Thursday, February 26, 2015

Muslim Radicalization–When Treating Symptoms Makes Good PR

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door
Give me your tired, your poor, your tired, poor. – The New Colossus (song derived from the

There is a young woman of about 18 or 19 years of age who works in a supermarket in my area.  She looks pretty normal in all aspects except for one.  Whenever you get her on the cash register, she goes on and on about how great Allah is.  When one explores it with her, you discover that she has become consumed by the romanticism that she perceives in a faith that in her words is struggling to throw off the yoke of unfair oppression in an effort to unite the whole world in a single faith consumed by love.

In fact, she goes on about it so much that I wouldn’t be surprised to see her named as the next young woman to board a plane for Syria to fight for the cause she rants about.

But as I listen closely to what she is saying and how she responds to my questions, I can see why she perceives her world the way she does.

She feels lost in a world that to her looks cruel, heartless, pitiless and without hope and she has thus become a target for someone who is showing her “the love”.

As I think about her and as radicalization continues to grow, whether it be in prisons or more frighteningly, within our youth, I can’t help but wonder if we are treating the symptom rather than the cure when it comes to extremist recruitment.

In fairness, there are some excellent sources of information out there to increase awareness and impact of radicalization.  The best one I have seen to-date has been published by the RCMP in Canada and can be found here.  There is some interesting and useful information on the Extreme Dialogue website as well although some of it appears to be too feel-good for my liking.

However, I think we are missing an important element when it comes to preventing the radicalization of our youth and it’s in the notion that we are not approaching our youth from their perspective and how they became vulnerable and disenfranchised in the first place.

How do they get this way?

They look around their world, either local or further afield, and they make observations based on their own perceptions, creating a reality that is often not accurate or helpful.

They look at their parents, their government leaders, their corporate leaders, their religious leaders and the like and they make decisions correctly or incorrectly that the people they look up to are either letting them down, accidentally hurting them or purposefully interfering with them (thus creating a need for revenge or an act of “correction”).

Some of them have been abused, bullied or hurt in other ways in their childhood.

Some have fallen prey to substance abuse or are in need of support for mental health concerns.

Some have low self-esteem and are prey to someone “who cares”.

Some are feeling powerless or worthless and seek to affirm that they have personal power or a contribution of some type to make.

Believe it or not, according to some analysts some do it merely because they are bored and seek adventure (as amazing as this sounds).

The list goes well beyond these scenarios, making the identification of radicalization targets a complex problem with no easy answers.

They then amplify their own perceptions and issues via the news media, social media, etc., cherry-picking the information that supports their perceptions and deepens their anger and disenchantment with pretty much everything.  The news media is particularly culpable – have you seen much news praising leaders and others lately or do they mostly project news of corruption, malice and other things that further prevent many from seeing hope in the world?

As their perceptions are reinforced, their personal resolve and ability to rationally rise above the difficulties they face, either real or perceived, weakens, thus making them extremely easy targets for anyone recruiting them.  Anyone who promises love, attention or respect or offers them a better world than the world they perceive will become an instant hero and best friend to them.

The vulnerable are easily picked out of crowds, easily approached and easily befriended.

Once they have been befriended, they become the property of the person who seeks to control or direct their behavior and the rest of us who care are already in a losing battle.

We must do better …. earlier …. much earlier.

The Bottom Line

While “having a conversation” with our children appears to be the mantra that many are promoting, remember that merely having a conversation with someone whose perceptions have taken root and been nurtured / reinforced for years is not going to be enough.  This is especially true if the person seeking to redirect their behavior for evil purposes gets more of their time and exploits their weaknesses more effectively than the time and effort we put in to shore up their weaknesses.

It’s like taking a lifetime of problems to a psychologist and expecting solutions to manifest by seeing them for one hour once a year.

Promoting diversity awareness, the love-cures-all approach, etc. to the disenfranchised doesn’t work either.  They have already reached the point of not listening to that which they do not want to hear and so this will likely create more agitation in them.  It may make for good preventative measures but for the MANY who feel like they have lost sight of their Path, it’s going to mean very little if anything.

