Not Your Kind of People

This is a bit of a continuation of what I was discussing in the last newsletter.

I’m learning that sometimes a kind of pressure builds up if I’ve been in the grind for too long – work, social, personal – and the best thing to do is to step back for a moment and take a break.

The worst thing to do is fall into a spiral of self-pontification, engage in the undisciplined pursuit of more, or worse still, make long-term consequential decisions.

Did you ever play Ecco the Dolphin? Why was that game so hard?

Anyway, even Ecco had to come up for air periodically to keep going.

The next thing you’ll see will be the newsletter, which releases on October 1.

This one is raw – civ-mil divide, the venom over the new Call of Duty (rumored to be GWOT), the “unrealness” of soldiers, and more.

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“The strange charm of its primitive political vitality”

It is difficult to see how these deficiencies can be corrected at an early date by a tired and dispirited population working largely under the shadow of fear and compulsion. And as long as they are not overcome, Russia will remain economically as vulnerable, and in a certain sense an impotent, nation, capable of exporting its enthusiasms and of radiating the strange charm of its primitive political vitality but unable to back up those articles of export by the real evidences of material power and prosperity.

George Kennan, The Sources of Soviet Conduct

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Physically and Mentally Refreshed

Last week, lots of folks were celebrating the seven-year anniversary of Metal Gear Solid V.

When I first played MGSV, I hadn’t touched a game in the series since MGS2 when it originally came out, and I never finished it.

So when I jumped into MGSV, there were a lot of holes in the plot for me. Most of the time, I had very little idea as to what was going on.

But I quickly became obsessed and played until I reached 100%.

At the same time, the unit I was in was spending a lot of time in the field. In the field, you tend to get dirty. And sweaty. The whole thing is generally uncomfortable.

But it’s not just an issue of comfort. Hygiene and cleanliness are important aspects of a healthy military force.

Which is why the shower on Mother Base was so intriguing to me.

After each mission, I always went to the shower. I was out there, in either Afghanistan or Africa, crawling around, running, sweating, getting blood everywhere… it only makes sense to shower when you get back.

There’s something about the sound of the shower in the game, the dripping, and the echo, that made it seem very real.

The game inspired me to purchase a field shower – which I had seen on deployments before but never used myself. I bought one from Amazon, packed it in my ruck for a field problem, but never actually used it (I still have it).

As I’ve written before, the game has a way of hitting people in different ways. This was one small way for me, and I haven’t seen the sentiment shared anywhere else.


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Innovation = Connecting

master miller the innovator

There’s a lot of talk about innovation these days.

We all want innovators.

Well, what does that mean? What does it mean to innovate?

I have a theory, and it has nothing to do with being a genius or coming up with wacky ideas.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, there was nothing really new about the device.

It was 2007. We had cell phones. We had mobile computers. We had micro-cameras. We had touch screens.

These things all existed, separately.

The “innovation” was bringing things together – connecting.

That was the genius aspect of it. What if we brought all of these things together? What if we connected these things?

The biggest hurdle wasn’t even the tech piece. It was getting a deal with a mobile carrier (AT&T).

This is the reason I think it’s so important to get outside of your bubble. It’s the reason I post about culture and gaming on what is mostly a military site.

Innovation is not someone sitting in a room who comes up with a great idea.

Innovation is someone seeing one thing and understanding that it might fit in another context.

Bringing things together.

Connecting.


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Fantastical Tactical Operations

the skulls female parasite unit

Episode 70 of the Kojima Frequency.

There’s a great conversation in this episode on the fantastical elements of the Metal Gear series.

I first got into Metal Gear because my upstairs neighbor had the game on the original NES and introduced it to me. I didn’t have an NES yet. The game seemed very “military.” My upstairs neighbor was a cop which somehow made the game seem more legit.

In the game, my job was to infiltrate this base, avoid detection, and use all kinds of special equipment.

The game was difficult and the plot was simple.

I fell in love with it instantly.

I was young, and I liked it because it felt somehow, realistic.

If there were fantastical elements of the original games, they never made an impression on me when I was young. It seemed to be a straight-laced military game.

❗️

Years later, when Metal Gear Solid was announced for the Playstation, I felt excited and validated. Most of my friends at the time didn’t know about the earlier games. They thought this was something new. I felt like an insider because I had played the original.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but from the early videos and articles I read in gaming magazines, I figured I’d be getting some kind of military infiltration simulation.

Something like the earlier games.

And that’s what I got.

Until the fight with Psycho Mantis.

Then, the game started getting weird.

I remember playing through the torture scene with Ocelot. My friend got up to get his turbo controller to help. And as if on cue, this happened.

I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I didn’t understand it.

The further I went into the game, the weirder it got.

I didn’t know why, but I liked it.

When Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was released, I was already in the Army. I bought the game on release day and played through the tanker mission. But then work got in the way and I never finished it.

