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In an article I posted last week about why we don’t spend much of our time or energy here at The CP Journal thinking the competitors to our business, I explained how we use the “3 Buckets of Control” to focus only on those things that we can do to support our students. The reason why I discussed this view is not because we aren’t competitive. By defining the people and organizations who are not our enemies, we can focus on those who truly are. The adversaries that we compete with are not other businesses in our field. They are the predators who are attempting to hide within our communities and interrupt our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our clients might call this adversary a terrorist, an active shooter, a deranged fan, a bully or a gang member, and as we seek to support our clients in their fight against these predators, there are a few key considerations that make up our perspective on our true competitors.

1. This is a competition with clear winners and losers.

As we move through 2016 and consider the violence we have experienced in the past few years, the world certainly feels like a more dangerous place than it did even just five or six years ago. We have seen high profile terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Orlando. We have seen race-related violence that led to the recent murder of five police officers in Dallas, Texas, and the murder of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. We have seen and experienced how often we turn on breaking news to listen to the reporting of an active shooter in our schools, workplaces and city sidewalks. While the “experts” appearing on 24-hour news channels debate whether this is an actual rise in violence or just a rise in the reporting of violence, the distinction is irrelevant. It simply feels more violent out there and, because of the fact that success stories where the good guys stop an attack by being left of bang aren’t reported as frequently as when attackers succeed, it feels like the predators are winning this fight.

Fighting a perception of pervasive violence is a big enough challenge in its own right and there is no room for people who think that we are doing things “good enough,” because clearly we aren’t. In their Art of Manliness article, “Competition: The Fuel for Greatness,Brett and Kate McKay make the need for people to embrace competition clear, stating, “In fleeing competition we avoid failure, but run into the arms of mediocrity.” While the easy answer to the rising violence would be to bury our heads in the sand in a blind hope it won’t happen to us or pretend that “it isn’t going to happen here,” this isn’t a game where we can play to not lose. It must be a game we are playing to win.

2. The adversary has adapted to change how the battle is fought.

As we seek to defeat predators in the short term, we must accept the fact that our adversaries are not going to play the way we want them to. For our military and police forces, our greatest strength is the ability to use force and overwhelm the enemy. While the clarity of a stand-up, toe-to-toe fight is something we would embrace, our enemies rarely let us use this historically unparalleled capability. Even when force is the called for solution to a problem, it doesn’t lead to a decisive victory and make us any safer. We might kill an insurgent cell, an active shooter or an angry protestor, but this isn’t one of the World Wars where we can kill our way to victory.

As Daniel Modell highlights in his article in The Law Enforcement Executive Forum, “The Psychology of the Active Killer,” the mass murderer who is only seeking to become a victimizer will rarely let themselves become the victim of first responders and will often commit suicide before they allow themselves to be killed. Defeating this type of adversary requires that we acknowledge that the environment has changed and that we need to develop our ability to stop those attackers before they can launch their assault. That has become the new decisive point in the battle. I’m not saying that we should stop training and developing our response capabilities, as that is likely a powerful deterrent for some predators, but a singular focus on the response is no longer sufficient to victory.

3. It isn’t enough to win, how we win is just as important.

As we seek to extend our victory from the near term to an enduring sense of public safety in long term, it is our belief that we need to win the “right way.” While it is natural to think about how it would be easier if we could drop to the adversary’s level and take short cuts along the path to victory, if we fight unfairly or concede the moral high ground (whether that is real or perceived), we don’t eliminate our adversaries, we create more of them. Defeating our adversaries in the long run doesn’t mean that we continue to become better and better at identifying a person once they have made the decision to attack, it means ensuring that strong communities recognize that potentially violent person and prevent them from ever making that decision in the first place.

Since warriors, guardians and protectors can’t be everywhere all of the time, we have to rely on the communities to police their own. We know that the “right way” to win a fight is a bit subjective and is culturally specific and reflective of the times we are in, but acknowledging that reality is the first step to ensuring our country’s communities help us move further and further left of bang. This is what will let us shift from identifying the observable symptoms (the behaviors of people about to commit an attack) and focus on eliminating the underlying causes that lead people to make that decision.

Ensuring that we win the “right way” is how we can keep ourselves from dropping to the level of our adversaries and becoming the very thing we are trying to protect against. It is the harder route and certainly is not the path of least resistance. It requires more effort, more money, and more time to learn how to remove the perception that violence is America’s new normal.

The Impact

Our view of competition, from why we don’t waste energy focusing on businesses in our field to why we focus on the real competition, the predators and adversaries in our communities, is a result of the fact that the threat environment that we live and work in has changed. We can either embrace the change and adapt to it, or continue to reminisce about the good old days where apparently everything was better while letting our pursuit of the status quo continue to let attackers win this fight. To put it into a historical context, our views on competition admittedly reflect more Spartan-like ideals than Athenian views, where we prefer to compete against external enemies instead of with each other. If we wanted to come to work every day preparing for another round of infighting between people and organizations seemingly on the same team, we would have become politicians. These three aspects of how we view competition are what have driven many of the decisions we’ve made in our company.

Because this is a fight with clear winners and clear losers, that recognition is what led us to start The CP Journal in the first place so that we could do our part and contribute to our nation’s safety. Our role is a supporting one and our ability to help prepare the warriors, guardians and protectors on the street here at home and overseas to win this fight is where we believe we can have the biggest impact.

Because the environment has changed, that recognition is what led us to focus solely on what it takes to get left of bang. This is why we are focused on expanding the capabilities of our nation’s protectors to not only provide overwhelming force when called upon, but also the ability to stop an attacker so that a reaction isn’t needed. It is why all of the resources on our site are focused on that one specific goal of getting, and staying, left of bang.

Because of the reality that how we win is important is why we discuss the ethical ramifications of a protector’s actions and refuse to accept that the base legal standard is the only thing to be considered in decision-making. Because the fact that strong communities working with authorities is the best long-term strategy to public safety and stability is why we launched our community-focused side project last year, Beer in Boulder, a first stepping stone to begin the process of learning how to strengthen ties within specific communities throughout our country.

The three buckets of control have helped us to focus our efforts and maximize the time we spend working on the things that we can have a real impact on. By simplifying the decisions about who we want to compete with, and who we don’t have an interest in competing against, and remain focused on our mission to keep America and our protectors left of bang.