They Weren’t Warriors


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US Soldiers in WW2

“They weren’t warriors. They were American boys who by mere chance of fate had wound up with guns in their hands, sneaking up a death-laden street in a strange and shattered city in a faraway country in a driving rain. They were afraid, but it was beyond their power to quit. They had no choice. They were good boys. I talked with them all afternoon as we sneaked slowly forward along the mysterious and rubbled street, and I know they were good boys. And even though they weren’t warriors born to kill, they won their battles. That’s the point.


Even the dizziest of us knew that before long many of us stood an excellent chance of being in this world no more. I don’t believe one of us was afraid of the physical part of dying. That isn’t the way it is. The emotion is rather one of almost desperate reluctance to give up the future. I suppose that’s splitting hairs and that it really comes under the heading of fear. Yet somehow there is a difference.

These gravely-yearned-for futures of men going into battle include so many things — things such as seeing the ‘old lady’ again, of going to college, of staying in the Navy for a career, of holding on your knee just once your own kid whom you’ve never seen, of again becoming champion salesman of your territory, of driving a coal truck around the streets of Kansas City once more and, yes, even of just sitting in the sun once more on the south side of a house in New Mexico. When we huddled around together on the dark decks, it was these little hopes and ambitions that made up the sum total of our worry… rather than any visualization of physical agony to come.”


Pulled from two sections of Brave Men, Ernie Pyle’s eyewitness account of World War II.

Photo cred:

Thankful for the Waves


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Laird Hamilton 3

“Water always finds the path of least resistance. It flows. You never see square turns on a river. There’s always a curvature. I think life’s like that, too… So you could say that I believe in things being predestined. How could I not? When I think of my life, I feel as though I’ve always been given the absolute right circumstances to help create who I am. If I hadn’t grown up in Hawaii… surrounded by the era’s greatest surfers throughout my childhood, I don’t know where I would have ended up. And I don’t want to know. I’m grateful for all of the twists and turns of fate that have brought me here.

My spiritual beliefs have helped me walk the path that I knew I needed to be on. I’ve been reading the Bible since I was 16, when I first discovered it (through a girl I was dating — how else?). I’ve always found something golden and truthful in its pages. […]

I believe that our imagination is our connection to higher knowledge. It’s the most formidable tool that we have, an amazing source of inspiration. And then, of course, there’s the world we live in, which is no slouch in that area, either. What we’ve been given here is precious: majestic in its smallest details and its grandest spectacles. Anytime you feel like you’re in danger of forgetting that, I recommend taking a good look at a 50-foot wave. Anyone who can be around something that powerful and not feel humbled has some serious analyzing to do. You can’t deny the spritual world when you’re staring into its eyes.”


From part three of Laird Hamilton’s Force of Nature: Body, Body, Soul, and of Course, Surfing.

Photo credit:

Lose Your Fear in the Ring


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Anthony Joshua 2

“Fighters are the most exposed athletes in the world. During a fight, the crowd observes every twitch and movement. Still, spectators rarely see fear in a quality fighter. ‘That,’ says [boxing trainer Cus] D’Amato, ‘is because the fighter has mastered his emotions to the extent that he can conceal and control them.’ But whatever a fighter says, the fear is there. It never goes away. He just learns to live with it. ‘And the truth is,’ D’Amato continues, ‘fear is an aspect to a fighter. It makes him move faster, be quicker and more alert. Heroes and cowards feel exactly the same fear. Heroes just react to it differently. On the morning of a fight, a boxer wakes up and says, “How can I fight? I didn’t sleep at all last night.” What he has to realize is, the other guy didn’t sleep either. Later, as the fighter walks toward the ring, his feet want to walk in the opposite direction. He’s asking himself how he got into this mess. He climbs the stairs into the ring, and it’s like going to the guillotine. Maybe he looks at the other fighter, and sees by the way he’s loosening up that his opponent is experienced, strong, very confident. Then when the opponent takes off his robe, he’s got big bulging muscles. What the fighter has to realize,’ concludes D’Amato, ‘is that he’s got exactly the same effect on his opponent, only he doesn’t know it. And when the bell rings, instead of facing a monster built up by the imagination, he’s simply up against another fighter.'”


