Staff Skills

52 Weeks of Ideas Part 2: Resilience, War and Strategy

By Chris Field April 7, 2021


Part 2:

    3. Resilience: 17 ideas

    4. War & Strategy: 3 ideas

Resilience:

33.     Marcus Aurelius: Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it’s unendurable … then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well[1].

34.     Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho, 1984: All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better[2].

35.     Maintain a bias for:

  • Action
  • Resilience
  • Prehabilitation
  • Post-traumatic growth
  • Anti-fragile where resilience or robustness are neither harmed nor helped by volatility and disorder. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the anti-fragile gets better. Anti-fragile is behind ‘everything that has changed with time: evolution; culture; ideas; revolutions; political systems; technological innovation; cultural and economic success; good recipes; the rises of cities, cultures, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance…even our own existence as a species on this planet’[3].

36.    Major General James L. Huggins, Commanding General, 82nd Airborne Division, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 06 May 2012: 'I am biased...but that does not make me wrong,' 

37.     Epictetus: Above all, one must attend to ‘desire and aversion’: one must correct our emotional responses by pondering questions of value and indifference, for desire or fear of objects outside one’s own control results in a host of strong emotions that make one ‘incapable of listening to reason’ while experiencing them[4].

  • In other words: when something happens outside your control, you have complete freedom in how you respond to it.

38.     Epictetus: But happiness is much better; and to be free from passions, free from disturbance, for your affairs not to depend on any person[5].

39.     When insulted:

40.     Baroness Louise Lehzen, Queen Victoria's governess, friend, ally, companion and advisor:  I have, to be sure, not created, but nourished in the Princess, one quality which is to test, consider, and to stand firmly by that which the Princess finds right and good[9].

41.     Steven Pressfield: the ‘zero-sum view of life is that of limited resources’. Instead, Pressfield argues for us to move our relationships from dichotomy – where opinions are only right or only wrong – to non-zero-sum relationships where ‘resources are infinite’. For example:

  • The love a parent gives their child (and that the child returns) grows greater, the more each loves. There is and can never be a shortage of love.
  • Compassion is infinite.
  • Integrity is infinite.
  • Ethical behaviour is infinite.
  • Faith is infinite[10].

42.     Resilience:

  • Seneca: We suffer more often in imagination than reality[11].
  • Epictetus: It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance[12].
  • Marcus Aurelius: Choose not to be harmed — and you will not feel harmed[13].

43.     Musonius Rufus[14]: All people are alike, including those who have never given any attention to virtue. Clearly, then, there is no explanation for this other than that the human being is born with an inclination toward virtue. And this indeed is strong evidence of the presence of goodness in our nature, that all speak of themselves as having virtue and being good[15].

44.     Bernard Salt: Missteps and adversity [provides each us] …the ability to learn something, anything, from the stumbles and the tumbles of life's trajectory. To come out the other side mentally stronger, or even just knowing your priorities, can deliver a dividend that enables contentment and maybe even success in the years that follow[16].

45.     Seneca, Moral Letters, 95.46: Life without design is erratic. As soon as [design] is in place, principles become necessary…remove the faults that seize and detain our spirits, preventing them from pushing forward and making an all-out effort [17].

46.     George Bernhard Shaw: Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations[18].

47.     Admiral James Stockdale:[19] the Stockdale Paradox:       

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be[20].

48.     Bill Walsh: If you want to sleep at night before a game, have your first 25 plays established in your own mind the night before that. You can walk into the stadium and you can start the game without that stress factor. You will start the game and you will remind yourself that you are looking at certain things because a pattern has been set up.

  • Our ability to think concisely, your ability to make good judgments is much easier on Thursday night than during the heat of the game.
  • We prefer to make our decisions related to the game almost clinically before the game is ever played.
  • We have scouted our opponent, we have looked at films, we know our opponent well.
  • Without question you can make more objective decisions during the week as to what you would do in the game than you can spontaneously as the game is being played.
  • During a game you are in a state of stress, sometimes you are in a state of desperation and you are asked to make very calculated decisions.
  • Your decisions made during the week are the ones that make sense.
  • In the final analysis, after a lot of time and thought and a lot of planning, and some practice, I will isolate myself prior to the game and put together the first 25 plays for the game[21].

49.     Oprah Winfrey: Every person has one thing in common. They all want validation. Every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know:

  • Do you see me?
  • Do you hear me?
  • Does what I say mean anything to you?[22]

War & Strategy:

50.     From a US Central Command planner in 2020: our campaign is conditions-based with the discipline of a timeline.

51.     Jim Storr: warfighting is fundamentally a human activity, in which humans choose what to do, consciously or subconsciously; rationally, irrationally, or non-rationally. Fundamentally, three things occur on the battlefield: people think, move, and commit violence. All other activities support these functions[23].

52.     Alex J. Beckstrand, grand strategy requires:

  • Long term vision
  • Reconciliation of desired ends with national means – both political and fiscal means
  • Employment of all elements of national power, DIME-FIL: diplomatic, information, military, economic, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement[24].

