Enlightened Conflict

a pragmatic primer for leading a business

October 6th, 2017

 

ideas thinking group community enjoy the tactic business

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“In general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy. Humans connect with humans.

 

Hiding one’s humanity and trying to project an image of perfection makes a person vague, slippery, lifeless, and uninteresting.”

 

Robert Glover

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“Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

 

—–

Saul D. Alinsky

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So.

 

I was fishing around for some new ways to talk about leading a business <I get old habits new habits forward back progress life choice secretsbored with using the same words and thoughts over and over again> and I came across the Saul Alinsky quote … the second one I used upfront.

 

It resonated with me because I cannot tell you how many times I have sat in some company “forward thinking strategy” meeting discussing how we would expand the business … stretching not only beyond the existing functional strength of the business but also stepping beyond the existing expertise of the employees.

 

This is usually cloaked in the infamous “oh, if we can do this, we can certainly do this” statement … or the even more dangerous “we have always figured it out” mantra.

 

To be clear … progress is always tricky. And leading progress almost even trickier.

 

But, if you want it to be less trickier, ‘feeling secure’ is almost always a great step toward increasing the odds of success.

Now.

You can secure the … well … security … in a number of ways – some reality based and some emotionally charged ways.

 

And that is where Saul Alinsky comes back into the leadership discussion. He big plans ruler universewrote a book called Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals in 1971.   He wrote it as a guide to community organization <uniting “Have-Nots”, in order for them to gain social, political, legal, and economic power>.

 

What I loved about the Rules, beyond the rules themselves, was that Alinsky believed, when organized and directed well, the community can determine & achieve its purpose & goal. That thought, to me, is exactly the attitude a leader attempts to create <supporting a vision offered by the leader> within an organization.

 

What I loved about the Rules is the rules themselves are actually signposts for how to have a company compete in the marketplace.

 

That said.

 

Let me share the rules and some brief thoughts with the rules. The Rules:

 

 

  • “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.

 

Far too often … despite the fact 99% of businesses unequivocally state “our difference is our people” … a business forgets to actually build their power off of flesh & blood.

watch people behavior what they say and doMoney comes and goes.

Machines and infrastructure does what it does.

 

But people, flesh & blood, is the true power. It pays, as a leader, to never forget that.

 

 

  • “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

 

Every business I have been involved with has had an expertise. Uhm. The difficulty is that far too many leaders & managers wish the organization had a different expertise or they aspire to some other expertise.

I, personally, love the thought of isolating a company expertise, consolidating the inside expertise and using it like a battering ram in terms of progress.

People love doing things well and being appreciated for the expertise they have <and not diminished by suggesting they should have another expertise>.

 

 

  • “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.

 

When I saw this one I almost chuckled. It is so good, so solidly strategically right … and I would guess 95% of businesses never think this way. Oh. They may be happy  identifying a “this is what we are better at than they are” and competing with that in their hip pocket … but I struggle to think of any business I have ever been involved with who has sat down and said “let’s go outside their expertise <and consciously accepting they have an expertise.”

 

Crushing a competitor is always fun but ignoring an opportunity to outflank them is stupid.

 

 

  • “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.

 

rule book leading a company behaviorOk.

 

Here is why I loved this one.

I loved it because bullshit & hollow rhetoric and promises/claims are strewn throughout the business world. I can guarantee, with 95% certainty, I could pick up any business’s vision & strategy & ‘rules of the road’ binder and find a significant amount of hollow shit. What would happen if I consciously attacked one of my competitor’s hollow shit? Make them live up to their own book of rules?

I am chuckling.

 

You would crush them.

You would crush them in two ways:

 

  • External perceptions: everyone knows almost all businesses make hollow promises but get aggravated when it becomes too obvious that the promise really is hollow

 

  • Internal perceptions: almost every employee simply accepts that some of the company rhetoric is bullshit but they accept it because it doesn’t really affect them. But if the hollow rhetoric becomes obvious AND a pain in the ass … discontent grows. Bitching at the water cooler increases.

 

This is an awesome leadership thought.

 

 

  • “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

 

I admit. Ridiculing your competition is fraught with peril. However … having i was not made to be subtle me Brucesome swagger and vocalizing your swagger is … well … infuriating to some competition. It puts pressure on them.

Ridiculing, specifically, what a competitor believes is their most potent weapon will … well … infuriate them.

 

Pick your path wisely … but there is absolutely nothing wrong with swagger, infuriating your competition and putting some pressure on them.

 

 

  • “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.

 

Far too often some strategic guru envisions some tactic that will be smashingly successful and then attempt to imbue some excitement within the people who will actually do it. I think the best strategic thinkers find tactics that people enjoy AND can be smashingly successful. Unfortunately this is harder than you would think. But nothing really good is easy.

 

 

  • “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.

 

Amen.

A lesson we forget every day <and should not>.

 

 

  • “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.

 

work value replaced effort smarts businessTactical adaptation is possibly one of the most underrated strategic decisions a business can make. While we talk a good game on this in today’s ‘digital world’ the truth is that most of us chase numbers more than we think about outflanking and expertise advantages. That is kind of the bane of the ‘big data’ world.

 

Numbers are good in judging things but, in the end, people & behavior are not numbers and no matter how good a tactic may appear in a number it can always be replaced.

 

 

  • “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.

 

I am not an empty threat guy, however, ‘power is what the competition thinks you have.’ My point here is not to make shit up and offer empty threats but rather the more you can make a competitor think, and worry, about the wrongs things the better off you are.

 

Stoke their imagination.over thinking mess

Make them have high falutin’ meetings pondering “what if” scenarios.

 

I wouldn’t do this to replace any of the other rules … but in combination?

 

Whew. This is good stuff.

 

 

  • “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.

 

Sometimes in today’s business world we treat tactics like spaghetti we throw against the wall and hope something sticks. I am not suggesting a business should invest gobs of energy developing operations to maintain constant pressure in INDIVIDUAL tactics but I am suggesting that strategic tactics tend to coalesce and operations can be developed to support them.

I imagine the real point here is hollow tactics may generate some numbers for you but they don’t really make any dent into the competition <which, inevitably, is the key to leading an industry>.

 

 

  • “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.

 

I love this thought because, let’s be honest, we have become a mamby pamby business world. What I mean by that is at the first glimpse of any significant negativity we tend to retreat or retrench. Pushing through a negative is not standard operating procedure in a business today.

 

Let me be clear on this one.

If you do Rule #5 well, you will infuriate your competition. An infuriated competitor reacts <usually with some desire to inflict some negative pain> — they will violently react. If you stay the course, maintain your expertise, well … you can push through and own a positive.

More businesses need to remember this.

 

 

  • “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.

 

the end game overI call this “consolidating a win.”

I cannot tell you how many times <but far too many> I have seen a business “lose after winning.” It is maddening, depressing & demoralizing … and completely avoidable.

Far too many businesses chase the success assuming they will be able to take a breath and take advantage of the success in a relatively timely fashion.

This is where ideas die.

 

In the take-a-breath moment.

 

This happens for a bunch of well-intended reasons … the most likely one is everyone invests their energy on the attack and a successful attack rather than diverting any energy & time to “what do we do when we are successful” other than maybe a framework of ‘what will happen.’

 

Unfortunately … frameworks do not consolidate.

The solution to this is so obvious I scratch my head as to why more businesses do not do it. Businesses always have two basic levels … the outside structure and the inside structure. The outside is the face of the organization and most typically is the one that pushes through and creates the ‘wins.’ The inside operations gets shit done … I have always had an ‘inside operations team’ well briefed and ready to go and insert them into the breach as soon as the win has occurred and have the ‘fresh team’ consolidate.

I could write an entire ‘consolidation strategy’ piece but suffice it to say your business gains value in a number of dimensions by doing it this way.

 

The larger point with this Rule is ‘don’t lose a win by not having a plan for when you win.’

 

 

  • “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

 

Well. Let me share the thought that first hit me on this … “a brand is a promise delivered in the store everyday” <this was The Limited’s phrase>. The point is that a business doesn’t exist if it doesn’t deliver upon what it promises.

 

That said … this is an important rule. As in a REALLY important rule that I bet crushed by objectives short term bludgeon99% of companies do not even think about let alone adhere to. Most businesses target another competitor’s users & customers and go about trying to steal them <persuade them to switch>.

 

Well.

 

What about instead we attacked the company, the support network … the “promise” as it were … and make the people who actually deliver the promise start doubting, or start feeling less than secure, or just “less good about their brand & promise”?

If we did this, we create a gap, isolate as it were, between what the customer thought they wanted and what they perceive they are getting or would get.

 

I love this rule.

 

I admit I had never thought about t this way before … but from here on out it is part of my leadership toolkit.

 

———

 

 

Okay.

 

control goal is to create something that will live together vision Life business

Those are some good rules for business.

 

But you know what?

 

It all comes back to the first Rule and my first quote.

 

Flesh & blood is the real power in any business and … people are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy. Humans connect with humans.

 

Honestly … I don’t think most leaders ignore the fact the people in their organizations are important but I think we don’t elevate them to ‘flesh & blood is the power’ status.

And that is where the Rules come in.

Inherent to each rule, and the success therein, resides with … well … the flesh & blood. That is a pragmatic reminder for leading a business.

 

 

struggle for the soul of e pluribus unim

September 25th, 2017

 

be-better-exponentially

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“Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written.

And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes.

I personally resent it bitterly.”

 

Isaac Asimov

 

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“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

 

Samuel Johnson

 

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“When tyranny comes to the United States, she will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a bible.”

——

Gore Vidal

 

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Well.

 

Trump is exhausting. I think not only to me but to America. Day after day, week after week, he seems to attack … well … e pluribus unim <out of many, one>.

Trump seems to thrive on dividing and the conflict that arises from dividing.

 

some men just want to watch the world burn leaders managers business told you so

 

I admit.

