Saturday, January 09, 2016

Terry's Rule Part II


Betray yourself before your people
"Betray" is a hard word, and, for me, this sentiment goes deeper. Substitute sacrifice. Substitute risk. Take the triggering words out of it and it comes down to priorities. My people are more important than me. In the macro, people take certain jobs so that other people don't have to face those realities. At that level, this, to me, means 'do the job.'

But it is also an ordering of priorities. The mission comes first. Then your troops. Then you. The first commander of our CERT had one sterling qualification: Of everyone in our administration he was the only one --the only-- we all believed that, given a choice between sacrificing one of our lives and sacrificing his career, he would sacrifice his career without hesitation. NPNBW, brother.

This one is the hardest for me to explain logically. If the leader has more skill and experience, shouldn't he or she more valuable than his or her troops? I can't break it down logically, but anyone who believes that shouldn't be followed and can't be trusted to lead. It just is.

Last point on this one: Does it contradict the first rule? Not if you see your people as an extension of yourself. But that's a sophistry. So what if it contradicts? I can handle two things in my head.

Be equipped, be prepared, be ready
I despise MacGyver. He inspired a whole generation of people to believe there was something noble about choosing to be poorly equipped. If you refuse to carry the equipment to do the job, you aren't a hero. You are an idiot who is willing to sacrifice innocent people (and yourself) for ego. For image.

Not just equipment. Survival and effectiveness works in a matrix of skill, tools and will. Have the right equipment, but a closet full of high-end toys means jack shit if you don't know how to use them. And the best equipment in the world combined with the best training available also means squat if you don't have the will to access them under pressure.

Acquire the right equipment. Get the best training you can find. But forge and test your will.

You won't ever know what may happen, be ready anyway
One of my pet peeves is that so many people want answers and so many people are willing to sell them, but it is physically impossible to have a good answer when you don't know the question. And you can never know the question because, unless you actively participate, you can't know what kind of bad things will happen to you.

Acknowledging that is another superpower. Or maybe it's just simple maturity. Maybe that's redundant. Here's the deal: Understanding how much you don't know and can't predict gives you an incredible freedom if you aren't scared of it. It shifts training to simply getting better-- at anything and everything-- and away from trying to memorize one more solution to one more imaginary problem. Adaptability is the hallmark of humanity, something we should embrace, and not fear the chaos that makes it so necessary.

Just because no one is ready, ever, to be a father doesn't mean you can't be a good one. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever got, was to quit looking for the right girl. "Quit looking for Ms. Right. Work your ass off to be Mr. Right so that she knows you when you finally meet." Quit trying to  be ready. Focus, instead, on being excellent.

Acknowledge emotion, don't be enslaved by it
Are you smart when you're in love? When you're angry? When you're afraid? Of course not, and that goes for every emotion. All of the special snowflakes want to believe that the depth of their caring or their emotional involvement somehow makes them superior, but in actual fact it makes them stupid. Sorry to say it and I know it hurts, but if you're excited about a cause or a group or a party or a candidate, odds are you are wrong. At best, you might be right by accident and despite your emotion-induced stupidity.

And don't pretend for a second that in your special snowflake case you coldly analyzed the facts and got emotional later. Sorry, buttercup. The human mind goes emotion first.

And that's why you always have to acknowledge the emotion. Because it does come first and it is more powerful than reason. (And this is where I tell myself, "Suck it up, Buttercup" because I want so badly to believe that my emotions are fairly weak... but wanting is an emotion itself.)  Emotions aren't necessarily right or effective-- but the righteousness of logic doesn't make it a winner. Emotions win, if you let them. And it takes a lot of skill and a lot of discipline to even recognize when you are enslaved by your emotions, because you will always want to rationalize it. And the smarter you are, the stinkier bullshit you can successfully rationalize.


Anonymous said...

There is a Welsh saying "A fo ben, bid bont", which translates as "Who wants to be a leader must be a bridge".
This refers to a legend in which the hero Brân the Blessed travels from Britain to Ireland with his troops to rescue his sister Branwen from her abusive husband, the Irish king. When the Irish king has the only bridge over a river destroyed, Brân stretches himself across the river and lets his troops march over his back to the other side of the river.
Brân does not survive the mission. Only seven of his men survive and escort Branwen back to Wales, where she dies of sorrow.
You can read an English translation of the story on:

Agent Cbeppa said...

I've been wondering about a seeming paradox for a while now.
You write a lot about how ordinary people who have had no experience with violence make up their own (largely false) stories and identities. When people go through a violent experience, they realise what is fact and what was fiction, which sounds like a handy thing to know about yourself.
Conversely, you also advise people to avoid violent situations as much as possible. It's the safest and most sensible thing to do.
Do you have any explanations that might clear this up for me? Or is there no right answer?