More years passed, and a friend sent me a copy of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for my birthday when it came out, but it stayed in the shrinkwrap.

Too busy.

It’s only after MGSV came out that I returned to the series, and I’m better for it.

What I find fascinating about the series today is the way that everyone seems to have a personal relationship with it, but each is different.


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The Coward

otacon metal gear solid scared coward

A long time ago, I made a note to write something about the below concept.

But, I don’t need to. It’s already happening.


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Remember the basics of CQC

the boss close up intense metal gear

A very short piece over at From the Green Notebook on the importance of giving practical advice to your mentees.

The one thing I wish I had known before I started my last job is that, in mentoring relationships, the mentee is almost always looking for practical advice – not cosmic wisdom. 

The One Thing Series: Mentoring Through the Gauntlet

Sometimes you don’t want a soliloquy on the Philosopher’s Legacy, when all you need to know are the basics of CQC.


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Flow

solid snake waterfall metal gear solid 3 pistol

I read Flow years ago. If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of the concept.

And if you haven’t heard of the concept, you’ve probably experienced it.

What is “flow?”

Flow denotes the wholistic sensation present when we act with total involvement. It is the kind of feeling after which one nostalgically says: “that was fun”; or “that was enjoyable”; It is the state in which action follows upon action according to an internal logic which seems to need no conscious intervention on our part. We experience it as a unified flowing from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions, and in which there is little distinction between self and environment; between stimulus and response; or between past, present, and future.

Play and Intrinsic Rewards (1975)

A recent episode of Very Bad Wizards examined the article that initially discussed the concept, titled Play and Intrinsic Rewards (1975).

If the idea is completely alien, it is worth reading the article, and maybe the book. Once you understand the concept of flow, it becomes clear that if you want to get anything done, you need to be able to focus your time and attention. Blocking out your time becomes essential.

But there was something else I took away from the episode and reading the article. It’s the way that the research was conducted. It’s not overly quantitative. It’s not sorcery.

We started our study by talking to a variety of people who have invested a great deal of time and energy in play activities.

After these pilot talks, a standard interview and questionnaire form was developed and administered to 30 rock climbers, 30 basketball players, 30 modern dancers, 30 male chess players, 25 female chess players, and 30 composers of modern music.

Today, this type of study would likely be deemed too simplistic.

But if the results are legit, then who cares?

The best ideas come from old books.


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…there’s a pulse

metal gear solid v big boss smoking cigar

There’s something about a long cross-country road trip that induces reflection. The passage of time, the dusty truck stops, miles and miles of road, lots of time with your own thoughts. It’s like you didn’t even have a choice, you’re going to do some reflecting.

I’ll have a lot more to say about that in the next newsletter which goes out next week. If you haven’t signed up, you should.

Teaser: “Oh, you thought this was going to be easy?”

For now, I’m settling into a routine, so posting should resume as normal.

Over the past month, a few things stuck out (ideas, articles, podcasts).

In no particular order:

  1. Writing Cabins. The importance of having a space away from what’s familiar (and familiar people) when you want to do any writing. I’d add time to this. I prefer early mornings.
  2. Educating Leaders for Future War. Interesting (and complete – one, two, three, four, five) series on educating leaders for future war over at MWI. This is a topic I find fascinating. Do we need future leaders to have different attributes for future war? I haven’t read through all of them yet, but from what I could garner these got some people worked up on social media. It seems PME is one of those subjects in which people hold very strong opinions.
  3. #OneThing – Lots of people changing jobs this summer(!). Most have at least “one thing” that they wish they had known before they started. A nice initiative from FTGN to scoop those up (I’ve submitted something simple, we’ll see if it hits).
  4. L2 Speak – I’ve always thought that a great way to learn a new language would be a simple role-playing game where you are forced to learn the language. That’s how you progress. Well someone is finally making it. Very excited to see where this goes.
  5. Gladiator School – II MEF Information Group started a podcast. I haven’t listened yet, but I listen to its cousin and enjoy it.
  6. What’s the point? – Maybe a bit of a darker thought while on the road, but in the moments inbetween when I’d pop on social media to see what was going on, most of it was nonsense. This thought extended to the whole ecosystem of military writing – there is so much out there right now, but very little of consequence. Nothing is landing. Or at least, nothing seems to be landing like it used to. I’m not sure if this is because there is so much out there, poor quality, or maybe so many have abandoned the hard work for performance. More on that in the newsletter.

And as always, sometimes things just ‘pop in there.’ Here are some future posts you can look forward to.

  1. Hyper Active Chaos. Is this a thing? Because people are saying it.
  2. The Father of Psychological Warfare. It’s Robert McClure. Who would the fictional ‘Mother‘ of Pyschological Warfare be?
  3. Context vs Character. What’s the difference here?
  4. Power Word Series. There are some words that just tend to get you excited. Like what? Like this newly-discovered trove.
  5. Information as a Warfighting Function. Are we there yet?

And more.


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