hat was what I heard as I walked into the office one day preparing to teach one of my first blocks of instruction on how to develop an operational mindset. I had been given 20 minutes of class time out of the normal schedule after walking my boss through my idea. It was simple really, I could see that while we were doing a great job training and developing the fundamental skills necessary to operate in various places around the world, time after time we were watching critical errors in judgement, awareness, comprehension, communication and ultimately performance.
…time after time we were watching critical errors in judgement, awareness, comprehension, communication and ultimately performance.
For several years prior there had existed a period of instruction titled “combat mindset.” It was ok, nothing spectacular, but it got some valid points across. As I sat and watched though it became incredibly obvious that it wasn’t resonating with the audience. Well, that’s a nice way to say it, they couldn’t care less! I thought to myself, man, it’s a course about mindset and none of these people are “going to combat” so aren’t we creating something in the mind that probably doesn’t belong???
The course was filled with an exhaustive amount of jargon and antiquated information that maybe was hot shit sometime in the late seventies or early eighties but come on guys, we can do better than this! So, being the guy I am, I went to work on fixing it.
I started with the problem as I saw it and began to conduct some pretty exhaustive research to help me begin to understand how our thoughts, feelings, emotions and perceptions all compound to inhibit our ability to perform under stress. I was blown away by what I had found. At that time, most researchers simply stayed in their respective lanes. The bio guys weren’t talking to the psychs and the psychs didn’t seem to care what the docs were doing and so on. It was crazy to me to find similar theories and schools of thought being analyzed in such stove pipes.
Seeing all of this I did what any one of us would do, well, anyone who is stuck with a brain like mine. I learned to sow. No, not in the actual sense of the term, rather I began to cross-pollinate the research from various fields of study and then took an “operational” look at whether or not it applied in the real world. I mean, labs are great and all, but I came from the lab that runs somewhere between 500 and 1500 degrees or has bullets flying in both directions. I needed to make sure that what we going to put out passed the sniff test of some pretty heavy hitters.
Three columns on a yellow legal pad constituted the very first 20 minute operational mindset class.
Three columns on a yellow legal pad constituted the very first 20 minute operational mindset class. It was simply designed to provoke thought as the students moved through the fundamental training and into the scenarios. I wanted them to understand what happens in the body under stress and how that impacts critical decision making abilities, perception of events and communication. That was it. I called it “operational mindset” to bring a more robust look at our audience and their actual work. While many of them would be stationed in high-risk/high-threat areas like Baghdad or Kabul, most of them would only see the light of day as they moved from the office back to their sleeping quarters. But, none the less, as many of them would learn later, you better have your shit together in every moment… period.
As I walked in that morning, someone I carry a significant amount of respect for was standing in the office door talking with my boss asking, “what’s this mindset shit?” He was an old school, gritty fella who preferred the rigidity of training and came from the, just do it culture of yesteryear. Now, just to be clear, I grew up on that culture. I was trained, mentored and developed by men who wouldn’t hesitate to put a foot in your ass and push you down the hallway if you even looked like you might slow down or stop. But his faint attempt to strike the class from the schedule didn’t work.
The response was pretty eye opening. Reading through the course critiques almost every single one said, more mindset stuff. They wanted more and more they got. Over the next year, the program evolved form 20 minutes to two hours and then into scenario development, new methodologies, new systems, new processes and eventually the addition of biofeedback devices. I found my sweet spot! I loved every minute and realized why I was put on this earth… to figure out why we do, what we do, when we do, AND be able to translate that in a way that connects with people so that the information and insights shared are practical and applicable to EVERY aspect of life.
The program has been a constant evolution, never repeating itself. With every scientific advancement, content is assessed, restructured, incorporated or redesigned. The course is self is representative of what I believe a MINDSET is… a culmination of several aspects and attributes converging in a way that creates a fluid, adaptive ability to move from moment to moment with real power and authority. It has very little to do with the narratives running around in your head, positive or negative. Mindset is a math problem, not a narrative problem. That’s what this mindset shit really is, are you in?