 

On occasion I sit back and think of Alfred in Batman … some people just want to see the world burn.

 

Anyway.

 

Donald J Trump went to war against professional black athletes this weekend under the guise of patriotism <albeit his attack is blended with that instinctual subconscious racism which Trump seems to invariably inculcate almost everything he does with>.

 

They fought back.

kneeling patriots NFL

 

That said.

 

I just had to explain to someone this weekend that I don’t hate Trump – in fact I don’t believe he is worthy of any emotional energy on my part – but that I hate his inability to lead, to unite and to … well … offer a north star with regard to some fairly important discussions that any country should have and must have … and will have.

 

one person flawed perfect save

I hate that his take on America is not e pluribus unim <out of many, one> but rather unim pluribus e <I made that up> … or … out of one, many.

 

He has done some absurdly horrible leadership things since he has taken office but this weekend, in which he unequivocally used patriotism to suggest that black athletes peacefully protesting what they believe is a social injustice were not only unpatriotic … but should be fired for not showing patriotism, is just … well … horrible. Horribly unpatriotic in fact.

 

Uhm.

 

That last thing said. Like it or not … patriotism is not a prerequisite for citizenship. In fact … I would suggest that on any given day a fairly significant swath of the USA population is relatively disappointed in the America. That doesn’t make them any less patriotic, nor does it make them disrespect America, it is like having a quarrel with a loved one … I still love you but at the moment I am not the happiest person in the world with you.

 

Regardless.

 

It is absurd to make this a patriot versus non-patriot issue <but that is what Trump is doing>.

 

Frankly … it is absurd that some people suggest this is a ‘political’ issue … this is a social issue.

 

And Trump is our head absurdity – he is our scoundrel.

 

untrustworthy scoundrelScoundrels, when challenged, will often use false patriotism in order to shut up their opponents.

 

Scoundrels will use false patriotism to suggest a black athletes who earns more money for their skills than a hard working white American is a lesser ‘American’.

 

Scoundrels will use false patriotism, tweeted or yelled, to attempt to affect the economic realities of an industry or specific individual’s income.

 

Scoundrels will use false patriotism to flirt with some casual racism.

 

Scoundrels will use false patriotism to … well … actually attack what could be construed ‘patriotic freedoms’ <items actually listed in the Constitution>.

 

I don’t find it hard to believe Trump is a scoundrel … and, yet, I continue to be shocked by the numerous things that Trump does to violate the norms of not only the Presidential office but the norms of American freedoms as well as the norms of … well … business.

 

He represents 330 million people and the economic wellbeing of all businesses <which benefit all people> and, yet, he seems to have no problem calling out individuals and individual companies as ‘unpatriotic’ <because they balk at his self defined “america first”>.

 

It’s hard to think of a group President Trump hasn’t offended or attacked as a candidate or in office:

 

Women.

Establishment Republicans.

Democrats.

 

.......... Trump attacking ... well ... everyone ........

………. Trump attacking … well … everyone ……..

Journalists <“sick people … thieves and crooks”>.

TV hosts.

Pollsters.

 

NFL players.

NBA players.

Gold Star parents.

 

POWs <McCain>.

The “Hamilton” cast.

Jews <several times … and, yet, “Israel” is good>.

 

Catholics <Pope Francis criticisms “disgraceful”>.

Muslims.

 

Immigrants.

African Americans.

Latinos.

<never white people … even if they carry Nazi flags and say “Jews will not replace us”>.

 

LGBTQ community.

New Hampshire residents <“a drug-infested den”>.

Mexico.

Belgium.

Germany.

London.

Paris.

<add in another dozen countries>.

 

NATO.

The UN.

 

A variety of individual companies.

A union leader <or two>.

 

Steph Curry.

Snoop Dogg.

 

 

Whew.trump divide america tweet shout nonsense

 

I think the only ones left are nuns, white/straight/Christian men, Putin and Ivanka.

 

I could argue that Trump is offering us the most insidious unpatriotic thought of all … “anyone who does not agree with my self defined version of America First is not patriotic — a true American.”

 

Whew. That’s … well … insidious.

 

But … you know what? All of this means that Trump is demanding we fight not only for the soul of the nation but also make a decision with regard to “e pluibus unim.”

 

Fight?

Out of many, one slips off the tongue easily. We like it … maybe even love it. And it becomes easy to say “well, the flag embodies this.”

It is easy because it is tangible and simplistic.

 

Here is the unfortunate truth we must all face; even our scoundrel of a president, America is an idea. This does not diminish the importance of the flag as emblematic of America as a whole because … well … the flag IS actually emblematic of the whole. By that I mean the military does not have the sole ownership of the flag <and I have the utmost respect for the military with multiple friends in the military> but rather all, the many/pluribus unim, use the flag as representative of ALL the ideas that make up America. Many have died for those ideas … some military and some not.

 

America is an idea lived out by ALL the people.

 

America is an idea lived out by people who embrace the soul of the idea of which America is founded upon.

