Category Archives: Current Events

How Do You Celebrate Christmas?

I am writing on Christmas day. Why? I love what I do and I am a nerd. I am really interested in the question of how YOU celebrate Christmas.

Christmas_tree

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The majority of Americans celebrate Christmas but the reality is that Christmas means different things to different people.  I am not writing to tell you how to celebrate Christmas, but to ask you how you celebrate it.

Let’s use a simple formula:

Christmas is about ________________________.

I celebrate Christmas by ____________________.

For example:

  • Christmas is about family. I celebrate Christmas by going to Grandma’s house where the entire family gets together for Christmas dinner.
  • Christmas is about forgiveness. I celebrate Christmas by making a list of all the people with whom I need to reconcile.
  • Christmas is about toys. I celebrate Christmas by shopping.
  • Christmas is about Jesus. I celebrate Christmas by remembering the birth of our savior and singing hymns at the Christmas eve service.
  • Christmas is about celebrating the holiday season. I celebrate Christmas by having a good time (especially under the mistletoe).

So How do You Celebrate Christmas?

The purpose of this article was to ask YOU what YOU believe Christmas is all about and how YOU celebrate Christmas. I sincerely want to know.

Quirky Traditions?

I would also like to know about any quirky Christmas traditions you might have. For example, I have a friend who orders pizza every year on Christmas because when he and his wife were young and broke, that was all that they could afford. I have a relative who breaks out green polyester “Christmas pants” from the 1970s.   I am not judging. I have my share of Christmas ties.

Our quirky tradition is to  ___________________.

So what is Christmas all about? How do you celebrate Christmas? What are  your traditions? I would love to hear what you have to say.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 25, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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The One Thing You Must Understand In Any Negotiation.

Negotiation is so hard because we make it hard. When we attack the other side, we limit our chances for a mutually satisfying solution. We create our own prisons and then we wonder why we are trapped.

Jail

As I write, our politicians are locking horns in a contentious debate that will affect us all.  Debate is nothing new, but the level of acrimony seems to be on the rise. The acrimony is accelerated by the moral superiority that each side feels it has over the other. This leads to more hyper-partisan attacks, but it also reduces the chances that we will arrive at creative 3rd alternative solutions.

Identity.

The core of the problem is that each side sees their position as their identity. We have forgotten that when you attack the position, you attack the person.  Stephen Covey wrote:

3rd_AlternativeAlmost everyone identifies with one alternative or the other. That’s why we have liberals against conservatives, Republicans against Democrats, workers against management…spouse against spouse, socialist against capitalist, and believers against nonbelievers. It’s why we have racism and prejudice and war.

Each of the two alternatives is deeply rooted in a certain mind-set. For example, the mind-set of the environmentalist is formed by appreciation for the delicate beauty of balance of nature. The mind-set of the developer is formed by a desire to see communities grow and economic opportunities increase. Each side usually sees itself as virtuous and rational and the other side as lacking virtue or common sense.

The deep roots of my mind-set entwine with my very identity. If I say I’m an environmentalist or a conservative or a teacher, I’m describing more than what I believe and value–I’m describing who I am. So when you attack my side, you attack me and my self image. (pp. 9-11)

The One Thing You Need To Understand.

 Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

I am a Christian. For me, this is a primary identity. So when secularists attack Christmas  (e.g. renaming a Christmas tree a “Holiday tree” in order to embrace people of all faiths), I understand how many Christians experience this as an attack on them and their values.

I am a Conservative. So when the far-left seized the opportunity to advance their gun-control agenda in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, I quickly penned three articles in defense of 2nd Amendment rights:

[Note: I believe that most ordinary Americans–even those who are now rethinking gun-control–simply want to ensure that a similar tragedy is not repeated. These people are different than those with a prepackaged agenda.]

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Notice that I said “I am” a Christian and “I am” a Conservative. I did not say that I think that Christianity or the Founding Fathers provided  rationally superior systems of thought. It is simply not that abstract. This is what I mean by identity. 

The point is this: If you are a Conservative, do not demonize Liberals if you wish to make any progress.  Remember:

Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

It Is The Same Way At The Office.

