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Lead with the best version of yourself.

Lead with the best version of yourself.

Ep. 84- Melissa Urban: Setting Professional Boundaries

Melissa Urban, the CEO of Whole30 and author of The Book of Boundaries: Set the Limits That Will Set You Free, joins Joe to discuss the importance of setting boundaries in our professional lives so that we can avoid burnout, be present at home, and show up to work as the best version of ourselves.  Melissa and Joe talk about how to approach topics like asking your boss not to call, email, or send texts messages after hours and  how leaders can model similar  behavior within their organizations. 

Click here to listen to the episode


Meet Melissa (@Mellisau)

Melissa is a New York Times best-selling author who specializes in helping people establish healthy boundaries and successfully navigate habit change. She has been featured by the New York Times, People, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Today Show, and Good Morning America, and, and is a prominent keynote speaker on boundaries, building community, health trends, and entrepreneurship. She lives in Salt Lake City, UT with her husband, son, and a poodle named Henry. Learn more about her and her work at her website.

Operationalizing Multi-Domain Operations at the Tactical Level: SOSRA and Seven Steps of Engagement Area Development

by Michael Soyka 

The United States Army made a significant leap forward in modernizing its doctrine to align to current and future threats with the publication of FM 3-0 Operations in 2022. While the new FM  3-0 builds on the changes made in 2017, only the general framework to conceptualize the current and future fight was retained. However, the requirement to operationalize the big ideas and create shared understanding about how Corps and Divisions understand, visualize, describe and direct operations remains. This requirement can be met through the update of several downtrace doctrinal publications that build upon two existing doctrinal frameworks – the fundamentals of breaching, and the seven steps of engagement area development.

In 2017 the Army issued an updated FM 3-0 (Operations) focusing the Army on Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO) and stating that against peer threats all operations are multidomain operations and that all domains will be contested. Those domains included the space domain, the information environment, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum. The manual said that since Army forces would not have the same advantages it had previously enjoyed, units were expected to create and exploit positions of relative advantage.

With the publication of the new FM 3-0 (Operations), the Army describes its operational concept, multidomain operations, as the combined arms employment of Joint and Army capabilities that create and exploit relative advantages to achieve objectives, defeat enemy forces, and consolidate gains on behalf of joint force commanders. The Operational Environment was defined as five domains (land, maritime, air, space, and cyberspace) understood through three dimensions (physical, information, and human). Understanding the physical, information, and human dimensions of each domain helps commanders and staffs see themselves, see the enemy, assess the operational environment, and anticipate the impacts of their operations.

FM 3-0- (Operations) Figure 1-4

FM 3-0 further added the tenets of operations (agility, convergence, endurance, and depth) as well as imperatives:

·         See yourself, see the enemy, and understand the operational environment

·         Account for being under constant observation and all forms of enemy contact

·         Create and exploit relative physical, information, and human advantages in pursuit of decision dominance

·         Make initial contact with the smallest element possible

·         Impose multiple dilemmas on the enemy

·         Anticipate, plan and execute transitions

·         Designate, weight, and sustain the main effort

·         Consolidate gains continuously

·         Understand and manage the effects of operations on units and leaders

While codifying multidomain operations as the Army operating concept, FM 3-0 does not give tactical level commanders below the corps level specific guidance on how their operations will differ from operations in the past. Building upon the doctrine and taking the imperatives and tenets into account, two commonly used concepts from previous doctrine can be adapted to the increasingly transparent operational environment to enable tactical planning: breaching fundamentals and the seven steps of engagement area development.

The second imperative of operations “account for being under constant observation and all forms of contact,” combined with the tenet of convergence, can be interpreted to mean that at any point on the battlefield you are in effect attempting to breach an overwatched obstacle.  That obstacle may be in any domain and the overwatch similarly could originate in any domain.  That means at echelon the fundamentals of breaching or SOSRA (suppress, obscure, secure, reduce, assault) should be considered as a part of all offensive operations. 

