Acting Hinky 

January 16, 2020 in Applying The Observations

Our primary goal here at The CP Journal is to get our content into the hands of people who truly want it and need it.  We continue to hear from countless people that have used our training to save a life, build their own training program, prevent a crime or violent incident, or help land a job by improving their interpersonal skills.  However you plan to use our processes and content is great, as long as you are using it for good. One of the greatest parts about the work that we do that is that we get to hear from people that read Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, spend time on our blog, train with us online, or attend an in-person seminar.  This feedback loop is crucial in helping us remain steadfast in our goals of growing and expanding our program options and training schedule.    

All of the feedback we receive is excellent, even when it isn’t positive.  We realize that we can’t be all things to all people, and the notion that the work that we do will resonate positively with everyone in the world would be naive.  So we do in fact like and appreciate when people don’t like our training or think the book could be better, because it usually leads to a thoughtful discussion about human behavior, observation, or pre-event indicators.  One recent Amazon review of the book Left of Bang recently brought up a great point about what’s happening out in the world today and how the concepts that we teach can help make the world a safer place.  

The review mentioned that the only thing the book is about is how to explain when someone is “acting hinky.”  When we hear the term “hinky,” we generally think that the definition involves a person acting suspect or appearing to be dishonest in some way.  This review and comment is so important to the larger conversation about behavioral analysis and can help organizations around the world better understand some of the struggles that exist in interpersonal communication today.  In Left of Bang, the term is used to explain an incident that involved a customs agent in the state of Washington.  The agent used the term to describe someone that stood out, and she included the phrase in her report.  She then used that concept as a catalyst for further questioning and eventually preventing a potentially major incident.   Continue reading »

Podcast on Hand-to-Hand Combat and the Role of the Decision Tree

January 10, 2020 in Applying The Observations

This past week, a subscriber to the Weekly Profile (and a longtime friend of ours) shared a podcast with us that highlighted a number of concepts we teach in our programs and includes a timely, relevant story that we just had to share.  The podcast is from the Modern War Institute at West Point and features Army Major Tyson Walsh discussing the events of December 2013, when he had a literal run-in with a terrorist inside the wire at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

The Story

First, I highly recommend that you listen to the entire hour-long podcast so you can hear the story in Major Walsh’s words. Here are the highlights and key points:

  • While out for a run around 3 A.M., Major Walsh observed a person dressed as an Afghan contractor standing at the entrance of his unit’s motor pool.
  • More alert to potential threats because of recent looting that had occurred, Major Walsh was immediately suspicious of the person.
  • While running past the person, he noticed that he was wearing running shoes (something he had never seen an Afghan contractor wear before), and observed odd behavior from him, as he was looking down at the ground and avoiding eye contact with the Major.
  • After running past the person to give himself a few seconds to think through his options, he decided to turn around and confront the individual in an attempt to deter any looting.
  • Upon approaching the person for a second time, Major Walsh saw that the Afghan contractor had the chain and the lock to the motor pool gate in his hand.
  • Major Walsh changed his mind and, instead of attempting to deter the crime, decided to stop it.
  • Major Walsh tackled the individual and, after realizing that he wasn’t just a low-level criminal, found that the intruder was responding to being in a fight like a professional.
  • Major Walsh realized that the person was wearing some sort of vest under his clothes and intuited that he likely had a suicide vest on and a detonator somewhere on his body.
  • Realizing he wouldn’t have time to respond in any other way, Major Walsh killed the individual to prevent the Afghan from detonating his vest and killing both of them.
  • Major Walsh was then attacked by a body guard/lookout that was nearby who responded to help the Afghan being attacked.
  • In the end, as a result of his actions, Major Walsh ultimately interrupted a plan that was being undertaken by terrorists to place IEDs throughout all of Bagram Airfield that would be detonated at some point in the future.

But here is the key takeaway. Continue reading »

How Behavioral Analysis Can Improve Loss Prevention Processes

January 2, 2020 in Applying The Observations

We get a lot of e-mails from students after they complete our online course letting us know a little bit more about the work that they do, why they were drawn to our content, and how they plan to apply it to their everyday processes and routines.  We recently received one such e-mail that brought up a great point that will be helpful for readers of our blog.  While it isn’t a frequently asked question, other professionals may have this issue come up, so we hope this post clarifies the idea and helps you make your processes more efficient. 

