Keep Your Eye on the Ball

By | April 28, 2022

[April 28, 2022]  Be vigilant.  See the enemy first, that’s how you become their final solution.  Keep your eye on the ball.

Pay close attention to what is happening around you and, as well, note what is not happening that should be occurring.  Know your surroundings, what is ordinarily present, who frequents where you are, how people typically act, and the importance of your presence.  Be aware and always vigilant, for one day, you will be called upon to step into the breach of life and save lives, property, or things of great value.  To be vigilant, you must possess the indispensable traits of persistence, presence, and patience.

We all struggle to remain focused over the long term.  That is why we connect ourselves to teams of people we can trust and who have confidence in us; there will always be someone on alert.  Our greatest downfall is complacency as we look away.

One early morning, our convoy from the Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone was traveling over Route Irish, called the most dangerous stretch of highway on Earth.  Our rear security vehicle guard (in an armored Humvee) allowed a civilian vehicle to pass us in violation of standard procedures.  As the civilian vehicle passed, the suicide bomber exploded next to one of our transports, killing several military personnel.  It was later determined that the rear guard had fallen asleep in the gunner’s seat.  He had done this job daily for nearly a year and had never before experienced an attack.  Complacency, in this case, resulted in the deaths of four soldiers and several wounded.  “Complacency kills,” we had been warned.

It is indeed challenging to remain vigilant.  Whether running an organization as the acting CEO or temporarily organizing a group of people for a short-term purpose is far easier than remaining in place for the long haul.  Many leaders have achieved notoriety for quickly coming in to save a company from failure.  But it’s the worker who stays with the organization that is the real champion because it is that person who ensures things work.  It is human nature to let one’s guard down, to lay back and relax. The difficulty of maintaining a high state of readiness has been well known to humankind throughout history.  There have been famous battles where the weak prevailed because the others failed to maintain their vigilance.

To Americans, we recall our history when General George Washington led a small band of Minutemen across the Delaware River to attack Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas night, December 25, 1776. After the nighttime crossing, Washington’s forces attacked the Hessian troops, surprising them and quickly overwhelming their inadequate defenses. The surprise maneuver and the small victory gave the American colonies a much-needed boost in morale.

Avoiding complacency is a national pastime, and numerous self-help articles and books are written on the subject.   A few tips to avoiding complacency are: get a night’s sleep, never assume anything, don’t underestimate others, stay focused, and surround yourself with energetic people.  Complacency can get you killed (or injured), destroy your career, and screw up your life.  Everyone is vulnerable.  Don’t get comfortable … stay paranoid!

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Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

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.

26 thoughts on “Keep Your Eye on the Ball

  1. Delf A. "Jelly" Bryce

    I enjoyed this article and find it one of your better ones on staying focused if you want to be a good leader (or great person). Recognize that leaders have a lot to do, more than we can often handle appropriately. We will make mistakes. Do your best and keep good folks around you to help.

    Reply
  2. Anya B.

    Once again, Gen. Satterfield nailed an idea to the wall and made excellent points to support it. In this case, he has chosen a common, and well understood idea but taken it one step further. This is not about advanced leadership but leadership at its very core. Another reason to keep reading this blog.

    Reply
  3. Autistic Techie

    I learned about this in baseball. Applying the analogy to paying attention to what’s going on around you is vital if you want to succeed and be satisfied with your life.

    Reply
    1. Grover in the Grove

      Big fan of baseball here. Who wouldn’t be? I really enjoyed this article because it brought back memories of when I was a kid. So many of my teachers and coaches (I played baseball) said exactly the same thing. Keep your eye on the ball, Grover! I’m new to this website but I just can’t get enough.

      Reply
      1. ZB22

        I used to be a professional baseball fan but I don’t watch them anymore. They went woke, THey lost me as a fan forever.

        Reply
  4. Deplorable John

    Gen. Satterfield, another spot on article on a subject that may seem too basic to worry about. Obviously, ‘taking our eye off the ball’ is a point of failure we all have experienced and thus the reminder to stay focused. Great job.

    Reply
  5. Robo Cop II

    Today is another day that you can take action to make yourself better. This article is commonsense. Yes, I know that even commonsense fails us on occasion. But keep up the effort and don’t ever ever ever slack off.

    Reply
    1. Harry Man

      Got that right, Robo Cop II. Ha, great moniker. Where did you get it? BTW, this leader forum is full of great ideas and we all get a chance to reinforce or question the logic of Gen. Satterfield and each other. Gen. S. encourages it. That is why this forum is kept peaceful and the whackos that run our country are not here censoring us.

      Reply
      1. Army Captain

        Harry Man, yep and maybe it’s just that they are too busy going after the big folks like Elon Musk who are advocating for free speech. Gee, who would have known?

        Reply
  6. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Don’t get comfortable … stay paranoid!
    Best quote of the day.

    Reply
    1. Emma Archambeau

      Yes, Otto, I picked up on the sentence too. Just another way of saying, stay awake, be focused, and don’t take your eye off the ball. But, at the end of the day we are all human and subject to failing ourselves and those around us. Keep vigilant.

      Reply
  7. Jeff Blackwater

    Gen. Satterfield gives us some basic advice, ” A few tips to avoiding complacency are: get a night’s sleep, never assume anything, don’t underestimate others, stay focused, and surround yourself with energetic people. ” Pay attention folks, this is the solution. Easy? Nope. Hard? Yep. A winning plan? Yep. Get on it. Adopt responsibility. You will be a winner in all things.

    Reply
    1. Lady Hawk

      Sounds like basic advice from Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese general from 2,000 years ago.

      Reply
  8. Doc Blackshear

    Excellent again – another one! – for the latest series in getting to the heart of making ourselves better folks and increasing our ability to properly lead others.

    Reply
    1. Laughing Monkey

      Yep, and exactly why I read this leadership blog by Gen. Satterfield every single day.

      Reply
      1. Max Foster

        LM, i agree but it takes more. Just reading this blog is merely to get the first spark ignited in your personal sparkplug. It is YOUR responsibility to keep moving, to do the work required, to have the foresight and vision, and the gumption to go the extra mile to be a better person. Remember what Gen. Satterfield told us, “compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to others.”

        Reply
      2. Guns are Us

        Me too!!!! I’m a huge fan of this website and the folks here in the leadership forum help a tremendous amount. So read the comments and think!!!

        Reply
  9. Tom Bushmaster

    Ha Ha, good one, Gen. Satterfield. Well said and … pow … to those of us who are too lazy, we are on notice.

    Reply
    1. Emily Baker

      Complacency will always be the downfall of us. Lazy? Call it what you want, but there is the human weakness to take our “eye off the ball.” We lose focus quickly. That is why leadership and being a good person is so important to keeping us all vigilant.

      Reply
    2. Georgie B.

      … and little will change in the future, especially as government start to promise more and hold up ‘experts’ as the end all. Why should be even try to control our existance when the experts can be our mom and dad. Ouch, how infantiel.

      Reply
      1. Yusaf from Texas

        Well said, Georgie. Gen. Satterfield sure did nail it today. ✔

        Reply

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