At work, if you have just disparaged Todd about the XYZ account at the last staff meeting, you are not likely to get Todd’s support on most basic items on your agenda.

If you say 2+2 =4, he will not attack your math, but you had better be prepared for him to ridicule your elementary thinking or your inability to think outside the box.  Why? He worked hard on the XYZ account and when you attacked it, you attacked him.  You violated his identity.

Whether you are in Congress or at the office, the one thing you must understand in any negotiation is that in order to gain cooperation you must not attack the other’s identity.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever experienced an attack on your identity that prevented your cooperation?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 20, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers (Part II – Solutions).

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Gun Control: How To Think Like The Founding Fathers

After writing Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers, I received a number of comments on the blog, by Facebook,  Twitter, and  email.  While the comments varied, the majority of questions could be summarized as follows:

“Yes, I like the Founding Fathers too, but they wrote 200 years ago and times have changed. Don’t just tell us that the problem lies in the heart of man.We want a solution.”

So, here I would like to discuss solutions, but I would like to do so within the Founders’ framework.   Please allow me set up the discussion with a few of their own words:

Franklinface

Ben Franklin

“They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

John Adams

John Adams

“We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Robert Winthrop (Patron of Winthrop University)

Robert_Charles_Winthrop“All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.”

Winthrop was not a “Founding Father” but a member of the next generation. I included his statement because it summarized the type of thinking I have been talking about. If we are internally controlled, we do not need external control. If, on the other hand, we do not control ourselves, we will lose liberty and demand that the government control us.

James Madison ThumbnailOn the floor of the Virginia Ratification Convention, James Madison asked:

“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure.”

Solutions

Let’s begin with suggestions that would not work (or are 180 degrees from the thinking of the Founders). These include:

  • Gun-free school zones (Sandy Hook Elementary was already a gun-free school zone. Criminals tend not to follow the rules).
  • Expand gun-free areas to all public spaces (see comments above).
  • Additional gun control legislation (20 or more laws were broken at Colombine. It is yet to be determined how many laws were broken in Newtown, CT, but let’s assume criminals have little respect for the law. Do we believe that another law will help or is this an effort to feel like we have done something?)

Here are the most workable solutions I have heard:

  • Moral and religious revival (a bit difficult to implement, admittedly).
  • Cultural shift that does not glorify guns and violence (unlikely while Hollywood and Rappers exist).
  • Focus on moral and ethical training of our children (which will be difficult in a society that can no longer agree on what is right and what is wrong).
  • “Resource officers” – More police stationed at schools (please reread the Winthrop quote above).
  • We have Air Marshals–why not have School Marshals too? (or armed administrators).
  • More armed auxiliary police (e.g. deputized civilians who can be called on in crises–expanding this number is cost-effective compared to the other models. We have a lot of vets who already have training).
  • Adopt a Swiss Model (There is a reason the Nazis did not invade Switzerland–they realized it would be too costly).

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityThe first two suggestions are internal. The latter are external and somewhat expensive, but if we are unwilling to do the real work of dealing with the root of the matter (the heart), we will be required to vigilantly monitor an ever-growing number of bad guy.

A colleague that I deeply respect emailed and privately wrote this about the Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers article :

“I’m not sure how to improve [your argument]. Fact is, there is no way to remove all exigencies. Liberty requires character because it means taking responsibility for your own actions. Unfortunately, it also means bearing the cost of others misusing it.”

President Obama described the school shooting as his “compass moment.” If it is, this may be the political leadership issue of our time. I am convinced  that a departure from the Founders’ thinking will not lead us to the promised peace and security that we crave.

What Are Your Suggestions? I’ll add them to the list.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 18, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers.

The school shooting in Newtown, CT was a terrible tragedy. The loss of innocent life is simply heartrending.  With what seems like a rash of mass shootings, politicians and political pundits have been asking whether meaningful gun control legislation is not overdue. Even President Obama has pledged to “use whatever power this office holds…in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because, what choice do we have?”

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Sweedish sculpture of Non-Violence by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd

What Choices Do We Have?