The person that completed our course works in loss prevention for a large retail chain in the United States.  He has begun using our program as the foundation for a system of safety measures at his store and is very satisfied with the improvements his team has made.  His question was in regards to retail theft and if his team can apply the program to catching and spotting people stealing. If so, what would a recommendation be for the hasty search and building a system to recognize anomalies in those instances?  

The question of loss prevention is particularly poignant, as we currently partner with multiple clients working to aid loss prevention using our observation and decision-making processes. The answer is yes, this process can definitely be used in loss prevention situations, with “Bang” being the act of a theft.  If you haven’t yet seen our piece that outlines the Hasty and Deliberate searches, here is a link to our “Tools, Guides, and References Page,” where you can find explanations of these processes.  By using the flow chart and processes, you should be able to build a consistent baseline for the various environments that you are tasked with protecting.  Using those baselines, you will then want to practice observing anomalies using the specific language that we teach in our programs to ensure that you are remaining unbiased and using the brain and the body’s response to the situation as your guide.  

For the purposes of building your process and training program, it is important to remember that theft is not the typical intent for most patrons to your business.  The normal flow of customers will be the baseline.  For instance, in a grocery store, the “normal” flow that a person operates under may be, that he or she enters your store, moves to the area where the baskets or carriages are located, then takes the carriage around the store to different areas to select items.  After selecting their items they will move to the checkout area of the store, pay for their items, and leave.  During each step in this process the human body will display a series of normal behavior indicators.  These indicators at each state become your baseline.  In many cases involving customers, the baseline for individuals will be the comfortable cluster, but not always, so it is important to set your baselines using observed behavior and not inherent expectations.  Continue reading »

Online Learning for Everyone

July 12, 2019 in Training

One of the most common questions that we receive from organizations here at The CP Journal is how they can deliver our Tactical Analysis training program to their entire team using our online learning platform at https://academy.cp-journal.com. Because we get this question often, we want to share this post to outline how organizations can implement our online learning platform into their existing processes whether they currently use technology-based learning or not.

For those of you that are unsure if our program and platform are right for you, we encourage you to spend more time on our blog to better understand our methodology and training foundations. If you are already familiar with our training tenets, but have not yet seen our online platform, you can check out the first few modules for free by choosing a version of the course towards the bottom of this page. Assuming you have decided that you want to incorporate our course into your training curriculum, we have three main requirements to scale the content to everyone:

  1. Each student must have a unique, valid e-mail address in order to be properly enrolled in the course.
  2. Each organization must allow communication between The CP Journal and their teams via e-mail so that we can send instructions and make ourselves available for support as needs come up.
  3. Each student must have access to the Internet to access the course material. Because we continually make updates and enhancements to the courses, we house all of our materials in our Virtual Academy, which requires Internet capabilities to stream.

While we have become the first online learning platform for Continue reading »

The Science of Capability Management

March 17, 2019 in Leadership

The responsibility that leaders in the military, public safety, and security organizations have to prepare their teams for the conflicts and battles that lie in the future is arguably one of the most important duties that they bear. The consequences of failing to develop those in your charge can have far reaching and long-lasting impacts, as those consequences could include the unnecessary loss of life (both civilian and protector), extended timelines for recovery from an incident or forever altering someone’s way of life.  As a result, not taking the task of preparing for war seriously simply isn’t an option for the professional leader.  Learning the art and science of capability management allows leaders to take an additional step to ensuring that they have done everything in their power to prepare their teams for the future.

History, Constraints, and Team Impact

One of the challenges that leaders face in the pursuit of developing capabilities within their teams is that capability management isn’t something that is frequently taught or discussed.  At its core, capability management is knowing the current state of your ability, knowing where you need to be in order to be ready for the environment you will be operating in, and then putting in the work to get from where you are to get to where you need to be. Yet without the ability to intentionally and objectively assess a capability, charting a way forward becomes the result of intuition, the sense of the leader to recognize what is needed and the ability to marshal the resources needed to build the desired skill set.

While there isn’t anything wrong with intuition, relying solely on intuition creates gaps that appear when a repeatable process is lacking.  Why? Because intuition can be hard to explain.  When something comes solely from the gut, it can be difficult to articulate your reasoning and rationale for doing one thing or another.  It can be a challenge to measure progress and to state what objectives you are pursuing in a way that is easily understood by others. 

I acknowledge that, for many who work as protectors, warriors, and operators, the intuitive approach has been how capability management has essentially been done in the past.  At the same time, many readers of The CP Journal have also likely felt the impacts that come from a lack of clarity and structured thought surrounding capability management.

Continue reading »

Recommended Reading For Disaster, Crisis, and Emergency Managers Part 1: Uncovering Disaster Timelines

December 6, 2018 in Books and Resources

Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a number of veterans looking to enter the world of emergency management. This is a new profession for many of them, and I’ve had many discussions with them about some first steps to take as they begin learning about the field. Some of these vets had recently transitioned out of the military while others had been getting involved in disaster management by volunteering with groups like Team Rubicon, which led to the realization that managing disasters and crises was a career path that spoke to them.

While the latter option more closely resembles my personal journey into emergency management, when I first became interested in the management of disasters—both natural and man-made—I would often ask people working in the field what books they recommended I read so I could begin educating myself.  What I found shocking was that I would very rarely get a solid answer about books that would be good starting points for my personal study.

Maybe I was just asking people who weren’t book readers to begin with, but I often found myself getting directed to Red Cross training manuals or online FEMA classes as a default. While those are great opportunities to dig into the technical aspects of disaster response, I was looking to get beyond a training focus and instead deepen my understanding of disasters through education.

For veterans (or anyone else) looking to make emergency management their career and looking to jumpstart their personal education process as they transition into the field, books offer an invaluable opportunity gain a solid foundation of knowledge as they enter the field. While future posts in this series will include many more books that have contributed to my professional development in different functional areas of disaster and crisis management, here are the first three books that I recommend to Continue reading »

The Clothes Don’t Make the Man

August 13, 2018 in Applying The Observations

Ah, the age-old phrase “the clothes make the man.” The premise of this phrase is the notion that you can dress a certain way in order to transform yourself into something. For instance, if you want to be seen as someone who knows what they are doing at the gym, you would wear gym clothes. If you have a big job interview, you would put on a nice suit that’s been tailored and dry cleaned for the occasion. The clothes, in these examples, can help you fit in with the established expectation for whatever it is you are undertaking. In behavioral analysis, the clothes are an active choice, not uncontrollable human behaviors, and should therefore not be used to make decisions on their own. Clothing can be a distraction during the observation process and should only be included in your description, after you make your observations, not as sole indicators to base decisions off of.

In the work that we do at The CP Journal, we are often asked to consult on observational processes and behavior pattern recognition with businesses and organizations both within the United States and internationally. One of the benefits of taking a behavioral analysis approach to observation and recognition is that you can use our methodology and principles of universal signs of human behavior anywhere in the world, as long as there are people. And people, all around the world, dress differently. This doesn’t mean that we can’t observe and identify anomalies based in part on clothing. However, whether I am wearing a bathing suit or tuxedo, dominance is dominance and comfortable is comfortable. The clothing may change, but the behaviors do not.

There are many differences between controllable and uncontrollable human behaviors. It may seem Continue reading »

Ends, Means and Trust: Designing Your Leadership Strategy

January 24, 2018 in Veterans, Business, and Security

In our Weekly Profile this past week, the most clicked article we shared was “Would Your Squad Leaders Come To Your Funeral?” published on the From the Green Notebook website. Written by Colonel Curt Taylor, a former commander of the Army’s 1st Striker Brigade, we shared this article because it provides what we think is a clear picture of success for leaders. Compared to other, more tangible skills that we often endeavor to develop, leadership can be something that people struggle to articulate their goals for, making it hard to measure progress along the way. Grasping the essence of positive leadership in a way that is both concise and that resonates with people is challenging, yet that’s what this article does.

