I gave a presentation to the Milwaukee Rotary Club this week on Afghanistan. As many of you know, I spent four combat tours there: three in uniform and one as a civilian.
Members of the club told me that they’d like to hear about some personal experiences, ways to understand the withdrawal decision, and what’s likely to happen next. I synthesized all that into three main points that apply beyond Afghanistan.
1. You don’t create new wins with old thinking. It seems safer to do what you’ve been doing, even if it’s not working, but there are opportunity costs, too. According to Nobel Prize recipient Daniel Kahneman, people tend to be risk-averse. hey fear losses more than they prize gains. They prefer to smell their own fumes rather than be hit with a blast of fresh air. Whose pumping in the fresh air for you?
2. To grow, you need vulnerability and security. Security without vulnerability leaves you buttoned up and unable to grow. You cannot grow unless you are willing to take off your mental and emotional body armor, and gain exposure to new ideas. Vulnerability without security means you are likely to become someone else’s dinner. Who are your trusted advisers?
3. You gain ground by building bridges, not by digging trenches. Americans are tossing bombs at each other over politics, identity, and other matters. You can’t move forward while you are digging in. I found in Afghanistan that the only way to make progress was to get out of the trenches and build bridges with people who didn’t agree with me (some of whom were trying to kill me). Who’s helping you build relationships that broaden your reach and impact?
You can view the presentation at the Rotary Club’s YouTube channel here.
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