Book Review: “Pistol in the Pulpit”

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This book review is almost a continuation of a previous blog I have done entitled “Don’t be a Statistic.” In the previous blog, I talked about our own personal responsibility of protecting ourselves against the real-life threats of terrorists at our door steps and active shooters seeking to kill. That blog stemmed around the church shooting that happened in Fort Worth, Texas a few months ago. Their church video was released and I broke down the video discussing things that went right (which were minimal) and all the things that, looking at it from a security prospective, went wrong.

     I was seeking some reading material that may have some specific research on statistics of active shooters, primarily in churches. Does the shooter typically like to sit in an area with more members seated or be away to the side in a less congested area? How many shooters sat in the middle of a row as opposed to the aisle seat? How long into services did the shootings happen? Is there anything else that could give me a little more insight to how active shooters think in a church environment? 

After a tough decision of looking at multiple books, I settled on “Pistol in the Pulpit: A biblical and tactical response to active shooters in the house of worship” by Tim Rupp. I read multiple reviews on a handful of books and what sold me on this one was the author’s background and the positive reviews. The reviews had testimonies from church security teams and how it helped establish and set a foundation for their teams. 

     I feel like this is a good place to make this statement or point. Whether you are an individual that attends a church or not, or a believer in God or not (which if not I’d be more than willing to talk) many principles in this book could also be extended to businesses, schools or any establishment that you deem could be a target of an assault and could be applied to reduce the chances of a successful attack.

     Tim Rupp has a law enforcement background that spans four decades that includes his time as a law enforcement officer in the Air Force and his time with the San Antonio Police Department. Tim’s father had a similar background in the military and once retired became a full time Pastor. Tim spent time as a patrol officer, homicide detective, patrol sergeant, sex crimes sergeant, police academy supervisor, and internal affairs sergeant-investigator. He was a certified police firearms instructor and supervised firearms and tactics for several years. After retirement, Tim was called to the full time Pastoral position in Idaho. With his understanding of security, tactics and looking at it through a biblical approach, I thought it would be a great mesh of everything I was looking for.

     Chapter 1 is entitled “A New America.” The main points he proposes here is he outlines how over the course of our time in the US, certain situations have forced our hands to change how we operate. He mostly uses law enforcement examples to prove his point, which I believe were all relevant and full of great information. He tells us how in 1979, patrol officers or first responders were trained to only secure the perimeter and take up positions when called to shootings or possible hostage situations. After that happened, then the special teams of SWAT or negotiators were called in to handle the situation. They were taught when they had to enter and clear a house or any room, it was to be done slow, deliberate and methodical. Anyone who knows how to conduct room clearing knows this is actually how you get hurt or killed. The reports say the Columbine school shooting was a tipping point in which tactics began to change.

         He then outlines how years ago, many public attacks were happening inside government buildings because they were “soft” targets. They had no real structure to their security procedures and once government buildings tightened up, then school shootings became the norm. As we tighten the security of our school systems, shooters are now turning to the next public soft target, and that is the church.

     A great report he found about adapting to situations was the statistics on school fires and deaths associated with them. In the 1970s, schools were designed in an open architecture concept. There were no doors to the classrooms. The ones with doors had windows with no locks. The reason was school administrators were more concerned about school fires and deaths caused by fires at the time. Between 1908 and 1958, there was a reported eight school fires in which 10 or more students died claiming a total of 755 lives. From 1958 to 2015, there have been ZERO fires in which 10 or more deaths occurred! The take away was the school system was a “soft” target for fires. The administration realized and accepted the issues and acted with fire codes, sprinkler systems, fire drills, and fire proof materials. The schools rehearsed these drills and made aware the reality to the children that a fire could occur. The take away from this chapter is to realize where we are this day and age. The church, being a “soft” target by default, is next in line for the active shooter. The shooter isn’t motivated by the greed of money or assuming power. They want to kill. What better place for them to act out their crime than in a place of love, mercy and a sense of safety. It’s the duty of the members to bestow those characteristics to everyone, but to also protect the flock.

     Chapter 2 is “What does Scripture say?” I am not going to dive too deep into this. I feel this isn’t the appropriate platform to start debating Scripture to refute or defend this topic. Things can get misconstrued and taken out of proportion. He does outline some scripture use and themes on the protection of the church. I will give the sub sections that he uses for his discussion. “Joshua fights with the sword” Exodus 17:8. “David guarding the sheep.” 1 Samuel 17:8-9. “Nehemiah-armed and ready.” Nehemiah 1:3. “Elisha commissioned to kill.” 1 Kings 19:16. “Peter carried a sword.” Luke 22:49. “What did Jesus say?” Matthew 6:13. “A Balanced Approach.” Romans 12:20.

     Chapter 3 is titled “Organizing a Safety Response Team.” He gives some vignettes on incidents that occurred at churches where an SRT had stopped a potential active shooter incident. He goes into detailed discussion on the organization of three different types of teams to consider within the church: An armed SRT, an unarmed SRT, and a medical SRT. He outlines some considerations of people to be cognoscente of that may cause disturbances. He outlines and gives guidelines to consider and attributes to look for when selecting individuals for your teams. He gives tips on wording to use for church policies and how to handle disturbances to help in case anything has to go to civil courts. He provides statistics, which was something I was looking for initially in the book. A 2014 study showed that 94% of church shooters are male from various ethnical and racial backgrounds. The ages ranged from 13 to 88 years of age. 55% of the shooters had some connection to those they attacked. Handguns were used 59% of the time. Rifles were used 26% of the time and shotguns 8% of the time.

     Chapter 4 is “Training-for reality.” He again begins with some vignettes using what was called the Newhall shooting. The moral of this vignette is how two criminals who were stopped at a traffic stop were able to out gun and kill four professionally trained cops. He explains how many people when training for life and death situations stick to flat ranges, with no elevated heart rate, and they don’t move around on the range which is the formula to real life gun fights. Well, these criminals trained like they planned to fight. Mr. Rupp then moves to retired COL Dave Grossman who wrote the books “On Combat” and “On Killing” to talk about the levels of awareness. He labels them condition white, yellow, red, and black. If you have never read these two books and have not heard about these levels of awareness, check them out. I bet many of you live in condition white, when we all should remain in yellow.

     Chapter 5 is “The implications of being involved in a shooting.” Here, he uses some material from Mr. Grossman’s studies. He talks about another vignette of how the police were involved in another shooting where some of the officers died. It was another example of how these ordinary men, who are raising families, love sports, watch movies, and are all around “good” guys and how if not trained properly, these “good” guys when thrown into hatred and a gun fight, odds are not on their side. Here you’ll read that when in a fight you should automatically go to condition red as discussed earlier. You’ll dive into perceptual distortions discussions. He’ll explain a little why time seems like it slows down for some and speeds up for others. Why do you experience tunnel vision? Why does memory loss happen and why sometimes don’t you even remember the loud sounds of your gun going off? Why do some people literally “freeze” when confronted with extreme fear? 

     Chapters 6 and 7 are entitled “Firearms Basics” and “Equipment.” Nothing fancy to discuss here.

     And the last chapter talks about general security concerns for the church.

     Ok. Finally. The part I have been dying to get to. My overall review and reception of the book and it’s material. So, this book is definitely intended for an individual or group of people that have little to no knowledge or background in security and how to handle life or death situations. Now, don’t get me wrong. I will ALWAYS walk away with some knowledge or better insight into something I just read no matter how familiar or advanced I think I am at it. I found myself though at times resisting the urge to just move on to the next chapter. Now, consider this a good thing as far as me validating this book. If I disagreed with his thoughts and methods, I would be picking it a part and analyzing it in depth so as to warn you all about its material. But, everything I read is right in line of how I would teach or even write this book.

     The main take away that I would promote from the book is how we MUST adapt to our times and culture when it comes to security. The police departments all over the US had to adapt to all sorts of things to make their methods more practical and efficient with the evolving criminal. If you remember my book review on Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers” there was a section on how cops changed tactics on how they pulled motorists over during traffic stops. The whole premise of the book to drive the point home was about Sarah Bland and her traffic stop that led to her suicide.

