"Mindful Combat"

Principles Remain the Same

Whether conducting Counter-Terrorism (CT) and Counter Insurgency Operations (COIN) in a foreign land, or gaining customers and selling a service in Silicon Valley, the principles of operations remain the same. I had the honor of spending over 20 years in military special operations conducting some of the most politically sensitive and high-profile military operations of the past two decades, serving in some our our Nation's most elite units. Since departing the military and now operating in the civilian business world, I find myself applying the same principles as I did in special operations, only difference is the type of threat.


From my experience, building a healthy team comprised of mindful and authentic relationships is one of the most valuable elements to you and your company’s success. The strength and depth of your human network and your ability to develop, foster, and forge long-lasting, healthy, and mindful relationships is crucial. One of my elite special operations mentors, took me aside once and shared with me three things he thought were the critical keys to success of that organization:

1.) Competency. The skill level and follow-through of each member of that organization. Their subject matter expertise, professionalism, initiative, resiliency, and ability to solve the most difficult problems with minimal guidance

2.) Integrity. The stainless character of every member at ALL LEVELS, and their ability to “do the right thing” no matter what the situation.

3.) Relationships. Being situationally aware, engaged, supportive, and mindful of your environment and all those that comprise it, not only internal to your organization, but those external forces as well, such as your partners, media, and those enabling and supporting agencies.

He went on to say, that of the three, the last one, Relationships, is the most difficult of all three to “get right” and the organization’s success will ultimately rest on the relationships you create and nourish. Since then, I carried that advice with me everywhere I’ve gone… whether meeting people on a desolate hiking trail, random conversations in public places, or instilling trust in partners and clients, and since doing so, have increased my ability to successfully operate in uncertain and new environments.

Creating a Frinsurgency

Establishing, developing, and nurturing relationships doesn’t happen overnight, they take time, effort, and presence. In business, an enormous amount if time is spent on developing a network of customers, users, partners, etc. An incredible amount of time and effort is dedicated to collaborating with users and partners to learn what works and what doesn’t so time and money isn’t wasted. In military operations, an insurgency, is defined as ‘the organized use of subversion and violence by a group to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region.’ Counter to an insurgency, the term frinsurgency, “friendly insurgency,” is the deliberate use of continuous mindful engagement to develop, foster, and forge long-lasting and reciprocating relationships internal and external to an organization.

Principles of a frinsurgency:

1. “Mission First, People Always.” Never forget those that support and partner with you – those responsible for overall mission, product, and service success. Take the time to get out on the floor and meet those in the trenches, and those adjacent to you in your workspace and headquarters. Ask them questions, learn what’s not working and how you can assist their efforts. Leaders resource and synchronize assets.

2. “Stop, Look, Listen, Breathe.” In military jargon, SLLS (pronounced “seals”) means Stop, Look, Listen, Smell and these are the steps we initiated anytime a security halt is taken during a patrol or movement to identify nearby enemy or threat. Similarly, I find a technique that works for me when managing chaotic communication clashes, or an unorganized situation around me is, “Stop, Look, Listen, and Breathe.” This allows me a moment to fully focus, get engaged, and understand what is being said before jumping to conclusions. See Number 3

3. “Three sides to every coin.” Too often, we draw conclusions based off lack of information and intelligence. Take the time to dig three to four layers deep. Gather as much information from various sources to draw a logical conclusion about the situation at hand. Learn everything there is to know about a situation, the operating environment, and everyone around you.

4. “Once contact is made, stay engaged.” Use all forms of communication medians to stay connected and engaged with those in your operating environment. Also, don’t lose sight, nor neglect to be physically present. This doesn’t necessarily imply being physically present all the time, but taking the time to meet with your team, partners, and customers when the opportunity arises. Staying engaged is not a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing…