Changing the Odds in Personal Safety: The Benefits of Revolar

September 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

In one of my favorite books about personal safety, The Gift of Fear, author Gavin de Becker dedicates an entire chapter to the “survival signals” that can help people recognize the actions indicative of someone with sinister and violent intent.  As de Becker describes how predators use a variety of tactics to gain control over their intended victim, he provides a number of indicators that can help people get left of bang by recognizing how people might try to get a person to lower their guard. When you identify a person who could become violent towards you, how quickly and decisively you take action can have a significant impact on your personal safety.  What you do in that moment will determine how well you are able to protect yourself from the danger you have identified.

While the decision you make about whether to confront the person, attempt to de-escalate the tension or remove yourself from the area will be based on your perception of the situation and how much danger you are in, for people looking to take control of their personal safety, letting others know that you need help is one of the most impactful ways to begin to take the power away from the person who is threatening you. By letting other people know that you need help, the power dynamic begins to change and the odds of you being able to ensure your own safety go up.  Take a moment to visualize a situation where you might need to do this, though.  How will you actually let people know that you need help?  This is a question worth considering as it is critical to have both a plan and a method by which you can alert people when you are in danger.

The Default (and Ineffective) Method

For most people, the way that they would alert other people that they are in danger is by calling them on their cell phone. But take a moment to think about all of the steps and the actual logistics that go into doing that.  While you are dealing with and face-to-face with the person who has made you feel threatened, you would need to take your phone out of your pocket or your purse, unlock it (often by typing in a passcode), open the phone app, find the person you want to call in your contacts or recently call list, call them, wait for them to pick up, and then explain to them what is going on, where you are, why you need help and what you need them to do.

All of those steps, while simple under the stress-free conditions of everyday life, become incredibly time-consuming when you are facing a potential attacker or concerned about your safety.  In addition to this process forcing you to take your eyes off of the person that has made you uncomfortable so you can dial the phone (taking your eyes off the person is the last thing that you want to do), you may not know exactly where you are or even make it clear to the threatening person that you are calling for help.  Add in the fact that the call itself might confuse the person you are talking to and that our 911 systems can’t always track locations from cell Continue reading »

Beyond Security: The Collective Mood and Customer Service

September 20, 2017 in Applying The Observations, Assessing The Collective, Veterans, Business, and Security

This article was originally written for the International Security Driver Association.

I recently posted an article titled “How Security Leaders Can Influence the Mood at Venue Entrances” discussing how security leaders can improve their ability to protect event sites by creating orderly processes that people move through while entering a stadium and venue. The core lesson was that establishing corridors at entrances and helping people to feel safer and more comfortable during their entry allows for more opportunities to proactively recognize threats and prevent violence. Beyond security applications, however, the concepts have also been used by businesses looking to reduce the number customer service problems they face on any given day and can help close protection professionals communicate with event managers and owners about why to consider changing how people enter a venue.

Even though customer service might not be a close protection professional’s primary concern as they prepare for protective operations, being able to demonstrate to a venue’s management why a change to the entry processes can help to make a business more profitable can go a long way to garnering a venue’s willing participation in making those adjustments. In addition to creating the conditions that allow security professionals to successfully recognize threats, the corridor style setup can be used influence customer satisfaction during an event because it begins to lead them towards comfortable behavior from the moment they arrive. To demonstrate the difference in customer satisfaction and the level of stress present at an entryway, consider the difference in boarding processes between two competing airlines.

Example #1: The American Airlines Model

Consider an American Airlines flight boarding at Denver International Airport. While it isn’t a completely unstructured situation because there are assigned boarding groups, passengers wait in a crowd just beyond the ticket scanner for their boarding group to be called because there is no further order established within each of those groups. The result of this process is a semicircle setup where you have a crowd of people all trying to get as close as they can to the gate attendant so that they can board at the front of their boarding group as soon as it’s announced. Due to a lack of any corridors that clearly separate each boarding group from one another, there is an element of an “every man for himself” mentality where goal-oriented behavior begins trumps norm-oriented behavior as people jostle and push their way towards the plane.

