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Does Popularity Get You Promoted?


A few months ago I heard Mitch Prinstein on the Art of Manliness podcast and then read his book Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obssessed World. I reached out to him and asked him about his thoughts on popularity’s linkage to promotions in the military, our penchant for Facebook, and some advice on raising kids.  

J: When I first heard about your book, Popular, I immediately thought of it in the context of high school, but you argue that popularity plays a role in our adult lives. Could you explain that?

M: Most of us would love to forget all about the high school hijinks and humiliations. But research suggests that many of the same popularity dynamics we experienced back then are still playing out today, decades later. We don’t talk about it as “popularity” usually, but every team, group, and social gathering still plays by the same rules. That’s probably why research says that those who are not popular growing up tend to have ongoing difficulties throughout their lives. Most people don’t realize that there are two types of popularity and we should be focusing on the one that really matters.

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Would Your Squad Leaders Attend Your Funeral?



By. Colonel Curt Taylor

I recently heard General Dave Perkins, the Commanding General of TRADOC, describe a funeral for a senior general officer long retired. At the funeral he noted the attendance of several middle-aged men who had served as squad leaders under this general decades before when he had been a battalion commander. So powerful had been his impact that they felt the need to be present when the ‘old man’ was finally laid to rest many years later.

General Perkins then challenged the audience to define the success of our careers not by the rank we attain but by the question, “Would your squad leaders attend your funeral?” Reframing the experience of a military profession in this way transforms our priorities and our very definition of success. It alters our calculus from a focus on ourselves and a nervous anxiety over the next promotion board, to a focus on others and a desire to improve our own leadership skills because of the impact it has on the people that we lead.

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The Army Field Grade Starter Kit


“The Major runs on coffee and hate…and I think he’s out of coffee.” -Some Poor Staff Captain at NTC

Last year I completed S3/XO time and there were a couple of things I wish I would have had in my cargo pocket when I walked into the position. For instance, I was very rusty on the military decision-making process, so it took me a little bit to catch up.  As a result, I used and abused my copy of FM 6-0. There were also a few concepts that I needed to read up on and some items that I needed to add to my kit to make life more comfortable in the field.

I’m sure there are number of other tools that would have made my life easier, but these were the ones I used or wish I would have used from the beginning. Check out the recent thread on our Facebook page for some more tools recommended by readers!

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What is Your Guitar Hero?


About a decade ago, I would spend hours a day playing my Xbox 360. I was hooked on one game in particular: “Guitar Hero”. In the game, players have to play hit songs by pressing buttons on a fake guitar. Each day I would continuously work on my finger placement, timing, and skills to beat songs and unlock new ones. Then one day I came to a realization. In the time that I had spent pressing multi-colored buttons on my fake guitar, I could have actually learned to play guitar! I had wasted so much time on nothing.

More recently, I started paying attention to the amount of time I spend on Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms can turn into another time suck. These apps target significant activation in our brains, specifically the anterior cingulate cortex, which can lead to addiction to our mobile devices. One news story estimated that the human race has spent a collective 55 million years on Facebook since 2009!

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How to Read More Books in 2018



We all can probably agree that reading is good for the brain. Leaders from George Washington to General Patton leaned on books to fill their knowledge gaps, and their efforts paid off on the battlefield. Defense Secretary James Mattis reflected on the impacts of self-study in a 2004 email that went viral:

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

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2017 in The Books


At the end of every year, I compile all the books I read in twelve months into a year-end reading list. Here are ones from 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. This year I didn’t even come close to reaching my reading goal. However, the books I did manage to complete were enjoyable and I learned a lot from them. Out of all the titles, I read, I can only give a few the title of “favorite” in 2017.

Top 3 Books of 2017

  1. American War by Omar El Akaad
  2. Lead Yourself First by Mike Erwin and Ray Kethledge
  3. The Causes of War by Geoffrey Blainey

I hope you find something of value in here for yourself and you can click on any of these pictures to learn more! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

History and Warfare


Science Fiction


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25 Podcasts to Build Your Library


Whether you are traveling on a long car trip, commuting to work, or going for a long run/bike ride, there is no better way to pass the time and grow your brain than to listen to a podcast.

After canvassing my network and pulling from my own library, I’ve compiled a list of 25 podcasts that are worth your time.

History and Warfare


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Are You a Third Generation Leader?

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When most of us think of leadership, we think of the immediate. Our leadership focus tends to be on the task at hand, not really looking beyond the next rifle range or field training exercise. But, eventually we will move on and continue to climb the professional ladder- and so will those we lead. We might prepare them for future leader tasks (planning training or running a meeting), but what are we doing to ensure they are prepared to develop those they lead?

In a 2007 issue of ARMY magazine, Tony Burgess introduced the idea of “Third Generation Leadership”:

This is the idea that the investment you make in developing your Soldiers will decidedly influence successive generations of leaders. In first-generation leadership the primary focus is the immediate future—commanders are training their lieutenants to be good platoon leaders. Second-generation leadership broadens the focus to include leader development for sub- sequent service—commanders train their lieutenants to be good platoon leaders and good future commanders. In third-generation leadership, commanders not only develop lieutenants to be good commanders, they also provide them with a model of how to develop their lieutenants.

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What Happens When Robots Gain Human Rights?



I recently read Annalee Newitz’s debut sci-fi novel, Autonomous. The page-turning book follows the story of Jack, an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, and the human/robot team hot on her trail after one of her latest drug hacks goes terribly wrong. Newitz’s novel, which takes place in the year 2144, is packed full of evolved technologies that are only in their infancy now. For instance, people use biohacking to increase their productivity and make fashion statements (like growing flowers out their hands); and autonomous robots work alongside professionals in the military and hospitals. She also delves into potential future social issues like ownership and human rights for robots.

In this exciting interview we discuss biohacking, robot/human relationships, and the future of warfare. She also gives some great book and podcast recommendations for further development!

Joe: One of the central ideas your book revolves around is biohacking. Where is the science on this now and where do you think we will be with biohacking in the coming decades?

Annalee: Right now we’re in the very early stages of biohacking, though of course we have been breeding animals and plants for millennia (sometimes I call farming “slow biohacking”). Scientists are now able to engineer very simple organs, like bladders. Tissue engineering has allowed us to grow skin, muscles, and bones–and even to create hamburgers from a petri dish, which apparently taste OK.

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Let’s Stop the 100-Hour Work Week: Letting the Horses Go


“The secret of concentration is elimination”
                                -Dr. Howard Hendricks


The Problem of Letting Go

In the opening of Elting Morison’s Men, Machines, and Modern Times, he recounts the story of a British officer who, in the early 1940s, had a time motion expert study pictures of a light artillery crew going through their firing drills for coastal defense in an attempt to find procedures to cut in order to reduce firing times. The cannons, previously pulled by horses during the Boer War, had been repurposed for a stationary defense at coastal fortifications. Morison writes:

When he ran the pictures over once or twice, he noticed something that appeared odd to him. A moment before the firing, two members of the gun crew ceased all activity and came to attention for a three-second interval extending throughout the discharge of the gun. He summoned an old colonel of artillery, showed him the pictures and, and pointed out this strange behavior. What, he asked the colonel, did it mean. The colonel, too, was puzzled. He asked to see the pictures again, “Ah,” he said when the performance was over, “I have it. They are holding the horses.”

Take a second to reflect on that last line. Even though they no longer had horses pulling their cannons, they were unable to divest of what was no longer necessary; they continued the practice long after the horses were gone. This short vignette points out a problem that most military organizations still struggle with today.

We jump on the “priority of the week” or the latest commander’s focus without looking across the organization to see what we need to stop doing. We try to do it all, even those things no one really cares about anymore. I struggled with this while I was an operations officer and an executive officer. No one wants to be the leader who says, “We can’t do it!” because we all know that, inevitably, if you can’t do it, there is someone else who will. But there are some repercussions to overloading our organizations.  

When we fail to let go of procedures and practices, even while we take on new ones, we spread our organizations thin. The penalties for continuing to “hold the horses” aren’t added seconds on firing drills; they are 100-hour workweeks, strained marriages, failed missions, or the loss of integrity.

Letting Go of the Horses

So what can we do a about it? Andy Stanley, a pastor and leadership author, says that organizations should continually ask the following question: Where are we manufacturing energy?

He believes that most organizations have trouble divesting, and thus people begin to manufacture energy to keep up a practice that is no longer valid. We have to deliberately look at the requirements, practices, and processes to see what is no longer necessary for the organization to excel. In doing so, he says, we can reinvest our time, resources, and money into those things we need to be doing.

For military leaders, a good time to do this would be while doing mission analysis on quarterly and annual Unit Training Plans (UTPs). As units prioritize their training and focus areas, they should look at what practices are no longer necessary to achieve the desired end-state. The commander can then formalize their cancellation in a portion of the published guidance titled “Things We Will No Longer Do.”

Also, when those “priorities of the week” come up, staffs should look at their running estimates and present the commander with recommendations for divestments so the organization can actually prioritize for that week instead of putting in 100-hour workweeks.

Taking It a Step Further

A 2008 HBR article recommends that leaders invest the same amount of energy in divestiture as they do investments. The authors argue that creating a team of people in the organization focused on divestiture will ensure that the process receives the same effort as other initiatives (which usually equate to taking on more).

A commander could establish a short-term operational planning team to review multiple aspects of the organization and continually assess the return on investment of various practices.

And When You Do

When you finally let go of the horses and divest, you will find that your organization is in a better position to accomplish those tasks that actually matter. Leaders won’t feel the burnout that comes with 100-hour workweeks, subordinates will see that the organization cares, and productivity will actually increase.


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