Pulled from a section on Cus D’Amato in Thomas Hauser’s The Black Lights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing.

D’Amato was the trainer behind legends like Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson, who he adopted at sixteen when Tyson’s mother died. When D’Amato passed away, Tyson discussed his old trainer:

[D’Amato] didn’t know me. He told me with no hesitation that I was going to be the youngest heavyweight champion of all time… If it weren’t for that old, Italian white guy, I would’ve been a bum. Cus D’Amato was a physical person like I am. He was impulsive and impetuous like me. If somebody upset him, he would just go after them — even at 75… the psychologists would’ve had a field day with him.

He’s simply up against another fighter… It applies to a lot of life.

Move along:

Photo courtesy of Irish Mirror

We Don’t Carry the Burden of Disliking One Another


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Mitt Romney

“We have very fundamental and sound principles that guide both the president and me. He and I, of course, both feel the pressures and tensions of a close contest. It would be easy to let a healthy competition give way to the personal and the petty. But fortunately we don’t carry the burden of disliking one another.

Barack has had some very fine and gracious moments. Don’t tell anyone I said so, but our 44th president has many gifts, and a beautiful family that would make any man proud.

In our country, you can oppose someone in politics and make a confident case against their policies without any ill will. And that’s how it is for me: there’s more to life than politics. […]

At the Archdiocese of New York, you show this in the work you do, in causes that run deeper than allegiance to party or any contest at the moment. No matter which way the winds are blowing… you answer with calm and willing hearts in service to the poor and care for the sick, in defense of the rights of conscience and in solidarity with the innocent child waiting to be born. You strive to bring God’s love into every life.

I don’t presume to have all your support… and I’m certainly not going ask for it. But you can be certain that in the great causes of compassion that you come together to embrace, I stand proudly with you as an ally and friend.”


From Mitt Romney’s speech at the famous Al Smith dinner, given around this time four years ago.

So much to like here. Though I didn’t vote for Mitt in the election — and wrote here and there why I decided not to — I admire the guy and, four years later, think he would have made a very fine president. I especially like how much of a gentleman he is — that he consistently brings value to the communities and organizations he’s led while never succumbing to pressure to take the sleazy way out. When a challenge arises, answer with a calm and willing heart.

You can watch the (very funny) 2012 Al Smith dinner below.

Images courtesy of Vice and Wiki


Mitt Romney and Barack Obama



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Jocko Willink

Echo Charles: How do you deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeats, or other disasters?

Jocko Willink: I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with this. I use one word in most of these situations — “Good.”

This is actually something that one of my direct subordinates pointed out to me. He would call me up, pull me aside with some major challenge and say, “Boss, we have this problem and that issue and another thing…”

And I would say, “Good.”

Finally, one day, he was telling me about an issue that he was having, and he said, “I already know what you’re going to say.”

And I said, “Well, what am I going to say?”

“You’re going to say ‘Good.’ That’s what you always say. When something is wrong, you always just look at me and say ‘Good.'”

And I said, “Well, yeah, and I mean it.” And that’s how I feel. When things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that’s going to come from it.

Oh, mission got cancelled? Good — we can focus on the other one.

Didn’t get the new high speed gear we wanted? Good — we can keep it simple.

Didn’t get promoted? Good — more time to get better.

Didn’t get funded? Good — we own more of the company.

Didn’t get the job you wanted? Good — you can get more experience and build a better resume.

Got injured? Good — needed a break from training.

Got tapped out? Good — better to get tapped out in training than tap out in the street.

Got beat? Good — you learned.

Unexpected problems? Good — we have the opportunity to figure out a solution.

That’s it. When things are going bad, don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated.

And I don’t mean to just spout off a cliché, and I don’t mean to sound like Mr. Positive. I’m not. But find the positive… Get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, reengage, and go out on the attack. It’ll bring that attitude to those who look to you for guidance and leadership, too.”


Jocko Willink, speaking recently on his podcast — you can also see a clip of this speech.