One of the problems with the semicircle setup is that, as the passengers in late boarding groups form a crowd near the entrance, it creates Continue reading »

Preparing To Lead: Repetitions in Project Planning

September 6, 2017 in Veterans, Business, and Security

Millennials often get a bad rap as being a generation full of entitled, timid leaders with no critical thinking skills. While it is easy to generalize the actions of a few people you’ve met, heard about, or seen in the workplace to be representative of an entire age demographic, in my experience I find that there are a many more millennials who want to put in the work to become leaders within organizations and influence change in the world, even if they aren’t explicitly talking about it. For future leaders, whether they’re millennials or of any other generation, having a vision of where you want to take an organization is only one piece of being a leader. Learning how to put together the plan that you will lead your team through to success is what puts people in a position to actually succeed as leaders.

The Challenge of Preparing to Lead

As Jason Fried, the co-founder of Basecamp, discussed in a recent article, “On Being A Bad Manager,” learning how to manage and how to lead is a lot like learning how to play an instrument in that observation is not a substitute for doing. Just because you’ve listened to great guitarists on the radio doesn’t mean that you can play like them the first time you pick up a guitar. Being a leader is no different. You can observe people higher up than you in an organization, but that observation doesn’t prepare you to step into their shoes and perform at an elite level. Simply seeing others do it is not a substitute for actually doing it yourself.

Spending time as a leader is a critical piece to learning what works and what doesn’t work when guiding a team However, as Fried points out in his article, newly promoted managers and leaders often don’t have the benefit of learning “how to play” in the privacy of their basement; they are being viewed and evaluated as a leader starting from their first day on the job. Of the many challenges that new leaders face, answering the question, “What skill can I develop today before I am put into a formal role so that I am ready when opportunities present themselves?” is what should focus preparation.

One of what I view as the most important parts of developing as a leader is also developing the ability to effectively plan. Planning is just one of many areas that impact how capable a leader is, but it’s one that is often overlooked. To be clear, the type of planning that I’m talking about Continue reading »

How Security Leaders Can Influence the Collective Mood at Venue Entrances

August 24, 2017 in Applying The Observations, Assessing The Collective

When seeking to prevent violence and identify attackers before they launch an assault, leaders in the security industry can take steps to establish conditions at the entrances to venues that lead to successful threat recognition strategies. As my co-author Jason Riley and I discuss in our book, Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, establishing the baseline for an area so that you can search for anomalies is an essential first step to building a proactive threat recognition process, but what can you do when the baseline isn’t the type of behavior that you’d prefer in that type of situation?  By influencing how safe people feel in an area and creating positive atmospherics, leaders allow professional protectors to recognize anomalous behavior with a greater degree of accuracy and less effort.  If you would like to transition the collective mood at the entrances to your stadiums and arenas from having negative atmospherics to having positive atmospherics, one way to do that is by shifting the component of “orderliness” that people perceive so that your entrances seem more structured.

To help security leaders determine what changes they can make to make people feel more comfortable as they approach stadiums and arenas, we can turn to the findings of an article titled, “Collective Phenomena In Crowds – Where Pedestrian Dynamics Needs Social Psychology,” that was published in the Public Library Of Science’s PLOS One Journal.  In this paper, researchers set out to better understand how the entrances to venues and buildings influence the collective mood. Their research was focused on answering the question, “What is the difference between areas that don’t have a controlled process for entry and those that do?”  When entrances don’t have an established process to get in, the result is a Continue reading »

Knowing What You Want in a Network: Lessons Learned for Transitioning Veterans

July 27, 2017 in Veterans, Business, and Security

There is no shortage of advice for military veterans who are transitioning from the armed forces into the civilian world about the need to develop a network in the cities and professions they’re moving into. From helping to get their first job to meeting people with specialized skills or who have information about opportunities, the benefits of having a well-developed network are easy to grasp, yet many of the transitioning veterans I talk with struggle to get this process started. The problem, I’ve learned, is that questions about what you should be looking for in your network are often ill-defined, and the need to “have a network” gets replaced by the “act of networking and network building.” These are two very different things. As a result, veterans (and many civilians for that matter) attempt to build their network inside organizations that aren’t likely to result in long-term relationships, making the transition from the military to business much harder than it needs to be. However, by knowing what type of experiences you are looking for an organization to provide, you can develop relationships with people who can do more than open doors or help you solve a problem, but can be people who you learn to trust.

You Don’t Really Network in the Military

Building a network during my time as a Marine Corps officer was never really a priority for me. Military units are designed to be self-sustaining, so there was never a need to go find the person who is the best at “x” because you likely already have someone filling that role in your unit. Even if you do need to reach outside of your unit for something, perhaps the assistance of an artillery unit for an operation, you don’t get to choose which artillery unit you want. It doesn’t matter if you know the commander, know how well their unit is trained, have worked with them before and prefer to work with them again. Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen don’t prioritize networking because, even if you did request a specific unit to support you, the one that you are going to get is the one who is closest to you and who is able to provide a good-enough level of support. Talking about the reasons why networking isn’t something you often see in the military isn’t a critique of the system. It is what it takes to provide decisive military power in combat. Yet this is the reality that forms the experiences that veterans often take with them from their days in uniform to the business world.

Even though many people in the military have friends and buddies in other units, these relationships aren’t the same as intentionally building a network in the civilian world. At least that’s what I thought as I left active duty. What I’ve learned in the five years since I got out of the military is that what I was actually searching for as I built my network were a group of close friends who I could trust and who had connections of their own that could be tapped into for help when needed

My Initial Misguided Approach to Networking

When I left the military, I also left San Diego to move just outside of New York City to start my company. I didn’t have many connections in the area, and I also didn’t really know what I wanted or needed in a network, so I simply started with what I figured to be a “ready – fire – aim” approach to making connections. In more formal terms, what I was doing was Continue reading »

Thinking About Situational Awareness Through the Lens of a Field Researcher

July 19, 2017 in Applying The Observations

Learning how to learn is a skill that often separates the professionals from the novices in a professional field. In the fast-paced and constantly changing world we live in, those who can quickly learn what is happening in a situation, especially once it changes, have many advantages over their slower moving peers. But how do you develop that ability? Learning how to learn isn’t just about picking up on new skills. It’s also about learning how to size-up and make sense of a situation. How do you learn the “way they do things here?” How do you learn what makes the people in an area tick? Whether your goal is to blend in and avoid attention or to identify opportunities to pursue gains, it begins by being capable of building your own map for the areas and situations you encounter. For protectors, guardians and warriors operating in locations where your ability to quickly and accurately learn about the situation can be the difference between success and failure, and it turns out that there is a lot we can learn in this vein from professional field researchers.

According to David Danelo, a Marine Officer, Iraq War Veteran and author of the recently released book The Field Research Handbook: A Guide to the Art and Science of Professional Fieldwork, field research is a simplified process of collecting information outside of a laboratory. While academic research often produces quantifiable results that come from controlling a limited set of variables and clearly defined datasets, I meet many people in the military, law enforcement or security industries that often question the applicability of that research. While academic research can be interesting and enlightening, the very fact that it is done within the controlled environment of a laboratory often makes professional operators question how it will translate into the real world where variables abound, where control is hard to establish and where cause and effect are often difficult to tie together.

Field research is different in that it does reflect all of those real world truths. Field research is also something that you are already doing whether you are aware of it or not. The “collection of information” component to field research is already present in our field; we just use different names for it. In the military, we say that Continue reading »

Podcast Interview With “The Idea Vacuum”

July 5, 2017 in Updates

Recently, I had the chance to talk with Adrian Stewart from The Idea Vacuum podcast about Left of Bang and provide a few examples of what people can do to apply behavioral analysis in different settings, what goes into the four pillars and some other topics of situational awareness.

From Adrian’s site:

We cover..

  • the specifics of what to look for in people and your environment
  • how you can apply this in an office environment and beyond
  • what it was like landing in Iraq on his first deployment
  • what motivated me to join the Marines

To listen to the hour-long conversation, check out The Idea Vacuum and our conversation here.

