The Founding Failure

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Thomas Paine

You’re reading an excerpt from Serial Box and the Associated Press’s new series, 1776: A World Turned Upside down

Learn more about this project here.

The Founding Corset-Maker

 Tom Paine had been a dabbler at many things, a failure at all. Some of it he blamed on King George. It rankled even after he left England, so one day he took his quill and decided to put it all down on paper.

On January 9, 1776, in Philadelphia, a pamphlet titled Common Sense was published. It said in public what even most of the red-hot hawks had dared think only to themselves:

that the King was a tyrant and the only path for the colonies was independence. It uttered – screamed aloud – the unutterable. Probably more than any one event, more than any one person, Common Sense made it respectable for the general citizenry of the 13 colonies to conceive that their Revolution would be revolutionary; indeed to think of a communal future in independence.

The anonymously published pamphlet and the mystery of the author stoked interest. King George III thought Ben Franklin wrote it; others assumed it was John Adams. No, Thomas Paine had, even though he signed it merely, “an Englishman.” Thomas Jefferson once said Paine was “the only writer in America, who can write better” than Jefferson himself. That was a signal compliment coming from a college-trained lawyer who was about to do some significant writing of his own. It is even more surprising considering that Paine was a dropout from school, who failed twice as a corset-maker, twice as a tax collector, had two failed marriages, and was now on his second country, having been in the colonies less than two years. He had not yet dropped out of writing because he had scarcely ever done any. But, he scored a hit almost the first time out.

Tom Paine was 37 when he arrived in Philadelphia in November 1774, bearing a recommendation from Benjamin Franklin, a first-class boat ticket and strong opinions about George III. He had been born in Thetford, north of London, where he may have imbibed some views of democracy in Georgian England. Thetford had 2,000 inhabitants and two members in Parliament although only 31 citizens were eligible to vote for them. For Paine’s father, religion and profession were equally straight-laced: Quakerism and corset making. By scrimping, the father managed to send the son to school for seven years, but Tom was weak in Latin, the requisite passport into the professions. He had, however, developed an interest in the natural history of Virginia and ran off to sea, leaving his apprenticeship behind. His father caught him before the boat could sail, but Tom got away again, this time successfully. He next appeared as a journeyman corset-maker in London, age 20, and eventually drifted to Sandwich, setting himself up in the girdle business with a £10 loan, which he never repaid. “Disgusted with the toil and little gain,” Paine, now a widower, bade farewell to corsets for good and became an excise tax collector.

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#1776serial Week Begins!

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Welcome to #1776serial week on From the Green Notebook!

One of my favorite periods of American history is the American Revolution. Today, its memory still shapes the character of our Nation’s politics, our economy, and how we see ourselves in the world So, I’m excited to announce that From the Green Notebook is teaming up with Serial Box Publishing to announce the release of a new 12 episode series 1776: The World Turned Upside Down. Each day this week, we will release an excerpt from the series.

So what is the series?

In 1976 the Associated Press commissioned three of its top journalists to write a month-by-month account of America in 1776 for the bicentennial. Originally, these accounts were collected in a beautiful, large format book for their member news organizations. Now, more than 40 years later, the collection will be made available to the general public in full for the first time.

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How to Unlock Your Creativity Like Da Vinci

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When we hear the name Leonardo Da Vinci, the word “genius” immediately comes to mind. His 16th century works “The Last Supper,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Vitruvian Man” are still popular today. The Da Vinci namesake is a part of our modern pop culture as well: The Da Vinci Code dominated the New York Times best seller list, he’s been represented in cartoons, movies, and TV shows, and the episode of Epic Rap Battle about him has had more than 74 million views on YouTube. Most recently, in November 2017, one of Leonardo’s paintings broke a record, selling at auction for $450 million.

There is something, however, we should know about his genius: he wasn’t born with it or guided to it through schooling (he didn’t go to one) — he worked for it. And as Walter Isaacson argues in his latest biography, Leonardo da Vinci, his style of creativity is exportable, because we can all learn from and adopt one of his most important practices — keeping a notebook. Leonardo’s creativity and artistic abilities grew out his talent for making connections across disciplines. And it is within his notebooks where those connections were made.

So what can Leonardo’s notebooks teach us about creativity?

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Does Popularity Get You Promoted?

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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?

 

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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

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“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?

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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

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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

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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

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Science Fiction

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25 Podcasts to Build Your Library

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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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