Today is September 12, 2001

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I recently finished General (Ret) Michael Hayden’s book, Playing to the EdgeHe has also been making the rounds on television as well promoting the book and offering his thoughts on the current presidential campaign, so I’ve gotten a lot of Michael Hayden lately. I’ve come to really appreciate what seems to me a very reasonable approach to security, policy, and politics from him. He comes off as extremely thoughtful and a true critical thinker.

Anyway, the book takes the reader through Hayden’s career, the bulk of it during his time as the director of the NSA and CIA. There was a passage where he describes a sign in one of the headquarters buildings (I don’t remember if it was NSA or CIA) that read, simply:

“Today is September 12, 2001.”

It was simple, but striking. If you were an adult on 9/12/2001, it’s hard to overstate how that felt. The sign is designed to stoke the fire that burned in those days and months directly after the September 11th attacks.

I found myself feeling ambivalent about the sign. On one hand, I can see the utility of stoking that fire, especially long after the event when complacency sets in. On the other, is there not some value in moving away from that fire over time? Is an action we may have taken on 9/12/2001 as appropriate as on 9/12/2016?

It’s just one of those things that gets me thinking.

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In the military, you have time for 1, maybe 2 hobbies

Originally published in 2016.

If you take your job seriously in the military – which you should – then you likely only have time for one, maybe two hobbies.

It’s a dismal realization that was thrust upon me by a senior leader over a decade ago.

His chief hobby was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He made it his hobby by ensuring he went to practice a few times a week, to include Saturday mornings. He loved doing other things, like shooting, but given everything else he had to do, he had to choose which hobby got his attention.

The work week is consumed by work, often starting well before the sun rises and ending after it sets. Time at home during the week is characterized by reconnecting with loved ones, eating, and preparing for the next day before collapsing into bed.

On the weekend there are likely family obligations, house tasks, and basic errands that need to be done. In the moments that remain, there might be time for one, maybe two hobbies.

It’s a tough thing to come to terms with, because many in the military are ultra-ambitious. There are lots of things we would like to take up as hobbies, but we just can’t. The nature of the work requires a lot of time and energy, and there is only so much time during the week.

The only thing I have found helpful is carefully selecting the hobbies I want to commit to and then making the time for them, which often comes very early in the morning on weekends.

I am interested in knowing how others manage their hobbies, especially if a bulk of their time is dedicated to work and family.

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