It is true that helping people, including in the areas of preventing radicalization, starts with knowledge and a conversation.

But a scratch-the-surface conversation doesn’t mean much unless we get to the heart of what troubles someone and makes them prone to be radicalized in the first place.

That conversation takes a lot more effort and often requires more time, knowledge, effort and support from all of us than we realize.

Are we ready to put in that effort?

Because if we are not, then everything else we try is merely a band-aid or makes good PR for someone who wants to show that they are doing something when instead they are merely demonstrating the marked difference between activity and productivity.

And so the next time a young person is recruited, we won’t be able to blame the recruiters.

We will only have ourselves to blame and merely prove the following adage:

Mediocrity - It takes a lot less time and most people won't notice the difference until it's too late.

Mediocrity - It takes a lot less time and most people won't notice the difference until it's too late.

We can either treat the symptoms (the radicalization) or the disease (the sense of vulnerability and disenchantment that enables radicalization).

Which do you think is better?

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When Emergency Preparedness Meets Reality

The moral values, ethical codes and laws that guide our choices in normal times are, if anything, even more important to help us navigate the confusing and disorienting time of a disaster. - Sheri Fink

Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster. - Jim Wallis

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

Three men stood around a table in an impromptu command center in a remote part of the province.  All were silent as they surveyed the plans before them for Operation Ice Storm, a highly complex, expensive emergency preparedness simulation that was the culmination of two years of planning.

The first reports of results were beginning to flow back and they eagerly assessed them.

“This is impressive”, noted the older of the three men.  “We should have some excellent results to report back to the Premier when this is complete”, he continued.

“Isn’t that the nature of the game?”, laughed one of his colleagues, “When we have two years to plan the event we can also use the time to plan our response.”

“And you think this is a good thing?”, a gruff voice asked from behind them.

The three men turned around to see a figure that none of them recognized.  Tall and dressed sharply in a military uniform that was unknown to them, he stepped forward and held out a letter to the oldest of the men.  “Phase 2 of our emergency preparedness evaluation is about to begin”, he said sharply, “Here is my authorization.”

The leader of the three men accepted the letter, opened it and frowned as he examined the contents.  “This is preposterous”, he expostulated, “I wasn’t informed of this.  Who authorized this?”

“If you had been informed of it, then you would have prepared for it”, replied the military figure.  “It is precisely for this reason that you were not informed.”

A private stepped into the command center, walked up to the military figure and saluted sharply.  “Everything is in place, sir”, he said quickly.

“Thank you, private”, the military official said before dismissing him.

Turning to the three men, he smiled through tight lips.  “Care to see a real simulation, gentlemen?”  With that, he walked out of the command center as the three men looked at each other nervously, shrugged and followed him.

They caught up to him observing the simulation field before him.

“Step one”, he said to them without taking his eye off the field, “is to disable communications.”

He turned to an officer next to him and said, “Proceed”.

The officer issued an order to a private next to him who manipulated a device in his hand.

“You see, gentlemen”, continued the military official, “things become complicated when communication becomes difficult or impossible.  We have just disabled all radios and cell phones in the area.  Observe.”

The men observed chaos begin to develop in the simulation field as the first responders realized that their radios were not working.

“Why are you doing this?”, protested one of the emergency simulation planners.

The military figure held up his hand and quietly said, “Wait.”

A few men approached the planners and excitedly began to explain that their simulation efforts were being hampered because their communication devices had suddenly stopped working.

As the leader opened his mouth to respond, the officer accompanying the military official stepped in front of the leader and answered quickly.

“They are not working because a catastrophe has occurred across the province.  We are doing our best to figure out what has happened and how many people have been hurt.”

“What?”, responded the first responder, “What kind of event?  What has happened?”

“We don’t know”, replied the officer, “But it looks bad everywhere.  Like I said, we are trying to figure out what has happened.”

The first responder looked at him in disbelief before pulling out his cell phone.  He realized in frustration that it wasn’t working.

He looked at his fellow first responder and said “To hell with this.  I need to see if my family is safe.”

He turned and ran towards the field, yelling to his colleagues.

