, was what the Army taught me: Hundreds of different people will be able to offer thousands of different solutions to mechanical problems. I’ve seen Army mechanics need to completely undo something that someone else before them engineered in order to properly fix the piece of equipment. Be ready to adapt, because no one else is going to adapt for you.

· No matter which way you have to march, it is always uphill.

Nothing good comes without some trials and tribulations. Life often will force you to march uphill…both ways.

· If enough data is collected, a board of inquiry can prove anything.

People will often look for data in a given situation that they are searching for…in other words, inquiries can become self-fulfilling prophecies in the sense that an individual will put a bias on the information that they are seeking in order to prove the point they want to make.

· For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism (especially in boot camp).

No matter what you do, someone will have a criticism for it that is opposite and equal to the value that you place in your action. Don’t allow criticism to hold you back from what you want to do or take away from the self-worth you derive from doing it.

· The one item you need is always in short supply.

Isn’t this the very definition of modern economics?

· The worse the weather, the more you are required to be out in it.

There is an old saying that we are never put into a situation that we are not meant to be able to handle. Even if we are faring our way through poor weather, we are probably meant to learn something from it.

· The complexity of a weapon is inversely proportional to the IQ of the weapon's operator.

This reminds me very much of what we used to call the “Engineer’s Axiom:” Your IQ should be 10 percent higher than that piece of equipment which you are trying to operate. Otherwise you’re likely to run into exactly what the individual finding them in the above situation will find themselves.

· Airstrikes always overshoot the target, artillery always falls short.

A trap that a manager or a leader often runs into is the trap of unwillingness to delegate. Many of these types of people have been engrained with the belief that they can do things better than someone else. However, this does not allow for the opportunity to learn, to train, and to coach. Artillery that falls short, airstrikes that overshoot, and support that fails to properly hit the mark can be overcome with enough preparation of those people that are required to see to these sorts of tasks.

· When reviewing the radio frequencies that you just wrote down, the most important ones are always illegible.

The amount that a person is prone to panic is often directly proportional to the gravity of the situation: Panic does strange things to a person…including not allowing them to write legibly, for instance.

· Those who hesitate under fire usually do not end up KIA or WIA.

I wish I could find text of the original study, but I recall hearing once of such a study in which World War II and subsequent conflicts were studied and it was shown that, of every 10 people, 7 were there to die, 2 were there to reload for the 10TH individual, and that last person—the 10TH individual—was there to be the warrior. Although valor and glory are two things that make great men and women greater, recall that discretion is part of the valor equation: Pick your battles and remember that many, many Congressional Medals of Honor are awarded posthumously.

· The tough part about being an officer is that the troops don't know what they want, but they know for certain what they don’t want.

A “glimmering generality” is that people will have the tendency to criticize about what they don’t want, but won’t necessarily know what they want until such time that they see it.

· To steal information from a person is called plagiarism. To steal information from the enemy is called gathering intelligence.

Context is extremely important when looking at any situation.

· The weapon that usually jams when you need it the most is the M60.

The M60 7.62mmGPMG, General Purpose Machine Gun, was employed on a bipod with an effective range of 500 meters or on a tripod with an effective range 1,100 meters. It also was used on vehicles and helicopters in a defensive role. It was gas operated, air cooled and belt fed, with a quick-change barrel to help reduce overheating during a firefight. It has a practical rate of fire of 200 rounds per minute (550 rounds per minute max): Truly a magnificent weapon, a great tool that could mean life or death for the group of soldiers using it. Entropy is the natural process in which things break down unless we put effort into keeping them useful.

· The perfect officer for the job will transfer in the day after that billet is filled by someone else.

Jump on your opportunities quickly, or else they’ll go somewhere else.

· When you have sufficient supplies & ammo, the enemy takes 2 weeks to attack. When you are low on supplies & ammo the enemy decides to attack that night.

Always be prepared for the enemy because you can bet that they will always be prepared for you.