But for new officers and NCOs in the military looking to make their mark on the unit they want to lead, defining the goal in this way of having your squad leaders come to your funeral is only the first step. Success will come from how those new leaders create and execute their strategy to achieve that standard.

The challenge of talking about strategy, particularly when it comes to leadership, is that there is no single right answer about how to lead a team to earn their trust and loyalty. For instance, if you were to define success in military leadership as your squad leaders coming to your funeral, some people might think this will come from Continue reading »

Executing is a Commodity: Sizing Up a Situation & the Race to Figure it Out

January 19, 2018 in Learning About Learning

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The video above features an all-star line up of General Stanley McCrystal, Chris Fussell and Reid Hoffman. In case you are unfamiliar with any of them, Reid Hoffman is the co-founder of LinkedIn. General McCrystal is the former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the former commander of ISAF (NATO’s Afghanistan Security Mission). Chris Fussell is a former officer within the Navy’s DEVGRU/SEAL Team 6, co-authored the book Team of Teams with Stanley McCrystal and the author of One Mission. This hour-long conversation highlights many of the lessons that McCrystal and Fussell learned while transforming a large organization, JSOC, to operate faster than the insurgents they were hunting in Afghanistan and Iraq, which was written about in the book Team of Teams. While the conversation is one that many leaders and managers will find interesting, I’m sharing it because of a specific statement that General McCrystal makes about the importance of increasing the speed of learning for individuals and organizations.

At about the 34:30 mark in the video, General McCrystal explains how the problem in war has historically been that, because you could find the enemy relatively easily (it’s hard to hide tank divisions), the problem was having the ability to hurt them. But that is no longer the case. McCrystal goes on to explain:

The problem wasn’t finding the enemy, it was dealing with them. But that problem has completely changed.

The problem now is that you can Continue reading »

Building Confidence in Your Ability to Learn

January 15, 2018 in Learning About Learning

When preparing for war and for the unknown challenges that protectors and warriors will encounter in the future, a person’s confidence in their training is an essential element of their development. Because confidence is a significant contributor to a person’s belief that they can overcome adversity, improving confidence minimizes the risk of hesitation in the face of threats.

Confidence in the ability to hit a target when they pull the trigger is why infantry Marines and soldiers spend so much time practicing their marksmanship. It is why magazine reload and malfunction drills are done to the point of muscle memory and why people spend countless hours firing from a variety of positions and conditions.

Confidence to act is one of the reasons why first aid training is repeated until each member of a unit is comfortable and competent enough to provide a certain degree of medical care to themselves or others. These drills are done until the person knows they can perform the task in the most time-constrained and stressful situations possible.

These are tasks that require such a high degree of self-confidence that there is nothing about a person’s ability to perform the task left to chance. In an age when our enemies and adversaries can adapt at a breakneck pace to avoid our strengths and attack our weaknesses, we need to develop the same level of confidence and proficiency in our ability to bring our most powerful weapon system, our brain, to the fight. In order to ensure that we are prepared to out-adapt our future adversaries, that in turn means we must ensure that we are confident in our ability to learn.

Building Resilience in Confidence

The purpose of this post is to address some ways that you can develop confidence in your ability to rapidly learn in dynamic, complex and changing situations. But before I can address some of these methods, it is worth noting that there is a difference in self-confidence that has been earned and the perceived self-confidence that is the result of bravado and the mindset that someone can simply “do anything,” even without putting in the work to master it. The difference between earned confidence and shallow bravado is important because it can help determine how resilient or how fragile your confidence is.

Something that is fragile will break when it is exposed to stress, while something that is resilient will stay the same when exposed to stress. To understand this distinction, you could put a pint glass and a plastic cup next to each other on a table that is at least three feet high. Push each of them off the table onto an uncarpeted floor. While the “stressor” of falling off of a table is not what the glass or the cup were designed for, you will see that the plastic cup is resilient (it has stayed the same) while the pint glass is fragile (it is in a hundred pieces on your floor). Confidence in your abilities should be thought of in the same way. The choices you make about how you develop confidence determines whether that confidence breaks or remains steadfast no matter what stressor it is exposed to.