The leader of the simulation yelled at him to return but heard an “F this” in response, yelled back over a shoulder.

“What the hell was that all about?”, asked the leader of the three men as he faced the military figure, “There is no disaster occurring across the province.”

“Very true”, said the military figure, “But they don’t know this and without communication equipment, they can’t discover the truth.”

As the planners watched in dismay, two years of simulation preparedness fell into chaos as first responders tried in vain to call loved ones, gave up and began fleeing the scene in an effort to reach their families.  Within minutes, the chaos at the scene subsided as most of the participants had already fled the scene.

“I asked you what the hell is going on here”, demanded the leader of the simulation, “You have just undone two years of work with this little stunt.”

“Really?”, asked the military official, turning to face his accuser.

“I think you had better rethink what you believe to be emergency preparedness”, he said coldly. “Preparing for or fixing a simulation so that you always win is not what preparedness is all about.  For these men and women to be focused on a disaster when everyone is safe at home is not a real test.  It’s like courage under fire.  You never know you have it until you or someone that matters to you face being killed by the enemy.  Then you understand what your true level of preparedness is.”

He nodded to his subordinates and they left.

The three planners stared at the field in silence.

To be continued.

© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


The idea for this post popped into my head when I observed this announcement by the Alberta government as it prepared to hold a 3-day emergency preparedness exercise.

There are a few interesting things in play here.

  1. Such preparedness is only effective when the first responders have a safe base to operate from, have not been wiped out themselves (or had their communication and transportation systems paralyzed) and have no distractions regarding the safety of their own family “back home”.
  2. The scale of worst-case scenarios is so large and complicated that one couldn’t really practice for them anyway, leaving any plans for such events to be untested until they are needed.  If one examines our track record for implementing unproven plans, then one should be worried unless one realizes that worry solves nothing.  So while simulations like the one being prepared for are important to conduct, we are still mostly unprepared for large events. Many of us in the IT sector know horror stories of clients who never tested their data backup procedures, only to discover they were ineffective when a disaster prompted them to restore a backup that was incomplete or totally useless.
  3. If one requests information for the response plans for larger scenarios such as a terror event, one is told that such preparedness is classified.  It makes sense to classify such things to prevent terrorists from creating plans to circumvent the response plans.  However, the idea that some have that such plans can be communicated in times of emergency is poorly thought out given that it is likely that the communication mechanisms necessary are likely to be inoperative or impaired in functionality and that mass panic at the moment will “shout louder” than any plans being communicated.
  4. Typical government response plans informing citizens to maintain essential supplies for 3 days at all times are woefully insufficient and create a false sense of confidence and security.
  5. No matter how dedicated a human is to serve the needs of others in an emergency, the need to take care of one’s family trumps all (for most people anyway).  Such realities can easily create a breakdown in the command and control structure of any first responder group, no matter how dedicated they are to serving others.

Emergency preparedness is an excellent discipline to have in order to protect ourselves, our families, our communities and our nation and should never be undertaken just because it makes for great PR or feel-good.

It should also be undertaken with the belief that no one is coming to help for a while …. if ever.

Preparing one’s self and one’s family against harm is a mix of art and science, bridging the gap between preparedness and paranoia, and is something that makes one stop and think as one observes the dynamics of our beautiful and complex world.

What happens after your thinking process is complete matters to you and your family.

What do you think?

Series Origin

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Due Diligence: The 7 Deadly Sins and 7 Bountiful Gifts

The first step in a person's salvation is knowledge of their sin. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Over the years, I have done a lot of due diligence of “stuff”, whether it be of individuals, teams, merger and acquisition targets, start-ups seeking investment, “fact or fiction” assessments and the like and in the process of conducting so many (and having some conducted on me), I have come up with a process that many have found intriguing and infuriating.

Due diligence in itself is pretty straight forward and pretty much any type is well documented ad nauseum.  For this reason, whenever I conduct due diligence, I am often disappointed when the basic “stuff” is not presented for review, since in absence of a business degree or vast Life experience, a simple Google search can prepare just about anybody for a positive due diligence experience.