     This is a good book for the average church member or anyone interested in protection to pick up and read. I’d even maybe recommend it as a men’s study for your small groups. It’s a great topic for men to discuss. It has tons of scripture to go over and analyze. And it will hopefully lead to wiser men leading and protecting the flock within the congregation. 

     I would rate the book a 4/5. For me, it wasn’t as in depth as I was hoping for. But again, for others it may be some stuff that would blow your mind. You never know. Being picky, there were some sentence structures and formatting that at times made it hard to read. But, goes to show the author is just a normal man wanting to get his knowledge out there to help people and not be fancy about it.      I’m hoping, for now, this will be the end of my church security phase. But I just think it’s important overall that we not allow ourselves to live in condition white and take back this great country and make it a place where kids can stay out past dark again. You could leave doors unlocked and didn’t have to worry about some random dude snatching your kid out of your arms while at the mall and so on. And as an insight on the current book I’m reading, Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Tipping Point,” he discusses how one small event or action can turn into an epidemic that changes and reshapes our culture and society. Let your personal diligence and commitment to resist and stop evil be you own “Tipping Point” victory. With all our own victories being won together, we can take back and reshape this country to what our parents and grandparents may have called “the good ol’ days!”

Too Many Indians and Not Enough “Willing” Chiefs

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Let’s say there was a scenario that took place when it was late at night in a large city. A young woman is walking down a street when a man jumps out to rob her. There is a long struggle and fight that ensues. In the vicinity, multiple individuals hear and see this incident. Some people are in the local diner finishing up dinner; some are in their cars passing by; some are in their upstairs apartment viewing the act; some are even only a few feet away from the struggling and frantic woman. Who do you believe called the police in this scenario? Who should call? Who should do anything at all? The answer is everyone should attempt to stop it in some manner. But, when there is an opportunity for someone to step up and take charge and control the situation, there is a phenomenon that sometimes occurs called “The Bystander Effect,” also known as “Diffusion of Responsibility Theory.”

     This suggests that when an incident occurs, where a citizen needs to take control of the situation, and there is a large group from which that citizen needs to emerge from, that most citizens will assume someone else will do it. They assume someone has the better skill to handle the situation or that someone already had their phone out and called 911. All of which is the excuse within ourselves to not have to be responsible for the situation and shows a lack of preparedness.

     I use this scenario to outline how we can and should navigate the work force or any everyday situation where leaders and workers need to co-exist. It shows how at a moment’s notice a leader must be established quickly, where some leaders need to resort to being a worker. It also illustrates how workers (Indians) can be that necessary worker, but do it with a leader (Chief) mindset. 

     In my job as an instructor, I get to teach, coach and advise military leaders on combat advising. As I prepared for my duties as an instructor in this field, I assessed that one issue I’d have to mentor on is all these leaders wanting to take charge. I envisioned my 12 to 20 advisors, all at one time, would want to make a decision and undermine what their actual “boss” said to do. What I learned after a few rotations of classes is that this was not the norm at all. In fact, the military leaders that were not assigned to a “leadership” slot, did exactly what they were told with little push back. Now, you may be thinking that this is good and this is how it is supposed to be. And yes, you are correct. But what was happening was when the assigned leaders were occupied with their task on the battlefield, these other “leaders” not assigned to a leadership role would not make decisions at all and would wait to be told what to do. It was very counter-productive and given that these were all Sergeants and Officers was very perplexing. 

     After seeing what I’m perceiving as a new norm, I evaluated my thoughts on “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” Is our culture turning so upside down that we as humans have lost the drive to insert ourselves where we can to show what we are made of? To prove to ourselves that we have what it takes to lead? That it’s now “too many Indians and not enough willing chiefs?” Now, these are just thoughts from observations from the past 6 months or so in this job. One thing I have started telling my students to try and break them of this mindset that could have a negative impact on the team if fostered incorrectly is “when you are in a situation where too many chiefs and not enough Indians is in play, and you aren’t assigned a leadership role, default to being an Indian but with a chief mindset.”

     In my situation, examples of doing their job with a chief mindset is…

  1. Assisting, without being told, to get accountability of Soldiers after an attack because you know that’s what needs to happen. 
  • Adjust your own security slightly if need be because there is a better position 10 feet to your left.
  • Start running around finding casualties if there are injured. 

     Anything that you can do for the team if you were in charge of it, you would want others doing, is how you should operate. Be the worker, but attack it with a chief mindset.

     Now, as much as all men want to grunt and grit their teeth and exercise their A-Type personalities, someone ultimately has to submit and let someone take charge when there is no clear chain of command. I’d argue there are advantages to not forcefully taking charge of said “thing.” It’s something you must humbly evaluate as a leader. It’s something that, depending on the severity of the fallout, if said task fails, you can assess how much of an impact will it have on the situation. Here’s some considerations I have for allowing others to lead while others willingly take a step back.

  1. You practice humbleness. You admit here that you actually don’t know it all. You have prepared your mind to allow yourself to learn and are open to having your beliefs changed. The person you allowed to step up may actually teach you something and surprise you. On the flip side, the person who would normally think you’d be the one stepping up is able to take an opportunity to make you possibly proud of them and show you they have what it takes.
  • It allows you to practice the power of silence. How many times have you been in a meeting or brain storming session and EVERYONE thinks they need to talk and say something? Happens a lot. This is the technique I love. I know MY end state. I know the agenda I want to push. Allow others to talk and get it all out. You gain intel on their thoughts and what their rebuttals will be to your eventual statement. It also allows you to organize your thoughts so you can speak clearly and thoughtfully. Once I believe it has died down, then I speak. Hopefully, after the boss has heard everyone else blab on about nonsense for an hour, this new voice, new thought coming out, new calm energy could be a deciding factor in the win you are looking for.
  • It gives you an assessment of the individual. How do you know if that person should lead something if you know nothing about them, especially in your work force? Assessing them gives you the opportunity to coach and teach them either during or after the incident. Also, it gives you insight into whether this person is ready for the next level of responsibility or if they should remain where they are and continue to train and grow.

     I had an incident the other day while my Advisors were training in a village where I had certain individuals in leadership positions so I could assess their capabilities. I had a very senior leader on the team acting as security and to be additional eyes and ears for me so we could help give our assessments after the exercise. What I saw almost immediately after the enemy attacked leaving several casualties, was this senior leader completely taking over the scenario. He was making decisions that the Team Leader should be making. For example, taking the radio from our indirect fires leader and doing it himself. Even though he inserted himself and became that chief, it completely derailed training. Everyone knew they were missing out on an opportunity to learn. It caused confusion. And it actually hurt this senior leader’s credibility. This also caused me the headache of pulling the individual back to say “no.” The point I want to make here is we as leaders and really as people need to think more. EVERYTHING IS a learning opportunity. It’s my belief we should absolutely be meticulous on what we take the charge of and in and how we allow others to step up. And when we allow others, we don’t fully sit back and allow them to fail. Now, the task might fail, but we won’t let it end there. We will educate and train afterwards to figure out what went wrong? Why it went wrong? What could we have done to fix it? And who fixes it? Failure is feedback. Remember that. Don’t be so caught up that everything has to happen correctly the very first time. Plan your days. Have goals and outcomes you want to accomplish. Teach someone something. Lead and influence your bubble of influence. Be better today than you were yesterday!

Book Review: “Raising Men” by Eric Davis

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The last book review I did on “Discipline Equals Freedom” was a Christmas gift given to me early. I had been so excited to get it for Christmas that my wife let me open it early. Well, a week later, the book was read and the review was posted. Now I went into panic mode because I was unprepared and didn’t have my next book ready. Luckily, as she always does, my wife came through with early gift #2! She’s the best. This time, I opened a book I hadn’t placed on my Amazon wish list and this is always a good thing because my wife is very thoughtful on her gift giving. The book I got this time was titled “Raising Men” by Eric Davis. I knew, once I saw the title, that I was in for an emotional rollercoaster. I say emotional roller coaster because anyone who knows me personally and has been around my family enough knows that pouring everything I have learned from my stupid days as a teenager to an adult into my children is a top priority in my life. I knew that there would be things in this book that would convict me and challenge me. I knew that as soon as I started reading this book that I was going to be obsessed with fixing things that I have been lacking in as a father and would want to immediately start implementing the ideas suggested by Eric.