Let’s begin with Michael Moore, the maker of Bowling for Columbine.  The day of the memorial service, he tweeted the following:

Michael Moore

This is simply illogical. Moore is equating legal ownership of guns and rape. But let’s be clear: Rape is a crime. Murder is also a crime.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reporting Services, in the last year for which we have data, “victims age 12 or older experienced a total of 188,380 rapes or sexual assaults” in the United States.

Now, this is 188,380 too many, but let’s apply his reasoning to rape and his tweet might read: “The debate is over! Rape has to stop now. We need universal male castration!” To borrow from Madison, the cure is worse than the disease.

Thinking Like the Founding Fathers

Placing this discussion in context is important. I will not here rehash the common arguments from either side of the gun-control debate (e.g. Gun don’t kill people; people kill people or “Fewer people would be killed if guns were illegal.”) I want to focus here on the way that the Founding Fathers thought through such issues.

I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the way the Founding Fathers thought and reasoned during the Constitutional Convention and ratification debates. You may never have heard of me, but I know what I am talking about here. I borrowed Madison’s language from Federalist 10 because it is one of the clearest expositions of the Founders’ thinking about important political issues.

In Federalist 10, Madison was specifically was talking about factions (or what we call partisan politics). We don’t tend to like the bickering that goes on in Congress, but have you ever noticed that in countries where the lawmakers all have the same opinion, there is not a lot of freedom?  When we consider the alternative, Congress does not look so bad.

Let’s examine how the Founding Fathers thought. Madison wrote:

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

James Madison

James Madison – Chief Architect of the Constitution

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. (Federalist 10)

Let me recap.

Madison reasoned that you only have two choices: remove the causes or control its effects. If we try to remove the cause, we destroy our own liberty. The only viable solution is to control the effects.

 The First Amendment Has A Dark Side Too

In the wake of this tragedy, the Westboro Family Cult (I refuse to dignify them with the term “Baptist Church” as this is an insult to Baptists everywhere) announced that it was going to protest at the funerals in Connecticut.

They protest against America, reveling in God’s judgement. They disrupt funerals of fallen soldiers and other solemn venues (e.g. the Holocaust museum as pictured below) in order to gain publicity and attract lawsuits when their rights are violated. It is a shakedown operation using protected non-profit “church” status and the First Amendment as foils for the venom that they inject into society.

WestBoro Baptist Church

Condemn them, ignore them, or  encircle them with bikers as Patriot Guard Riders have done at funerals (in order to drown out their protests). But, do not compound the evil by attempting to remove the cause. As horrific as the the Westboro Family Cult is, it would be a far greater tragedy for the government to remove non-profit status for churches or restrict 1st Amendment religion or speech rights because of their abuses of the system.

The Solution

Madison concluded, “that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.” Why? Because the “causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.”

Now this is point. If the problem is internal (e.g. the heart of man), external solutions will not work.

The Second Amendment

We think of guns as a useful means to ward off criminals. It is, but it is more than that. It is also a preventative measure to thwart future tyranny.

In its historical context, the Founders reasoned that the people would never be subdued by an oppressive government (theirs or another) as long as the people were armed and free.

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityLiberals who rabidly defend the first amendment should apply the same logic to the second. We can destroy the liberty of citizens by removing firearms, but if the problem is the heart of man, strict controls on firearms will not cure what ails us and we will lose liberty in the process.

Guns in Newton, CT; machetes in Rwanda; improvised explosive devices (IED) in Iraq. What’s the common denominator? Evil in the Heart of man (not guns). Unless you can change the heart, your only remedy is to control the effects.

What do you think? I would like to know.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 17, 2012

UPDATE:  Looking for solutions? Have a solution? Read my next article:

Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers (Part II – Solutions)

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Put the Christmas List on Your Reading List

If you have read any of the other articles I have written, what I am about to suggest will be a bit of a surprise. I think you should read the Christmas List.

christmaslist

I write about leadership. The lessons I discuss are usually most applicable in the context of business. When I stray from the topic of business leadership, it is usually to talk about how to borrow lessons from the military (e.g.  Army Rangers or Navy SEALS) or politics in order to help you with what you face in your organization. So, my suggestion to read a Christmas book is a little different, but this book is different.