So while I look for all the classic stuff such as cash flow, competitive analysis, business plans, sales and marketing plans, investment to-date, principal backgrounds / bios, partnerships, channels, market opportunity, blah blah blah, I ask two questions that either fascinate or infuriate.

The two questions are Why? and How do you know?

The questions matter to me.  How people respond to them provides deep insight into the deadly sins that threaten to derail them or the gifts that they have that provide the potential to create unlimited success.

Here are the 7 deadly sins I am exploring when asking my two questions:

Pride – does the entity being evaluated feel that they are just so awesome that they believe that the laws of business, ethics and morals simply don’t apply to them or applies to them in a fashion that suits them?  Do they feel that their understanding of risk and reward is so perfect that they can ignore the classic warning signs that have doomed many before them?  Do they invite people in to help them and then promptly ignore the help offered because “they know better” or tell the person whom they asked for help how the help will be provided (setting the terms when they are in no position to do so)?

Covetousness – does the entity focus more on the end result (particularly wealth or market dominance) and in doing so forget that there is much discipline, rigor, focus, intelligence and hard work necessary before “the harvest” appears?  Nothing drives me crazier than when questions for data are responded to with things like “I don’t have data but can’t you see how big this opportunity is?”.

Lust does the entity talk incessantly about power or money as they try to sway customers, investors or team members, forgetting that there are other equally important things being created?  If power and money are the lone sources of inspiration and motivation, success will often become more elusive, especially during times of struggle.

Anger – is the entity quick to anger, especially when things don’t go as planned or when someone points out that they are doing something incorrectly?  Do they insist on “my way or the highway” even when they have gone to someone for help and then walk away in disgust when the other side doesn’t comply, only to realize later that their anger was a major reason for their demise?  Do they often blame others for their own mistakes?

Gluttony – is the entity able to share credit, success, equity, etc. in a fair and appropriate fashion when approaching customers, team members, investors and the like or do they insist on harvesting the majority of the harvest while allowing others to obtain a reward far too small for the risk they assumed or for the contribution they made?

Envy – is the entity so caught up in establishing envy in competitors that they become all form and no function, forgetting that results speak far more loudly than glitzy commercials, dazzling convention booths, slick taglines, sexy mission statements and cool swag?  Does it matter that they believe they have the coolest place to work if they go out of business prematurely because they didn’t focus on what mattered while bragging about stuff that is “neat and cool” but is not the sole reason they existed?

Sloth – is the entity so caught up in the previous sins that they feel that effort is not required where it matters in the areas of strong strategic planning, tactical execution, obstacle anticipation / resolution, communication, team building / execution, knowledge acquisition / application or any other appropriate business rigor?

Oh the pain that comes when I am conducting due diligence and see a phenomenal opportunity that will never see the light of day because of these sins in the form of ego as it empowers the sins that destroy instead of the gifts that enable.

Meanwhile … the gifts ….

While I am researching whether an entity is guilty of these sins, I also seek examples of brilliance in the following areas:

Wisdom – does the entity have the Life / business experience to accomplish what they need to accomplish?  If so, how do they leverage / share it to create breadth and depth in their team?  If not, are they able to put pride and ego aside to acquire wisdom from others and to allow others to be compensated appropriately for sharing their wisdom?

Understanding – is the entity able to process new information in a way that can be applied to make their result better?  Can they work with others (listening more than talking) in order to obtain and apply this information?  Do they show understanding when someone else makes a mistake, not forgetting that they make mistakes also?

Counsel – does the entity proactively seek / accept counsel from those who have more experience or the right data / connections, can they apply it when it is appropriate to do so and can they reject it when it is inappropriate / incorrect?  Saying yes or no to counsel for the right reasons requires courage and humility.  Does the entity have both?

Fortitude – does the entity demonstrate that they can persevere through the difficult times in a positive way that builds relationships / opportunities instead of destroying them?  Do they panic at the first sign of challenge or can they methodically, measurably, strategically, tactically, ethically and morally navigate through difficult times?  Do they keep their eye focused on what matters when weaker people would have collapsed or are they easily distracted / retasked based on the emergency / opportunity du jour?  Most people who tell you that success came quickly and easily with little or no struggle (read: terrifying moments) is either a liar or psychotic.