 

End Notes:

[1] Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, 10.3.1, 167 A.C.E. <https://lexundria.com/go?q=M.%20Aur.%20Med.%2010.3.1&v=lg> [accessed 15 November 2020]

[2] Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho, 01 January 1984 <http://www.samuel-beckett.net/w_ho.html> [accessed 01 November 2020]

[3] Chris Field, Review Essay: Observations On Books From Commander US Central Command’s 2018 Reading List – Part 2, Australian Army, The Cove, 18 July 2019 <https://cove.army.gov.au/article/review-essay-observations-books-commander-us-central-commands-2018-reading-list-part-2> [accessed 31 May 2020]  Antifragility is:

  • Consider a Triad of Fragile-Robust-Antifragile, where fragile seeks tranquillity, antifragile grows from disorder and robust ‘doesn’t care too much’. This Triad has practical planning implications for ‘when you discuss an item or a policy, the task is to find in which category of the Triad one should put it and what to do in order to improve its condition’. This process and approach is known as the “barbell” strategy.
  • The antifragile ‘loves randomness and uncertainty’ and ‘loves errors’ providing that ‘harm from errors is less than the benefits.’ Antifragility means that ‘we [as humans] are largely better at doing, usually through heuristics (rules-of -thumb), than we are at thinking’.

[4] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Epictetus, Discourses 3.2, Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI), Stanford University, 17 April 2017<https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epictetus/> [accessed 24 August 2020]

[5] Epictetus, The Discourses, Book 4, Chapter 4, 108 AD<http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/discourses.4.four.html> [accessed 20 September 2020]

[6] Marcus Porcius Cato, byname Cato The Younger, (born 95 BCE—died 46, Utica, Africa [now in Tunisia]), great-grandson of Cato the Censor and a leader of the Optimates (conservative senatorial aristocracy) who tried to preserve the Roman Republic against power seekers, in particular Julius Caesar. His only surviving composition is a letter to Cicero (preserved in Cicero’s Ad familiares, xv, 5). Immediately after his death Cato’s character became the subject of debate. Cicero’s panegyric Cato was answered by Caesar’s bitter Anticato. In the Bellum civile by the poet Lucan (1st century ad), Cato is represented as a model of virtue.

[7] Marcus Aurelius, in full Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, original name (until 161 ce) Marcus Annius Verus, (born 26 April, 121 ce, Rome [Italy]—died March 17, 180, Vindobona [Vienna, Austria] or Sirmium, Pannonia), Roman emperor (161–180 ce), best known for his Meditations on Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius has symbolised for many generations in the West the Golden Age of the Roman Empire.

[8] Epictetus, (c. 50s C.E), born in Hierapolis, a Greek city of Asia Minor, Epictetus spent a portion of his life as the slave of Epaphroditus, an important administrator in the court of Nero. The date at which he came to Rome is unknown, but it must have been either prior to 68, at which time Epaphroditus fled the capital, or after the accession of Domitian in 81, under whom Epaphroditus was allowed to return and perhaps to resume his position.

[9] Julie Baird, Victoria: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire, Random House, 2016, Chapter 3 <https://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Queen-Intimate-Biography-Empire/dp/1400069882> [accessed 04 October 2020]

[10] Steven Pressfield, The Non-Zero-Sum Character, Writing Wednesdays, 10 July 2019 <https://stevenpressfield.com/2019/07/the-non-zero-sum-character/> [accessed 30 August 2020]

[11] Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 1 BCE – CE 65) was born in Corduba (Spain) and educated—in rhetoric and philosophy—in Rome.

[12] Epictetus, (c. 50s C.E), born in Hierapolis, a Greek city of Asia Minor, Epictetus spent a portion of his life as the slave of Epaphroditus, an important administrator in the court of Nero. The date at which he came to Rome is unknown, but it must have been either prior to 68, at which time Epaphroditus fled the capital, or after the accession of Domitian in 81, under whom Epaphroditus was allowed to return and perhaps to resume his position.

[13] Marcus Aurelius, in full Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, original name (until 161 ce) Marcus Annius Verus, (born 26 April, 121 ce, Rome [Italy]—died March 17, 180, Vindobona [Vienna, Austria] or Sirmium, Pannonia), Roman emperor (161–180 ce), best known for his Meditations on Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius has symbolised for many generations in the West the Golden Age of the Roman Empire.

[14] Musonius Rufus, (c. 30–62 CE), was one of the four great Stoic philosophers of the Roman Empire, along with Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Renowned as a great Stoic teacher, Musonius conceived of philosophy as nothing but the practice of noble behaviour. He advocated a commitment to live for virtue, not pleasure, since virtue saves us from the mistakes that ruin life. Though philosophy is more difficult to learn than other subjects, it is more important because it corrects the errors in thinking that lead to errors in acting. He also called for austere personal habits, including the simplest vegetarian diet, and minimal, inexpensive garments and footwear, in order to achieve a good, sturdy life in accord with the principles of Stoicism. He believed that philosophy must be studied not to cultivate brilliance in arguments or an excessive cleverness, but to develop good character, a sound mind, and a tough, healthy body. Musonius condemned all luxuries. He argued that women should receive the same education in philosophy as men, since the virtues are the same for all people.

