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