A Letter to Our Weekly Profile Subscribers

June 22, 2023 in Updates

Hey there,

It’s been a long time.

If you’re reading this, you subscribed to “The Weekly Profile” at some point over the last 12 years. You may have read Left of Bang, completed one of The CP Journal’s courses, read one of our white papers or eBooks, or had our email newsletter shared with you. This newsletter used to be where Jonathan and I shared insights from things we had read and articles that we thought were worth passing along.

At some point, though, you stopped hearing from us—almost three years ago with this newsletter and about five years ago on The CP Journal’s blog. I’m sorry for that. Leading up to the moment I stopped posting, I had written a lot about getting left of bang, the security industry, and behavioral analysis. It was a time when my professional interests were shifting and I was exploring new aspects of service and public safety. And, what can I say, life simply gets busy sometimes.

The CP Journal never went anywhere of course. I continue to be humbled by the organizations and the protectors who are engaging with our content, coming through our online courses, and enhancing their observation skills in our Academy. If this applies to you, I owe you a deep and heartfelt thank you, as always, for trusting us.

This letter is about a return to writing and the creation of new content. My focus has shifted a bit over the past few years. Today, I have a greater focus on applying lessons learned in responding and reacting to disasters, attacks, and emergencies to help people and organizations prepare for those situations. I have things that I’m excited to talk about and share again.

If you’re interested in receiving a newsletter that includes articles and resources about preparing yourself or your organization for an uncertain future, subscribe to the “Paths to Preparedness.”

Thank you for continuing to engage with us here at The CP Journal. And, as always, thank you for the work you are leading to keep people safe!


Meeting Your Customers Where They Are: Behavioral Assessments in Business

June 9, 2020 in Applying The Observations

For small and growing businesses, being able to recognize when customer sentiment is shifting in a negative direction is critical to successfully adapting to your market circumstances. This ability is more relevant than ever, as bad reviews, toxic commentary, and a general sense of negativity seem to have permeated a variety of discourses beyond the continuously growing party-based political divide here in the U.S.  Paul Jarvis, an author and entrepreneur whose newsletter I’ve subscribed to for a number of years, published an article earlier this year that expresses the phenomena from his perspective. His article opens:

I’ve noticed a concerning trend lately: small business owners who sell anything are being seen and labeled as the enemy by some folks online. The logic I assume goes: a few people online do shitty things (like promoting their products every 30 minutes to their list or making hard/impossible to get refunds), therefore everyone who does anything online is currently doing shitty things and must be punished!

It isn’t important whether an increased sense of negativity is present in your market right now or not. It is something that will come and go over time. What is important is that you have the ability, structure, and process that you can use to assess your customers’ mood so that you can tailor your approach to business to reflect changing sentiments. Sometimes you can influence your customer’s mood, and sometimes you can’t.  But adapting your approach in a process-driven way means that you can focus on what you can control: how you communicate, how you market your company, and how you interact with customers moving through the sales process.

Meeting your customers where they are—as opposed to where you want them to be—is about letting go of why a person trusts or doesn’t trust your business and acknowledging that you will, at some point or another, work with potential customers who could be in either camp. That’s why adjusting and adapting your approach to reflect whatever state your customers are in when they first interact with your company is crucial to master.

Meeting Your Customers Where They Are: The Starting Point

The first step to being able to adapt your company’s approach to clients and learning how to act in a way that matches the behaviors and emotional states that your customers are in is knowing how you are going to categorize market and customer sentiments. Speaking with clients who have chosen to use the behaviors and processes discussed in Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life  and taught in our Tactical Analysis Course to improve how they interact with their customers, they often realize the very stark difference between a market that can be categorized as having positive atmospherics and a market that has negative atmospherics. Continue reading »

Interview: Managing Violence Podcast

January 26, 2020 in Learning Resources

Recently, I had the privilege of talking with Joe Saunders from the Managing Violence podcast and wanted to share it with readers from The CP Journal.

It was great to join a long list of leaders from the security industry, including people like Tony Blauer, James Hamilton from Gavin De Becker and Associates, and Aaron Mauldin, so if you you haven’t had the chance to take a look at Joe’s show, I certainly recommend it and you can find all of the episodes here.

I enjoyed the conversation and if you’d like to listen to what Joe and I discussed, you can find find it on Spotify and YouTube.

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


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 be tested (like the pint glass and plastic cup) in ways beyond what they were originally designed and developed for. This makes the way that we develop our confidence an essential component to a training program, as it is what will lead to the resilience of earned confidence and not expose us to the risk of hesitation when we are engaged in life or death situations. For any skill we are looking to assess our confidence in, we can turn to research by Albert Bandura, a psychologist out of Stanford University, who identified three primary ways that a person develops their belief in their ability to perform at a given level. You can develop confidence in your ability to do something if:

  1. A person tells you that you are able to learn and do a task.
  2. You see a person (someone you see as a peer) do a task.
  3. You have done a task and have experienced it enough times where you know that you can do it again.

Each of these three approaches has strengths and weaknesses, and each has a time and place in your development, but they each lead to different degrees of fragility or weakness that result from their use. Of these three sources of self-confidence, the first is a source of confidence that is likely the least resilient, and the third is a source of confidence that is likely the most resilient. Knowing which of the three sources has led you to feel a degree of confidence in your ability to perform a skill is critical when self-assessing whether your confidence is earned or not. To highlight this, consider two different scenarios often encountered in training situations:

Scenario #1: Going back to the marksmanship example, consider all of the training events and practice opportunities that were used to develop a high degree of confidence in your ability to accurately engage the enemy. You may have attended classes that allowed you to fire at day and at night. In the sun and in rain. While stationary and while on the move. While seated, while standing and while in the prone. Against stationary targets and moving targets. At close range and from a distance. Practicing while you are relaxed and in situations where your heart rate was spiked to simulate the stress of combat. As a result of having fired, and fired accurately, in each different setting, you have earned a degree of confidence that you could do it again if the situation called for it. As a result of all of these training events, your confidence is probably pretty resilient to whatever conditions in which you find yourself firing your weapon in the future.