The commander at echelon may not have control over the assets required to conduct each of the elements of SOSRA and may only be contributing to a portion of the overall effect. For example, at corps level, suppression and obscuration may be accomplished utilizing joint cyber assets or electromagnetic attack. Secure may be accomplished with ground forces securing position areas for artillery used for reduction through combinations of precision and massed fires. The assault force may be an armor brigade combat team or brigade air assault exploiting convergence. The SOSRA fundamentals are relevant considerations even for the movement from fort to port due to the global reach of near peer forces.

The primary echelon for achieving convergence is the corps due to the ability to access joint capabilities, and at the corps level the SOSRA construct can be used to plan and execute operations. At the division level and below, where units are primarily the consumers of convergence, SOSRA is perhaps even more useful. The SOSRA approach to planning can help a Commander highlight where there is risk and assist in requests for allocation of assets and effects. 

For example, if division commanders use SOSRA to conceptualize movement from ports to forward assembly areas they would see that they have several critical road or rail junctions and that there is the potential for the enemy to deny their use using capabilities from multiple domains. Since division commanders typically do not have the assets to either suppress enemy long-range fires or obscure the enemy’s ability to see their movement in the ground and cyber domains they would need to request support from higher headquarters. That would lead the Commander to request allocation of assets or effects to ensure their freedom of maneuver.

This same analysis and conceptualization could occur at the brigade level and below to similarly inform discussions of risk and allocation of resources. While there will never be enough assets to fully mitigate every risk, the SOSRA approach gives commanders an option that is already relatively well understood. Having a common framework at echelon to describe and reduce risks will significantly increase situational awareness and help with visualization.

When considering defensive operations in a multidomain operational environment, the seven steps of engagement area development are another useful construct that can be broadened beyond their original meaning.  Commanders at each echelon can execute the steps of engagement area development across domains and dimensions of the OE in the context of their assigned areas. When they overlay friendly and threat capabilities across domains and dimensions like layers of acetate graphics, they will find weaknesses and potential mitigations to improve their defense.

The seven steps of engagement area development are: identify all likely enemy avenues of approach, determine likely enemy schemes of maneuver, determine where to kill the enemy force, plan and integrate obstacles, emplace weapon systems, plan and integrate indirect fires, and rehearse. For example, if a Commander examines where the enemy’s likely avenues of approach are in the cyber domain, they may find that they need to physically protect a specific key asset or node in the land or air domain with ground forces or ADA assets to ensure the integrity of the network.

This conceptualization, if utilized at echelon, will enable commander to commander dialogue about the allocation of assets to mitigate risk and create opportunities. Without this concept or others included in updated versions of FM 3-90 (Tactics), as well as FM 3-94 (Army, Corps, and Division Operations) and associated manuals, commanders at echelon will have difficulty in both conceptualizing how to operate in multidomain environments and communicating risk to justify the allocation of effects and resources with their higher headquarters.

  There is no doctrinal reason not to use these two existing approaches to drive the conversation between commanders. In situations where they may not be useful, there will need to be a method for commanders to execute their activities in the operations process (Understand, Visualize, Describe, Direct, Lead, and Assess) that assists in those conversations.  Further application of these concepts during experimentation and in Warfighter exercises will help leaders in charge of modernization refine which units need what capabilities at echelon to accomplish operations in a multi-domain environment, helping to refine the shape of the Army of 2030-2040.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael V. Soyka is an Armor Officer currently assigned as the Executive Officer to the Combined Arms Center Commanding General. He holds a B.S. from the United States Military Academy and an M.A. from Columbia University and from the Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies. During his career, LTC Soyka served with the 4th Infantry Division, the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Regiments, and the 1st Armored Division. He served as a Tactical Officer at the United States Military Academy, West Point and served as the Pacific Pathways planner for I Corps and USARPAC.

Photo Credit: Leo Angelos (Sep 14, 2021) 

Knowing When to Hang Up Your Boots

by Jakob Hutter

Deciding when to hang up your boots is not as straightforward as some make it out to be, especially when someone has dedicated a larger part of their life to serving their country. 

People in the military come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and the decision to continue or transition out of the military can be influenced by a wide range of factors, such as career opportunities, a sense of belonging, job security, and personal circumstances. Transitioning out can also be a challenging experience to adjusting back to civilian life, financial or health concerns, or finding employment.

F. Scott Fitzgerald describes this choice in his essay “The Crack-Up” saying, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

Ten Leadership Lessons From Task Force Sinai

by Kyle McCarter

I recently completed a year as the Executive Officer of Task Force Sinai in Egypt and Israel, part of the 13-nation Multinational Force and Observers. I personally and professionally learned a great deal throughout the 12 months, and I am still mentally processing that time. This post will not teach you to be a brigade level executive officer by discussing ‘colors of money,’ supply chains, fleet maintenance, CSDPs, or staff training. There are plenty of resources and articles for digestion by future executive officers. Below are ten observations on leadership from my time in Task Force Sinai and the Multinational Force and Observers that I wanted to share to promote leader discussions and improve the force.

1. “Get off your cross, we need the wood.” This was a great quote from a member of the French Contingent in our unit. She meant that complaining gets you nowhere, breaking down the team, degrading trust, and making you unapproachable when a problem arises. If your complaint involves a person or any command level, you are usurping that leader’s or command’s ability to lead their organization effectively. The time you use to complain is wasted and could have been used to fix the problem, improve a system, or build a new relationship. More importantly, there are countless Soldiers in your formation shouldering untold burdens and stresses. When you complain, it can belittle their effort or discourage them from pushing toward the objective.

2. Blame is a waste of energy. The New Zealand Contingent commander repeated this point on every possible occasion. Every single mistake is a learning opportunity. No matter how insignificant or catastrophic the mistake or failure, you can use it to improve your systems and build the team. During the AAR process of an event, it is vital to focus on systems and processes that can be improved and not on the human(s) that caused the failure. By moving the crosshair off the poor lieutenant, the GS11, or Sergeant and placing it on an SOP or command program, you fix the issue long-term and help to develop the individual. When Soldiers feel confident that they can make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and not lose their careers, they will be more creative, innovative, and willing to execute in the absence of leadership.

3. Be present. This one is obvious but often overlooked by leaders at all levels. Be actively engaged in SHARP and EEO training events. Compete in unit PT events, Turkey Trots, or lifting challenges (you don’t have to win). Eat in the mess hall with your Soldiers. Be present at promotions and reenlistments. Go to BOSS events, MWR trips, book clubs, and game nights. Lead and teach in OPDs and NCOPDs. You do not need to be the best at these events or the subject matter expert in everything. But you need to be present. Why? The fruits of this small amount of effort create massive amounts of trust in your formation, builds the team, and makes you approachable to your Soldiers.

4. No French Waiters. You are not expected to be perfect or have a photographic memory. Write things down, take notes, make a due out list, and write executive summaries. Throughout the day, you will be approached by your leadership, peers, commanders, staff, and Soldiers. Everyone you interact with will have a need, an idea, or a plan of action. Refrain from letting those interactions be wasted (or a task dropped because you failed to write it down and review your notes at the end of the day).

5. Do not let superfluous boundaries stop you. My battle buddy, the Task Force S3, taught me to look across boundaries to seek solutions. Being deployed in Egypt and Israel brought many challenges related to logistics, troop movements, and staffing actions, all tied to boundaries. Egypt is part of the African continent but not part of USAFRICOM. Israel recently transferred to USCENTCOM but has closer ties to USEUCOM’s Mediterranean countries. Our unit’s mission is peacekeeping in a COCOM traditionally associated with war. We had different higher headquarters for administrative, operational, and technical controls. These are all boundaries. It is vital to look across boundaries for other sourcing solutions to your issues, especially if you are on the seam between COCOMs or have different ‘parent’ commands. You have to think outside the box. You will miss opportunities if you look at your problem set through a lens guided by boundaries.

