Category Archives: update

Five Years of Carrying the Gun

Today is the fifth anniversary of Carrying the Gun.

Top posts:
1. Enough with the ‘infidel’ stuff. Seriously, stop.
2. Army Myths: The .50 cal will kill/harm/maim even if you miss
3. Army Myths: You don’t need 100 hours to get a Volunteer Medal

Top search terms:
1. army map board (see this post)
2. carrying the gun
3. infidel (see this post)

Another year of the blog, and I thought I hadn’t really written much. Looking back, there’s actually a lot that I’m proud of. My post on being prepared to be “the man” on day one was pretty popular. Spurred by an intense obsession with Life Is Strange, I wrote a few popular posts on suicide, veterans in popular culture, and empathy. The once popular subject of women in the infantry became a non-topic. I learned that uttering the word “millenial” garners lots of clicks and attention. Friend of the blog Drew Steadman wrote a short and popular piece on getting your hands dirty and leadership.

Perhaps one of the most popular posts of the past year was this one, about the importance of the platoon leader and platoon sergeant being on the same sheet of music.

Still, I admit that this past year has been pretty slow for the blog. Army life has a way of swinging like a pendulum; sometimes I have more time than I could ever want, and then I have no time at all.

There is still so much I want to write, but I find the depth of the topics to be overly constrictive at times. That is why I’ve begun writing shorter pieces to just get it out there.

I’m proud of the blog and prouder still that I’ve kept it going for five years. Here’s to another five.

A note on recent posts

Somewhere, I saw a recommendation for a book called Never Eat Alone. I haven’t read the book, and perhaps this is unfair, but I felt like I got the gist of it from the title. The book is about relationships, and I think I take the point that it is best to take advantage of opportunities to build and foster human relationships. Meal time is one of those opportunities.

I’m sure it’s a good book. It’s doing well on Amazon.

I just don’t think I needed to read it. Just hearing the title and the book’s purpose imparted the advice. Reading the book and dedicating the time to that endeavor might solidify that advice, but I just wasn’t that interested.

I’ve been taking that approach to some of the posts on this blog. I’ve had things I’ve wanted to write about for years that have been sitting on a list. These ideas sit there until I’m able to will myself to do the work and bang out a 1,000 word missive on it that makes sense.

Instead of having these ideas waste away on a  list, I’ve decided to get them out there as ideas, half-baked and raw. Often that’s all there is to it, anyway. It’s a technique I’ve seen done well at The Best Defense by Tom Ricks.

It’s a departure from what I normally do, so I thought it would be helpful for those who come here expecting longer pieces all the time. I’ll still write longer pieces, but only ones that I really want to.

In getting things done, time and attention are the only two things that matter

If I just grabbed you on the street and said:

“WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR LIFE?”

You would probably say something like your family, or your church group, or maybe your career, or maybe your kid or your pet, or whatever. And the thing is, in some part of your heart, that’s absolutely true. But do you have a sense in which your time and attention tracks to actually doing good stuff for that thing that you claimed is really important? Do you have an internal barometer that tells you how well that’s going?

In fact is the thing that you claim is important really important?

Because, if a lot of people actually looked at where their time and attention went, the parts that they do have control over, it would look like the most important thing in their life is Facebook.

It’s been over a month since I’ve written anything.

I’ve been in a recalibration period, and as part of that, I revisited a great talk by Merlin Mann that he delivered at Rutgers University in 2010. It’s titled “Who moved my brain?” and it’s about time and attention.

When I was enlisted, I spent a lot of time after work researching productivity and ways to be more effective. That brought me to Merlin’s old website, 43 Folders. I started reading Merlin’s articles and listening to his talks. I was simply looking for tips on how to be more productive, the specific things I was supposed to do – like make a “Hipster PDA,” which I used until the iPhone came out. Merlin has a way of speaking philosophically about the topic of productivity, time, and attention, often to the annoyance of a listener who just wants to know how exactly to be more effective. What are the specific things I’m supposed to do?

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate his more indirect approach. In this talk, he opens up with “The more time I spend thinking about this stuff, the less interested I am in the relatively superficial problems of things like e-mail.” He describes the anxiety and frustration that we have with email, social media, time, and attention as the “top layer” of our problems.

If you pay attention, what he’s usually getting at is that the things we’re seeking to fix are often really easy, but they suggest much deeper problems underneath that we haven’t addressed.

Thanks to the gentle nudge from friend of the blog Andrew Steadman at The Military Leader, I’ve been listening to podcasts again and I get the sense that the field of cognitive optimal performance is surging in a way I’m not sure that it was ten or even five years ago. It’s for that reason that I’m sharing this talk, because it’s still relevant and potentially pretty illuminating for someone trying to grapple with managing their own time and attention better.

