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General Mattis on Professional Reading and the Study of Military History

By The Cove May 15, 2019


General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is a well-known U.S. Marine Corps General, and political figure (now U.S. Secretary of Defense). Throughout his career he has advocated the importance of professional reading and studying military history.  Here via Business Insider Australia we share an email General Mattis wrote in 2003 on the importance of reading (note: copies of the same email are provided by multiple online sources).

General Mattis states that the problem with being ‘too busy to read’ is that you learn by experience i.e. the hard way. Instead, he suggests that by reading, you learn through others’ experiences, which is generally a better way to do business. He says “thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.” He reminds us that human beings have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years, and that it would be foolish not to take advantage of those who have gone before us.

Read the short email and reflect on your own approach to professional reading and the study of military history. Are you making enough time for it? Or have you become ‘too busy’ with other things to invest in your own development and the development of your team?



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

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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