 

I wrote once a while back that “with our new President I recognize we are now one-just-principle-strength-life-livein a struggle for the soul of America – a struggle for our moral core.” And while I still believe that he has brought an entirely different dimension into this struggle … a struggle over patriotism.

One would think this is a relatively easy discussion but Donnie Two Scoops, in his intellectually hollow way, simplistically has decided that patriotism is defined by “not kneeling” or “not burning the flag” … in other words … ”flag above all”.

 

Look.

 

I would not kneel during the national anthem but I am not black nor have I faced the social injustice that African Americans face day after day. But I would certainly show support, and respect the choice, of anyone who believed they should.

That is patriotic and that is America. Freedom to show protest and freedom to show support in the way I choose.

 

Ah.

Maybe the bigger question is would I kneel if I was so disappointed in America so much that I needed to make a stand? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm … I imagine I would.

I don’t know what the issue is but I could envision it.

 

But this whole NFL/sports/black athlete versus Trump issue is simply one more data point showcasing the ongoing struggle for the soul of our nation AND what ‘e pluribus unim’ really & truly means.

 

I am personally determined to take up this struggle in any way I can … and anywhere. That, to me, is the patriotic thing to do.

 

plan badly oops cornered

……. my little corner of the world ……….

And I will do whatever I can in my little corner of the world. I will fight back by showcasing individual norms which I believe should help guide societal norms & patriotic norms and ‘e pluribus unim’ norms… better than what I believe our current President offers.

 

We need some people to stand up and hold our moral compass up high so that we can rediscover the soul of America and set forth toward the North Star.

 

We need to stand up and recognize how easy it is to overlook false patriotism <because patriotism seems to be something we can all agree on>.

 

Sigh.

 

Day after day this scoundrel sitting in the Oval office does things that remind us that we are now not only in a struggle for the soul of America and a struggle for our moral core … but he is challenging “e pluribus unim.”

 

Let us be clear on one thing.

 

One incredibly important thing.

 

Our President does not appear to have a soul of integrity & dignity only a core of ‘win at all and any costs’ nor does he appear to believe America has a soul other than a platitude of ‘patriotism’ <which he seems to think is made up of solely of military, law & order and power> nor does he appear to be centered on any moral imperative beyond ‘winning’ <and looking impressive & strong>.

 

To be clear. That is false patriotism based on some incredibly hollow thinking.

 

Regardless.

 

This, simplistically, a false narrative of false patriotism offered to us by a false leader.

 

I believe there is a time to stand with strength, there is a time to be competitive, there are winners and losers and not everyone should get a trophy and that being nice isn’t an imperative with regard to how you play the game or be competitive.

I believe in America, respect for the flag and that patriotism is a powerful energy underlying ‘e pluribus unim.’

 

I can almost 99% guarantee the American Symbolic Chief, or our President, only cares about how you look while you play the game <the ‘trappings as it were> and wraps himself in an American flag without understanding what the flag stands for.

 

Everyone should remember in this struggle that Trump is hollow and in his lack of leadership ‘e pluribus unim’ runs the risk of being driven by platitudes an superficial ‘branding’ exercises rather than true understanding of what makes ‘one out of many.’

And everyone should be thinking that Trump should be the last fucking person to be defining patriotism for us.

 

Sigh.

 

If anyone doubts the patriotism of someone who kneels during the national anthem, I will end with this thought.

 

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“I got a daughter, she’s going to have to live in this world. I’m going to do whatever I got to do to make sure she can look at her dad and be like, ‘Hey, you did something, you tried to make a change.’”

 

—————

Miami Dolphins player Michael Thomas

 

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I cannot figure out how that is not patriotic.

 

 

you believe that you are unworthy of care

September 18th, 2017

attention nobody cares gift message relevant

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“As a therapist, let me just say: almost every trauma survivor I’ve ever had has at some point said, ‘But I didn’t have it as bad as some people,’ and then talked about how other types of trauma are worse. Even my most-traumatized, most-abused, most psychologically-injured clients say this.

 

The ones who were cheated on, abandoned, and neglected say this.

The ones who were in dangerous accidents/disasters say this.

 The ones who were horrifyingly sexually abused say this.

The ones who were brutally beaten say this.

The ones who were psychologically tortured for decades say this.

 

What does that tell you?

 

That one of the typical side-effects of trauma is to make you believe that you are unworthy of care. Don’t buy into it, because it’s nonsense. It doesn’t matter if someone else had it ‘worse.’

 

Every person who experiences a trauma deserves to get the attention and care they need to heal from it.”

 

hobbitsaarebas

 

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“It’s true, I suffer a great deal–but do I suffer well? That is the question.”

 

Thérèse de Lisieux

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“… victimization is a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization.”

 

—-

sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning

 

============

 

 

Whew.

 

still talk about it you care about it trump reporting on oneselfBelieving you are unworthy of care.

I call this “victimhood backlash.”

 

Now.

 

This is different than feeling unworthy of love, respect or … well … unworthy of something or any of that type of thing.

 

In fact.

