Tuesday with TED – Army/Navy Edition

Technology.  Entertainment.  Design.  More affectionately known as, ‘TED.’  These ‘talks’ offer an engaging presentation of revolutionary ideas and perspectives from brilliant minds.

Each week, we’ll examine a TED Talk from TED’s expansive library of topics ranging from the annual TED Conference to locally, organized TEDx Events.

Befitting of Army/Navy week, we’ll look at General Stanley McChrystal’s talk on leadership and Admiral James Stavridis’ talk on global security.

Stanley McChrystal:  Listen, learn,…then lead.

  • And I saw my battalion commander, because I had let him down. And I went up to apologize to him, and he said, “Stanley, I thought you did great.” And in one sentence, he lifted me, put me back on my feet, and taught me that leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.
  • So how does a leader stay credible and legitimate when they haven’t done what the people you’re leading are doing? And it’s a brand new leadership challenge. And it forced me to become a lot more transparent, a lot more willing to listen, a lot more willing to be reverse-mentored from lower.
  • I came to believe that a leader isn’t good because they’re right; they’re good because they’re willing to learn and to trust.  This isn’t easy stuff.  It’s not like that electronic abs machine where, 15 minutes a month, you get washboard abs.  (Laughter)  And it isn’t always fair.  You can get knocked down, and it hurts and it leaves scars.  But if you’re a leader, the people you’ve counted on will help you up.  And if you’re a leader, the people who count on you need you on your feet.

Of all the TED Talks I have listened, McChystral’s is by far one of my personal favorites.  The quote of ‘leaders can let you fail and not let you be a failure’ and ‘…if you’re a leader, the people you’ve counted on will help you up.  And if you’re a leader, the people who count on you need you on your feet’ speak volumes.

When you’re entrusted to a program or project, the people in which you lead will fail.  They will experince short comings.  ‘Fail early, fail often.’  In the context of brainstorming orgenerating ideas for momentum, the more initial action created the greater the body of work one has to edit or revise.

Successful organizations encourage failing, but most importantly, failing without retribution.  The idea or notion of, ‘don’t come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution’ is archaic and antiquated.  If an engineer has a problem but has one in which he is unable to solve, should that individual keep that problem to themself?  No.  Ultimately, open communication, transparency, authenticity will breed trust.  And trust is the lifeblood of any healthy relationship.

James Stavridis:  How NATO’s Supreme Commander Thinks About Global Security

  • My thesis is, open-source security is about international, interagency, private-public connection pulled together by this idea of strategic communication on the Internet.
  • It’s a perfect evocation of that great population survey, the six largest nations in the world in descending order: China, India, Facebook, the United States, Twitter and Indonesia.
  • …there will be times when we will apply hard power in true war and crisis, but there will be many instances, as we’ve talked about today, where our militaries can be part of creating 21st-century security, international, interagency, private-public, connected with competent communication.

  • No one person, no one alliance, no one nation, no one of us is as smart as all of us thinking together.

  • My thesis for you is that by combining international, interagency, private-public, strategic communication, together, in this 21st century, we can create the sum of all security.

Open-source.  This is the popular method in which problems are solved.  As alluded to by Stavridis, the military in its role must be flexible and agile to play the kinetic role it is designed, but also an expansive non-kinetic role which engages and leverages the capabilities of other agencies and entities.

‘Stove pipe’ is a common theme in organizations.  The more issues and problems are addressed by a broader talent base, a more efficient and better resolution is sure to rise.  The military and global security is no exception.


9 Books of 2016 Every Leader Must Read

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

-Harry S. Truman

I firmly believe in this quote by HST.

As a leader, ‘self-development’ is not intended for you.  Self development is for the people who look to you for guidance.  Those of whom you lead, deserve your absolute best in every capacity – morally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

This not only refines your ability to lead, but, most importantly, your ability to serve those whom you lead.

These 9 books, all released in 2016, will make you, not only a better leader, but a better person.  Accompanying each recommendation is a video (a little ‘hack’ to save you the time) which highlights the main takeaway of each work.

Each work will challenge you.  They will challenge your perspective.  They will challenge your past.

They will force you to reflect.  Reflect on your experiences.  Your successes.  Your failures.  Your shortcomings.  Your victories.  These books will make your 2017 better than your 2016.

Let me know your thoughts, and any recommendations you have in the comments below.


Ego is the Enemy


When Breath Becomes Air

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Deep Work




Code of the Extraordinary Mind

Stoic Sundays – Resilience and Duality

The works of Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca have greatly impacted my perspective over the last year.  An introduction through Ryan Holiday’s works, The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the Enemy (one of my ‘Must Reads of 2016’), and Daily Stoic; stoicism provides a balance of both guidance and uncertainty which instills resiliency.  Uncertainty in that many questions arise and opportunities for self reflection and self evaluation as we navigate life.

Each Sunday, I intend on sharing a passage from one of the stoics with a couple of thoughts and initial reactions.  Here we go.

Some men have shrunk so far into dark corners that objects in bright daylight seem quite blurred to them. 
-Seneca, ‘Letters from a Stoic,’ Letter III.

Things in life just are.  As we interpret these things; our individual emotions, experiences, and perspectives offer meaning.  Ever meet someone who always interprets an event as something negative?  Hell, you can donate to charity, purchase someone a cup of coffee, but there will always be someone who looks at it through the lens of negativity.

“Oh, they just did that for themselves.”  So what.

Hell, I have caught myself doing it, too.  Professional athletes give huge donations to charity, but a more cynical Pat would just decry these athletes were doing it for a tax write off.  Purity of intent?  There is still a charity receiving six figures from the athlete.  Colin Kaepernick pledged $1,000,000 over 10 payments of $100,000.  Many STILL complained that his action (or inaction) was not justified.  To these individuals – when was the last time you donated $1,000,000 or provided  $1,000,000 worth of your time to a charitable cause?

No matter how bright the object shines, their darkest recesses will paint a grim picture – these people must be avoided at all costs.  Their misery spreads like wild fires through their narratives and rhetoric.

As we act our lives with intention, view the world as it is  and nothing more.  Some will confine into dark recesses, while others will be drawn to the light (Star Wars reference).  Being mindful of each end of this spectrum provides balance in order to remain centered as we encounter  others, but most importantly, as we encounter ourselves.

The Perfect Storm – Army/Navy

West Point – send Temple University, Hurricane Matthew (the National Weather Service will suffice), and the American Athletic Conference a thank you note, NOW.  If you ever had a year to defeat the Midshipmen since your last win in 2001, 2016 is that year.

Hurricane Matthew caused a delay in the playing of the East Carolina University game from its original date of October 20th to November 18th.  The end result of the November 18th ECU/Navy contest earned Navy the right to play in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Game today – one week before Army/Navy.

This is significant.  The injection of the AAC Conference Game into the schedule does the following:

  • Eliminates the bye-week,
  • Will mark the 7th of 8 consecutive weeks played without a bye, and
  • Forces the Midshipmen to line-up against another Top 30 team.
    • Final Score:  Temple 34, Navy 10.  Navy looked outplayed and gassed.627396092-e1480796779555There was a lot of this in Annapolis Saturday

In marque rivalry games, all bets are off.  The deciding factors in each are preparation, discipline, and execution.  Now, Navy is being asked to prepare in half the time while coming off a bruising, and costly contest against Temple.  What was essential to preparation, and equal importance, recovery – the bye week.

College football schedules mirror that of human performance – there is a build to a peak, and then a deload before building back up to another marquee game.  Huge, big game matches are common place in Week 1 of the season because programs have had all off-season to prepare for that one game.  Relatively winnable games are contested to work on execution, followed with an important conference or rivalry game (see Air Force).  Playing 8 consecutive weeks of football takes a toll on the human body and its capacity to perform at a high level, week in, and week out.  Injuries accumulated during Temple impacting the outcome.

“But Pat come on, Navy is so much better than Army.”  Agreed; however, that notion is hubris when Army/Navy is played.  The difference between the two programs is substantial, and it has been substantial over the last 5 years, too.  Oh, the results of 4 of those 5 games – decided by one possession.  Three of which were decided by 4 points.