Willink is a retired Navy SEAL commando and world-class mixed martial artist. On another one of his podcasts he tells the story of leading a night patrol during one of his tours in Iraq. A worried soldier ran to the patrol as they set out from the base and informed them that recon had spotted several new enemy positions on their assigned route. Willink’s response was, apparently, unflinching: “Good. That’ll give us a chance to get after it.”


David McCullough Takes on Donald Trump


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David McCullough

“What has the Republican party come to? That at such an unsettling time as this, with so very much at stake, so many momentous, complex problems to be addressed — and yes, so much that we must and can accomplish — why would we ever choose to entrust our highest office, and our future, to someone so clearly unsuited for the job? Someone who’s never held public office, never served his country in any fashion.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who so admirably served his country his entire career, said there were four key qualities by which we should measure a leader: character, ability, responsibility, and experience.

Donald Trump fails to qualify on all four counts. And it should be noted that Eisenhower put character first. In the words of the ancient Greeks, character is destiny.

So much that Donald Trump spouts is so vulgar and far from the truth and mean-spirited; it is on that question of character especially that he does not measure up. He is unwise. He is plainly unprepared, unqualified, and it often seems, unhinged. How can we possibly put our future in the hands of such a man?

We’re on the whole — let’s not forget — a good country, of good people, with good intentions.

Good, even great, leaders have played decisive roles in our history, time after time. We have believed from the start in worthy achievement, and have set landmark examples for how very much can be accomplished when we work together, infused by positive spirit.

Inspired by Theodore Roosevelt, we built the Panama Canal. Led by President Harry Truman, we created the Marshall Plan. President John F. Kennedy called on us to go to the moon — and we went to the moon! Through leadership of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, we ended the Cold War.

And there is no reason that under the right leadership, we can’t continue on that way.”


David McCullough’s short video take on Trump, posted to the Facebook page “Historians on Donald Trump.”

Other highlights from McCullough:

They Were Men


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Robert Kennedy

“Every American boy should be made to play football and box and participate in all kinds of athletics, and above all the American should be taught discipline and decent living. Then he should be given a year of the toughest kind of military training, not the kind that we know, but the kind I gave my Rangers.

God, but I wish I had those boys now; we would tear the Germans stringy. I hear of those boys now and then and although they are almost all gone now, they have done unbelievable things and are spoken of almost in a tone of reverence by officers and men alike who have fought with them.

They were men.”


The closing of Major Randolph Millholland’s letter to his daughter, Ginnie Schry, on December 22, 1944. Millholland trained the 29th Rangers for the D-Day invasion, leading them in a five-week course in amphibious landing, cliff scaling, and hand-to-hand combat. The group was ultimately disbanded and never saw combat as a unit, though Millholland’s men were later deployed separately throughout Europe.

I found this excerpt in chapter four of John Robert Slaughter’s book Omaha Beach and Beyond. The picture is of Bobby Kennedy, taken by Jacques Lowe, and available at 1stDibs.

Move on:

Red Auerbach’s Victory Cigars


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Red Auerbach and Bill Russell

“[Red Auerbach] was a master at handling people — a master psychologist.

Time and again you hear Celtics describing Red as ‘a player’s coach.’ To the world outside his own huddles and locker room he was… a boisterous dynamo who peered at you through cigar smoke after his troops had impaled yours.

But not with his own players. He supported them. He had their backs. They knew it, so they did everything to please him. He emphasized people far more than X’s and O’s.

‘Red Auerbach convinced his players that he loved them,’ said Earl Lloyd, the NBA’s first African-American player. ‘So all they wanted to do was please him.’

Former NBA coach Hubie Brown remembered what worked so well: ‘[Red] had a relentless fast break, pressure defense and Bill Russell in the back that allowed him to play this style. They were also very organized in their play sets. Then, I feel he had the ability to motivate them individually, because it is extremely difficult to maintain excellence. It comes down to that ability to maintain excellence. He knew how to push the right button on each guy to get him to be subservient to the team.’ […]

The 1960-61 squad may have been the Celtics’ finest under Auerbach. The team went 57-22 and, amazingly, had six scorers averaging between 15 and 21 points a game without one finishing in the top 10.