· The newest and least experienced soldier will usually win the Congressional Medal Of Honor.

…Because new, less experienced individuals often have more boldness than their war-hardened, veteran counterparts they are willing to do those things which others aren’t to be awarded those recognitions that others aren’t. Entropy not only makes those things in our lives less useful, they can make us less useful as well.

· A Purple Heart just goes to prove that were you smart enough to think of a plan, stupid enough to try it, and lucky enough to survive.

Success is when preparation meets opportunity. That bears repeating: When preparation meets opportunity. Sometimes this is just a series of factors that happen to fall into place just right, but oftentimes we can do things like decreasing the risk factors involved with our participation in the situation or we can increase our preparation of ourselves and our teams.

· Murphy was a grunt.

I quickly became aware of a practice by officers that I revered to go to the less-ranking troops in an area of operations—junior non-commissioned officers and below—and ask them of their opinions of what was going on. A former non-commissioned officer in-charge that I had the honor of serving under once remarked of a major general that would often approach him for his opinion about the current events within his command.

Experience gains breadth of perspective while knowledge increases depth of perspective. The higher up a chain of command a person goes, the more their perspective changes from a details-of-the-tactics type to a strategic style. If the non-commissioned officer (sergeants) are the daily supervisors of the Army and the commissioned officers manage the resources of it, the privates and specialists are the arms, legs, and hands of it: Those that do the daily grind of the businesses in which we work. There is a good chance that these individuals might have a perspective that is different from our own and, quite possibly, potentially useful to yours.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Murphy’s Laws of Combat, Part 1

When I first saw these as a private in 1998 the effects were more immediate in my military career than they were in the rest of my life. Within a couple years, however, they began to gain relevance in other aspects of my life.

· If the enemy is in range, so are you.

Simple and stark geometry dictates that if an enemy can hit you with something that can cause harm to you, so can you, and vice versa. More practically, vulnerability often holds with it the same geometry: If someone is vulnerable to you, then there is a likelihood that the reciprocal exists.

· Incoming fire has the right of way.

I’ve heard this put another way in a Demotivators poster: Don’t stand between the competitive jerk and their goals.

· Don't look conspicuous, it draws fire.

If you’re trying not to be spotted, blend in. This also has a strong correlation with “appearing busy.”

· There is always a way, and it usually doesn't work.

Lack of proper preparation or a poorly-placed opportunity can beget bad luck: With enough preparation, bad luck doesn’t exist.

· The problem with the easy way out is that it has already been mined.

Laying a minefield is a military concept called counter-mobility: Maneuvering the enemy through avenues that are more advantageous to you than him or her. In life the easy way is often fraught with problems that are not found in taking the more difficult way.

· Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammo

This one goes well with the above law about not looking conspicuous: Attacking takes energy and effort, and if you position yourself in such a way to not be worth being attacked, this can hedge against undesirable things happening.

· Professionals are predictable, it's the amateurs that are dangerous.

I love this one; it is so very useful. Professionals are often well-trained or well-experienced and typically follow stricter regimens in their approach than everyone else. They are often rational, linear and logical in their thinking, and swift and effective in their execution. Amateurs, on the other hand, are typically not this way.

· The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions:

1. When you're ready for them.

2. When you're not ready for them.

Life happens no matter if you’re prepared for it or not, so why don’t follow the Boy Scout motto and “always be prepared.”

· Teamwork is essential, it gives them someone else to shoot at.

There is power and, from the cynical perspective, increased survivability in groups.

· If you can't remember, then the claymore IS pointed at you.

A claymore is a deadly anti-personnel mine that can ruin your day pretty quickly. If you can’t remember how you did something, sometimes it is best to just presume that you need to take another look at it.

· The enemy diversion you have been ignoring will be the main attack.

Learning to devote your awareness to the entire world surrounding you or to the minute details therein may mean the difference between success and failure.

