[January 7, 2022] An often-quoted rule in combat is to don’t assume nuttin’. As soon as you do, your world will begin to fall apart, and people will know you failed to do your homework. Facts matter; suppositions don’t count for anything. Making assumptions in combat will get you or your buddy killed.
“Don’t assume nuttin’ … the enemy has a vote on how to kill you.” – Dougisms
There are plenty of bad habits that pull a good leader down; making assumptions (about anything of importance) is one of them. It shows when your assumption turns out to be false. When people assume, they are often wrong on significant issues. One good technique to overcome making incorrect assumptions is to talk with many people about the same issue. That is what most of us do.
“Mister, when you have an important job to do, never assume. When you look at the word, you can see it is made up of three parts—ass u and me. When you rely on assumptions, sooner or later it will make an ass of both of us.” – USAF Colonel Clarence L. Lollar, 1964
In 2005, when I ordered 400 tents to house a Brigade of 101st Airborne Division troops, it rained, and the tents leaked. The civilian contractor said I had asked for tents, not tents that didn’t leak. Even common assumptions don’t always hold.
It’s easy to make assumptions. We all do it, and we do so all the time. All you need to fill in the blanks about a situation is to assume. The assumption is based on your experiences, education, and information from others. This is how we connect-the-dots … and it works. But doing so is a lazy man’s way out. Filling in the blanks takes hard work and focus.
Here are a few assumptions that inevitably got peopled killed or seriously injured:
- The gun was unloaded (remember Alec Baldwin and Brandon Lee).
- That guy wasn’t armed [with a gun, knife, or another weapon].
- The electricity, water, or gas will not stop.
- Your car won’t have a flat tire or start.
- There’s nobody behind you [when doing something dangerous].
- The police will protect you when time is critical.
- Emergency health care is always available.
It’s dangerous to make assumptions on essential matters. The risk should be assessed, even if this assessment is quick or informal. I hate being wrong, but it always seems to come out that way when I make assumptions.
Don’t assume nuttin’.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).