‘In any good coach is the ability to communicate,’ Auerbach explained. ‘In other words, a lot of coaches know their X’s and O’s, but the players must absorb it. Team was important. We didn’t care who the starting five was. The sixth-man concept was my idea.’ […]

Auerbach could be a taskmaster in practice. Sure, the Celtics were knee-deep in talent, but they also worked harder than other teams…

Bill Russell and Red Auerbach

As the Celtics’ routinely whipped the opposition, Red would frequently sit back and enjoy the end of the game — with a cigar. Hence, the ‘victory cigar.’

‘It all boils down to this,’ Auerbach said. ‘I used to hate these college coaches or any coach that was 25 points ahead with three minutes left to go, and they’re up pacing and they’re yelling and coaching because they’re on TV, and they want their picture on, and they get recognition. To me, the game was over. The day’s work is done. Worry about the next game.

‘So I would light a cigar and sit on the bench and just watch it. The game was over, for all intents and purposes. I didn’t want to rub anything in or show anybody what a great coach I was when I was 25 points ahead. Why? I gotta win by 30? What the hell difference does it make?

‘The commissioner [Maurice Podoloff] said you can’t smoke the cigars on the bench. But there were guys smoking cigarettes on the bench. I said, “What is this, an airplane — you can smoke cigarettes but not cigars?” No way. I wouldn’t do it.’ […]

On April 28, 1966, Auerbach, who earlier in the season had announced he’d be retiring, coached his last official game. Appropriately, it was a Game 7, at Boston Garden, against Los Angeles. Russell had 25 points and 32 rebounds, enough to offset Jerry West’s 36 points, and the Celtics narrowly won, 95-93.

Red’s victory cigar was knocked from his mouth by the surging crowd. He lit up another in the dressing room and Russell pointed to Auerbach, saying, ‘There is the man. This is his team. He puts it together. He makes us win.'”


Pulled from Ken Shouler, who has written portions of Total Basketball: The Ultimate Basketball Encyclopedia. You can read more in John Feinstein’s book with Auerbach, Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game.

Auerbach won 9 championships in 10 years, a record that’s only surpassed by Phil Jackson, who won 11 in 20 years. He was the first coach to implement team defense strategies and fast breaks as an offensive weapon. Auerbach also spurred other innovations: he drafted the first African-American, Chuck Cooper, in 1950 and fielded the first all black starting five in 1964.

… knee-deep in talent, but they also worked harder…

(Photos courtesy: SNCA, Boston Sports, Rompedas)

Red Auerbach

Squaring off against Japanese Soldiers


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Japanese Soldiers

“Unleashing unrestricted mayhem against fellow humans was contrary to everything I had been taught by my parents and Sunday school teachers, but I was forced to justify the decision to be a Marine and learn to kill Japs.

My rationale… was simple. I felt it was my first duty to protect my country and family from Japanese aggression. I would trust God to deal with the religious part of my internal conflicts… I also adopted a fatalistic approach. If the training we endured didn’t kill us, the enemy would.

During a marching break one hot afternoon, a Marine remarked, ‘Screw all the training. I’m sick and tired of all this pussy-footing around. I want to get overseas and slap me a Jap!’

This remark was made in the presence of Sergeant George Lutchkus, who immediately cut him off, saying: ‘Hold on, Sonny! Let me tell all of you a thing or two about the Japanese soldier! Number one, he is not the caricature you see in newspapers with bombsight glasses and buckteeth. The average Japanese soldier has five or more years of combat experience. Their Army doesn’t have a ‘boot division’ like ours. Don’t forget, the Japs have already conquered half the nations in Asia. Remember Pearl Harbor? Not only are they better trained than you are right now, many are old hands at combat fighting and have a strict military code they live and die by called Bushido. Literally translated it means ‘way of the warrior.’ With their code, combined with their pledge to die for Emperor Hirohito, who they consider God, they will die before surrendering.

‘Jap soldiers are well equipped and are experts with their weapons. They are trained to endure hardships, which would have most of you guys writing your congressman. I don’t like Japs, but I respect them as fellow soldiers. I learned my respect the hard way on Guadalcanal.

‘Japs are the world’s best snipers, experts at the art of camouflage, and get by on a diet of fish heads and rice. They will never surrender and will commit hari-kari rather than be taken prisoner.