“Left of Bang” Added to the U.S.M.C. Commandant’s Reading List

May 25, 2017 in Books and Resources

Last week, Jason Riley and I learned that our book that we co-authored, Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, was added to the 2017 Marine Corps’ Commandant’s Professional Reading List for the Sergeant and Staff Sergeant ranks. As you might imagine, being included on this list is something that we consider to be an incredible honor.

When we first set out to write this book in the fall of 2011, we only had one goal, and that was to ensure that any Marine who wanted to learn how to read behavior and recognize threats by enhancing their situational awareness had the ability to do so. We realized that not every Marine who wanted to attend the Combat Hunter course would be able to. We know that not every Marine has the extra money to pursue similar training outside of the military on their own. But we also knew that books are easily sharable and something that can be revisited time and again and talked about amongst the members of a unit. While the book is just one of many tactics that we are using to help ensure that violent acts are prevented around the world, it continues to be one of the most impactful ways that are helping us make these skills accessible to everyone.

It is also very humbling to be added to the Commandant’s Reading List for Sergeants and Staff Sergeants as well. While the book was written with the individual Marine on patrol in mind, there are no roles better able to influence a unit than the squad leaders and platoon sergeants that Marines of these ranks fill. They see these Marines more than anyone else does and can use their experience to develop competent and proficient Marines before they deploy, making them incredibly influential members in a unit. One of the challenges that these Marines face, however, is that it can be challenging at times to put their experiences into words so that they can be shared and used as teaching tools. One of the most common comments that we hear from our readers and students is that, for the first time, they have a common terminology to explain what it is that they saw. They have a shared language to explain why what they were observing was important. And if that ability to communicate with someone else can help even just one squad leader help a new Marine elevate their situational awareness to a level of informed awareness, then I see that as a massive success.

To show my appreciation for the men and women wearing a uniform and volunteering to head into harm’s way, we have added a “Left of Bang Discussion Guide” to our library. This guide is designed to help leaders discuss the principles of how to get and stay left of bang with their unit, whether it is a formal Professional Military Education session or an impromptu debrief between the members of a team. You can find the discussion guide here.

To everyone who has read the book, thank you.

Never forget. Never Quit. Semper Fidelis.


A Situational Awareness Discussion Guide: “Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life”

May 25, 2017 in Books and Resources

The goal for this discussion guide is to help leaders in organizations across the military, police, and security industries, as well as corporations, universities, and other academic institutions, have effective conversations about how the concepts discussed in Left of Bang apply to them and their organizations.

As professional reading discussions are an effective way for leaders to understand the concerns of their teams, demonstrate how they view situations and communicate values throughout an organization, each of the topics covered in this guide is followed by a statement of purpose for that particular question as well as questions for leaders to consider following the discussion for internal reflection.

My hope is that through the following questions and reflection points, leaders are able to jump start their discussions with their team about the book or situational awareness and are stimulated to create more questions of their own that solve problems unique to them. If there are any questions that come up during a discussion about Left of Bang that you are unable to answer for your team or that you would like a second opinion on, please do not hesitate to reach out and ask us using the contact form here.

Get left of bang and stay there,

Patrick Van Horne

Part 1 – The War Lab


  • Make a list of the training events you have conducted in the last year and the purpose of each event.  How much of your recent training is focused on what to do both before and after an incident occurs?  Does this align with the tasks and problems you are likely to face in your job?

Continue reading »

When Is Good, Good Enough? How Leaders Should Talk About Standards of Excellence

May 17, 2017 in Training

The question, “When is good, good enough?” was recently posed to readers in Brian Willis’ law enforcement and training related newsletter What’s Important Now? which focuses on ways to prioritize decisions in our lives. The question came from one of his readers who is training foreign police officers but is having trouble getting them to meet the standards of the training he is tasked with developing. Conversations about standards and the level of training needed for operators in any protector related profession are essential to have, yet they can often be frustrating. Without an objectively defined goal and end state for each person in your team or organization, it can be easy to be fooled into thinking that the progress you’ve made to get to the level of good, is actually good enough, when it truly isn’t. In this article, I’ll take a look at a few different aspects of what goes into a conversation about standards so that leaders can continue to advance their organizations in the face of constant change.

Avoiding Predictable Pitfalls While Talking About Standards

Before we begin to talk about what should go into a discussion about performance standards, the first thing a leader needs to decide is who will be involved in the conversation. In our work with our clients in the military, law enforcement and security industries, the number one pre-event indicator to an ineffective meeting about ways to elevate an organization through training is when the person leading the meeting has not given deliberate consideration to who will be taking part in the process. While the desire to want to cast a wide net and include many different people in a conversation about performance standards is natural and can be seen as a safer option than only including a few people, the decision to do that is far riskier than it may initially appear.

When evaluating and working to improve an organization through training, there will be two groups or people involved in the process. There will be the people involved in the defining of performance standards and there will be the people responsible for doing the planning to make that a reality. While the planners and support personnel (administrators and trainers) can be in the meeting where standards are defined, it is important that they understand they play a supporting role to the person who is in the room to talk about the operational requirements of the men and women in the organization. The involvement of administrators and trainers should only begin once the standard has been defined and set by the leader of the organization.

The reason why failing to distinguish between these two groups of stakeholders is such a problem is because support personnel have different professional responsibilities, priorities and concerns than the operationally focused person does. As a result, the planners and administrators can have a tendency to bring a conversation to the specifics of what it will take to do something before the end-state is clearly defined, leading to distractions and frustrations from everyone involved. To keep a meeting on track and focused on the essential parts of establishing the standards, the next section will highlight the four key components of a performance related standard.

Establishing Standards: The Four Operation Focused Factors

To talk about the standards of excellence that members of a team should meet in order to be successful in an operational setting in a rational and objective way, there are four distinct factors that should be considered.

The first is: Continue reading »

The Importance of Mindset In Policing

May 12, 2017 in Books and Resources

Here is a great TEDx talk given by our friend Chip Huth in 2015 that we share as a reminder to protectors, warriors and guardians in our society.  As “us vs. them” mindsets continually bombard us in our media, in our politics and in our community, stepping back to remember that we hold ourselves to a higher standard when we sign up to be a public servant can help ensure we focus on what is important and what it will take to get to successful outcomes in each encounter we have.  Take 10 minutes to watch the video below.


Three Situations That Should Cause Protection Specialists to Transition to the Deliberate Search

April 17, 2017 in Applying The Observations

Threat recognition is a game of speed. For executive protection specialists, delays or hesitations in decision-making upon recognizing a threat can be the difference between success and failure while working on protection detail. Because there are some behavioral observations that need to be made immediately upon entering an area and some assessments that can wait until an initial level of safety has been established before being turned to, it is important for a protector (especially one just entering the field) to know which assessment needs to be made and in what order. Improving the method for establishing a baseline in operational settings has been one of our greatest focuses over the last few years. The recent release of our flow charts for how to conduct a hasty search and a deliberate search represents the most current techniques that we use to ensure both speed and accuracy in establishing baselines and searching for anomalies, but what the diagrams don’t show is when a person should begin the deliberate search.

The primary reason why we divide the establishment of a baseline into two phases (hasty and deliberate) is because a full and complete baseline (the result of the deliberate search) is not always needed. There might be situations where you aren’t in the area long enough to even complete both searches. There might be times when you are walking or driving and to try and complete both searches would completely overwhelm you mentally. There might be times when your brain has to be focused on things besides your safety, so you might not be able to dedicate all of your cognitive resources to establishing baselines and looking for anomalies with 100% of your attention. The division between the hasty search and deliberate search exists so that you know the minimum you should be doing (the hasty search) and you know how to conduct the deliberate search when that level of depth in the baseline is needed. But that distinction also creates the question of when a protection specialist should make the transition from the hasty search and begin to conduct the deliberate search.

