15 Seconds from Stupidity

By | February 28, 2021

[February 28, 2021]  Make no mistake about it; I have been insulted and threatened in more ways and languages than most people.  Most of the time, I came out ahead of the game (and alive).  One of my top insults was, ‘You’re 15 seconds from stupidity.

This 2-Star U.S. Marine General in Iraq told me that I was about to screw up big time.  Our army Engineers had deployed three IED-detection teams an hour ahead of a major offensive operation.  He wanted me to recall them immediately.  In his opinion, these teams would give away the planned operation.

I refused to take the “advice” from this Flag Officer, usually not a smart move.  At the time, I had to make a choice.  Recall my Engineer teams or allow them to continue.  There will be times when a leader – or just any ordinary person – will be on the edge of a situation that demands action and the right decision.  Lives can hang in the balance, as they did then.

Mediocre leaders will find themselves 15 minutes from stupidity and simply fold up their tents and go home.  Mediocracy will fail when put under high-stress. That is a lesson we all learned quickly in combat.  I witnessed at least a dozen Colonels removed from the combat zone for a failure to lead.  Two of these officers were from my Engineer section.

I’m reminded of U.S. Army Major General Henry J.F. Miller, who was relieved of duty and reduced in grade to Colonel by General Dwight D. Eisenhower for breach of security.  While drunk in a London hotel, he gave away the planned D-Day invasion date.  Like Miller, we are all only seconds away from stupidity.

Leadership is not easy. It does not mean you are some fat cat sitting in an overstuffed office chair, cigar in hand, giving out orders to your minions.  Some say that being a leader means walking on the edge of chaos; you could unexpectedly fall into the abyss anytime.  Fear of failure (or of stupidity) is a real problem, and this fear can drive some over the edge to drink excessively or to other less healthy behavior.

But, leaders are always are, and always will be, 15 seconds from stupidity.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “15 Seconds from Stupidity

  1. corralesdon

    I’ve know too many leaders who are only a few seconds away from ‘stupidity’ and they seemed to want to prove it. Develop trust and you will be a better leader in the long run.

  2. Andy Arnold

    Late last night, the House of Representatives passed the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020” on a party-line vote, with just two Democrats joining Republicans in opposing the measure. You can read the text of the bill here. It reflects the Democratic Party’s view that there is really no such thing as crime, and the principal threat to our populace comes from violent, depraved police officers. Democrats 1 second from stupidity.

  3. Frank Graham

    Aren’t we all on the edge of chaos? Dr. Jordan Peterson talks about this regularly. I suggest that those who would like to hear more on this theme, to go to YouTube and type in his name in the search engine. You will find plenty of fodder for your taste. You will quickly learn to appreciate his intelligence.

    1. Dern McCabe

      Yes, he is smart and can argue his point well. He’s not mean about it, just uses logic.

  4. Fatin Hussein

    Great article title. As others have said but I want to emphasize, leaders are on the edge of chaos. That is why they are leaders. They lead us along the safest, but not the easiest, path.

  5. Willie Shrumburger

    Being so close to the ‘chaos’ written about here in this blog, reminds me of Dr. Jordan Peterson who regularly speaks to this very issue. If I remember correctly, Gen. Satterfield is influenced by Dr. P’s writings. I have also read much of Dr. P’s works and listened to his podcasts and seen his videos. I recommend them. If you listen often enough, you will hear similar themes in Gen. Satterfield and Dr. Peterson.

    1. Dead Pool Guy

      Good points Willie. I agree, of course, becuase you are spot on with your analysis. I too watch Dr. Peterson on YouTube (altho it is starting to censor many good people).

  6. Steve Dade

    I watched the HBO series Band of Brothers and really liked the entire 10 episode series. I only wish more of them were made. I also remember the episode when Gen. Miller flubbed his duty and blurted out the D-Day timetable for all to hear. What a disgrace. However, he remained in the US Army and rose to the rank of Brig. Gen. later on before he retired. He was a good man. It shows, however, that alcohol can loosen our tongues at the wrong time and place.

    1. Doug Smith

      Alcohol and illegal drugs destroys about 10% of folks. They become so dependent upon and seek aggressively the alcohol or drugs that everything else doesn’t matter a wit. Sad.

    2. Autistic Servent

      … and too many folks simply believe they will be exempted from this fact. Like playing russian roulette, someone is going to die.

      1. Randy Goodman

        Hi, AS, are you new here? Haven’t seen you on Gen. Satterfield’s site before. Welcome. I hope you learn from reading the leadership forums and can add to the discussion of the day.

  7. Max Foster

    He He, good one. Thanks Gen. Satterfield, as I had absolutely no idea what this article would be. Point – we are all close to abject failure. It is only a thin slice of time away. Be on your guard, be prepared, be ready to take on the world at any moment.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Very true, Max and we all appreciate you striking at the heart of what Gen. Satterfield has for us and your adding commentary. Well done!

      1. Greg Heyman

        Max always has something important to say or he doesn’t write anything at all. Thanks again, Max.


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