, , , , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , ,

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:

Courage Can Be Misunderstood


, , , , , , , , , , ,


“Courage can be misunderstood. It is more than the ability to overcome the jitters, to quell fear, to conquer the desire to run. It is the ability to know what is, or is not, to be feared. An infantryman charging a bunker is not hampered by the fear that he may be struck down a few paces from his fighting hole. A pilot is not afraid of losing all hydraulic power in his aircraft. They are prepared for those outcomes. A Marine in battle fears disgracing himself by running. He fears not losing his life, but losing his honor. He may not be able to preserve his life, but he can always preserve his honor. That much is within his power… To fear disgrace but not death, to fear not duty but dereliction from duty — this is courage. The truly courageous do not live in anxiety from morning to night. They are calm because they know who they are.

We overcome our natural fear and fight for three chief reasons: First, we are well-trained and well-led. Second, we have convictions that will sustain us to the last sacrifice. Third, we fight for one another…

There is another kind of physical courage — a quiet courage that affects those all around. It is the kind of calm, physical courage that a leader has when all around is chaos and noise…

Many times, decisions will have to be made in the rain, under the partial protection of a poncho, in the drizzle of an uncertain dawn, and without all the facts. At times like that, it will not always be possible to identify all the components of the problem, and use a lengthy and logical problem-solving process to reach a decision. In combat, the decision often must be immediate, and it might have to be instinctive.”


Pulled from the section “Individual Courage” in chapter two of the Marine Corps handbook Leading Marines.

They are calm because they know who they are. I’ve recently gotten into Jocko Willink’s podcast, after hearing his interviews with Tim Ferriss and Sam Harris. Jocko is a former SEAL who led the reconquest of Ramadi and a nationally ranked jiu jitsu player. His podcast focuses on applying military leadership strategy to business and personal decision-making, and he discusses Leading Marines in his Podcast #8.

Image credit: BlackFive.

Go on:

Appraising Reagan


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ronald Reagan

“The daily expressions of Reagan’s long-term strategies – inveighing against deficits while creating them, aspiring to eliminate nuclear missiles while increasing them – were often inconsistent. Failure to choose between opposing alternatives sometimes produced a zigzag pattern in his presidency. But a tolerance for cognitive dissonance, like other forms of irrationality, can be an effective negotiating tactic. The Soviets, like Tip O’Neill, were never quite sure which Reagan they were bargaining with. His ability to live with contradiction was, on balance, more blessing than curse.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many people remembered having had views similar to Reagan’s about the vulnerability of the Soviet Union. But Reagan, as Robert Gates wrote in his 1996 memoir From the Shadows, ‘nearly alone truly believed in 1981 that the Soviet system was vulnerable not in some vague, long-range historical sense, but right then.’ Reagan’s commonsense view of historical inevitability was that an unworkable government was sure to break down sooner or later. ‘Communism is neither an economic or a political system – it is a form of insanity – a temporary aberration which will one day disappear from the earth because it is contrary to human nature,’ he wrote in his unpublished 1962 statement, ‘Are Liberals Really Liberal?’ […]

Reagan himself never used phrases such as ‘American exceptionalism’ or ‘moral clarity,’ any more than he talked about being visionary or consequential. He had a low level of self-consciousness, and expressed these concepts simply by being himself. If none of his successors formed the kind of bond he did with the country, it may be because few politicians have ever embodied the idealized national character the way Reagan did. Simplicity, innocence, and personal modesty are rare qualities in public life, and difficult ones to fake. People excused Reagan’s lapses and contradictions because they believed he was genuine and recognized themselves in his aspirations.

Reagan’s claim to the nation’s affection rests on his American personality: his homespun wit, his good nature, and his native optimism. His claim to greatness rests on his role in the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism. To put the case in the simplest possible terms, the Soviet Union didn’t fall; it was pushed. The push that Gorbachev gave it was the proximate cause, but it reflected pressure that Reagan began to apply four years before Gorbachev came to power. Gorbachev’s goal was to render it harmless. Through the shove he gave it came from farther away, it was intended to produce the outcome that followed, one that he was nearly alone in thinking possible.”