In a future battle or conflict where our adversaries are adapting in unanticipated ways, our skills will Continue reading »

Learning How to Learn: The Steps

January 5, 2018 in Learning About Learning

This article is part of an ongoing series to help subscribers of The CP Journal’s Practice Section pursue mastery in behavioral observation, situational awareness and decision-making.

Being able to learn and adapt more quickly than our adversaries is a key skill as we prepare for war. But do you know how to learn?

It’s a funny question to ask, and I’m willing to bet you’d say yes without much hesitation. You may have graduated from high school or college or obtained an advanced degree that gave you a piece of paper to prove that you know how to learn. If you’re in the military, law enforcement or the security industry, you’ve likely spent countless hours in training to learn what is needed to succeed in your field. You probably have a great number of experiences that allow you to confidently state that you know how to learn and have proven it.

Because it’s usually answered without much thought, I’ve found that asking this question framed in this way isn’t the best way for someone to assess their actual ability to quickly break down and understand new concepts. For self-guided learners who need the ability to objectively determine how quickly they can acquire a new skill the better questions may be:

Can you take any subject in the world and outline the steps that you would need to go through to progress from the point of not knowing anything about it to becoming a true master in the field?

Do you have a defined process and framework that allows you to outline the steps of learning without talking about the subject or topic itself?

Answering these two questions might not come as quickly as they did to the more general, “Do you know how to learn?” Learning isn’t just about reading, going to trainings or finding a mentor. Those are all elements of the development process, but they aren’t the process that you can apply to any subject you may want to learn in the future. Learning how to learn means that you are able to know what information and experiences you are looking for at each step of the learning process in order to become self-reliant in your development. It means that you have a process to learn; a process that you are able to refine, develop and improve upon throughout your life. Not having a process that is broadly applicable and generalized enough to apply to any subject, yet specific enough to identify critical components and steps to improve upon, means that we have a limitation and gap in our armor. It is a limitation that needs be corrected for as we prepare to face our adversaries in the future.

Dissecting the Learning Process

In creating, designing and developing a system of learning that works Continue reading »

Combatting the Strengths of Our Adversaries and Learning How to Learn

December 17, 2017 in Learning About Learning

This article is part of an ongoing series to help subscribers of The CP Journal’s Practice Section pursue mastery in behavioral observation, situational awareness and decision-making.

Following the overwhelming shock and awe campaign that characterized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, America’s enemies and adversaries faced a very simple and straightforward dilemma: give up, adapt or die.

For the Iraqi insurgents the American military was searching for, it didn’t take long to realize that wearing any sort of identification that made it clear they were an enemy of the coalition would have swift and tragic consequences for them. As a result, Iraqi insurgents learned how to blend in with the local population, avoid detection and defeat many of the equipment and technological advantages American troops had over them. After observing where so much of the American military’s strength came from, insurgents learned what was needed to survive, and they adapted. The Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Course, which was created in 2007, was one method to counter the advantages the insurgents had as a result of blending in with civilians and disguising their affiliations, but the question that I often find myself asking is why it took four years for the American military to adapt to this new reality of the situation being faced on the ground. While that’s a question that historians may examine in years to come, the more important question for warriors is to ask is, what can our military do differently in future wars to shorten the time required to learn from our enemy and make the required adaptations to win?

Anticipating Future Wars: What We Know and What We Don’t

It is difficult (if not impossible) to successfully predict the way future wars are going to be fought. While the creative exercise of anticipating the wars to come can be helpful in many ways, the sheer number of variables involved in the specifics of future conflict make any attempts at prediction merely speculation. In Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winning economist and author Daniel Kahneman dedicates numerous chapters to explaining the biases and limitations that prevent people, especially “experts,” from being able to make accurate long-term predications about the future.