 

This is actually the exact opposite of a victim mentality.

 

This is when something truly bad has happened to you <you are a real victim of something> and you look around and say “whew, they are the real victims.” In a real sense this person then constructs an extremely viable narrative to suggest that while they are in a shithole … their shithole is nothing compared to some other people’s shithole.

 

This is not self deprecation … it is a sincere feeling that what you did or experienced was closer to ordinary rather than extraordinary.

But.

I say this unequivocally  … even if someone is shrugging off help or maybe even adamantly opposing the help … a hole is a hole and you need help getting out of holes.

 

Someone may not think they are worthy of care, or asking for help … but they need it.

 

Anyway.

 

I have two thoughts on this ‘believing unworthy of care’.

 

First.

 

A hole is a hole.

If you are in a hole, it is a hole.down in a hole layne alice in chains

 

I have written this before … a shithole is a shithole. We are not in the shithole comparison business. All shitholes are dark, deep and often don’t have a visible ladder to get out of the shithole.

 

To me?

 

Horrible is horrible.

A black hole is a black hole.

And while maybe not all holes and abysses are created equal … all seem equally deep, dark & shitty when in one.

This may not be literally true … but figuratively I tend to believe that is how we view it when encountering some shit Life gives us which places us into some dark hole.

 

Second.

 

I do not believe that victimhood is some cultural crisis <the sociologists I highlight upfront do suggest that>.

 

Yeah.

 

The things for which we can publicly accept the fact we were a victim of has certainly increased. This doesn’t mean more shit, and shitholes, have occurred … it is just that it is now more acceptable to admit them and address them.

 

Can this get out of whack? Sure.

 

But a long as someone isn’t creating a shithole and claiming being a victim then .. well … a shithoe is a shithole.

 

I would suggest that we want people who feel like they are n some shithole because they were a victim of something to speak out regardless of whether an falling down the rabbit holeeveryday schmuck like me may look at them and say “c’mon, be real, that’s Life” and maybe we should be focusing on how to better address them when they speak out.

 

We need less pandering and more reality management.  We need less judgement and more dialogue.

 

We need to grow a dialogue culture. Rather than responding to comments or behaviors with less condemnation or judgement and more engagement to engage rather than repel <without increasing victim mentality but rather managing it>.

 

But we do not want anyone at anytime to believe that they are unworthy of care.

 

Anyway.

 

I can almost guarantee almost everyone will either slip into a hole or go crashing into a hole at some point in their Life.

And that person <which means, uhm, everyone> will need help getting out of it.

 

For if you permit someone to linger too long in the hole … well … the abyss will gaze into them. And inevitably find some dark corner in the mind that they will find a place to live, eat and breathe for years and years to come.

 

Just accept what I just said without shrugging or thinking “that’s some bad shit.”

 

<Most> Holes are fine in Life.

 

They are part of Life.stay in the hole

 

Regardless of whether the shithole is incredibly shitty or just basic shit they have the same intended conclusion — you just have to make sure you know how to get out of them.

 

Ah.

Which leads me back to the opening quote.

Someone who believes that they are unworthy of care.

 

I say that because you can spend a lot of time looking around at other shitholes thinking about how to get other people out of their shitholes … all the while ignoring your own shithole, avoiding finding a way out of our own shithole and, maybe the worst, if you gaze long enough into an abyss … anyone’s abyss … it will gaze into you.

 

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“And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”

 

<Beyond Good and Evil> Friedrich Nietzsche

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Look.

 

I have had this debate a zillion times … the one where you discuss who has it worse.

 

Who is going through tougher times.

Who has actually gone through a tougher time.

Maybe even discussing a bad moment in life as horrible, but always discussing ‘horrible’ relative to other horribleness.

 

pick a hole in the sky and we will all be n troubleAnd while it is most likely true that, regardless of your situation, someone somewhere has it worse than you do … that thought only seems to offer some false comfort nor does it really offer any solutions.

 

To me … comparing bad situations is not only not very helpful but it also tends to suggest the wrong thing to me – “my suffering isn’t equal to your suffering.” Which tends to lead to “I don’t believe I am worthy of care.”

 

Bad. Wrong.

 

I do not believe we should be in the shithole comparison business.

A shit hole is a shithole and anyone in a shithole is just as worth of care as anyone else in a shithole.

 

 

the non decline of American military

May 29th, 2017

military cemetery

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“Those who worry about an American military supposedly in decline should relax.”

 

—–

Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus

 

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U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley:

 

“the US Army … more capable, better trained … and more lethal than any other ground force in the world.”

 

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“Neither our strategy nor our psychology as a nation and certainly not our economy must become dependent upon the military establishment.”

 

——-

John F. Kennedy

 

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Ok.

 

heroes memorial-dayOn Memorial Day, a day on which we honor the ones who gave ‘their full measure of devotion’, I pulled out a piece that has been sitting in my draft folder for quite some time.

 

It is a thought piece on the rhetoric and thinking on the overall decline of the American military as well as some of the simplistic thoughts being shared on the spending and size of the American military.

 

I will not provide gobs of resources to support my thoughts but rather I will direct you to two foundational resources if you want some more thinking fodder.

The first is www.warontherocks.com . If you ever want to get a better grasp on military thinking & strategy, I find no one better than the people at WarontheRocks at offering a wide range of thinking, and thinkers, to help you move beyond the simplistic politician rhetoric.

The second is a fabulous piece written for Foreign Affairs magazine by Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus called America’s Awesome Military.

 

Anyway.

 

I can honestly say I have always had a point of view with regard to how much the USA spends on its military and I absolutely believe in spending on the military and defense.

100%.

 

But I sometimes believe we need to get a grip.

 

Now.

 

Politicians, Trump in particular, seems to have a nasty habit of tying spending to old school military things and thinking – lots of big ships, lots of people in uniform and lots of big weapons <and cool ones>.

always more and more life desire

Basically it is just a ‘more & big’ spending strategy.

 

But if you listen or speak to military people there are some real nuanced discussions going on – what do I actually need money to spend on and what strategies of combat do I need to invest money to support?

 

There are some real debates within the military with regard to spending to support the present and spending to support the future. I wish politicians would just step aside and let the military go directly to the people and say “this is what matters and this is how much it would cost” <with none of that wacky politician budget maneuvering and fake low ball estimating where we end up accommodating overages>.

 

I wish that because a couple of military commanders, Petraeus in particular along with Michael O’Hanlon, have put a nice stake in the ground with regard to some spending truths.

 

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Despite five years of official complaints about “sequestration” budgets, U.S. military spending remains historically high. In 2016, U.S. military spending will be $607 billion, including $59 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, the fund that ostensibly finances wars but also funds non-war (or base) accounts. Barring a new budget deal, the fiscal year 2017 budget, now stuck in Congress, will be virtually the same size.

 

In real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, Americans spend more on the military today than at any point in the Cold War, except the brief peaks during the Korean War and the 1980s. Current military spending is 36 percent higher in real terms than in 2000, with two-thirds of the growth in base spending. The United States spends more than double what Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea collectively spend on their militaries.

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Their real point is that the military doesn’t necessarily need a bigger budget but rather they need money to update & upgrade.

And here is where I believe politicians are showing a true lack of imagination.

 

Year after year we haggle over annual budgets and all we end up doing is funding a great military operation in need of investment spending.

That’s stupid.

 

what-i-think-i-can-do-mind-over-matterWhat would I do?

 

Just as I would have done with the Iraq War <but Bush decided to not do> I would go to the American people with a specific number needed and a specific one-time tax to get the money. I would treat the upgrade need as a specific project with specific objectives for which the military will offer specific updates to the American people showing what their money is being spent on and what is happening.

 

Why do I believe that will work?

 

  1. The current budget is big enough. I may be interested in tightening the screws a little on current Pentagon budget management but, in general, they have enough money. Tell the people that because it sounds reasonable.

 

 

  1. People are fine with paying one-time costs … especially for something as important as the military. In addition it sets the military up for future “ask American people for specific project funding” asks. And you know what? if people cannot be convinced to invest in it maybe, just maybe, the military should go back to the drawing board. but I have to tell you … in my experience … the senior military personnel are better than 99% of business people at outlining needs & wants and rationale.

 

 

  1. To a certain extent the military should involve the everyday people more often. We often talk about the wealth inequality gap in America, well, there is an increasing gap between military and everyday people. Military people, and families, and associated services are becoming increasingly cocooned. This does not benefit the military nor does it benefit the everyday citizen. Both groups are made up of some incredibly patriotic people who have the best intentions for America … it would behoove America if they interacted more often.

 

 

  1. Lastly, military strategies are changing. And while my idea is about budgeting and asking for money it bleeds into the military sharing with people how conflicts will be conducted. This benefits both the military and the everyday schmuck like me. it sets better expectations and stops people from defining military by movies and past military historical events.

 

 

Now.

 

I brought up that last point because WarontheRocks had a fabulous piece on “the three things the current Army Chief of Staff wants you to know about the Army and the changing face of conflicts/war.”

 

The biggest thing that jumped out to me was actually a business idea <described in military terms>. I call it “controlled autonomy” <driving disciplined decision making in a business as close to the actual business itself> but the Army Chief of Staff called it “disciplined disobedience.”

 

Wow.

What a great fucking phrase.

Awesome.

 

But it also has budgetary repercussions <you need to train and recruit different types of soldiers>.

And the everyday schmuck like me needs to hear about this so I can better understand why the military needs a specific budget.

doing the right thing bravery

Milley offers several fabulous thoughts which impact funding.

 

Mobility versus static <not just troop movement but supplies, command posts & resources – “stand still and die” is the overriding thought>.

At the point of conflict ‘disciplined disobedience’ skill set.

Ability to adapt shifting necessary resources <air, ground, support & naval> in real time.

 

All of which suggest that monies need to be shifted to accommodate strategies.

 

All of which also suggest that U.S. military spending is partially high because U.S. security ambitions are broad AND the strategies are evolving but not evolved <this suggest inefficiencies>.

 

What do I mean? For example … quick strike & response is dictated by proximity and if you see threats everywhere then … well … you need to be everywhere with enough force to be meaningful.

 

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A strategy of restraint would serve the United States better. By narrowing the scope of what U.S. security requires, restraint would establish a true “defense” budget. Though cost savings are secondary to strategic benefits, a military budget premised on restraint would save substantially more than hunting “waste, fraud, and abuse,” a common method of finding military savings. Waste hunters implicitly endorse primacy by objecting only to what offends their sense of sound management: overruns in acquisition programs, failed projects in war zones, or research projects with foolish titles. The Pentagon’s efficient pursuit of unwise goals is a far richer target for cuts.

<source: WarontheRocks>

—————–

 

Once again … we have the resources, we have the trained soldiers … the military doesn’t need complete overhaul but rather some fine tuning <source: America’s Awesome Military>:

 

  • The condition of most weaponry compares well with that of the Reagan era. For example, most Army vehicles have “mission capable rates” exceeding 90%. To be sure, there are concerns, for example in certain helicopter fleets. Problems that exist are specific, not systemic.

 

 

  • Training is still recovering from the stresses and strains of recent years. The ground forces in particular, after so many years conducting counterinsurgency, are gradually restoring their abilities for large-scale maneuver warfare of the type vital to deter Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, among others. About two more years will be needed to complete the task. But the recovery path is now well charted and well funded.

 

 

  • The men and women of the U.S. military, though tired and strained, have never been finer. That is not a simple statement of patriotism. The data back it up. For example, today’s typical serviceman or servicewomen has even more experience in uniform than those of Reagan’s day. Military pay is solid, compared with jobs in the civilian economy. For example, the latest quadrennial review of military compensation calculated that the typical soldier, sailor, airman, airwoman or Marine earns more than about 85% of his or her civilian cohorts with comparable age, education and experience in overall compensation.

 

 

  • The defense budget, though itself not proof of quality, is high by historical standards. Counting combat operations as well as nuclear weapons accounts at the Energy Department (but not counting the Department of Veterans Affairs budget, which is separate), national defense now costs America slightly more than $600 billion a year. That compares with a Cold War average of about $525 billion, in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars. It is at least three times China’s budget and six to eight times Russia’s. And those much-pilloried U.S. allies collectively budget about an additional $600 billion between them, meaning that the Western alliance system accounts for at least two-thirds of global military spending.

 

obama military stand up for the uniform politicsLet me summarize all the detail I shared <because I dint think everyone would go to the highlighted article.

 

Setting aside all the rhetoric … the US armed forces display high standards of professionalism, expertise, and experience. As Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus said in America’s Awesome Military:

 

———————

The United States has the best military in the world today, by far. U.S. forces have few, if any, weaknesses, and in many areas—from naval warfare to precision-strike capabilities, to airpower, to intelligence and reconnaissance, to special operations—they play in a totally different league from the militaries of other countries. Nor is this situation likely to change anytime soon, as U.S. defense spending is almost three times as large as that of the United States’ closest competitor, China, and accounts for about one-third of all global military expenditures—with another third coming from U.S. allies and partners.

 

Nevertheless, 15 years of war and five years of budget cuts and Washington dysfunction have taken their toll. The military is certainly neither broken nor unready for combat, but its size and resource levels are less than is advisable given the range of contemporary threats and the missions for which it has to prepare. No radical changes or major buildups are needed.

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“We have what we need, but we need every dollar, every training event, every person.”

 

———

Col. Robert Whittle, 1st Cavalry Division

 

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Now.

 

Politicians posture. That is what they do <no matter how misguided it is>.military respect salute

 

But we need to stop talking about military not only in last generation terms but also in a discrete way … what I mean by that is the United States has many resources to draw on beyond its military forces. The country’s high-tech and innovative sectors are the best in the world. It has solid economic fundamentals, including a gradually growing population base, the world’s best univer­sities, and a large market at the center of global finance and commerce.

 

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“We know already that computers are mightier than guns. We know that the new opportunities reside in the campuses of the scientists, rather than in the camps of the army.”

—-

Shimon Peres: May 1994, at the signing of the Gaza-Jericho Accord

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And, assuming the current administration does not dismantle it, the United States leads a globe-spanning system of alliances and partnerships that includes some 60 countries, collectively accounting for two-thirds of global economic output and military capacity.

 

Look.

 

Feel free and visit some of the resources I have provided. You will clearly find some incredibly smart military minds discussing what strategy & tactics look like in the future. Most discussion revolves around mobility, instant adaptability, ability to integrate with nation coalition forces, divesting force structure <remove some land bases and use increase navy as ‘moving platforms’ to deliver & deploy … which allows substantial savings in personnel, operations and maintenance, intelligence, and real estate costs> and the combination of combat & stability operations <post combat>.

 

They clearly recognize that the world looks different as does military response needs.

 

And all of that impacts budget needs beyond the simplistic “more ships, more planes and bigger stuff” arguments.

 

Lastly.

NATO.

 

Geez.

At some point I would either like Donald J Trump to have a NATO 101 lesson or simply let DOD secretary Mattis handle it.

 

Bottom line is that there is a relationship between what other members invest in their defense and what USA invests. But it isn’t ‘their money versus our money.’

 

Their investments eliminate the need for USA resources … that is the soldier dad youre-home-safe_largerelationship. They spend more and we can spend less <make some cutbacks>.

 

And you know what? Obama was able to squeeze out a promise to increase their own expenditures 4 years ago and … well … as Mattis just said: “And the bottom line is that nations are spending more on defense now than they were five years ago or ten years ago”.

 

The whole NATO discussion out of Trump’s mouth wanders between crazy ignorant and crazy grandstanding.

And the worst part is that uncertainty with NATO impacts budgetary needs.

 

Anyway.

 

On this memorial Day I want to suggest we need to provide the proper resources to our military … but that doesn’t necessarily mean just throwing money at them. In today’s world I want money to chase smart thinking. And, as I have already said, peruse the military minds around the country and we have the smart thinking … we just need politicians to get out of the way.

 

least expensive thing in life

May 17th, 2017

decent person ROI life humanity

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“It costs $0.00 to be a decent person.”

 

words to live by

 

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So.

 

When I saw this quote I started jotting thoughts down immediately.

 

Here was the most interesting note:  least expensive or most expensive?

 

Huh?

 

It costs you nothing to be a decent person but it can still be an expensive decision. This may sound incredibly cynical but deciding to be decent is not a zero sum decision … it is a Life value equation.

 

I decide to do this <be decent> or do not do this <not be decent> and ‘this’ is the repercussion of that decision <the value or lost opportunity/gain>.

 

Yeah.

By being decent in the business world you can be viewed as ‘too nice’ and get mangled by some cutthroat asshat.

By being decent in Life you can be viewed as naive and get taken advantage of by those willing to ‘do what it takes.’

 

 

decent person is hard understand

 

Therefore, oddly and unfortunately, decency can ultimately be assessed in ROI terms by many of us in our lives.

 

Boy … that sounds pretty fucked up when I say it out loud.

 

 

Ok.

 

So someone may argue with the ROI thing but maybe think of it this way …

 

You walk by 4 homeless people but give the 5th one you see $20. Does the $20 balance out the fact you ignored the other 4? You were decent but selectively so.

 

Don’t like that?

So set aside the money.

 

You walk by 4 homeless veterans … never acknowledging them or looking at them … the 5th homeless vet you stop for a second and look them in the eye and say “thank you for your service.” Does the one you give some dignity to zero out the 4 you completely disregarded?

 

Unfortunately, decency is an ROI assessment. And more excruciatingly … it is an assessment made moment by moment as well as cumulatively.

 

What I mean by that is decency is mutually exclusive not inclusive … and decent moments are independent of other moments <when you may not have been so, or as, decent> … not interdependent <warning: I most likely mangled the meanings of both mutually exclusive and independent>.

 

 

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Mutually exclusive events cannot happen at the same time. For example: when tossing a coin, the result can either be heads or tails but cannot be both. Events are independent if the occurrence of one event does not influence (and is not influenced by) the occurrence of the other(s).

—-

 

You do not accumulate ‘decency points’ in Life or in business.

 

Not being decent cannot be equaled out by being extraordinarily decent in another moment.

 

Yeah.

That doesn’t sound particularly fair does it?

 

But you have to think that way or you start thinking about decency in a conscious decision making balance sheet sort of way. “well, I am not going to be particularly decent in this situation because to do so I may not benefit as much as I believe I deserve” and then a couple days later you consciously say to yourself “I was kind of a dickwad the other day so maybe if I am particularly decent now that will make up for it.”

 

I absolutely hated myself for scribbling any thought down that suggested there was a cost to being a decent person. Fucking hated even having the thought.

 

But no matter how much I hated it … it surely does seem like it is a Life truth.

 

To me there is only one way to resolve this ‘self dilemma’ and it is an ‘either/or’ thought.decent person rude and nice

 

You accept the fact you are gonna be a decent human being all the time and accept that the chips will fall as they may throughout Life … and they  may not all fall your way <and you can spend your last days on earth feeling pretty good about yourself from a character standpoint by realizing a Big life can often be found in a shitload of small victories>.

 

Or.

 

You accept the fact that situational decisions are situational decisions and you are a decent person at heart therefore you seek to view life, in the end, as “I was more often decent than I wasn’t” <and a Big life meant you bucked the odds of a world constantly trying to encourage non-decency and you won more often than you lost>.

 

I cannot choose the path for you.

 

But I will state that simply recognizing that this is the dilemma we face in Life … and that this is basically your choice … you have accepted that being a decent person is an ROI analysis.

 

A decent person and ROI. Sigh. What a sad thought.

Enlightened Conflict