While setting up my Christmas tree,  I listened to the Christmas List. The book was written by New York Times best-selling author, Richard Paul Evans. It was Dickens meets modern life in a fallen world.

Plot

A businessman who doesn’t care about who he tramples in order to make a buck reads his own obituary in what turns out to be a case of mistaken identity. For the first time in years, he considers the harm that he has caused in the pursuit of profits over people. He makes a list of who he has hurt and he decides to right his wrongs. However, he finds that unlike what you see in a Hallmark Christmas movie, not everything can be fixed.

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityThe book was an emotional tear-jerker and I generally avoid this genre.  But I found it compelling for different reasons. The same man was the living embodiment of the best and worst leadership practices at different points in the book.

The book is inspiring and motivating. We see how forgiveness can lead to second chances. While everything cannot be fixed in this broken world, with the right motivation, we can move toward healing.

Again, everything does not work out perfectly in the end, but it does not work that way in real life either. Read the book. Let me know if you see the hidden lessons that I see. I would love to hear your thoughts.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 11, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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A Modest Proposal to End the “War on Christmas.”

As I write, Christmas is just weeks away.

Frosty the Snowman

Each year the drum beat seems to get progressively louder. Secularists clamor to  water down Christmas displays with gaudy arrangements that must include Frosty the Snowman and candy canes. Then they call for the outright removal of manger scenes and even the Christmas tree. Conservatives have dubbed this the “War on Christmas.”

I have never understood why people who claim not to believe in God are so troubled by others who believe in His existence. It doesn’t trouble me when people believe that Elvis is still alive.  To borrow from Hamlet, the atheist “doth protest too much, methinks.”

Christmas_tree

Last year Governor  Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island renamed the Christmas tree a “Holiday tree” in the name of inclusivity. So in order not to offend anyone, Chafee ignored the obvious fact that the 87.5% Christian population of his state might be offended by this politically correct shot over the bow.  Only 6% of Rhode Island self-identifies as non-religious (thanks, in large measure to Brown University).

“O Holiday Tree, O Holiday Tree” just does not have the same ring. This year, Chafee did it again, but he was smarter. To avoid last year’s protests, he gave only 30 minutes notice before the tree-lighting ceremony. Nothing suggests that public sentiment is on your side more than surreptitious behavior. Never mind that the White House “Christmas tree” was lit just a few days later.

4 Ways We Can Handle the Christmas Holiday:

1. Leave it alone

I celebrate Christmas. Jews celebrate Hannukah or Chanukah (and they can spell it however they like because it is THEIR holiday. They cash in on Christmas shopping deals and I got a day off from public school on Yom Kipper and Rosh Hashanah.

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I may have inappropriately said “Happy New Year” on the Day of Atonement, but my Jewish neighbors didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they appreciated that I was trying to be respectful of their tradition.  This is the way most people feel about the holidays.

2. We have competing holidays at the same time.  

In this scenario, you can’t be satisfied unless Kwanzaa is more popular than Hanukkah or Ramadan (or Ramadan gets more attention than Hanukkah depending on your persuasion). Moreover, all minority holiday celebrants must envy Christmas.

Borrowing the Marxist narrative, Christmas is bad because it is celebrated by the majority, where all of the smaller [proletariat] holidays are self-evidently virtuous.

Festivus for the Rest of Us

Seinfeld-Season-9-DVDFestivus_PoleFestivus has sprung up a humorous alternative to the traditional Christmas holiday.  In the last season of Seinfeld, George’s father celebrated Festivus “for the rest of us.” Festivus is celebrated on December 23. It includes a plain aluminum pole (to distinguish itself from the Christmas tree) and the “airing of grievances.” This was a funny Seinfeld episode, but it highlights the adversarial thinking I am talking about here. Can’t we just be respectful of each other?

3. We have only one standard holiday

This seems to be what the president of the American Atheists wants.

As our society increasingly unhinges from its mooring, someone will always be offended by what another person does. Our default solution is to make it accommodating for all, as if doing that will somehow satisfy all parties. More often than not, this solution leaves everyone dissatisfied.