‘Heck, they don’t have corpsmen; if they are wounded, they are considered damaged goods. So, sonny, mull that over, and don’t ever let me hear you complain about your training again. There will be a time when your life will depend on what you learn in the days ahead.’”


Pulled from the section “Know Your Enemy” in Chuck Tatum’s memoir Red Blood, Black Sand: Fighting Alongside John Basilone from Boot Camp to Iwo Jima.

Remember this excerpt the next time someone debates the ethics of The Bomb. There will be a time when your life will depend on what you learn.

Read on:

Dick Winters on Staying Disciplined under Pressure


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Dick Winters

“In an attempt to escape the tension that combat caused, I developed a heavier than usual exercise regimen and I attended church on a regular basis. There were only a few days that I didn’t run two to three miles, do eighty push-ups, sixty sit ups on a foot locker, a couple of splits, and some leg and trunk exercises after the day’s work was over. As a result I kept in pretty good shape — not what I’d call wrestling shape, but good enough for army work. Physical activity kept me mentally alert, built up my endurance, and kept me supple.

Another thing I noted about being overseas and away from home was that I found myself not giving a damn about trivial things. Maybe I was spoiled. If I received mail, good, but it didn’t bother me one way or another if I didn’t. The only value about receiving mail is that it temporarily took my mind off my work and back to the land I dreamed of all the time… On Sundays, I prepared for church, buttons shined, boots polished, and ribbons in neat rows on my tunic. I considered it a very special privilege to be able to go to church and I didn’t want to miss the chance. If combat had taught me anything, it taught me what was essential in life and what wasn’t. In my prayers before D-Day, I had always thanked God for what He had done for the world in general and asked that others would be given a break in the future. I had also thanked Him for a lot of things that I now found to be insignificant. The only thing I asked for now was to be alive tomorrow morning and to survive another day. That was all that mattered — that was the only thing as far as wanting anything for myself. All other things had become extra, nonessential, and I could not be bothered or burdened with nonessentials. Not when battle was the payoff. […]

Evening allowed a few minutes of quiet reflection… The Germans were evidently not as tired as we were because they fired their machine guns all night and hollered like a bunch of drunken kids having a party. Before I dozed off, I did not forget to get on my knees and thank God for helping me to live through this day and ask His help on D+1. I would live this war one day at a time, and I promised myself that if I survived, I would find a small farm somewhere in the Pennsylvania countryside and spend the remainder of my life in quiet and peace.”


Pulled from Dick Winters’s war memoirs Beyond Band of Brothers. Winters parachuted into Normandy on D-Day as the commander of Easy Company, as shown in the HBO series Band of Brothers.

Mitt Romney: What Matters Most to Me in Life


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Mitt Romney

Interviewer: What matters most to you — and why?

Mitt Romney: It’s not one thing. So I’m gonna give you a longer answer.

One: I believe in God…

In believing in God, I believe therefore we are all his children. I believe that God loves all of us, and I believe that He loves us as you would love your children; some are doing naughty things, some are doing nice things, but you love them all. And I believe that I will be measured and you will be measured based upon what you have done for your fellow children of God…

The person I care for most in life is my wife.

We met in high school. I love her passionately. She is the most important person in my life. If I could do anything, on any day, it would be to be with her. That’s what I enjoy most in life.

Close thereafter is to be with my kids.

My boys and their wives and now 23 grandkids. The greatest joy I have in life is being with them, sitting around in the backyard or at the beach — that’s my greatest source of happiness and the most important thing to me.

Coming beyond that is a circle which includes my church and my sense of service to them… I happen to believe that the currency in life is the people that you love and care for you. The friends you have.

Most of what you’ve learned here, you’ll forget. The people you’ve met here, you’ll remember for the rest of your life – and will form a big part of your wealth. That’s your balance sheet when life is over. Who loves you and who you love and who are your friends.

So what’s the most important thing to me? My God, my wife, my kids, and my fellow human beings.


From the end of Mitt Romney’s “View from the Top” interview on leadership and values, which he gave to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business last year.

Keep it simple. Notice what things this star in business and politics didn’t talk about in his answer.

Image credit: NPR

Read some others talk about their core beliefs: