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.

A Toast to Small Wars Journal

A Toast to Small Wars Journal


By Joe Byerly

Much like many of the biggest comedians today can trace their beginnings back to the same comedy club, there are countless national security writers and senior military leaders who can trace their intellectual roots back to Small Wars Journal. The Platform founded by retired Marine Corps Officer Dave Dillege has served for over 15 years as place where professionals could argue the merits of tactics, leadership styles, or key strategic issues.

Dave gave me the opportunity to share my early writings on his site in 2013, always encouraging me to keep writing and promoting professional discourse.

In 2014, I asked Dave to share his story for a blog over at the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. The blog is no longer active, but I kept the original document.  

After hearing about his recent passing, I wanted to share his thoughts with you as an example of how a single person can shape an entire generation of military leaders. 

Why I Write: Pressing the Button

Why I Write: Pressing the Button


By Joe Byerly

The following is an excerpt from the book, Why I Write: Craft Essays on Writing War, scheduled to be published by Middle West Press in December 2019. The one-of-a-kind anthology from the non-profit Military Writers Guild features essays from more than 60 leading and emerging writers offering their advice, techniques, and inspirations around themes of war and the military.

In 2013, I sat nervously in front of my laptop with a 600-word idea on the screen. For the first time in my military career, I had created a short article that would be viewed by thousands of people, but only after I clicked the“Publish” button. It was my very first blog post on what would become From the Green Notebook, a website that I had created that same morning. I almost held back from “pushing the button.” I was worried that it would be poorly received. I did not think people would read it. I thought my peers
would look down on me.

In the end, however, I pushed the button. I published my ideas, and since then have done so more than a hundred more times. I continue to “press the button,” because it is my way to develop myself and contribute to the profession of arms. Writing helps me to collect and focus my thoughts. The blog serves as a catalyst for professional development. My writings help to start conversations, which may help others improve how they lead and develop themselves. It is also my chance to leave a legacy that will outlast my service.

One of my favorite quotes, attributed to E.M. Forster, is “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” Seeing our thoughts in ink (or on the screen) can help us better grasp them. When I write, I challenge myself to be clearer in my thoughts and arguments. I find that I achieve a greater level of clarity in my ideas and convictions. Also, by considering a topic from the perspective of a person who might be unfamiliar with an idea, I improve my own fluency.

On Writing: Look Out! There be Sea Monsters!


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


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


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.