The Books I Read in 2017

If you’re reading this, you already know how important continual learning is for personal and professional development. There is no growth without quality input – period. I get my input from specifically tailored email subscriptions, my Twitter feed, podcasts, websites, and books.

While I can’t keep pace with the likes of Nate Finney or Joe Byerly at From the Green Notebook…who, by the way, has a Reading of the Month newsletter you should be following…I was able to knock out a few good ones this year. Many I listened to on Audible, which you should check out.


Putting Leadership Back in Leader Development

Take a look at your unit calendar. Scan the clutter of appointments, meetings, formations, training events, ceremonies, and administrative commitments. Do you see any events dedicated to improving the quality of your people’s leadership? If not…if leadership development isn’t a separate line of effort…then how are you developing leaders?


A U.S. Army Ranger from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, keeps his sight on a target with an M240L machine gun during a company live fire training at Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014. U.S. Army Photo Illustration by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade. I like this photo because it’s a reminder that all military leadership boils down to supporting this Soldier on the ground.

Soldiers’ Hell Outside My Car Window

It happened today that I was driving to work and caught a glimpse of something that transported me to a hellish battlefield one hundred years ago. The thermometer hovered just north of freezing. Pellets of rain hit my windshield like shrapnel, which concerned me little because I was cozy and warm in, ironically enough, my German-engineered driving machine. The Starbucks latte was a pleasant addition to my comfortable morning.

I glanced around at the surrounding commuters, then to the traffic situation on my navigation display, and then to the roadside construction dedicated to widening the roadway from four lanes to eight. It was the landscape of this construction that instantly gripped my mind with visions of battle, my stomach with the grotesqueness of total war, and my heart with the fear that follows both.

Stop Telling Me to Listen to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History!

For the last year, friends and colleagues have recommended that I listen to Dan Carlin’s podcast, Hardcore History. People from separate circles and professions brought it up as a “must-listen-to.” I even subscribed a few months ago but never got around to beginning any of the multi-hour episodes.

I finally succumbed to the pressure last week and skeptically began the five-part series, The Wrath of the Khansand I’ve listened to nothing else since. I admit it…I’ve officially converted and am now a staunch, overt, unapologetic Dan Carlin fan.

Bringing History to Life

HistoryI’ll concede that I often forget how important history is to personal and professional development. Sometimes I focus too much of my reading on topics that break new ground or dive into lofty concepts. I’m interested in history, but I get pulled away from it. History, however, is the never-ending repository of real-life lessons that we should repeatedly visit.

Dan Carlin brings those lessons into vivid clarity through detailed retelling, thorough research, and heartfelt enthusiasm. He’ll admit that he’s not an historian, but instead coalesces the prominent historical writing and assess its validity and logic. He explores the details that typically get left out and in doing so, transports history into the present day perspective.

Whether you’re studying history or just looking to get lost in a story, Hardcore History is a fantastic option. And if my word isn’t good enough, Hardcore History is the #1 ranked History podcast and the #6 podcast across all categories in iTunes.

My Recommendation

Dan Carlin has over 56 podcast episodes to choose from, with 14 of them free on iTunes and his website. The two big series are Wrath of the Khans, a year by year account of the conquest of Genghis Khan and the generations that followed him…and Blueprint for Armageddon, a retelling of the colossal tragedy that was World War I. He also has series for sale that cover the fall of the Roman republic, the Punic Wars, the German-Russian fight in World War II, and many others.

I recommend starting with Wrath of the Khans. It’ll grab you right away and give you a good sense of what Dan Carlin brings to history.

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Work and Life

Advice for finding a balance

I listened to this yesterday and thought it was impactful enough to send out as perfect Sunday personal growth material. It’s from the EntreLeadership Podcast, which is Dave Ramsey’s creation and in the Top 20 Business Podcasts on iTunes.

Two aspects in particular make this podcast powerful: the big name influencers they interview and the clips of Dave Ramsey giving priceless leadership and business advice. I’ve used more content from this podcast than any other, as it is highly relevant military leaders. Several times as an Operations Officer, I’d listen to an episode on the way to work, and then immediately implement its insights.

Dave RamseyThis episode is all about finding purpose and meaning in life, which requires that we deconflict work and life. Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, talks about how to live a life of meaning, then Dave Ramsey follows with in-your-face advice for figuring out how to keep your family while being successful at work.

His philosophy is one that leaders can take to their units tomorrow and make a difference with. It’s well-worth your time…and theirs!

For the EntreLeadership Podcast episode, click here.

To access Episode #110 through the iTunes Store, click here.

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How to Build a Team of “Yes Men”

Listening to Michael Hyatt’s superb podcast on creating team unity, my first reaction was, “We’re good! The military has got this team alignment thing figured out. We’re focused on the mission, we have a clear command structure, and we follow orders.” But as Michael explained the steps to creating team alignment, he said that to get the most powerful results, leaders must:

Create an environment that is safe for dissent.

Ouch! Ok, that’s not the first phrase most military members would use to describe their work environment. In fact, I think it’s rare that I’ve seen a military leader who embraces dissent in the name of creating unity. I know I’ve never prioritized it.

The result?…we get a team full of Yes Men who not only fail to speak up when they disagree with mundane issues, but are also trained to remain quiet in the face of critical decisions. If you want a team of folks like that, then make sure you do these things.

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Caroline Chavez, a senior drill instructor assigned to Platoon 4023, November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, commands her platoon during their final drill evaluation, June 25, 2014, at Parris Island, S.C.
(DoD photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

“Don’t Do What Others Could Do” – Lessons for Delegation and Authority

“Working harder does not equate to being more productive.” Do you feel that military leaders still have not embraced this fact? Do we try to personally do too much? Do we hold on to projects until deadline, trying to get ever closer to perfection?

Listening to Michael Hyatt’s podcast on “The Fine Art of Delegation,” I again came to the conclusion that effective delegation is a battle that military leaders and staffs fight on a daily basis.

Michael Hyatt gives 5 Imperatives of Delegation in this podcast, but the real gem of the episode is his description of the 5 Levels of Authority. He simplifies the exercise of authority, which then clarifies how leaders should be delegating.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno speaks to company-level leaders to discuss leadership
and answer questions during his visit to Wiesbaden, Germany, April 30, 2013.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez

When Failure is Caused by Leadership

Today’s media recommendation is The EntreLeadership Podcast episode from Oct. 25, 2011. It’s linked below, check it out.

How often do commanders and staff leaders delegate a project with little to no guidance on parameters, endstate, or what success looks like? How often have new Soldiers/Officers arrived to the unit but not immediately been armed with the tools they’ll need for success?

Dave Ramsey explains that it is the LEADER’S job to equip the team for success, and it’s the LEADER’S fault if they fail.