     Now, as coincidence would have it, Eric Davis is also a former Navy Seal as Jocko was in the last book I reviewed. I’m not even sure my wife made the connection so don’t go off thinking I have a “thing” for SEALs even though I respect the heck out of every single one of them. But, being military minded, I knew this SEAL’s technique parenting his kids, especially his son, would be right up my ally. I knew that we would connect on some things and I was interested to see if I was already doing some of the TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures) that he suggests in the book.

     Eric’s background includes more than 16 years in the military and over a decade inside the SEAL teams. He was recognized as one of the premier sniper instructors in the military at his time of service. He talks about his time as an intelligence gatherer overseas and being a part of numerous operations seizing ships out in the ocean. He talks about these things and others in more detail, but that would be a post within itself. The things he described he had done in the military is quite impressive to read about and had my attention and respect immediately.

     He begins his book with an “Introduction” section. Here he outlines how the book is set up and pretty much sets the tone for what you are about to read. What I noticed immediately that I always like in books is within each chapter he has them broken down into sections. So, it makes it easy to find stopping points and allows time to be able to reflect on what you just read. Within each chapter, he also includes little blurbs of random thoughts, sayings, stories or examples of what the chapter is about. If you have a study Bible, imagine reading a chapter in Acts. As you read the story, the authors will sometimes put a section off to the side of a page explaining what’s going on or input some theological information to help wrap your head around what you are reading. This is similar to what Eric does. The main message and theme he presents in this introduction section is to “parent on purpose.” To make everything that you do about your kids and advancing them. I liked this frame of mind, because even though it took me many selfish years to understand this, the life I live isn’t for me anymore. It’s for Christ and my family. That’s it. Anything that I want personally I try and put on the back burner if there is something else I can do to further God’s kingdom or my family’s lives.

     Chapter 1 he titles “Building a Team.” Here he makes a comparison to what age a child is to what phase you are in for SEAL training. For example, he compares SEAL training weeks 1 through 7 to a newborn through age 2. He says just like the SEAL training for those weeks, parenting with a newborn through 2 years old is constantly being conditioned. Not knowing what’s coming next, late nights, early mornings, and just getting beat on physically and emotionally. It’s actually quite true as you read through it. At the end of each chapter, he provides a “Debrief” section. What he does here is basically ask those leading questions for you to honestly answer for yourself to improve. At the end of this chapter, for example, he asks the questions “What does quitting being a father look like to you? What are some examples of quitting you’ve seen in others and yourself? Do the dive buddies (he explains that term in the chapter) your kids choose help them with their mission (basically their growth and development) or hurt them? Do they produce confidence in your children? Is it something you monitor daily? What are the roles and responsibilities of each member of your team (family)? How do you and the members of your team pivot between roles and support one another?

     He calls chapter 2 “Lead from the Front.” Here he challenges the father to be the “point man” of his team. To select the routes his team will follow and to scan ahead for any enemy or obstacles that would hinder team movement. Another thing you start seeing in this chapter are stories from Eric’s wife and children corresponding to the subject discussed in the chapter. The son, Jason, who is now in his mid 20s, reflects on his dad’s teachings when he was younger and how they set him up for success as a young man. The same thing happens with his wife, Belisa. She describes as a wife how she helped support her husband’s fathering to her children for the best interest of the kids.

Chapter 3 is labeled “Don’t be Right. Be Effective.” Here he talks about owning up to your mistakes as a parent instead of trying to hide them or sugar coat them. He talks about teaching your son (and this applies to daughters as well) to own up to their mistakes. He has a section about fairness. This is something I really related to. Something I coach in correction to my children EVERY TIME I hear it is when they say “Well that isn’t fair!” It’s absolutely taboo in my home. And I say this with the risk of beginning a rant, but guess what kid? Life isn’t fair and life doesn’t care. Get that in your head now. It’s how you take that unfairness, process it, think of that 2-3 steps ahead (which should’ve already been happening) and keep moving forward. While everyone else is beat down by the so called “unfairness” you keep grinding and smash what isn’t fair in its mouth! Okay, not too bad of a rant there.

     Chapter 4 is “It’s Easier to Keep Up Than Catch Up.” The principle here is to get out of lazy parenting and engage with your kids. He has a sectioned labeled “Always Say Yes!” And it’s not so much of saying yes to having candy for dinner. Saying yes to your teen who wants to stay out till 0100. This is more along the lines when parents use “no” as the easy way out. When we as parents say things like “it’s too dangerous.” Well guess what Dad. You want to be an idol in your son’s eyes? Go attack that dangerous thing with him. Figure it out Dad. Find the sense of adventure. What about “it’s too late?” Is it too late when it’s 7PM and the sun is almost down and you’ve been at it at a long day’s work and your son wants to go pass the ball? What else you doing that it’s too late? Got things to do? Well, have you been getting up earlier to knock that stuff out so you have free time with your kids? Are you exercising and eating right to have that extra energy? We say “I’m too busy or it’s too far away.” I’d argue, as Eric does, that all this is crap and it’s our excuse as fathers that our priorities are messed up. Our routines are messed up and that we aren’t parenting with a purpose. Say yes to these activities. 

     Chapter 5 is “Hesitation Kills.” The discussion here is how he handles discipline. And as you can suspect as the title says, don’t hesitate to what he says “coach the correction” as opposed to just simply “correct” the issue. He talks about allowing your children to fail and make mistakes. Not allowing yourself to save them from doing something wrong just because it will force you to fix the problem or actually have to parent and work through the problem with them.

     Chapter 6 is a quick chapter over working with your son developing a positive mindset. 

     Chapter 7 is labeled “It Pays to be a Winner.” He talks about how to reward your son in sports. He gives his opinion on “participation trophies.” He talks about failure always being an option.

    Chapter 8 is titled “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.” Chapter 9 is “Get off Your Butts.” Chapter 10 is “Respect a Fight.” Chapter 11, and the last chapter, is “Taking Back What’s Mine.”

     That’s an extremely abbreviated version of each chapter, Now, my assessment of the book. It was a very positive read. When I was a younger father, I was prideful and “didn’t need any other man to teach me how to raise my kids!” How dumb and immature. Isn’t this how all mentorship is conducted in life on any topic? We seek the wisdom and guidance of individuals who have lived through a particular experience. Who have succeeded and/or failed. We learn from those experiences of others. And what I realized many moons ago was it’s all about saving as many “tools” as you can for your “tool kit.” My oldest daughter will be 12 in less than a month. So, when I talk to a friend at work or wherever and they have a 15 year old daughter for example, guess what I’m doing, I’m asking every question under the sun that I can think of to gain insight. We all should be doing that, learning from each other. I think we fail our children when we pass up an opportunity to seek guidance and advice because we think we “know it all.”

     Now, I will say, a lot of how I parent my kids, and especially my son, aligns with a lot of what Eric says. Really, it’s because it’s a military leader’s way to form a team using military leadership strategies. A civilian reading this book will understand everything in here. Don’t think that just because you don’t know how to talk “military” doesn’t mean you won’t understand anything in this book. I will also say he is a very blunt writer and uses some military language every once and while. Words kids shouldn’t be reading. But it doesn’t take away from the book. 