What would one standard holiday look like? Cross the efficiency of the post office with the effectiveness of the public school system and I think you will have a sense of how bland the Winter Solstice holiday will feel. Just be sure not to bring religion into it–that is not polite.

4. Add a holiday.

Maybe we  should add an extra holiday in January for the rational free-thinkers who are offended by Christmas as a Federal holiday. Sure it will be one more lost day of productivity for the economy, but when we spend billions on non-productive bailouts, this will be a drop in the ocean.

Moreover, free thinkers will have their holiday or “Reason-Day” or whatever they want to call it. And, it should take the edge off of the silly argument that the government is “establishing a religion” by creating a Federal holiday that acknowledges that no one wants to go to work on Christmas anyway.

This is my olive branch to the politically correct atheists and it actually might be a good idea.

We can position Reason Day in late January when most people have already broken their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, get out of debt, and generally be a better person. Reason Day will be a stark reminder of our need to be better humans.

Moreover, another highly commercialized holiday would be great for business. If we have learned anything about economics from the mainstream media, it is that shopping helps the economy.

This would be a win-win scenario. The only reason that the Atheists wouldn’t embrace this generous offer would be if  the “War on Christmas” was not about “equal rights,” but about something else–the removal of Christianity from the public square.

I just hope the Reason-Day cookies taste good.

What are your thoughts? I would like to know.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 10, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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What Navy SEALS Can Teach Us About Teamwork.

Why are Navy SEALS so effective?

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US Navy SEALS Freefall from Air Force C-17. Photo courtesy of U.S. taxpayers (from .gov website).

SEALS  go anywhere (Sea, Air and Land).  They are the best conditioned, best trained, best equipped fighting force on Earth.  But is there is more to the story?

One often overlooked element is an unsurpassed dedication to the team. This is not the kind of “teamwork” that we talk about in business or sports.

In business, teamwork often happens begrudgingly. In many organizations, there is little or no alignment between people or departments. What we often call teamwork is more like the strained alliances of fractious parties in a parliamentary government. Each individual protects his own turf, viewing others suspiciously while contributing as little as possible to the team. This is not real teamwork.

SEALS on Teamwork

SEALS view teamwork differently. Teamwork is a force multiplier. Teamwork is a matter of life and death. Teamwork is born in training and demonstrated when members give their last full measure for the team.

Lone-Survivor

In his book, Lone Survivor:  The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and The Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10, Marcus Luttrell illustrated how SEALs understand teamwork.

After their position was exposed by a goat-herder on a mountain in Afghanistan, Luttrell and 3 fellow SEALS fought off an overwhelming Taliban force.

Soon after the firefight began, Lt. Mike Murphy was shot in the stomach, but he “was ignoring his wound and fighting like a SEAL officer should, uncompromising, steady, hard-eyed, and professional.”

Shortly thereafter, Marcus wrote that he saw Danny Dietz’s thumb “blown right off. And I saw him grit his teeth and nod, sweat streaming down his blackened face. He adjusted his rifle, banged in a new magazine with the butt of his hand, and took his place in the center of our little gun line.”  Danny would continue to return fire in spite of each of the five wounds (including one to the neck) that would eventually take his life.

When Luttrell saw Matthew “Axe” Axelson  shot in the chest, he recorded:

This could not be happening. Matt Axelson, a family fixture, Morgan’s best friend, a part of our lives. I started calling his name, irrationally, over and over. Privately I thought Danny was dying, and all I could see was a stain of blood gathering in the red dirt where Axe was slumped. For a brief moment I thought I might be losing it.
But then Axe reached for his rifle and got up. He leveled the weapon, got a hold of another magazine, shoved it into the breech, and opened fire again, blood pumping out of his chest. He held his same firing position, leaning against the rock. He showed the same attitude of solid Navy SEAL know-how, the same formidable steadiness, staring through his scope, those brilliant blue eyes of his scanning the terrain.