6. Be a Student. As an executive officer, you will instantly be outside your comfort zone regardless of your primary branch. As an active duty Military Intelligence Officer, I quickly realized how little I knew about the Army when I assumed responsibility for fixed-wing and rotary-wing assets, medical clinics, dog teams, explosive ordinance detachments, sustainment yards, maintenance units, and Soldiers from across the Reserves, National Guard, and the Active Duty. The only way you can survive and be efficient in that position is by relying on the expertise of your Warrant Officers, NCOs, and Soldiers. As soon as you assume the position, schedule time with the experts in your formation to teach you their systems and processes. Modify or establish a unit LPD program to include academics from various specialties in the formation. Most importantly, do not be afraid to raise your hand when you do not understand and ask for clarification.

7. Operations Run at the Speed of Relationships. Our counterparts hailed from Australia, Canada, Columbia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay and operated on vastly different tempos than the American Contingent. In a multinational environment, American culture, hastiness, results-based focus, and candor can cause issues. I found  that early morning walks or runs to talk with the Fijians and Columbians, leaving your desk for teatime with the British and Canadian troops, and having a cappuccino with the Italians and Norwegians are all vital to building relationships. Other cultures are hesitant to work with or trust you in an operational environment without a relationship. These relationships also build a lasting connection that could bear fruit in future assignments.

8. Build Your Bench. Our Canadian and American Command Sergeant Majors championed the development and empowerment of Soldiers and NCOs. Unfortunately, the Staff Officer will often go to every meeting, working group, or IPR while the NCOs and Soldiers remain back in their shops. Do not let this happen. Format your battle rhythm to have meetings, IPRs, and events be designed and led by the NCOICs or Soldiers in the staff. You will experience an initial breakdown in communication and information flow, which will improve over time. You will see two positive results from this process in the long run. First, your staff primary gets vital time back on their calendar. Second, you are giving responsibility to the next generation of our Army’s leaders, exposing Soldiers to greater resources and capabilities and improving the depth of your staff’s bench (vital in a conflict).

9. Emotions Matter. Sometimes it is easy to forget that emotions matter or can drastically impact military operations. It is vital to maintain composure and exude a calming presence. The loss of composure, or ‘Presence’ in American doctrine, can shred the confidence of your subordinates and peers and quickly erode mission success. The commander from the Czech Republic Contingent was often seen as stoic and a calming influence during stressful events. When asked for advice to remain calm under pressure, his answer was simple, “Despite the fact that I am angry right now, I am smiling.” He understood that some emotions are vital to share and project while others must be controlled and only shared behind closed doors to a small inner circle.

10. Maintaining Standards. Finally, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” The commander of the Multinational Force and Observers from New Zealand consistently trumpeted this message. As he moved across the area of operations, he never once walked past a Soldier operating outside of established standards, irrespective of their nationality. He knew that in any military organization, regardless of garrison operations or deployed in a combat zone, a degradation in discipline and standards would eventually lead to death or serious injury. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every leader at every rank to enforce standards in uniforms, vehicle and aviation operations, safety, hygiene, intelligence and operational reporting, radio etiquette, and much more. Every discrepancy walked past or ignored establishes the new normal. Broken glass is not sustainable. 

Closing Thoughts. As an executive officer, you are like any other officer, warrant officer, or Soldier – you are a leader. The ten observations described above can be applied to most leadership positions in our Army and, in many cases, to the armies of our Allies and Partners. Leaders cannot complain in front of the formation, and the blame does not lead to development. Presence matters, take notes, do not let boundaries prevent victory, never stop learning, build relationships and partnerships, develop your subordinates, control your emotions, and maintain standards and discipline. Each observation is simple in its lane but can be difficult with the other leadership challenges. Therefore, it is essential to take a step back regularly and reflect or self-assess how you are doing as a leader.