      I’ve already started implementing a few principles from the book into my parenting style. I think that any father that has a son will benefit from reading this book. And if you don’t have a military background, there are some really cool and exciting SEAL stories Eric talks about to drive certain points home. I mentioned in the beginning that I knew I’d be in for an emotional rollercoaster due to the reasons mentioned earlier. And they were true. He does a good job of identifying why he chooses the way he does something, why it works, and how it could be ineffective if done incorrectly. He also discusses how he developed that parenting technique from situations he learned as a SEAL leader. I rate this book a 5/5 for it’s easy to read format. its chapters broken up into sections, and the styles and techniques are challenging but obtainable. Nothing in here gave me a bad feeling of what I was reading. My wife got the book off Amazon if you are interested. If you’re a father, whether it’s this book or not, find yourself a book that will challenge you as a parent. If you say you don’t want to, then assess why? And you can’t accept the excuse of “I don’t have the money.” You can’t put a price on being a better father to your children. “I don’t need to.” If that’s the case, then why aren’t you rich for writing the most perfect parenting book in the world? “I don’t like to read.” Oh, you don’t like to provide yourself the opportunity (those who follow my blog ,we talked about opportunity, right?) to improve and humble yourself to allow a new skill or outlook on being a parent?      We owe it to our children to “parent with a purpose.” This world is going to be enough to fill our kid’s minds with filth. And honestly, we allow it most of the time. Take away the electronics. Pack the car with camping and hiking gear and get out of the house. Go play ball with the kids. Get your butt on the basketball court or the trampoline and play with your kids. Oh, you’re too out of shape? That’s your fault, not your kids. Don’t punish them for that. Oh, bad back or knees? Join the club. Men, take back what is ours. Raise these boys to be men. It’s the old saying that states “Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. Weak men create bad times. Bad times create strong men.” We are in the weak man stage. And I’m open for you to change my mind. Start today raising men. Not tomorrow. Not when they turn X age. Not just on the weekends. But NOW! I’ll see you on the battlefield!

Don’t Be A Statistic

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I sometimes wish the world wasn’t so stinking crazy so that my mind doesn’t have to go through the process it does every time I exit my home. I know I’m not the only one who lives this life and works through this process. There have been many times I’ve entered a cul-de-sac or done loops in a large parking lot when I suspect I’m being followed in a car. If I’m stopped at a red light and a car pulls up even with my windshield, I pull up even more to be out of their line of fire. My wife and kids know the exact tactical seating arrangement when we eat a restaurant and they know where each exit is. I never wear my military uniform off base…EVER! I don’t put any identifying marking on my vehicle, such as military paraphernalia or the little family stickers on the back windshield that displays family size and whether or not you have a dog. I park under street lights when in a parking lot at night. We have a family “break in” procedure in case there’s a burglary (I haven’t set up one yet in this house though, shame on me). To some, this seems like an unnecessary or crazy way to live. But, I’ll tell you one thing that I will not be, and that is a statistic!

     I have preached this to anyone that will hear for many, many years to not be a statistic to attacks and violence. This passion of daily survival comes from the history of cowardly attacks that have blown up over the past decade. From my very own eyes, seeing the worst in evil in Iraq and Afghanistan. My sole purpose on this Earth now is to lead my bubble of influence and to protect, educate, and to provide for my wife and children. To do this properly, a lifetime of self-improvement, education, physical fitness, and setting the example must be maintained. 

     This post surfaces around the tragedy that occurred in Fort Worth, Texas involving yet another church shooting. Once the video surfaced, I never intended to watch it. Videos like that bring an anger in me I don’t like. But, while home for Christmas, someone brought it up and I chose to watch. After watching the video, I had some things I wanted to discuss. What I’d like to do is break down the video. I’d like to point out some things that I saw, good and bad, to hopefully help citizens out there not be a statistic. I want to point out some tactical circumstances that can be improved upon to help mitigate these types of terrorist attacks. And for the record, there are some things that weren’t good that occurred with the men in the congregation. I hate that this happened. My prayers go to the friends and family of the wounded and killed. I mean absolutely no disrespect. I just want to point out possible factors that lead to the death of these men and how we could potentially prevent or at least minimize casualties in the future. 

     So, bottom line up front. When talking security, you have to profile and judge individuals. You have to consider past vignettes and patterns established by individuals in the past and draw some conclusions. This isn’t a popular statement. I get it. Now eventually, if those conclusions come to be false, then good. Look at the congregation. Just looking at the people there, what do you notice? What is the age range? I see a predominately elderly congregation. It could be an earlier service which typically has more elderly individuals. It could be a traditionally older church. It could be situations where it’s a special event for elderly members that bring them together. Whatever the case, minus a few of the children, I don’t see many more middle-aged individuals (25-45 years old).

     So, the shooter gets up and approaches a gentleman standing on the back wall. Now this is where judging and profiling comes in. I read that this church had a security team that has been established by its members for many years. I’m not sure if the gentleman that the shooter approached was on the security team or not. But here are things I noticed and would be looking for in this situation and what you should be looking at also. I can’t tell if he has a long hat of some sorts or if that is long black hair. Looking at his jacket, it almost looks like a motorcycle jacket or a “cut” of some sort. He looks to be much younger than the rest of the congregation. This is enough for me to keep my eyes on him. It’s not aligning with what the rest of the congregation looks like. If I’m a shooter, and I have knowledge that this is an older church, that makes it a good target due to the limited movement and everything else associated with elderly physical abilities. 

     I then start looking at posture. Typically, people want to keep whatever “bad thing” they have away from you. I can’t see the shooter’s hands, but I see his posture. Hands typically want to be close to the source of the weapon or drugs. That’s why cops, when searching a vehicle, will check predominately everywhere within arm’s reach of the driver first. The driver wants to keep the drugs or weapons close to them. It’s a sense of security. They want to be close to the source so they hesitate hiding it away from their reach. He definitely has his right hip away from the gentleman. And he is leaning in to talk which is a subconscious effort to keep distance from someone who can potentially stop you by getting close. It looks very deliberate. That would be another indication. That is the hip where he pulled the weapon from and the hip away from the gentleman.

     Let’s continue with the gentleman the shooter was talking to. What happens when the standing gentleman points to whatever he was pointing at and takes his eyes off the gunman? That’s when the gunman shows his weapon. Keep your eyes on the perceived target. The shooter used this as his moment to strike. Count from the time you first see the gun until the first round is fired…I counted four seconds! I know if not trained or thinking about security in church, that this type of reaction will do this to someone. Have them stall. Fear is gripping. The fight or flight mode wasn’t even able to expose itself. But for those that are involved in this situation, if a gunman is in a church, he is not there to take y’all’s wallets. He’s going to shoot. He’s there to kill. And your ONLY response to such an event is to attack. You have to make up your mind NOW and be ready for it. The saying “action defeats reaction”  is true here. 

     Now let’s transition to the gentleman sitting down to the right of the man standing (left side as you are looking at the screen). He, I’m guessing, is a part of the security team. I think this (and I could be wrong) because he has his eyes fixed on the shooter the whole time. At some point the man sitting down does a waving motion. Not sure what it was signaling. But count how long it takes for the man sitting down to pull his gun out before the gunman shot first…around 4-5 seconds! It’s hard telling what it was that took so long. Nerves? Tight holster? Couldn’t get a grip of pistol? Jacket in the way? Any of these are possible scenarios. I also wonder how many times he trained shooting a weapon sitting down? This could have been a possibility to keep his profile lower and reduce surface area for the shooter to hit while drawing his weapon. The article I read was that these security men shot regularly. If you are going to the range to work on self-defense shooting, that needs to be very creative. You need to train while sitting in a chair. You need to train with objects in the way. You need to train with a malfunction or unknown magazine capacity (give your range buddy your mags and have them place a spent cartridge or unknown number of bullets in mags to simulate malfunctions and magazine changes). You need to train with your weapon close to your body. You need to conduct stress shoots. This is where you do exercises or anything that gets the heart rate up that affects your thinking, muscles, vision and breathing. You can get on YouTube and research any of these drills. This is establishing your “IADs” or Immediate Action Drills. Those drills that you’ve done a million times that become muscle memory. 

     Now we see the church member shoot the gunman with a well-placed shot to the head and he drops immediately. This is a good thing. Next, he approaches the gunman and still has his gun drawn to the enemy. That’s what you want to do, keep your weapon drawn on the enemy until their death is confirmed. We then see, what I can count, four men with weapons drawn approaching the enemy. QUICK, FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THIS VIDEO OR HEARD OF THIS STORY, HOW MANY OTHER SHOOTERS ARE THERE?!?! You don’t know do you? Well neither do they. The men had tunnel vision and all funneled to the shooter. Security on the gunman was great, but what about a possible second shooter? Someone has to get enough frame of mind and take charge and orient their fires or at least their visual to the congregation to engage more targets. Whether it’s a shooter or an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in Iraq or Afghanistan, work off the notion that “if there’s one, then there’s two.” 