Pulled from chapters 10 (“The Ash Heap of History”) and 15 (“Tear Down This Wall”) of Jacob Weinberg’s short biography Ronald Reagan, which was published last month.

Yes, I posted this so I could chalk one up in the February ’16 column. Shameless, especially on a leap day, but the 41-month post streak is alive.

You can see Weinberg, who’s a self-identified liberal, discuss the book and some revelations about the Gipper in his recent conversation with Christopher Buckley at the 92nd St. Y.

Why Do Southerners Like Football So Much?


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stuart Stevens

Mark Halperin: Why is football such a big deal in the South?

Stuart Stevens: It’s actually a profound question. In part it’s because the South had no professional teams for many years, and that had an impact on the “Friday Night Lights” atmosphere that you had. I think that for a long time, when the South wasn’t very good at much, it was good at football – so there was an inverse pride in football which people clung to. I also think that there is something about the violence of football that appeals to southerners in a special way.

And the way in which football has changed the culture of the South, particularly the racial elements of the South… I find fascinating. It’s parallel with rugby in South Africa. It really was the first time, for many southerners, that blacks and whites cheered for each other, and meant it, and that’s been a very powerful force.


From Stevens’s interview with Halperin on With All Due Respect in September.

Stevens, who was the top strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, took leave from work the year after the failed run. In this time, he and his 95-year-old dad (pictured above) committed to revive their long dormant family tradition and attend every Ole Miss football game that season. You can read about their experiences and Stevens’s reflections on family, legacy, and the South in his new book The Last Season: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime of College Football (I haven’t read the book, but you can see a short introduction below).

There’s more:

A Secular Scientist’s Argument against the New Atheists


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

David Berlinski and Christopher Hitchens

Moderator: Dr. Berlisnki, you’re not a Christian, and indeed, you’re not religious as I understand it. Why do you argue for a Judeo-Christian influence in society?

David Berlisnki: I presume you are not asking me in the hopes of a personal declaration. And I won’t say that this secular Jew has a remarkable degree of authority when it comes to these moral events: after all, I have lived my own life under the impress of having a good time, all the time. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt to hear these words from someone such as myself, because at least you are hearing them from someone with no conceivable bias in their favor.

In its largest aspect, Western science is of course an outgrowth of Judeo-Christian tradition, especially to the extent, perhaps only to the extent, that it is committed to the principle that the manifest universe contains a latent structure that can be discovered by the intellect of man. I think this is true. I don’t think this is very far from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ declaration that, ‘the world is charged with the grandeur of God.’ […]

You know, Stephen Hawking just published a book, one explaining, again, how everything began — why it’s there, why we shouldn’t worry about God, et cetera. And to paraphrase the claim that he now makes: having given up on “A” through “L”, he now champions something called “M-theory” to explain how the universe popped into existence. I respect Hawking as a reputable physicist. But I can tell you this: What is lamentably lacking in every one of these discussions is that coruscating spirit of skepticism which a Christopher Hitchens or a Richard Dawkins would bring to religious claims, and then lapses absurdly when it comes to naturalistic and scientific claims about the cosmos.

Surely, we should have the sophistication to wonder at any asseveration of the form that the universe just blasted itself into existence following the laws of M-theory — a theory no one can understand, whose mathematical formulism hasn’t been completed, which has never once been tested in any laboratory on the face of the earth…

Finally, the fact that the earth, our home, is a small part of the physical universe does not mean it is not the center of the universe. That is a non sequitur. After all, no one would argue, least of all Mr. Hitchens, that the doctrine that home is where the heart lies is rendered false by distance. We should be very careful about making these claims. I agree that the universe is very big; there are lots of galaxies and amazing things. And there is certainly some biological continuity between humans and the animals that came before us. But as for the central religious claim that this particular place is blessed and important, that’s different. No doctrine about physical size rebuts it…

And as to why should a secular Jew open his mouth to questions pertaining to the Christian religion? It’s a big tent. I’m presuming I would be welcomed.


An excerpt from Berlinski’s 2010 debate with Christopher Hitchens. Berlinski’s erudition reaches almost comical heights in this debate, which is, in my opinion, one of the more compelling Hitch ever did. I like the whole thing, but you can watch the pulled section below.

Continue onward: