Lead with the best version of yourself.

Writer’s Block? Find a Coach

by Catherine Putz and Tobias Switzer

You finally decided to write. You’ve got something to say, and it’s burning you up. Maybe nobody is talking about it, or the national security establishment is just getting it all wrong. Tired of sitting on the sidelines as other people blather on uninformed, you’re ready to set the record straight. You know intimately what they’ve only read about in reports or saw once during a scripted dog-and-pony show through a conflict zone. Diplomacy and deterrence don’t work like that. Sanctions and special operations don’t work like that. That weapon system isn’t a trillion-dollar waste of money; it’s the cornerstone of US security.

Write for You

By Joe Byerly

Many view writing for publication in the military as an opportunity to help others with their leadership approaches, inform them on some academic topic they learned about in grad school, or to share lessons learned from a recent training exercise. While this motivation to publish is respectable, it represents a mindset that prevents a lot of people from getting their thoughts out there. 

When we approach writing with the impetus being we’re doing it to inform others, we open the door for self-doubt to creep in, followed by its friend: excuses. In the beginning, I didn’t write because I didn’t feel like I had enough experience or enough subject matter expertise to share my ideas, therefore I didn’t even attempt to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. Why even bother writing an article until you get enough leadership experience or enough operational experience?

Over the years, I’ve learned that “enough” is always a moving target.

Are you Scared to Write?

By Joe Byerly

Every time I sit down to write a blog post or record an episode of the podcast, something happens inside my head. A voice asks me,  

“Who are you to write or talk about this?” 

It usually follows up with an equally damaging concern, 

 “Why would anyone want to listen to you?”

Why Leaders Need to Learn the Skill of Writing

By Joe Byerly

Anyone who has worked directly for a battalion commander or above probably has experience writing “ghost notes.” These are emails a subordinate writes and addresses for their boss to send to other people. Ghost notes can be weekly or monthly sitreps, updates on an ongoing situation or emails asking for additional resources. No matter the type, they are the “easy button” for the commander because all they have to do is hit “send.”

Recently, I worked for a senior Army leader who encouraged his subordinate commanders to own their communications—meaning, write their own emails. As I reflected on his guidance, I realized there are benefits to communications ownership. I witnessed many of these benefits firsthand as I watched him communicate with senior military leaders, senior civilian leaders and his own commanders.

On Writing: Look Out! There be Sea Monsters!

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By Joe Byerly

A few years ago, I wrote a post encouraging military leaders to write for professional publications and online professional outlets.

I confidently argued, though only anecdotally, that there were no sea monsters and leaders could share their ideas freely without retribution. I was wrong.

There be sea monsters, and they be us.

In the five years since I wrote my original piece, the online community of military and national security professionals has grown exponentially. And with it, so have the dangers. Segments of this community mobilize when there is blood in the water and an author writes a piece that people don’t agree with. I’ve watched writers get devoured by the kraken, and it isn’t pretty.

Is it possible to navigate the seas of professional debate without attracting a sea monster or two? I suppose so. However, some of the greatest shifts in our military’s history were met with resistance. Admiral William Sims, General George Patton, and Colonel John Boyd all battled sea monsters along the way, but they survived, and our military is better for it. So if you are writing on topics that challenge conventional wisdom, sea monsters are unavoidable.

Advice on Writing and Editing

Advice on Writing and Editing

By Jason Criss Howk

Over the last decade, I was privileged to publish my ramblings in many different outlets from scholarly journals to slick mass media periodicals—large and small, paid and unpaid, known and unknown. On top of that, in the age of the internet many of my published articles have been shared and republished in other outlets, some even translated into other languages and reissued.

All that to say, I have learned a lot about publishing and writing everything from books to tweets, and I want to share what I have learned with you. My purpose is simple; many are intimidated by writing to publish and I want to help you get past that fear. You just need a process….and a topic.

Everyone has something they can share with other humans, you are a specialist in something or you have learned a valuable lesson in your life that is worth sharing. So, write about it. The world works best when diverse thoughts are examined publicly, civilly, and thoughtfully. We hear plenty from the same people…please join the discussion.

Step 1. Get inspired!

To write you need a topic.  I get topics when I read, when I listen to others speak about ideas, or when I watch TV, movies, etc.  But, maybe one of the best ways to get inspired is to find solitude and reflect on what’s important in your life or the world. For example, I was inspired to write my most recent article, Sir Solitude, after listening to Mike Erwin talk for the day about solitude and how it can make you a better leader as he explained his book Lead Yourself First.  Don’t worry about using someone else’s idea, but make sure you credit them in your writing.  

The Do’s and Don’ts of Letters of Introduction

The Do’s and Don’ts of Letters of Introduction

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By Scott Shaw and Chad Foster

Writing letters of introduction to your future battalion or brigade commanders has been a staple of the basic and career course since we were lieutenants and captains (and before our time as well). This time-honored tradition has turned from one of envelope and stamp to a well-written email. Whatever the medium, the purpose is still the same – to say who you are and that you’re excited to be joining the unit.

So do they matter?

The short answer is yes. Both of us recently completed battalion command, and over the course of that period saw many emails come into our inbox from lieutenants in their basic courses and captains in their career courses. These emails typically reached us before their ORBs, so they were our first impressions of these new officers.

Below are some tips for writing a letter of introduction to your soon-to-be commander:

How to Organize Your Notebook For Success

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By: Jeremiah Hurley

I grew up in an Army where pen and paper were as important uniform items as your pants. In the right hands, a pen and paper are powerful tools. As great as you think your memory may be, it’s not perfect – you need to take notes. The most successful people I know have highly developed systems on how they organize those notes. There is no right or wrong answer on how to do this; however, there are best practices that have made me more effective over time.

Here are some tips that I provide to every new member of my team on how I approach this:

Use a notebook. You will lose the notecards, post-it notes, and random pieces of paper. The pocket organizer / journal / notebook market has exploded with tons of options to help people do this. All you really need is a durable cover and paper, the rest is just marketing and a huge price markup.

Segregate by purpose. I maintain three notebooks at any given time, each with a specific purpose.  The first is my reading notebook. I use it to capture notes  or thoughts from whatever I’m reading. I found that that there was no easy way for me to go back and review highlights and margin notes from the previous books that I’ve read. So keeping them all in a single notebook helps me go back and reference them more easily. The second notebook is dedicated to leadership observations and thoughts. I used to have these spread throughout various notebooks, and as I prepared for battalion command, I found that it was nearly impossible to find them. I now capture them in a single notebook. The third and final notebook is my ‘uniform item.’ This is the notebook I take everywhere – on vacation, the grocery store etc. I use this book to capture notes from meetings, to do lists, random thoughts or ideas.

If You Want To Write, Collaborate!

If You Want To Write, Collaborate!

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By Gary Klein

At some point in time, all of us have written for school, our jobs, or publication. However, chances are, most of us have done this alone. Admittedly, writing by yourself simplifies the process of prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing; but writers do not need to forge this path alone. Writing with others (aka coauthoring) has its benefits, but there are challenges as well. This article will briefly discuss some of the benefits and challenges of coauthoring while outlining a way to facilitate collaborative writing and overcome some of these challenges.

Benefits and Challenges of Coauthoring

Writing enables critical and creative thinking, learning, and leader development; but as From the Green Notebook previously highlighted, we can also sharpen our ideas and enhance our learning by engaging in discussion with others.[1] Our connections and network can challenge us intellectually, provide different perspectives, and enhance our learning.[2] Combining the benefits of writing and our network, coauthors provide additional ideas, experiences, and perspectives that stimulate discussion and facilitate synthesizing diverse ideas.

Above and Beyond the Green Notebook

Above and Beyond the Green Notebook

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From ARMY Magazine, Vol. 67, No. 3, March 2017. Copyright © 2017 by the Association of the U.S. Army and reprinted by permission of ARMY Magazine.

By Joe Byerly

Walk into any organization in our Army and there is one thing I guarantee you will find on a desk or in a cargo pocket: a small, green, government-issued notebook. It doesn’t matter whether a soldier is a sergeant or a general officer, odds are they will have one of these Army mainstays in their possession. Beyond their utility for taking notes, these notebooks also represent a greater ideal. They represent hard-won knowledge from intense training exercises. They represent ideas for improving our organizations and our warfighting capabilities. They represent our successes and our failures. They also represent the first step to leaving a legacy in our profession of arms.

8 Reasons Why NCOs Should Write and Publish

8 Reasons Why NCOs Should Write and Publish

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By Alex Licea  and Harlan Kefalas

Whether it is flipping through the pages of military journals or reading articles on various military websites, we both notice one trend:

Many if not most of the pieces we read are written by officers, both active and retired.

Now, we appreciate and respect our officers for writing about great topics which foster meaningful discussions. However, the NCO perspective is lacking, especially when compared to our representation across the force.