MAJ Kyle McCarter is a Military Intelligence Officer serving in the 500th MIB-T, U.S. Army Pacific. He has spent the vast majority of his career overseas in multinational missions and organizations.

Author’s Note: I captured the observations in this article in my green notebook – cliché I know. But, joking aside, I would transcribe quotes from leaders, peers, and Soldiers daily. I would capture anything that made me pause, sparked an idea, or made me rethink a personal choice in my past. Then, when I had time on the weekend in the barracks or during a long stationary bike ride, I would flip through the quotes from that week, reflect on their meaning, and try to organize them into themes with quotes from previous weeks. Over time this process began to reveal the direction or mood of the formation on the one hand and shine a light on my personal growth and development on the other hand. This short article is a drastically condensed version of those notes.

<strong>A Lesson from History: Never Present the “Throwaway” COA</strong>

by Rick Chersicla

From 431 BC to 404 BC, the two preeminent Greek city-states of the time engaged in what would be a generational struggle. This war (really a period of intermittent conflict with the occasional stretches of peace) commonly known as The Peloponnesian War, was a struggle for hegemony between the land power of Sparta, and the rising master of the sea, Athens. The best account of the war is that written by Thucydides, himself a veteran of the fighting. Thucydides’ sweeping work (one he wrote with the intent that it be a “work for all time”) contains a multitude of lessons in diplomacy and international relations. 

Beyond its obvious utility for historians, diplomats, and the strategists, the nearly 2,500-year-old work also holds relevant lessons for any boardroom or operations center given its timeless lessons on communications and leadership.

Ep. 83: Mark Manson- Life Advice that Doesn’t Suck

Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,  joins Joe to discuss the lessons he’s learned about life from spending the last decade giving advice on everything from relationships to resiliency. Joe and Mark talk about happiness, finding purpose, and ways to increase perspective. Mark also shares insights he gained working with Will Smith on his bestselling memoir, Will

Click here to listen to the episode


About Mark

Mark is the three-time #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, as well as other titles. His books have sold around 20 million copies, been translated into more than 65 languages, and reached number one in more than a dozen countries. In 2023, a feature film about his life and ideas was released worldwide by Universal Pictures. Check out Mark’s Website at http://www.markmanson.net

Yours, Mine, Ours: Identifying Responsibilities Amongst Leaders

by Andrew Wilhelm and Michael Hellman

In the winter of 2021, my new Platoon Sergeant and I sat down over coffee and began building our new partnership. I had seven months of Platoon Leader time under my belt and a relationship with my first PSG that we both considered highly effective. However, I understood the importance of establishing initial expectations and wanted to set our team up for success. During that initial counseling, SFC Hellman and I discussed our families, backgrounds, and goals for the Army. We spoke frankly about the Platoon’s strengths and weaknesses, set joint goals, and identified an initial action plan. By the end of the session, it was evident that we would work well together and that the counseling had gone well. But, as would become his habit, SFC Hellman showed me how we could improve our session. He introduced me to the “yours, mine, ours” exercise.

<strong>Transparency and Stability: The Twin Beacons of Leading Highly Effective Organizations</strong>

by Ben Showman

The Leader’s Responsibility

The Army has a clear definition of leadership. It is carefully and intentionally crafted for Army leaders to flexibly accomplish missions while simultaneously improving their organizations. 

However, well-defined as it may be, it’s very easy to drift away from. 

Even gifted Army leaders can lose sight of their responsibility to positively influence their unit under the pressures of a high operational tempo and competing priorities. Leaders can combat this natural tendency to drift with an emphasis on transparency and stability across their organization.