· A "sucking chest wound" is nature's way of telling you to slow down.

For those who aren’t familiar with the realities of battlefield medicine the “sucking chest wound” is the kind that you don’t want to have because the “sucking” part is the pressure compartment in your lungs being unpressurized. Life, just like combat, give us signals to speed up, slow down, and to continue moving forward. Learn to notice the signs and how to manage them before they turn into your very own “sucking chest wound.”

· If your attack is going well, then it's an ambush.

Never underestimate the odds of the situation besting you: Increased knowledge and skills allows you to adapt abilities to circumstances. Not doing so can lead to an “ambush.”

· Never draw fire, it irritates everyone around you.

People don’t like being uncomfortable; if you draw uncomfortable situations, people will have a tendency to be irritated with you.

· Anything you do can get you shot, including nothing.

Apathy is not a virtue, but don’t let everyday life know that.

· If you build yourself a bunker that's tough for the enemy to get into quickly, then you won't be able to get out of it quickly either.

This bears a strong resemblance to “if the enemy is in range, so are you” axiom. Just like you don’t want to corner a wild animal in a situation that you can’t get out of, either, always have an escape route.

· Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than yourself.

In the Army, and the other services I imagine, there is a tendency to take on “battle buddies,” the proverbial “guy you share the foxhole with.” In those metaphorical situations where you find yourself with a companion on the frontlines if they are braver than you are, you could end up in a losing battle.

· If you're short of everything but the enemy, you're in a combat zone.

Have you ever heard that quip about the “calm before the storm?” There is an eerie silence in a combat zone before the “fog of war” and the chaos of battle hits.

· Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.

Sometimes the tools that you use are not worth the sum of their parts: Their value is only readily known when you’re using them. If they fail you, you’d better find a way to adapt…quickly.

· Friendly fire isn't.

Don’t attribute to malice what can be attributed to ignorance: People are often too apathetic than to actually exert the energy to be truly vindictive, but they both can have the same affect.

· Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never stay awake when you can sleep.

Use your time wisely, find efficiencies and be effective in everything that you do.

· The most dangerous thing in the world is a second lieutenant with a map and a compass.

Second lieutenant is the rank of a newly-minted commissioned officer. An old wisdom tells that the young rattlesnake is apt to use more venom in an attack than his older counterpart. Remember when you first started your first job, or any other job that you loved? You were probably filled with a fire, a zealousness that could serve to get you into trouble, left unchecked. That’s why second lieutenants get a seasoned non-commissioned officer, a sergeant first class, to help guide his or her actions.

· There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.

There is a scene in an old war movie, I think it is the Green Berets, where an old veteran sergeant major tells a bunch of younger troops that a battle was imminent and that they had better start praying to whichever god they believed in. Given the right mix of circumstances and enough danger, people need something to believe in—even if that spirituality is a lack thereof, it is replaced with something that the person will believe in.

· A grenade with a seven second fuse will always burn down in four seconds.

Don’t count on what the user’s manual, instructions, specifications, or technical documentation says that the equipment can or will do. There is something said amongst information technology professionals: Bugs and such in programs are cynically referred to as “undocumented features.” Don’t underestimate your circumstances by letting such “undocumented features” sneak up on you.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Monkey Mondays: Monkey School

Jujitsu Marketing: XM and Sirius Radio.

XM had a bad month in May due to a number of issues from outages to censoring. To a populous accustomed to not paying for radio—whose content is regulated by the federal government—paying for premium radio meant that they could now get uncensored content delivered to them. However, following a stunt from shock jock radio hosts Opie and Anthony the couple was censored for a period of time. I’m not necessarily a fan of such content, but as many as 500,000 subscribers—1/16 of XM’s subscriber base—must be fan enough to drop the service because of XM’s seeming hypocrisy on the matter.

What is a competitor to do?

Sirius jumps in, in wonderfully prompt jujitsu-esque fashion and reminds satellite radio subscribers that they have what the disgruntled XM subscribers want. Filling an unmet need or desire of a competitor’s customers can only lead to one thing: Profit.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

I am a lover of movies depicting military history: Those who do not learn the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them. At any rate, history tends to repeat itself. This weekend, in Memorial Day spirit, I was watching The Green Berets. The movie recalls the experiences of a Green Beret Detachment dispatched to Vietnam with a naysayer journalist embedded in the team. With overtones of today’s current situation, the media has painted an entirely different picture than what exists in the lives of our fighting men and women in a combat zone.

Prussian General Karl von Clauswitz, in his magnus opus On War, wrote “War is nothing but a continuation of politics by other means. Regardless of what one thinks of the civilian leadership of the military, wars are fought and won by the soldiers in them: Squads of 8-16 personnel through corps of 20,000-40,000 personnel are made up mostly of soldiers in the rank of staff sergeant (E-6) and below that work towards the end of winning.

A Model for Interpersonal Interactions, Part 2

Everyone (well, most everyone) interacts with other people on a daily basis. When we interact with people the new information allows us the opportunity to deal with the many differences that might exist between how we perceive the world and how the world really is. As individuals that belong to social groups, communities, and other such groups of individuals, we tend to develop shared worldviews based on individuals in the group placing and communicating value on similar objects. These shared views of the world create the environmental construct in which our individual constructs evolve. Things such as the laws we observe, virtues we share with others, and the morals of our communities are the manifestations of groups of worldviews. Because we share, respect, and value the worldviews of the social groups which we reference, we live our lives, in a manner of speaking, in accordance to the social reference group whose collective worldview is most aligned with our own.

Conflicts arise, however, when we add personal meanings to the collective worldview. Because 10 different people will interpret the world through their personality filters in 10 different ways people will be apt to create different construct meanings as part of the greater morality construct. In this sense, worldview meanings will not always translate—and often do not always perfectly translate—into the worldview meaning of the social reference group. In this environment where the fusion of individual and group beliefs is non-existent conflict becomes highly probable: We’ll start seeing conflicts not only between individuals in specific groups, but also between different groups. These groups of interactions are, in the more common vernacular, as relationships.

Relationships allow us to seek awareness in our patterns of thinking: The comparison of our closely held beliefs through emotions and concepts with the events that are transpiring in our interactions, our relationships. Which beliefs, concepts, and values are reflected in our behaviors? Each of these behaviors that reflect our beliefs, concepts, and values are partly caused by our interactions with our environment and partly the manifestation of our genetics.

Throughout our past we learn and evolve an understanding of how to be from the framework which we are working in at that time: This is why awareness is a key leadership trait at all levels—from self-awareness to awareness of one’s environment—if one’s perceptions are broad and understanding of circumstances deep, an individual can seize this epiphany of conditioning and make the most of one’s evolution. We go through this constant process, being most apt and searching for it in our youth, to fulfill the need to search for meaning in oneself and the world around them. If the past has had a dominant “punishment model,” the search for meaning created mechanisms for defense within the construct; in a nurturing atmosphere, self-expression becomes dominant. At any rate, the experiences of your past manifest themselves as the patterns of your today. The earlier that these experiences shape your construct, the stronger the tendencies and patterns become…the more inertia they have…and the more energy is require to overcome them.

The patterns that we use throughout our daily lives embody the truths in our world: We interpret, process, and mold the world to meet our specifications, our worldview. Conflicts in relationships are simply two worldviews that lack congruence with one another. In his book “Ways of Worldmaking” Nelson Goodman says: Not only do truths differ for different worlds but the nature of agreement between a version and a world apart from it is notoriously nebulous. In other words, the truths of each individual differ, but the reconciliation of our truth from someone else’s is infamously indistinct.

The logical conclusion for all of this is that we should strive for three things: Heightened self-awareness, a deeper understanding of our relationships, and a thoughtful understanding the individuals in our relationships.