     ***Random observation here. But as I watched the video for the umpteenth time, when the shooter was shot in the head, I did not see any splatter on the wall. This leads me to believe he was wearing something on his head***

     Now follow the man who shot the enemy and watch where he stops. Watch a few seconds later a man with a red shirt cover the enemy as well. What do you notice about their two positions in relation to each other? Do you feel uneasy about their position? Let’s say the gunman was only wounded and immediately popped up. What do you suspect could happen? Friendly fire for sure because the angle suggests they are across from one another. It’s a marksmanship safety principle of “know your target and what’s beyond it.” Know that if you miss or a round goes through your intended target of where that bullet could possibly go.

     I also work off the thought of “being the most dangerous man in the room” theory. I am not talking about the man who is wearing Solomon tactical shoes with 5.11 pants. The one wearing his Glock T-shirt and sweet Oakley ballistic glasses with his “killem all and let God sort them out” camo hat and tattoos all over. Hiis Nalgene bottle looks like he’s sponsored by every main gun retailer and tactical company out there. Even though this man just may be the most dangerous man in the room, who knows this man is dangerous? Everyone can at least perceive he is such and that alone makes him a target. A gunman will target that man in any situation because he poses the biggest threat. To properly be “the most dangerous man in the room,” be dangerous, but don’t look it. In a church setting, if you are on a security team, you should be mistaken as a Sunday greeter. Don’t make yourself a target.

     I urge everyone reading this to start evaluating and assessing how you protect yourself and others around you. Evaluate where you sit in public places and what the pattern of life is around you and whether or not  it’s normal. Has a vehicle been following you? Do you have a house defense plan? Have you talked these things through with your kids? The heck with scaring them. If you are fostering the right environment, they will seek safety and trust within you. They need the knowledge to know what to do when you say to do something in a situation like this. I show my kids these videos. I broke this down to them as I did here, educating them. I always ask my daughter, who is 12, how it makes her feel and she says “I understand why you do it and if you aren’t scared, then neither am I.” 

     Not everyone is able to or willing to carry a gun. Ok that’s fine. Another option is what is called a “tactical pen.” These pens are a little larger than normal pens. They are thick and heavy and have a blunt point on the end. These can be used to strike an enemy in the temple to incapacitate him or her or use to break windows. They are also great because they can go through an airport or even a sports security since it isn’t a weapon. It’s a pen, but it is a weapon. It’s great. Get on amazon now and get one for everyone in your family.

I’d be willing to bet that if we went back all the way to the Columbine shooting in Colorado many years ago and talk to every friend and family and victim involved in every public shooting since then, that 100% of them would have the same statement…”Never thought it would happen to me.” Don’t be a statistic. Whether you are 18 or 80, and you have decided to take the responsibility to protect yourself and others, ensure you aren’t just going through the motions. If I run two miles every day for one year, I will not improve and be able to run a marathon and do well at it. Neither can you expect to shoot your weapon even once a week and only shoot at targets, at the same distance, in the same scenario and expect to be absolutely efficient in a self-defense scenario. Again, my family’s prayers are sent to the families  affected by this shooting and past victims’ families. I just want this country to wake up and get their noses out of their phones. For men to step up and learn how to protect others and educate those around them and be ready to protect when the time is called. God bless our service members around the world and all our first responders protecting us in our communities. Thank you for everything you do. #merica!

If Opportunity Doesn’t Knock, Build A Door

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Throughout my years in the military, I’ve learned that deep reflection on past events and situations in our lives is a healthy way to grow as a person and to tackle future endeavors. I reflect often because when I started my adult life, I never would have thought that 14 years later I’d be responsible for four kids, seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, been through all the military schools that I’ve done, and have the opportunity to mentor Soldiers as an Infantry leader and a Drill Sergeant, been an instructor, been a church speaker, and many other occasions that I’ve had the opportunity to take advantage of and to get me to where I am today. One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years is a word I used in the last sentence…Opportunity!

     Opportunity is a major part of the successes I’ve had and is an infinite concept in our lives. Opportunity is all around us. Opportunity comes as often as we fight to create it. I’ve learned that any successful leader should deal with opportunities two ways: 

  1. Create opportunities for yourself.
  2. Create opportunities for your Soldiers, employees, subordinates.

     I’ve assessed that creating opportunities for yourself and others is more vital and more of a discussion point than taking the opportunity itself. That’s simply because not every opportunity should be taken. I’m sure we all can look back in our lives and see opportunities that we passed on and they were the correct choice. They were correct choices because we planned ahead for them. We knew the direction we wanted to go. We saw they were not in our best interests. We didn’t hesitate to move on and seek other opportunities.

     I took the opportunity as a young Soldier to foolishly raise my hand to volunteer to be a Stryker driver at my first unit (mainly because as a Private you volunteer for everything if you don’t want your NCOs to crush you). That opportunity gave me the skills and knowledge to understand numerous communication platforms and how to operate and maneuver the vehicle. This played a role almost 12 years later when I returned to the same unit five ranks higher and already had the extensive knowledge of this platform that allowed me to be successful in this assignment.

     I took the opportunity to reenlist to be assigned to the 101st Airborne Division knowing it’s a high operational tempo unit. At the time of reenlistment, I was a Sergeant E-5 and had spent my three years in PSD (personal security detail) and was behind my peers as far as Infantry knowledge. The opportunity of just being in that unit earned me extensive training in Infantry skills that brought me up to speed with my peers. Add to that Air Assault School, promotion to Staff Sergeant, and a deployment to Afghanistan that made me grow extensively as a person and a leader.

     I got orders while in Afghanistan to be assigned to Fort Polk, Louisiana. At the time, I had no idea what unit I was going to. My friend Chris, who I mentioned in my thank you post and is a regular contributor, was already stationed there. He put in a good word in for me to his boss to come work as an Observer/Controller Trainer (basically an instructor/evaluator for civilian terminology). Again, I felt like I was not qualified for this position but took the opportunity anyway. At the end of the three years there, I had begun college, finished all my NCO schooling, completed Pathfinder School and earned my EIB (Expert Infantrymen’s Badge which is a must do as an infantryman if you want to progress in your career). I had a solid performance my first year and was asked to come fill in the slot of a Battalion Reconnaissance observer controller over roughly 40 other Soldiers. Here is where I also found Christ and turned my life around personally. None of which would have happened if I didn’t seek the opportunity with Chris and if he didn’t offer it to me.

     These are just a few examples. Leaders need to make connections. Leaders need to net-work. And no, I do not mean kiss the bosses butt to get in good to make opportunities. You get in good by other means that we’ll talk about in the future. 

     Creating opportunities requires looking ahead. Developing the skill to think and plan one, two, three steps ahead of your current situation. This is something I pride myself in and really honed that skill while I was a Drill Sergeant. The ability to discern how an action or decision we choose and take will not only affect the immediate response, but multiple avenues, multiple courses of actions and how we will respond and attack which ever path we’re confronted with.

     When opportunity presents itself, and you want to take it, DO NOT HESITATE! Hesitation will absolutely kill/destroy you. From the moment of the event of a DREADFUL thing to the first moment when you initiate action on that event, everything in between is like a horrible dream. Like a nightmare. Everything in between those two events is when the hesitation is at its strongest. That is when it has its tightest grip on you in which you are stuck dead in your tracks with fear. That is when we must take that step into the unknown. The unknown, therefore, most often causes the fear in which will ultimately cause our defeat. Hesitation is your enemy and it allows the opportunity to pass. Hesitation turns into cowardice and reveals your own lack of preparation. It stops you from being the point man of your team or family and puts everyone under you into jeopardy. To overcome the hesitation, all you must do is overcome the “waiting.” The simplest way to overcome the hesitation is to GO. MOVE. Assault the hesitation and take or bypass the opportunity. Prepare and be able to predict what happens when opportunity presents itself so you are ready. Prepare your team and family on what the possible outcomes would be depending on your decision of any opportunity you choose to take or dismiss. I feel that once you have learned the skill of creating opportunities for yourself and others, you have significantly improved a large portion of your “bubble” of influence. Your “team” sees that you care enough to work hard to create the opportunities for them and will respect what you have done for them and will be grateful. You allow them to work on not hesitating and to have to start planning for when these opportunities arise. You teach them the consequences of their actions when you can create situations and opportunities in which they need to make a decision. I do this constantly as a parent.