I will always ‘believe that we will win,’ but the conditions are prime for Army to win in 2016 thanks to this perfect storm.

Game 7 – Who’s on First?

Each Friday, we’ll feature a guest blog post.  The subject of these posts are open-ended.  Anything from an experience of Game 7 at the World Series (today’s entry) to travel, power lifting, running 50 miles (in one day), or political and societal issues.

Today’s guest post comes from Troy who I met at a benefit golf tournament in Oklahoma – The Patriot Cup.  Troy is a tremendous golfer, and keeps even better company while on the course.  We shared a practice round that I remember like yesterday (RM, BS).

Anyways, here’s Troy.


Somehow David Ross hit a solo home run off (stud) Andrew Miller

Transport yourself to a nice Iowa summer afternoon.  I’m at a local watering hole here in Des Moines called “1908 Draught House.”  Love this place.  It’s obviously a Cubbie bar.  The founder, Colin, is a HUGE Cubs fan, naming his bars after the Cubs.

Truth be told, I’m not a baseball fan.  I appreciate the sport, I know enough to know that part of my lack of enjoyment is directly correlative to my lack of understanding all of the nuances.

The Cubs are on TV, blistering another team on their epic run to be several games out front.  “Could this be the year?” seemed to be the growing sentiment in the bar, in Des Moines, on TV, everywhere.

—-Sidebar:  Des Moines is home to the Chicago Cubs AAA team, the Iowa Cubs, so we have a built-in fanbase here—-

After taking a cold sip from my Budweiser, I see Colin…a couple of us joke to him: “hey man, if you get your wish, you might have to change the name of your bar!”   That was probably the sixth or seventh total innings of baseball I’d watched all year.  Just not my thing.  Am I rooting for the Cubbies this year?  Of course.  I was born in Chicago, live in Des Moines, love a great story.  But I simply don’t pay much attention.

Future forward to Tuesday evening prior to Game 7.  I receive a text from a buddy.  Pretty succinct:  “Hey…extra seat on the plane, want to go to Game 7 tomorrow?  4 of us have tickets and 3 of us don’t.  You’d make #8.  Want to try our luck at scalping a ticket?”  It was 11 pm…my wife was supportive….I told them I’d go.  He responded with “if I can’t find tickets online, we might not go, let’s decide by 11 am.”  I responded:  “I just need an hour heads up, and I’m in.”

Wednesday, Game 7 Day:  11 am comes and goes…Mausser calls me at 11:45 am:  “Hey, it’s a go.  Be at the FBO at 1:45, unless you can join us for lunch…beers and burgers at Francie’s (if you ever come to Des Moines, check out Francie’s…great joint).

I ran home and changed clothes…grabbed some cash…lots of cash (tickets in Chicago were going for thousands…needed to be prepared)…met them at Francie’s by 12:45.  Had a Budweiser and a burger, and we all headed to FBO to jump on the Citation II.  Great plane.

Met a couple guys I hadn’t met…knew the other 6.  We jump on the plane, discuss baseball, this epic run, and have a couple of beers en route.  Mausser is committed to getting good seats.  He’s in charge…I’m just along for the ride, and happy to be there.

We get to Cleveland in about 85 minutes.  Atlantic Aviation…lots of iron flying in for this one.  See a guy I know walking in from another plane.  Kind of fun.  Paul.  Took a photo (it’s the social media age)…hit the restroom.  A half-in-the-bag first timer was loud and obnoxious and was speaking while at the urinal to his elder buddy who was sitting in a stall….I was in-between them at another urinal…they were having a conversation.  Urinal guy says:  “Man Jim…sure seeing a lot of Chicago fans at this FBO!!!  Like everyone here is a Chicago fan!!! Isn’t that weird???”  Jim from stall:  “Yeah, dumbass…because so many Cleveland fans have to fucking fly into their hometown for games!”  I giggled.  Gonna be a good night.

