We’re at War with Insurgents… Everyday.

This Sunday morning during my walk, I decided to listen to Jocko Willink’s podcast in hopes his general toughness and manliness would rub off on me.

He’s a Navy SEAL, author of Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, and a 4:30am riser. And his podcast carries with it the gravitas that only a badass military guy can bring to the table.

In truth, he and his cohorts are heroes in the truest sense of the word. In case you ever make it to this corner of the web, Mr. Willink, thank you and the various crews you’ve worked with.

I don’t care how successful you’ve been in any other endeavor, if you’ve been in a position that could get you killed on the regular and have come through with your wits, I’m happy to sit at your feet and listen to what you have to say.

The following are 10 random thoughts that came from Episode 7 of the Jocko Podcast. The podcast features Jocko’s review of a book by a Sri Lankan military leader and his analysis of how his troops and colleagues handled (and mishandled) fighting rebel insurgents.

I’m not going to break them down, so take them as is and if they’re helpful, awesome!

  1. Being well-trained in something does not make you wise. We can be so entrenched in the right way to do something that we fail to be aware of when we need to go off-book, when we need to use wisdom.
  2. Discipline is vital, but guile will save your life. He’s talking about being in a combat situation, but this is so true in our day-to-day lives. Guile – being wily, having some street-smarts and awareness – will help you stay alive when push comes to shove. In the business context, taking care of basic admin tasks will keep you from being fired, but leveraging your creativity will get you the raise.
  3. Do not accept all that you inherit. Jocko tells the story of a military outpost that continually benefits from newly deployed troops. Each newly deployed squad does things exactly like the squad before, without asking why they’re doing what they’re doing (occupying specific locations, falling into the same patrol patterns, etc.). The insurgents observe and discover the weaknesses. This spells disaster. Do not assume that everybody who has come before you has done things the right way. Bring your wisdom, guile, and creativity to the situation. Question things.
  4. You must have a clear ‘why’. One of the difficult things about fighting insurgencies is that insurgents have extremely clear purpose. They fight for freedom or out of religious fervor or some other ideological grid. And this purpose fuels them over the long haul. Similarly, we must have clarity of purpose when we engage a battle for some personal change or improvement.
  5. Micro level honesty trumps macro level pontifications. Basically, brutal honesty is better than high level theory. We all know what we need to do to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, and we’ll go on and on about it. But we don’t take the time to take a hard look in the mirror and fess up honestly about why we know what to do… but don’t do it.
  6. When things are eerily quiet, be on the alert. In the story above, when the new troops would mirror the old troops, the poop hit the fan one day when the insurgents attacked the peacekeeping troops. Before the attack, the small village grew eerily quiet. When things are quiet and peaceful and we’re tempted to stop being on the alert (spiritually, financially, relationally), then we should probably step up our awareness.
  7. Build challenges into your lifetime commitment to keep elements of surprise and creativity. Jocko points out that much of combat involves sitting and waiting. That can lull you into routine and complacency. Mix things up. Add additional goals and challenges, but maintain a continual commitment to whatever the longterm goal is.
  8. Principles of war apply to all areas of life – and even more so, principles of combating insurgents. Let’s be honest. we are all in battles of various types. And much of it looks like warring against insurgents. Fighting these types of wars are holistic. They involve capturing the hearts, souls, minds, and finally the bodies. We are constantly in a war to keep our own hearts, souls, minds, and bodies moving in the right direction. And they all work together.
  9. Leave the dead and pursue the enemy. If failure happens, don’t wallow. Learn from it and get back after it.
  10. Don’t waste time providing security for country clubs during peace time. One of the critiques the Sri Lankan military leader levied against his country’s armed forces, is that during peace, they wasted their time presiding over sporting events and the like. They lost combat readiness. In the normal person world, this idea applies when we’ve hit a certain goal or have achieved some level of comfort. We want to be able to coast. But we can never coast. Life doesn’t afford us that luxury, in my humble opinion.

There you have it. The long and the short of it is that we are all battling little insurgencies even if we, ourselves, are the insurgents trying to thwart our own progress.  We must maintain alertness, discipline, and guile.

Hopefully you found something in there that is helpful. If not, go listen to the podcast. I’m sure if any of the 10 above made no sense, the podcast will help. You can watch it by clicking the link below or jump on your iPhone or Stitcher and search ‘Jocko’.


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