Despite the limitations in making predictions, there are still opportunities for warriors to discern some high probability assumptions about the future of conflict. Consider a likely sequence of events that a future war might follow:

1: Both sides of a conflict enter a war with a Continue reading »

Reporting for Leadership Teams: The CP Journal Dashboard

December 6, 2017 in Training

Image Description: Snapshot of the dashboard outputs, user information, and course results


In a recent post on The CP Journal Blog, “How to Leverage Our Content for Your Team,” we highlighted how organizations use our online courses as continuing education for their entire teams. In that post, we mentioned the dashboards and reports that we offer to organizations with large teams participating in our online Tactical Analysis Training Program®.  Since then, we’ve received some questions about ways in which organizations can keep track of their team’s progress and course results while training with us. We wanted to go ahead and share how the dashboards and reports are built, what they can include, and the way teams are using them to ensure everyone in the program is improving their skills in behavioral analysis.

The dashboards that we build, customize, and provide for our online clients at The CP Journal are a compilation of course results for each user going through the modules within our training courses. For every team that chooses to train with us that also wants dashboard capabilities, we set up access to a shared database that shows the team user list and their progress through the program.  Some of the content is automatically fed onto the page, and course results are included once people complete the modules within the courses.  The details on each user can be as basic or as detailed as our clients want, and the course results can include results from any or all quizzes and tests embedded in the program. These features make the dashboards highly customizable and easy to understand because we only include the information that each client really wants.

These dashboards were originally created at the request of Continue reading »

Defining Success in Your Personal and Professional Development

December 1, 2017 in Learning About Learning

This article is part of an ongoing series to help subscribers of The CP Journal’s Practice Section pursue mastery in behavioral observation, situational awareness and decision-making.

For self-driven learners, one of the biggest obstacles to making the most out of the time and money you invest in your development is not having a clear picture of what success looks like. When the end goal for your training or education isn’t clearly defined, it can be hard to know what skills need to be developed in order for “success” to be reached. It can be challenging to track your progress. It’s difficult to attain a high level of confidence in what you’ve already learned. From my conversations with students who have gone through our Tactical Analysis course, the problem isn’t in knowing that having a clear goal is helpful, though. It’s in knowing how to put that goal into words.

Opposite Ends of the Spectrum: Thinkers and Doers

One of the reasons why we love working with members of the military, police officers and security professionals so much is because they are some of the few groups of professionals who truly understand the fact that learning a skill is not enough. For them to be successful, they have to be able to put what they learn into practice. They are people with their own skin in the game and who constantly (and willingly) put themselves into situations where there are life and death consequences for failing to solve a problem. For them, proving knowledge by Continue reading »

Expanded Learning Opportunities with the New Practice Section

November 29, 2017 in Learning Resources

In the four years since we first released the online version of our Tactical Analysis course, our students have continuously told us that they want more opportunities to practice reading behavior. After years of experimenting with different options and months of testing and tweaking, we’re very excited to announce the opening of The CP Journal’s Practice Section within our online Academy.

Learn More About the Practice Section

What It Is:

The Practice Section is an area where members can access exercises to practice reading behavior and develop their abilities to establish baselines and recognize anomalies. Each exercise can be completed in less than 10 minutes, making it easier than ever to practice assessing the four pillars of behavior and our baselining methods.

Why We Built It:

It would be easy to say that we built the Practice Section because our students and customers have been asking for it, but that would only be a part of our reasoning. We built it because, in order for our nation’s protectors (and those looking to ensure their own safety) to become true masters of behavioral analysis, they need more than one book or one training course. Putting our lessons into practice is a key component of pursuing mastery and becoming elite. Creating a training area where protectors can do this from the safety of their home or office and practice for as long or as short a time as they need has been a longtime goal of ours that we’re thrilled to bring to fruition.

Who It Is For:

In designing the Practice Section, we had a specific type of person in mind. The exercises are for people who want to go beyond what we teach in our courses, what they read in Left of Bang: How the Marine Corp’s Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, or what they learn on our blog. It is for the people who want to drill and develop “soft skills” in the same way they practice other more tangible parts of their profession. It is for the people who want to put in the work to become an elite observer and improve their decision-making.

How You Can Join:

Subscriptions for the Practice Section start at $9.99 per month or $99 per year.

To learn more and view sample exercises:

View the Practice Section

As always, get left of bang and stay there,

Patrick and Jonathan