We take a car service van to Downtown Cleveland.  Great city.  Great fans.  The city was electric.  Police on horses, people out and about, great energy in the air.  And a nice day, too.  70 and sunny.  Remember four of us have tickets, while three others and I do not.  Mausser pulls the trigger on 4 tickets….row W behind homeplate.  Like row 22.  They were amazing seats.

Interestingly, the crowd was about 50-50 Cub/Indians fans.  Chicago traveled well.  Could they come back from being down 3-1?  Could this be the year?  Will Colin have to change the name of his bars?  These are all questions going through our minds.  That, and “where is the beer and food?”

We take our seats and are struck by how perfect the night is at that moment.  We stand for the National Anthem….we sit and before we know it, Fowler hits a dinger off just the 3rd pitch of the game.

Whoa.  Tone set for the night.  The Cubs mean business.

You all know how the game went…don’t need to bore you with the details…and while you at home got more color, commentary, and context, we got atmosphere, friendliness, and memory creation.  It was just amazing.  Our seats are so freaking good that we could hit Theo Epstein in the head with a Peanut M&M.

At one point I stand up to go get some more food, and I hear my name being yelled from 3 rows back.  It was Bill Bennett, someone I had been in a real estate deal with years ago…he’s a professor at Kellogg School of Management in Evanston…a former Big 10 starting catcher at Purdue…so clearly a Cubs fan and former good player.  Holy cow…go up there to say hi…so fun to run into blasts from the past.

The Cubs control the night up until the 8th…then the epic tie by Cleveland, forcing extra innings…then the rain delay…then the magic.  A Cubs victory for the ages.

Upon leaving the game, I was struck by the sportsmanship of the Cleveland fan base.  More than 20 people came up to us as we walked to get a car back to Atlantic Aviation and congratulated us on a victory, shook our hand, and hoped we enjoyed their city.  Just cool and refreshing.

We get to Atlantic eventually, and man, there were over 200 private jets trying to leave all at the same time.  You want to giggle?  Go to an FBO where over 200 people are standing in line…and these are people NOT ACCUSTOMED to standing in line and listen to their first world problems while waiting to take a shuttle to their jet in the rain.  Lol.

We waited on the plane from about 1:30 until 3:00 am…I fell asleep out of exhaustion from a long but fun day.  I felt the plane jostle a bit, thinking “sweet…we just landed,” but I was mistaken…we were just taking off.  Ending up going back to sleep while the 4 in the back were re-living the game play-by-play, which as a huge Cub fan, they should be doing…savoring the moment.  For me, I was happy to go, but also happy to sleep a little.

5:00 wheels down in Des Moines, home by 5:30…slept for a little then went to work around 8:30 am.

Saw a guy I’d been with Wednesday morning on a project…left him around 10:30 that day before…he asks me (like everyone else around the country was asking their friends) “Did you see the game last night?  Unbelievable!”  Ummm yeah, I actually did see it.  I just got back.

It took me a couple of days to come down from the trip high…it was such a blast.

Very thankful for my health, my family for being cool with me jumping out of town that fast, and for my friends for thinking of me with the open seat.  Very lucky guy just adding another chapter of awesome to this book of life.

Ferris Bueller (Cubs Fan) said it best:  “Life moves pretty fast…if you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Maybe next year I’ll be watching games from 2016 Draught House.  Who knows.

Y’all Got Anymore of That Golf?

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”
– Arnold Palmer

I have been playing golf about the same amount of time I have been in the Navy, which is coming up on 17 years. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge, and I believe the game mirrors life and its constant ups and downs.  Pat and I had some great conversations over the course of a few rounds at Virginia Beach National while we were both stationed at Navy Network Warfare Command about four years ago. That is another thing I love about the game. Not only is it challenging, but it promotes social interaction, which only intensifies the overall experience.

My last tour on USS IWO JIMA (LHD-7) was the most challenging assignment of my career to this point – especially because I was not able to play golf for 22 of the 28 months.  The time away from the game increased my desire to not only play but to improve and achieve goals I had set for myself years prior. When I found out I was coming to Naval Postgraduate School, I had 16 months left on the ship, but I knew I would be able to make up for my time away from golf without issue. Once I arrived in Monterey, I began work on my ‘second Masters’ in earnest!