The talk is worth listening to in its entirety and will be especially useful for anyone interested in understanding how they use and manage all things digital (email and social media especially) and optimizing workplace performance.

If you’re wondering what my biggest take away from the talk was, it’s this: I turned off notifications on my iPhone. In in the talk, Merlin discusses how we allow our time and attention to be captured by literally anyone in the world with an internet connection. If someone in Zaire emails me and it pops up on my screen, for that second that my eyes diverted from whatever they were looking at to see that I got an email from some guy in Zaire. I’ve lost control of my time and attention. No matter what I was doing, by allowing myself to be interrupted, I am tacitly saying that nothing that I am currently doing is more important than what anyone on the internet wants me to pay attention to.

When you think about it in those terms, when you keep your notifications on, or the email “bubble” that pops up when you get a new email, or whatever other form this takes, you’re relinquishing an incredible power -really the only power you have.

Doing something as simple as turning off notifications might not seem like a big deal for some people, but I’m a compulsive checker. If they’re on, and I see them on the screen, I’m compelled to investigate further.

“What did he say in that comment?”

“What’s in that email?

Turning off notifications is in the “tips and tricks” category of productivity. It’s a small thing that you can do right now to reclaim some time and attention, but it is indicative of a bigger problem in how habits are managed, hence the recalibration period I mentioned in the beginning.

Enjoy.

Carrying the Gun Update: Police Call

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You may have noticed I changed the look and feel of the blog recently. I’ve been meaning to do it for sometime, as the old theme was starting to get clunky and I wanted to simplify things to focus on the content. Some old posts might come up looking odd or have errors in them. If you see anything glaring, please let me know in the comments. I’ll be going through the blog fixing things up over time.

Thanks!

@dongomezjr

Thank you!

The end of the year is a good time to stop and reflect on things, and I want to express my thanks to you who continue to read, share, and comment on this blog. It’s a very small (but dedicated) community of folks who try to think and write critically about the military, the Middle East, and whatever else finds its way here, and it isn’t always very sexy. It’s much easier (and shareable) to post listicles and hooah pictures of military gear for clicks and ‘likes’ than to unpack whether it is right or wrong for members of the military to openly display “infidel” gear, or if maybe the civil-military divide isn’t really that big of a deal, or to challenge the popular notion that America’s youth are not shouldering their share of the military burden.

So, to those who have been following the blog since its beginning or just recently started reading, thank you very much for being a part of a thoughtful community.

Four Years of Carrying the Gun

IMG_5499

Today is the fourth anniversary of Carrying the Gun.

Top posts:
1. Why We Need West Point: Painfully Written by an OCS Guy
2. Enough with the ‘infidel’ stuff. Seriously, stop.
3. Army Myths: The .50 cal will kill/harm/maim even if you miss

Top search terms:
1. plexiglass boards army (see this post)
2. combat infantry badge (see this post)
3. how to make a map board army (see this post)

Anniversaries are a pretty good time for reflection. I’m surprised that I’ve managed to keep the blog going, and the readership growing along with it. Every now and then I wonder if it is worth continuing, and I always come back to the idea that it is, because if nothing else, it allows me to work out thoughts and ideas in a way I just wouldn’t if I weren’t writing.

While I don’t go around telling everyone I know I have a blog, I’m still surprised when people I know approach me and tell me they liked something I wrote. It’s always best when they say they thought one way on a subject, but now see it another way as a result of something I put up here.

Outside of the blog, I wrote a piece on the problem with Lieutenant’s who write that was published on the Company Command and Platoon Leader blog. I wrote it while in Afghanistan, and less than 24 hours of it being posted, some of the superior officers and NCOs I was working with found it, printed it, and were passing it around a small camp in Jalalabad. It was a kind of surreal moment, sitting there, watching a grizzled NCO read something I wrote in an operations center. He liked it, though.

I also published a piece in Military Review, Operational Resilience in the Infantry Rifle Platoon. For anyone who is wondering, publishing there is a very long process. I think I submitted the piece in October or November of 2014 and it didn’t publish until May-June 2015. It was a good experience though, and the editing process was painful (but useful).

Also, the Military Writers Guild launched, which is a consortium of military writers. I’m a proud member and glad to be a part of a community inside the military that is working towards expressing and sharing ideas.

There’s been an explosion of conglomerate military writing sites that sprung up over the past year(s), like Task & Purpose and We Are The Mighty, among others. Those sites provide a great outlet for military and veterans to get their thoughts down and out there, but don’t necessarily want to manage their own blog.

The lone blog seems to be a dying species. As I’ve written about before, I’ve never been very interested in documenting the day-to-day of what I do, for a bunch of reasons, but I do it sometimes, and I think it adds more character to a blog than listicles and clickbait.

Here’s to another year.

@dongomezjr