After being shot in the stomach earlier, Lt. Murphy was hit again–this time in the chest. He asked for another magazine and continued to fight. Then, what happened next was simply unimaginable. Luttrell wrote:

He groped in his pocket for his mobile phone, the one we had dared not use because it would betray our position. And then Lieutenant Murphy walked out into the open ground. He walked until he was more or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching in the numbers to HQ.
I could hear him talking. “My men are taking heavy fire…we’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here…we need help.”
And right then Mikey took a bullet straight in the back. I saw the blood spurt from his chest. He slumped forward, dropping his phone and his rifle. But then he braced himself, grabbed them both, sat upright again, and once more put the phone to his ear.
I heard him speak again. “Roger that, sir. Thank You.” Then he stood up and staggered out to our bad position, the one guarding our left, and Mikey just started fighting again, firing at the enemy.
He was hitting them too, having made that one last desperate call to base, the one that might yet save us if they could send help in time, before we were overwhelmed.

Only I knew what Mikey had done. He’d understood we had only one realistic chance, and that was to call in help. He knew there was only one place from which he could possibly make that cell phone work: out in the open, away from the cliff walls.
Knowing the risk, understanding the danger, in the full knowledge the phone call could cost him his life, Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy, son of Maureen, fiancé of the beautiful Heather, walked out into the firestorm.

Greater love

 His objective was clear: to make one last valiant attempt to save his two teammates. He made the call, made the connection. He reported our approximate position, the strength of our enemy, and how serious the situation was. When they shot him, I thought mortally, he kept talking….
An act of supreme valor. Lieutenant Mikey was a wonderful person and a very, very great SEAL officer. If they build a memorial to him as high as the Empire State Building, it won’t ever be high enough for me.

A memorial was built. The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) was commissioned on October 6, 2012.  Murphy was also awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). Photo courtesy of the U.S. Taxpayer (from .Mil website)

The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). Photo courtesy of the U.S. Taxpayer (from .Mil website)

What Motivates This Level of Dedication to the Team?

Get your MBA at Charleston Southern UniversityMaybe it is because the SEALS are selective. After all, they only take recruits who are in top condition.

Maybe it was because these men had endured some of the most difficult training that the military has to offer. SEAL training (BUDs) lasts 25 weeks.  By all accounts, it is grueling both physically and mentally.  All a recruit has to do is ring a bell to make the pain stop, and this is quite a temptation when recruits are cold, wet, and exhausted.  Two thirds of those selected for BUDs wash out of the program. Or, maybe it is something more.

For me, two primary lessons stand out.

The first lesson was revealed in the following  passage of Luttrell’s book:

One time during Indoc while we were out on night run, one of the instructors actually climbed up the outside of a building, came through an open window, and absolutely trashed a guy’s room, threw everything everywhere, emptied detergent over his bed gear. He went back out the way he’d came in, waited for everyone to return, and then tapped on the poor guy’s door and demanded a room inspection. The guy couldn’t work out whether to be furious or heartbroken, but he spent most of the night cleaning up and still had to be in the showers at 0430 with the rest of us.
I asked Reno about this weeks later, and he told me, ‘Marcus, the body can take [expletive deleted] near anything. It’s the mind that needs training. The question that guy was being asked involved mental strength. Can you handle such injustice? Can you cope with that kind of unfairness, that much of a setback? And still come back with your jaw set, still determined, swearing to God you will never quit? That’s what we’re looking for.’  (p. 102)

The lesson being taught was mental toughness. In the academic literature, it is called “grit.”  Dedication was developed by training that required SEALS to be comfortable with the hard realities of warfare–to recognize that life is not fair.

The second lesson is the actually the first lesson that SEALS learn in BUDS training. It is drilled into every SEAL.

The SEAL creed:

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight. (p. 7)

I wonder how different things would be if individuals in organizations had even a fraction of this mentality.  What if we acted like teammates and we defended one another with our eyes fixed on the mission? What would happen if  we determined that we would never quit. What if  we decided we would “draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect our teammates and accomplish our mission.” I think we would have fought our way out of the recession by now. What do you think?

The Professor’s Recommended  Reading:

Seal of Honor

and

No Easy Day

If you are interested in additional leadership lessons from the military, you might also want to read the article: Love the Suck.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 7, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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