[15] Musonius Rufus, M. (c.79). Musonius Rufus: The Roman Socrates, Translated by C.E. Lutz, Yale Classical Studies, Volume X. Lecture II, Yale University Press, 1947 <https://www.stoictherapy.com/resources-lectures#lecture02> [accessed 04 October 2020]

[16] Bernard Salt, The art of bouncing back, The Weekend Australian Magazine, 23 October 2020 <https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/the-art-of-bouncing-back/news-story/bd03b087b6931c692516d4ef64bc6100> [accessed 24 October 2020]

[17] Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 1 BCE – CE 65) was born in Corduba (Spain) and educated—in rhetoric and philosophy—in Rome.

[18] Alexander Atkins, Tag Archives: famous George Bernard Shaw quotations, Life Belongs to the Whole Community; It Is A Sort of Splendid Torch, WordPress.com, 16 February 2019 <https://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com/tag/famous-george-bernard-shaw-quotations/> [accessed 30 October 2020] From one of Shaw’s speeches, found in George Bernard Shaw: His Life and His Works by Archibald Henderson. The “brief candle” is an allusion to the famous soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth (1606) spoken by Macbeth: “Out, out, brief candle! / Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, / that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / and is heard no more. It is a tale / told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / signifying nothing.”

[19] Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, United States Naval Academy Class of 1947. On September 9, 1965 while returning from a mission, his A-4 Skyhawk was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Stockdale ejected, breaking a bone in his back and badly dislocating his knee. Stockdale wound up in Hoa Lo Prison, the infamous "Hanoi Hilton", where he spent the next seven years. Despite being kept in solitary confinement for four years, in leg irons for two years, physically tortured more than 15 times, denied medical care and malnourished, Stockdale organised a system of communication and developed a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behaviour. In spring of 1969 he was told that he was to be taken "downtown" and paraded in front of foreign journalists. Stockdale slashed his scalp with a razor and beat himself in the face with a wooden stool knowing that his captors would not display a prisoner who was disfigured. Later, after discovering that some prisoners had died during torture, he slashed his wrists to demonstrate to his captors that he preferred death to submission. This act so convinced the Vietnamese of his determination to die rather than to cooperate that the Communists ceased the torture of American prisoners and gradually improved their treatment of POWs. He was released from prison in 1973. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford in 1976. He was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the Navy, wearing twenty six personal combat decorations, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, two Purple Hearts, and four Silver Star medals in addition to the Medal of Honor. He was the only three star Admiral in the history of the Navy to wear both aviator wings and the Medal of Honor. U.S. Naval Academy, Notable Gradates, James B. Stockdale, Annapolis, MD 21402 <https://www.usna.edu/Notables/featured/10stockdale.php> [accessed 31 October 2020]

[20] Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams, What the Stockdale Paradox Tells Us About Crisis Leadership, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, Baker Library, Bloomberg Center, Boston, MA 02163, 17 August 2020 <https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/what-the-stockdale-paradox-tells-us-about-crisis-leadership> [accessed 31 October 2020]

[21] Bill Walsh, A Method For Game Planning, San Francisco 49ers, Mid-80s Lecture Transcript <http://www.westcoastoffense.com/bill%20walsh%20method%20for%20game%20planning.htm> [accessed 03 September 2020]. William (Bill) Ernest Walsh, (November 30, 1931 – July 30, 2007), was an American professional and college football coach. He served as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and the Stanford Cardinal, during which time he popularised the West Coast offence. After retiring from the 49ers, Walsh worked as a sports broadcaster for several years and then returned as head coach at Stanford for three seasons. Walsh went 102–63–1 (wins-losses-ties) with the 49ers, winning 10 of his 14 postseason games along with six division titles, three NFC Championship titles, and three Super Bowls. He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1984. In 1993, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

[22] Oprah.com, The Oprah Winfrey Show Finale, Harpo, Inc, 2020 <https://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/the-oprah-winfrey-show-finale_1/7> [accessed 16 September 2020]

[23] Jim Storr, The Human Face of War, Birmingham War Studies Series, Bloomsbury, London, 2011, p. 36

[24] Alex J. Beckstrand, On American Grand Strategy, The Strategy Bridge, 10 March 2020 <https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2020/3/10/on-american-grand-strategy?rq=Beckstrand> [accessed 07 June 2020]

Cesar Augusto Rodriguez, Timothy Charles Walton, and Hyong Chu, Putting the “FIL” into “DIME”: Growing Joint Understanding of the Instruments of Power, Joint Force Quarterly 97, Washington, D.C., 01 April 2020 <https://www.whs.mil/News/News-Display/Article/2133177/putting-the-fil-into-dime-growing-joint-understanding-of-the-instruments-of-pow/> [accessed 13 December 2020]

 

 


Portrait

Biography

Chris Field

Major General Chris Field is Deputy Commanding General, Operations, US Army Central.

 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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