This question became apparent to me during a recent conversation with Chris Pendas. Chris is a security professional, the owner of the Staying Safe – Self Defense website and a graduate of our Tactical Analysis program. Chris recently recorded a video of himself conducting a hasty search while walking from his apartment building to the subway station, a task that many people can relate to as they commute to work each day. To set the stage for our discussion about transitioning from the hasty search into the deliberate search, start by watching the video he made and think about the steps that go into each search.


As you watched the video, you may have noticed that he begins to make some assessments about the environment as he identifies habitual areas and anchor points (a deliberate search task), even though he is intentionally trying to limit himself to the hasty search. During our conversation, Chris asked about the times when he should make the transition into the deliberate search. Because answering questions in a way that implies you will “know it when you see it,” or that it is “situationally dependent” is a lazy form of instruction, I provided Chris with three situations when we advise our students and clients to make the transition from the hasty search and begin the deliberate search to heighten their level of situational awareness. Since Chris’ video is of him walking, each of these situations is focused on Continue reading »

Just Tell Me What To Do: The Instructor’s Dilemma

March 22, 2017 in Applying The Observations

“What would you do in this situation?

This seemingly simple question coming from a student is one of the most challenging and difficult questions for an instructor to answer. Especially when considering the consequences of failing to recognize a threat left of bang, it is understandable why someone would want to know what cues and what behaviors would reveal a potential threat for every single scenario they might face. There is, of course, the drive to answer the question in the best way possible too. It’s the people who truly want to learn how to protect themselves, protect their family or be better at their job that ask this question. They are looking for a way to get the process started. But for any instructor who has ever been asked what they would do in a particular situation, you are probably well aware of the challenge it poses because it often forces the instructor to choose from two equally unattractive options when deciding how to respond.

Option #1: The Decisive Answer

The first option for the instructor when asked, “What would you do?” is to simply answer the question and explain what you would do in the specific situation being discussed. Your first response to this option might be, “How is answering the question a bad thing?” On its own, providing clear and decisive answers that students can take with them from the classroom to the job is a great thing and, whenever possible, should be the standard.

The problem, however, with answering the question and stating what you would do, and in turn telling someone what they should do, is that it Continue reading »

The Deliberate Search: A Visual Guide

March 17, 2017 in Applying The Observations

Once an observer has completed their Hasty Search of the area, they are able to turn their attention to completing an in-depth look at the processes, patterns and behaviors that make up the baseline for the area they are in.  That comprehensive baseline is the result of the Deliberate Search.

The Deliberate Search Flowchart was initially created at the request of one of our online students who was looking for some clarification on the steps and, we’ve refined our initial design using feedback from students and advisors as well as through use in the field during our one-on-one practical application sessions with students.

While the process outlined in the flowchart was designed to be a standalone guide, these concepts can be best implemented by also completing our training programs here at The CP Journal to develop a deeper understanding of each piece of the process.

You can download the Deliberate Search Flowchart in our library by clicking here.


Choosing Your Conversational Style

March 3, 2017 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals


Since getting to present at the 2015 WINx Conference, I’ve really come to appreciate the amount of time and effort that Roy Bethge and Brian Willis put into creating this excellent event each year in Lisle, Illinois. With the goal of helping police officers continually elevate their performance and achieve excellence in their field, the 18-minute long videos on the WINx site are certainly worth the time and attention of law enforcement professionals looking to be inspired. While the 2017 conference is just over a month away, I was recently re-watching the talk above by Chelly Seibert that she gave at the 2016 conference.

In this talk, Seibert highlights the need for police officers to adopt different conversational styles while responding to calls depending on the type of situation they find themselves in. Referring to the different conversational styles as characters to be played, she showed how officers might find themselves portraying one of three characters in any given situation. They might take on the behaviors of “The Enforcer,” “The Compassionate Consoler” or “The Composed Stabilizer” in order to get to a successful outcome in the encounter. By taking the time to consider and develop the ability to display the type of body language, tone of voice, facial expression and other non-verbal and verbal styles of communication to fit your character’s behavior and the situation, you can begin to take control over the way that other people see you.

Before I talk about how these three main characters listed above tie in with our approach to situational awareness, threat recognition and behavior-based conversations, here is how Continue reading »