For example, if my son needs to take a bath at night, I may say “you can take a bath tonight and wake up at 0700 OR you can take a bath tomorrow morning and I’ll wake you up at 0600.” I created an opportunity for him to see the consequences of his actions. I know 9/10 times he will choose to take a bath in the morning. For kids they are concerned with instant gratification. Then when he is ticked off in the morning that he is up before anyone else, I can take that moment to mentor him in the choice he made and how he can choose more wisely next time. That now leads into time management lessons simply by giving him the opportunity to choose his bath time. You can be the example of how you work to create your own opportunities and to attack them. Your “team” is watching you.

Book Review-“Discipline Equals Freedom” Authored By Jocko Willink

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After I posted my last book review around a week ago, I went on the hunt to decide what to read next. My wife, sensing my internal struggle, decided to gift me one of my Christmas presents from under the tree early. Excited for what book she got me because she gives the best gifts, I couldn’t wait to see what book was going to take me a month or so to read and review. Again, that was maybe a week ago and here we are, book review #2. This book was one I had just recently put in my Amazon Wish List. Side rant: If you don’t do Amazon Wish List for gift giving, you’re missing out. It takes 99% of the stress out of figuring out what the other person wants for whatever gifting holiday. I say 99% because husbands, we know there still has to be that one thoughtful and straight from the heart gift she needs. I have the secret weapon for that also. Men, hit me up on Twitter @randyfisher84 and I’ll give the secret. Can’t be throwing it out here all willy nilly.

     Anyway, this review will be on the book “Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual” by Jocko Willink. I think I’ve mentioned him or some of his material in a blog or two back, but can’t remember for sure. If not, Jocko is a retired Navy Seal and was a #1 best selling author of Extreme Ownership and Way of the Warrior Kid. He also wrote an extremely popular book The Dichotomy of Leadership which I have read in the past. He hosts a top-rated podcast called Jocko Podcast. He has tons of YouTube content. He is also is a cofounder of a premier leadership consulting company called Echelon Front.

     I’ve been following Jocko now for about two years when my sister in law got me the Dichotomy of Leadership book. If anyone has not heard him speak or understand his philosophy on life, I probably won’t do it justice. If you have listened to him, and I haven’t done it justice, please comment to help support anything I have missed. 

     Now, as I am writing this, I am sitting here contemplating my words carefully. I know how some people will react to what I’m about to say on why I follow and learn from him. I know how some people view individuals like me for the reason I listen to him. And subjectively, I follow him because he aligns with how I view and tackle life. Jocko, for all intents and purposes, is a motivational speaker. He is not labeled as one and will never call himself that. He’s a combat leader that holds onto an optimistic outlook on life and has deep insight on multiple topics. I listen and read his material because he simply understands leadership and he challenges my mind, routines and discipline to push me to be better today than I was yesterday. I give you that background so you can understand the overall basis of what’s going on. I’m sure I’ll be reading more of his content in the future, so I won’t have to give the back story every time. This isn’t a review on Jocko, it’s on his book. So, let’s get started.

     As I stated earlier, I had read this book in about a week, which is a record for me. When I opened the book, it wasn’t written like a standard book. After I quickly looked at how it was outlined, I could see what was going on. And I liked it. Maybe some of you with a church back ground or certainly some without, have seen or read through the little booklets of “The Daily Bread.” This booklet is filled with little blurbs on a topic and packed with insight and wisdom. This is how he outlined his book. Which for me was awesome, because each topic was one to three pages. They were quick, direct, to the point, and insightful. Each topic is written how he talks. Since I have listened to many of his podcasts and YouTube material, it helped me read to his tone and demeaner and solidified the information. 

     There are probably 30 or so topics he talks about (don’t quote me on that). Some areas include procrastination, weakness of the mind, hesitation, remaining vigilant, motivation and his favorite topic DISCIPLINE. Now, as I had started reading through these, I had heard some of this before, almost word for word, in his media. But it was nice to have the book so I could read it, ponder about it, and I had sticky notes where I’d write my thoughts and stick it to the page for reference. He also has some information on his view of nutrition and working out and gives some sample workouts he uses.

     Here is an example of his material on the subject of “Staying Motivated:”

     “Don’t worry about motivation. Motivation is fickle. It comes and goes. It is unreliable and when you are counting on motivation to get your goals accomplished you will likely fall short. So, don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation, count on DISCIPLINE.

     You know what you have to do. So, make yourself do it. You do that with discipline. Everyone wants some magic pill-some life hack-that eliminates the need to do the work. But that does not exist. You have to do the work. You’ve got to hold the line. You’ve got to make it happen. So. Dig in. Find the discipline. Be the discipline. Accomplish it. That’s it!”

     In the Army we have a saying “false motivation is better than no motivation.” It may be a military thing actually. Not sure, but we say it all the time. I said it to my Soldiers constantly as a Drill Sergeant because that’s what we do I guess. But that made me think about how we treat motivation. I know I say things like “yea just trying to get motivated” or “I have to get motivated tomorrow to do…” It is fickle! Why else would we have that saying in the Army? Why don’t we say “yea just trying to get disciplined” or “I have to get disciplined tomorrow to do…?” I think it’s our excuse we all use to pass on the opportunity to get done what we know we need to do. Here’s what I think discipline does and why we don’t call on it often enough and make it a part of our lives. Discipline holds us accountable. It requires responsibility. It allows people to judge us if we glide off the path of discipline. Who wants to put that on themselves?  Obviously the answer is we all should.

     I mentioned earlier about how I know how others view people like me. “Who needs that self- help stuff? He must be weak-minded. What kind of a man listens to that crap?” I’ve heard it before. BUT. I will say, yes, I am weak minded. Yes, I need help in lots of areas of my life to get better. And yes, I listen to that crap. And guess what? You are weak minded also. We all are weak minded. We may be better in some areas than others. But if you truly are humble and assess yourself appropriately, we lack in a lot of areas of how we handle things. If there is someone who has wisdom and presents it in such a way that challenges you to receive it, process it, and either act on it or dismiss it, why not allow yourself the opportunity (spoiler alert, opportunity will be the topic of my next blog) to grow from it?

     There are lots of little gems and wisdom in this book. This is that type of book you leave on your desk at work and let an employee walk by and see it. Let them inquire about it. Let them take it home and read it. It may just improve some productivity in the work place. Or you save it for that moment when you observe someone having troubles in an area Jocko talks about. Not that you have to memorize and regurgitate what he says, but if it’s along the lines of what you believe, he gives you some additional material to think about and to present. I like to say and have little phrases and sayings that allow me to lay out my words in such a way that gets my Soldiers to think. To allow them the opportunity to hang onto those words to apply them in the future if that’s what they need. Whatever the reason for reading and having this book, I believe you’ll walk away at least assessing where you are in your daily disciplined walk, which is at least a start.     

I give this book a 4/5 rating. I dropped it down one point since I have heard some of this stuff before. And probably more appropriate, I’m not a professional book reviewer and most of my reviews will either be a 4 or 5 since it has to keep my interest to finish it. The pros say I should review it, so that’s what I’ll do. This isn’t a book you need to run out and grab immediately. Maybe ask for it as a gift. Grab it from a book store if they carry it and you’re in the area. Or snag it off the internet, but no need for rush delivery unless you really want to. In that case, then rock on! It’s a good little read for long trips in a car or while traveling by plane for the week. But when you do get it, read it with no distractions. Have a pencil and some sticky notes. Challenge yourself to write something on every topic. What do you think about it? How do you view it? Will you apply it? How? See what you come up with. It’s one thing to sit and read the words, but it takes discipline to sit down each time to write notes, study and analyze what you’re taking in. Make yourself a little better today than you were yesterday. Get some!

The Biggest Lie We Tell Ourselves But The Easiest To Overcome

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Believe it or not, the Infantry isn’t all about training for war every single day. More often than I’d like happen, we are tasked with details that can take numerous Soldiers away for a day or even weeks. Soldiers become sick and can be on quarters. Soldiers can be gone for schools, or at times not have the proper number of Soldiers assigned to a unit to fill the ranks. The higher up you get in the ranks, the heavier the administration tasks become. These include numerous meetings, writing monthly or yearly performance evaluations, or being the leader in charge of a detail. These small and simple examples are prime situations that I have seen leaders use as excuses to not, for whatever reason, do their job and what they are assigned to do, myself included. It’s the excuse of “I don’t have enough time.”

     Our time is obviously one of our most precious and valuable things. We frantically and meticulously plan out every second of our day because we have to get all of these “tasks” done and accomplished. When I was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2011, I had a conversation with a village elder while out on patrol. I was young and still learning principles of being a leader and really being a professional. I knew I had a timeline to hit that day and I kept checking my watch. The elder, who wasn’t wearing a watch, asked me “Do you know why many of us don’t wear watches in Afghanistan? Because we have time.” It was amazing for this 25 year old American Soldier to be presented with this unique concept of time, when in the United States we use the excuse that we never have enough of it. Why do we have so little while another part of the world has plenty? Is this a fair conclusion? If so, what can we draw and learn from it?

     Let’s peel back the layers and talk about not having enough time. Let’s see if we can honestly say, and be confident that without a doubt, we have ruined ourselves in this country. We have so much to do that we take short cuts because time is limited. Here’s the first question I’ll present to everyone: What time do you wake up EVERY morning of every day? What disciplined routine do you have to start your day? For those who don’t believe this next statement, confirm it with the wife, but I wake up every day at 0500. Even on days I’m off work. How taboo is that in this day and age? Only old people go to bed early and wake up early, right? WRONG. People who have a purpose and a disciplined daily routine wake up early. People who say they are swamped and don’t have time should wake up early. Hopefully I don’t go into “rant mode” like I sometimes do. Let’s look at what waking up early accomplishes. 

     First off, waking up at 0430 or 0500 at the latest should be followed by a workout. You don’t want to get out of bed? Make yourself GET OUT OF BED. You don’t want to go to the gym? Make yourself GO TO THE GYM. Don’t want to lift the weight? Then LIFT THE WEIGHT. Don’t want to start hammering out that project? Guess what? HAMMER OUT THAT PROJECT. When you’re exercising and eating right and being healthy, you feel better when you arise early. When you’re awake that early, who is there to distract you and to turn your attention on other things? Maybe the kids. Just throw some cookies out and they’ll be good. You get a significant jump on the day when you wake up early. But, you have to do it every day. It has to be a disciplined effort to change your habit. DISCIPLINE EQUALS FREEDOM. When you start your daily errands, chores, or gym time late, and by late I mean like 0900, you leave the possibility of the boss keeping you later in the day to disrupt your plans. There will always be those unpredictable tasks that get thrown on. Emergencies happen. You begin getting tired and frustrated as the day goes on and you just want to go home, and any other example we can think of that disrupts our day. If you honestly assess that you don’t have enough time, that’s the simplest answer. Go find yourself an alarm clock. Find yourself. Wake up early. 

     Listen I get it. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I was 30 years old before I really started understanding time management and getting my mind right and getting after the things that slowed me down and stood in my way. It is a process, but it’s attainable. When you set out for a goal, whether it’s a short- or long-term goal, assign sub goals to accomplish it. We’ll use waking up early as an example. The goal is to wake up at 0500 every day and not go back to sleep. Some sub goals would be, go to bed earlier. Make your bed every every morning. Get dressed. Have a plan for your first 30 minutes awake. If we are being honest with ourselves, what productive things are we accomplishing past 9 PM when we talk about going to bed earlier? Are we harassing people on Twitter and Facebook? Are we moving down that dangerous path of YouTube videos where you looked at how to do proper pullups for your workout tomorrow and now you’re watching videos on what would happen if a rainbow entered a black hole? Are you four hours into that new TV series you started? If it’s Game of Thrones, that’s about the only exception I’d be willing to accept. Are you trying to level up on Candy Crush or whatever the new fun game? The point is, assess your nightly routines and how it’s affecting your daily routine. You wake up early. Start your day. Get your stuff done. Leave time for those hobbies that you like. Finish the day. And go to bed tired. If you aren’t going to bed absolutely exhausted to where you can’t even have a coherent conversation with your spouse or cat or whatever you have, then you missed the mark for the day.

     Keep your head on a swivel. Look around and identify what takes your time away. Assess and overcome. Life will constantly lead you on the path of least resistance. The “easy way.” That path is the voice in your head that says “Keep sleeping. You can quit. You tried your best, now just give up. Not today. That’s too hard. Cut the workout short.” Be careful on that path. I promise the enemy knows our location on this path and will lie and wait and ambush you with those thoughts and destroy you. When you allow that ambush to constantly win, everything you cut short gets put off. It piles up. You lose your discipline and you are no longer free.

     In the military, when we pack our ruck sacks for foot marches, Soldiers make it difficult on themselves by saying “Eh it’s just one thing. It’s small. It’s not that much” when talking about adding items to their packing list. There’s a saying we have that says “Ounces equals pounds.” All those little things that are light in weight by themselves will eventually turn in heavier pounds later and will affect your performance. This is so true to our time management. All those minutes we don’t allocate correctly turn into hours and can pile on and turn into days. Every second counts.

     Sun Tzu, a Chinese General in the 500s BC who is credited with the military strategy book “The Art of War,” puts the importance of time like this. “Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted…Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.” Our time management, bad habits and bad routines are the enemy. You want control of the battlefield? Want control of the day? Attack it early. Be there waiting. Take the day by surprise. Getting better every day in our lives and changing habits is a campaign. Campaigns are complex. The end state changes often. How we maneuver through this campaign needs to be modified regularly. Each battle within the campaign that is won brings you closer to winning the war. And it’s my belief that arising every day at 0500 to not only be waiting on the field of battle, but to attack the day is the first step in gaining control of our time and completely eliminating the phrase “I don’t have enough time” out of our vocabulary. That time gained then gets put into the ones that we lead. We become better. The individuals under our command reap the benefits and are better for it. Discipline…Equals…Freedom!

Thank You & Acknowledgements

I think up front I need to thank and acknowledge ALL the individuals in my life that have shaped me to be who I am today. Those are the family, friends, coaches, and leaders throughout my childhood and my time in the military. Every one of these people, whether they know it or not, helped shape and define the intricacies of my growth as a man.

Obviously, first I need to give the glory to God. I think most people who knew me when I was younger still can’t believe the transformation God made in my life. It’s amazing to see the path defined and the pieces connected that brought me to where I am today. I am truly blessed.

To my mom, Leanne. You were given what some would deem an almost impossible task of raising two boys and two girls on your own once dad died. I’ve always said that your purpose on earth, given by God, was to be charged to raise the youth within your bubble of influence. Not only did you raise us four, but the immeasurable number of kids within this community that you’ve had interaction with. All of our friends and the children you mentor and love on in school have felt the impact of your motherly love and you can’t be thanked enough. I love you.

To Mammaw, Pappaw, and Vicki. You three together shaped what a perfect childhood should look like outside of an immediate family. At 33 years old, I still smile and reflect on all the trips to Noah’s Ark Animal Farm, the Apple Festival, King’s Island, all the home and away high school football game trips we made to watch the Ironman, the countless times I called to get a ride ANYWHERE in town, ya’ll were available for that. Every New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Trick or Treat, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that always built up an enormous feeling of excitement because I knew y’all would go “all out” for us kids. Thank you and love you all.

To the Humphreys family. My gosh, I wish I knew elaborate words to describe the impact your family made not only on me as an individual but to my ENTIRE family. The phrase “was like a second family” isn’t enough. You are family. From being my coach in football to hosting those WWF wrestling parties as kids. You allowed me to stay at your house weeks at a time, disciplining me when needed. Most importantly, being an additional rock for me when dad died. Your family, like mom, has not only affected me but our entire town. You all are a blessing to everyone you encounter and I’m truly thankful for each and every one of you.

To my high school football coaches, Coach Layton, Wolford, Taylor, and Morgan. You were another layer of mentorship I needed during my rowdy days, as some would call it. I made a lot of dumb decisions that you showed sternness toward, the disappointment tactic that always worked, and also empowered me to be better than what I was doing. You were a part of the best times in my life as a high schooler, playing high school football. My kids now get the privilege of me getting to be my own version of Al Bundy’s “four touchdowns in one game.” The only difference is they get the “game winning touchdown catch at Withrow” speech.

To my first leader in the military that gave me my foundational military frame, SSG Ryan Richmond. You understood the basics of leading and saw the potential to work with me as a young Soldier and to groom me to be a leader in the military. How you worked with me and taught me as a young Soldier in Germany and Iraq fostered the same things I did for my Soldiers when I became an NCO. Even though you are no longer serving, your guidance and mentorship still bleeds throughout the military as I have passed on the same principles. Thank you.

To the most interesting one in my military career and the one I have to be careful because I could write for days on, Christopher Janis. Where to begin? The plan’s to keep it simple and to the point because I know you’ll be a regular contributor to this blog and I’m sure everyone will see your character and wisdom through your posts. And if you didn’t plan on that, I just put you on the spot and you now have to do it.

Thank you for being what I needed to be observing as I was a young NCO at Fort Campbell: a man, warrior, and the combat leader. We didn’t call you Captain America for nothing. You took what SSG Richmond did as the foundation and you constructed the frame and all the necessary parts to construct the house. I picked your brain as much as I could because I knew if I could emulate you, I’d be a better man for it. We had some wild times at Fort Campbell and it’s funny seeing how we know how the rest of the story plays out.

Thank you for following God’s pull while we were at Fort Polk together. Without you once again leading in a way you never thought you’d be leading, it’s hard telling what my life would be like now. I asked myself “If God can change a man like this, what great things could he do for me and my life?” For the sake of not going into my testimony, thank you for your leadership, mentorship, and most importantly your friendship. So thankful to get to be a part of the Janis family and hope God blesses you all for a long time.

To the most awesome husband and wife duo I know, Robert and Sheyenne Dukes. As a twenty something year old father and husband looking for answers on life while stationed in Louisiana, God sent Chris and then you into my life. I’m sure I’ll tell the story in the future, but this story starts with a knock on the door and a bag of cookies. Robert, who would’ve thought that five second interaction we had one Saturday in February would’ve produced the friendship and spiritual leadership that we have today? Thank you for being the example of a mature man AND a man of God for me to try and mirror. You have been instrumental in my development as a man and like I have mentioned prior to this of individuals affecting our community, thank you for affecting God’s kingdom. Our family loves you guys and can’t wait to visit each other soon.

To Chuck, Debbie, and Holli, thank you for being the best in-laws I could ask for. Who would’ve thought all those years in high school as a young and dumb kid would’ve produced a marriage of 14 years, four grandchildren and four nieces and nephews? Such great memories and even though we all went through hard times, we stuck together as a family and overcame. You allowed me to not have the distraction of a “dysfunctional” family (even though I’m sure we’d question that haha) and could focus on other things in life. Thanks for being the best and most importantly thank you for giving the best part of my life, your daughter/sister and my wife Cassidy.

And lastly, to my wife Cassidy. I’m not going to be able to do this justice. I can’t imagine a more perfect and complete story as what we have went through since we started dating back in 2001. Knowing what would happen to our family in 2012 at Fort Polk, God started cultivating his plan back in October of 2001. You were my earthly savior that showed the ultimate patience, love, and optimism in our relationship while I lived in my “rowdy Randy” days. I don’t show or say it enough, but thank you for loving me and saving me. As I watch you parent our kids and tackling the difficult task of homeschooling three kids, you are absolutely knocking it out of the park. With the chaos of the military moving us around often and taking me away at times, you provide normalcy and memories like I had as a child that they will be grateful for years down the road. I love you so much and you are the luckiest girl in the world to find someone like me lol.

I know I have missed some and I’m sorry. Just know that God has used everyone perfectly in my life and other’s life. 1 Corinthians 3:6 says “I (Paul) planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Everyone had a step in the growth of myself and of course others. I think a simple point and common factor with everyone mentioned above is this. Everyone was “there.” Everyone “made themselves available.” They all fostered an environment where I knew they were there when I needed them and I knew I had love and support.

If you are in charge of another human’s life, whether it’s your child, friends of people with a child, subordinates in a job, or just people in general, don’t forsake or dismiss the power of just being there and being available. This takes a little of putting yourself out there and letting it be known and establishing that environment. But a lot of what developed me as man and leader today were the ones that established themselves as a person of great character, morals and values. I was just able to observe their actions and demeanor and I knew I had them in my back pocket to pick their brain for their wisdom and insight.

Psalms 46:10 tells us “Be still, and know that I am God.” Not that anyone can be on God’s level obviously, but if we can strive to establish relationships with others as leaders that others feel comfort and confidence that they can be still and calm because they know we are there for them, that’s some of the easiest leadership principles we can start with. Always self check your character, values and morals. Once you damage those, it’s extremely difficult to repair those that you’ve hurt.

I challenge everyone to take a look within and ask yourself if you are that leader that makes yourself available? Have you fostered an environment that allows others to seek your wisdom and insight? Whether your bubble of influence is large or small, your bubble is the most important thing for the ones that are inside it. If you have people inside that bubble, they should be one of the most important things in your life.

“An Army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an Army of lions led by a deer.”

-Chabrias 410-375 B.C.

The “Who, What, and Why?”

WHO

I am not a professional writer. I was an average high school student in a small town in Ohio. I was an athlete and a social butterfly that liked to be the life of the party. I joined the Army in 2005 as an Infantryman with the expectations of doing 20 years of service flying around foreign countries free to kill all the “bad dudes” I could. I expected to be part of different teams, but never expected to lead any.

At the time of creating this blog, I have 14 years of service and have served as a Fire Team leader, Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, an Observer/Coach Trainer, Senior Drill Sergeant, and a Security Forces Advisor Instructor. I married my high school sweetheart and have three kids, ages 12, 8, 4 with one on the way. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior in 2012 (even though at times my actions don’t show it). Our first family dog, Zoey, just passed away after her 5th move and 14 years with us. I have lived all over the United States, to include Alaska and overseas in Germany. I have spent 15 months in Iraq in Baghdad and Mosul. I also spent 12 months in Kandahar, Afghanistan along the Arghandab River Valley. I spent my teenage years without my father, who died of a sudden heart attack. I also lived a life of alcohol abuse through my mid to upper twenties. Never did I imagine an immature and selfish jock from a simple town in southern Ohio could have lived this life of extreme growth. I have developed leadership principles that I didn’t think were possible for a kid like me to learn.

WHAT

It has been weighing on my heart now for almost 10 months (January 2019) to begin a “leadership” blog. I want to share what’s happened in my life and what I’ve learned so that even one person could glean some knowledge or be provoked to better themselves. Topics I’d like to cover here are:

  • Anything/Everything leadership related that we can grow from together
  • Books and reading material that I’ve read that help shape a leader’s mind
  • A periodic Drill Sergeant story from my time on the trail that will give a laugh
  • Tips, techniques, and philosophies on how I’ve handled certain situations
  • And just periodic thoughts and conversations that I would love your view and takes on to grow from one another

I’m sure there will be topics I write about and have views on that you will not agree with. That’s perfectly fine and in fact, encouraged. I obviously don’t know everything and there are tons of ways to handle a situation. Your thoughts and comments are welcomed, but just know I don’t have the time or energy for in-depth debates and arguments. We will make our points and stances and let the community decide their path.

WHY

I enjoy reading material from strong and popular military figures, spiritual leaders, and anyone with material that is designed to make me think and better myself. I’ve had the thought that “What if readers are overwhelmed and view these leader’s accomplishments as impossible for themselves?” My goal is to be that average individual that goes through the daily grind like everyone else yet be relevant. I want to hopefully connect with an audience to share how I tackle certain subjects and areas where leadership is welcomed and necessary.

“Discovering Leadership” is the chosen title of my blog because even at this point, I’m still discovering who I am as a leader and adapting constantly to the certain situations that require a particular leader. Hopefully with a community of “leader driven” minds, we can learn and grow from each other and foster a positive environment to advance leaders in a world where it is more necessary as ever before to stand strong and lead this world as it should be.