The lowest my index has been was 11 while stationed in Hawaii from 2002 to 2006. Fast forward to my arrival in Monterey in September 2015, and my index was 19.5. I quickly learned not picking up a club for about two years is detrimental to one’s golf game, so I signed up for lessons with Ben Alexander at Bayonet and Black Horse. Ben helped me get my swing back on track after the long layoff, but my scores suffered and as a result, my index began to rise.  When Ben retired, I ended up switching instructors to Cole Handley at Poppy Hills.  While working with Cole, things started to click, but I was still battling the typical amateur inconsistencies, and my index crept up to 23.5.  A couple of the specific issues I was dealing with were simply swinging too hard, coming over the top (slice city), and not making consistent contact with my irons. Fast forward to October 2016, and my index is at 14.2, and I recently beat my previous personal best of 83 when I shot an 82 at Black Horse.  Since that round, golf has kept me humbled, but I have only raised the bar and have adjusted my goals accordingly!

The game also appeals to my goal-oriented nature as once you beat one milestone; several others are immediately available. If the game of golf was an MMORPG, it would be a game with no end, and it is the endless challenge that pushes me to improve. As to the previously mentioned goals, I currently have two related to golf. The first is to break 80 and the second is to get my handicap under 10. Those two items represent my long term goals, and in the short term, my primary goals are to practice and play regularly and focus on short game and putting during practice. It is fun to hit the long ball, but anyone who has played golf for a significant length of time knows a deadly short game is the best way to drop strokes. Will it work for me? Only time will tell!

Golf serves as a sanctuary for me which helps me come back to center when life gets chaotic.  No matter how much equipment I go through, the game reminds me it is the fundamentals that matter the most. Shiny new clubs are nice and all, but having a complete understanding of what every club in my bag can do is more important, which is why this coming year I am focusing on reducing the number of club changes. Here is the Cliff Notes version of the equipment changes I have made since I got to Monterey last September. Seven drivers, nine fairway woods, five hybrids, six sets of irons, six different wedge configurations, seven putters and 15 different bags. Needless to say, I have owned enough equipment this year to open a golf shop! I had a lot of gear turnover, but I was never attempting to ‘buy’ my game. Thankfully, what I have in my bag now is working very well for me and with consistent practice will continue to help me achieve my goals!

While there are times the game drives me crazy, more often than not, it is keeping me active, giving me a chance to sort through my thoughts, and continually challenging me. As my time in Monterey winds down, one thing is for sure:  if I am not on campus wrapping up my thesis, you can find me teeing it up at one of the many fantastic courses in the area!

Welcome to ‘Renaissance Nerd’

What is ‘Renaissance Nerd?’

Yes.  If pressed to summarize within a ‘mission statement’ (because everyone just loves these):  a platform to express, and exchange our collective, yet diverse experiences and interests.  But, I believe this blog is and will evolve into much more than that.

renaissance man/woman/person is (according to Wikipedia) a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.

A nerd (again, according to Wikipedia – best site ever) is overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills…wait.  Scratch that.  Worst site ever.  Okay, let’s see what Webster has to say:  an unstylish (lame), unattractive (lame), or socially inept person (lame); especially one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits .  Awesome – thanks, Webster.  We’ll just leverage the ‘devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits’ portion.

The intersection of the idea of these two words, Renaissance (Person) & Nerd, is what inspires me.  Am I able to become more ‘knowledgeable to solve specific problems?’  Am I able to ‘slavishly devote (myself) to intellectual or academic pursuits?  Emphatically – yes.  A brilliant quote from an amazing 2016 work, ‘When Breath Becomes Air:’

You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.


We, collectively, are all ceaselessly striving towards betterment within our respective personal and professional roles.  This blog, this forum, this platform – together we will share our stories of success, failure, hardship, and triumph.  We will share our life’s experiences and perspectives.  We will share our passions, interests, and desires.  We will share – Yes.

Welcome to ‘Renaissance Nerd’ – what is your asymptote?