Scenario #2: Now contrast your confidence in marksmanship with a skill you may have learned in a five-day course that mixed classroom instruction with a handful of practical application exercises. Imagine it was a class where, because it was introducing a new skill to you, the only requirement to “pass” the course was to show up each day. In this type of setting, you may have seen groups go through one of the exercises and fail to perform the task that the course was designed to improve performance in. Following that failure to perform, there was likely a debrief, given by an instructor, to help the students realize where in the process they fell short and an explanation about what they could have done differently. But, because of limitations in training time and resources available, they wouldn’t get another opportunity to do the exercise again before graduating from the course. These types of training events often conclude with a bit of a “rah rah” type speech by the lead instructor where they express their belief that all of the students will be able to perform the skill when they need to. While motivational, the talk may also feel a bit disconnected from the actual performance of the people finishing the course. It also results in confidence that can be fragile to future stress.

The point of highlighting these two scenarios is to show that, for protectors and warriors, a degree of awareness about why you feel confident in any given skill is required. If you were just exposed to a new skill in a Scenario #2 setting, the confidence that you have (until you have experienced success using it) has resulted from the first source of confidence that Bandura describes. If your confidence is limited to an instructor expressing their belief that you can perform the skill, your confidence could prove to be very fragile as soon as it is exposed to the stresses of combat in the real world. The same realization of knowing where your confidence comes from can be also be applied to the process of learning.

How This Relates to Confidence in Learning

As I discussed in the article, “Combatting the Strengths of Our Adversaries: Learning How to Learn,” there is going to a cycle of adaptations that our adversaries make if the early battles of a war result in significant, but not catastrophic, losses for them. This is why developing a resilient confidence in your ability to learn is so important. When the enemy changes their strategy and tactics to combat our strengths and attack our weaknesses, there will be a significant amount of stress involved for those expected to understand what shifts were made and how to combat them. During this time, there may be an increase in those killed or wounded as a result of the shift in enemy tactics. The anticipated timeline for the war might have just extended, impacting pressures from the American people to “figure it out.” If your confidence in your ability to learn is lacking, and if you aren’t sure if you are able to execute the learning process fast enough in order to be successful, that just became an additional stressor and will further limit our ability to win future wars.

Our ability to learn has to be trained and developed so well that it is impenetrably resilient. You may be face a situation in your career when someone looks you in the eye and says, “I know you haven’t done this before, but I know that you’ll be able to figure it out,” and you’ll have to rely not on your confidence in overcoming the specific challenge being faced, but will need to turn to your confidence in your ability to figure out what is happening (learning) and find a way forward.

The only person who can assess your ability to learn is you. The repetitions and the practice required to reach the point of resilient confidence in your ability to learn can only be determined by you. The way that you develop this confidence is by pursuing mastery in the act of learning while simultaneously pursuing mastery in the skill you are focused on itself. To do this, consider the steps that go into the Apprentice Phase of learning a new skill (described in the article here) that form the basis of learning: the deep observation step, the practice step and the experimentation step.

Start with a subject that you’d like to develop and find a book on the topic. As you read the book, you are developing two things simultaneously: you are learning about the rules that govern success and you are also deliberately practicing your ability to extract the rules of a subject from the book. You can see this relationship in the graphic below.

Your goal may be to practice the identification of rules and understand how different authors choose to share them with you, but the beneficial by-product of that practice is that you also end up with a thorough list of rules on the subject you’re interested in learning more about. You are practicing your deep observation, and the by-product of that practice is a deeper understanding in the subject matter itself.

Once you have built an initial list of rules that results from the deep observation step and are able to begin identifying the rules faster and achieve a point of accelerated returns in the apprenticeship, you can progress in your ability to execute the learning process while, again, deepening your understanding of the subject as you begin designing a creative way to practice the list of rules you have assembled.

At this point in your pursuit of mastery in learning, you are at the experimentation step. You are creatively thinking of new ways to drill and practice the rules you identified. You are seeking the point of accelerated returns in your ability to do the task being studied (left column), while exposing your ideas to the public through yourself and to others in your workplace (the learning column on the right). As you practice, you’re assessing the ways you can practice better, furthering the experimentation and getting better with each additional repetition at these phases of the apprenticeship.

The Payoff

The result of the effort required to practice the learning process directly contributes to, and improves, the resilience of our confidence. It provides deliberate examples and experiences that you will be able to call on in the future that lead you to believe you will be able to learn when that skill is needed.

The same way that confidence in your ability to use your rifle can be developed by applying the principles of marksmanship in a number of different conditions, you can do the same thing with practicing extracting the rules through observation. You can do this through written books, audio books, podcasts, videos, online and in-person classes, interviews, white papers, reports, blog posts as well as the intentional observation of people or situations. With specific experience learning from each of these mediums, you further enhance your ability to learn quickly and deeply regardless of what form the information is presented to you in.

With each repetition through the learning process, our confidence grows because we get better at executing the three steps of the apprentice phase of learning, we add depth to our ability to learn and we make it harder for our adversaries to out-learn us and keep them reacting to what we do, decreasing the time required before they lose their will to fight. With each time we go through the cycle, we watch our confidence develop, allowing us to go into a fight knowing that we have done the work required to prepare for war and have countless experiences that support that belief.

This article is also published on Medium.

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 »