Ep. 82: Joe McCormack- Are You Living a Distracted Life?

Joe McCormack, author of BRIEF: Make a Bigger Impact By Saying Less, returns to the podcast to discuss his follow-up book NOISE: Living and Leading when Nobody Can Focus. He shares how our electronic devices are hijacking our ability to focus, talks about the concept of infobesity, and offers ideas on how we can be deliberate about where we invest our attention. 

Click here to listen to the episode


About Joe

Joe McCormack is on a mission to help organizations master lean communication. In an age of shrinking attention spans, non-stop interruptions, and floods of information, the messages business and military leaders send out are getting lost in a sea of words.

An experienced marketing executive, successful entrepreneur and author, Joe is recognized for his work in narrative messaging and strategic communications. His book, “BRIEF: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less”(Wiley, 2014) tackles the timeliness of the “less is more” mandate. Because even expert communication can be thwarted by an audience that has lost the capacity to pay attention, he follows up with a pragmatic guide to managing a distraction-filled environment in NOISE: Living and leading when nobody can focus” (Wiley, 2020).

He speaks at diverse industry and client forums on the topics of brevity, storytelling, change and leadership. A passionate leader, he founded The BRIEF Lab in 2013 after years dedicated to developing and delivering a unique curriculum on executive communications for U.S. Army Special Operations Command (Ft. Bragg, NC). He actively counsels military leaders and senior executives on effective, efficient communication and produces a weekly podcast series called “Just Saying”.

The BRIEF Lab’s mission is to help organizations master concise communication to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness. His clients include Mastercard, Grainger, Boeing, Harley-Davidson, TransUnion, BMO Harris Bank, DuPont and a variety of U.S. military units. Previously, he served as SVP, Corporate Marketing at Ketchum, a top-five marketing agency in  Chicago, where he directed its corporate marketing practice and introduced new service models to enhance messaging and deepen relationships with market influencers.

He received a BA in English Literature from Loyola University of Chicago where he graduated with honors. He is fluent in Spanish and has broad international experience. He lives in  Pinehurst, NC.

Is Foreign Service ILE Right for You?

by Jake Kohlman

As I filled out my location preferences ahead of Intermediate Level Education (ILE), I knew I wanted to try something other than the traditional path of the Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I considered sister service schools like the Naval War College in Rhode Island or the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California but ultimately decided, after discussion with my wife, to put a foreign service school, the Ecole de Guerre in France, as my number one preference. 

A few weeks later I was thrilled to learn I had received the assignment with the Schools of Other Nations program (SON) and would be PCSing with my family to study in Paris.

Origin Story

In 2013, Joe Byerly thought something was missing in his journey to become a better leader. He wanted to create a place where leaders could share their hard-won lessons and help each other along the journey. He started looking in the place where he captured his own lessons, quotes from books, and ideas for the future –his green notebook.

Today, FTGN is run by a team of passionate professionals who want to help others lead with the best version of themselves.



Once Joe realized that reading could help him expand his mental models and help him unlock insights into past experiences, he adjusted his reading habits. He started reading more variety. He quit reading one book at a time and started reading multiple books at the same time. Each month, he shares his reading journey with thousands of other leaders who are interested in finding books that will help them become
better leaders and better people.


Over a decade ago, Joe figured out that writing helped him better understand lessons he picked up from experiences and reading. Now, Dan Vigeant and his talented team of editors help leaders share their lessons on the FTGN Blog.


Every Sunday morning, Joe and his writing partner Cassie Crosby start your week off with a short reflection to help you think about how you lead others. Each email has a book quote, a 2-min reflective post, and 2-3 questions to drive your reflection.


Joe dives into the notebooks of military leaders, coaches, artists, athletes, and business leaders to find the lessons we can use to help all of lead with the best version of ourselves.



Purchase copies of My Green Notebook for your team. And coming soon: Official FTGN merch and exclusive courses and leadership coaching opportunities.