Knowledge – does the entity believe that knowledge is power and that one must always be attaining and applying knowledge, whether it be in the technology they use, the market they exist in, the customers they target, the competitors that exist, the regulatory changes that occur, the sales and marketing tools / channels that exist, the nature of building strong teams, the state of the investment market, the nature of how information is captured and expressed or any other aspect that can empower or destroy an opportunity?  Do they accept knowledge offered by others and more importantly, do they apply it effectively?

Piety – does the entity demonstrate appropriate levels of humility and servant leadership?  Victory cannot be achieved by being a doormat but is short-lived when one’s hubris is so strong that they run over everyone with the belief that they know / have everything they need and can succeed without the collaboration of others.

Fear – does the entity demonstrate a healthy amount of fear and respect for what they are attempting to accomplish?  I’m not referring to fear that paralyzes and makes one paranoid but rather, the right amount of fear and respect that keeps them grounded in the importance of doing the right things ethically, morally and with proper business rigor.

While none of us are sin-free, it is important that our gifts more than compensate for our sins otherwise the greatest sin is yet to be experienced – the experience of failure in the face of unlimited potential and success and when defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory because our pride or ego made it so.

Bottom Line

As a measurable outcomes guy, data is everything to me and if it can’t be created, provided and rationalized, the due diligence process is pretty much over.  If the entity being evaluated can’t explain to me what they are doing, why they are doing it, how they are getting there, who they are partnering with / targeting and when they plan to get there, they are done and the conversation ends.

But when the data aligns perfectly and the “next big thing” is clearly in front of me, I or the people I represent are still ultimately investing in people and their ability to get stuff done and that’s where understanding the sins and the gifts matter.  On a side note, I measure the sins and gifts mathematically – that’s a long story for another post. Smile

Success doesn’t happen by accident.

The art and science of due diligence, both conducting it and surviving it, is in finding the balance between reality versus fiction and passion versus madness.

Due diligence regarding the financials and other measurables is critical.  Due diligence of the human element is equally important.

Do you live more by your sins or your gifts?

The answer is often revealed if failure comes and if it does, whether you have mastered the art illustrated below instead of the ones you should have mastered?

Blame - The secret to success is knowing who to blame for your failures.

Blame - The secret to success is knowing who to blame for your failures.

Are you sure you live by your gifts rather than your sins?

How do you know?

To your success, in service and servanthood.


PS The sins and gifts are adapted from the 1962 edition of the Roman Catholic Daily Missal for those who wish to explore further.

Addendum – The Double Standard – February 24, 2015

In an interesting conversation with a colleague, we both laughed when we remembered cases of people undergoing due diligence who expected (or insisted upon) little process to be applied against them and yet expected to perform maximum process and oversight against entities that they were reviewing.

We also shared some funny stories about playing cliché bingo with some due diligence targets who were lacking in the areas of facts, knowledge and a basis in reality but they compensated with a superb repertoire of clichés intent on convincing someone to take action in lieu of data.

Ego has the interesting ability to fuel someone to success or to cause them to ignore the essential elements required for success.

Which way does your ego carry you?

How do you know?

Addendum 2 – Leadership – February 25, 2015

I have always found it important, whether on the execution or receiving end of due diligence, to make sure that the leading partners / principals reach out to the person conducting the due diligence.  Even if the partners / principals are not participating directly (which is unlikely), meeting the person conducting the due diligence, committing any resources necessary, etc., are important elements of relationship building and a successful due diligence experience.

When I or others conduct due diligence and the significant stakeholders don’t care enough to reach out to establish a relationship, when they negotiate only through their minions or when they protest results through their minions knowing that the deal may be “going south”, it tells me that those stakeholders are either aloof, lazy, incompetent, insufficient leadership material, too busy to understand appropriate prioritization or are hiding something.

I wouldn’t want to be accused of any of these things.

Would you?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mental Health–The Power to Destroy Humanity

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. – Revelation 19:11 (NIV)

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

US Army Major Grant Franklin stared at the stack of files piled high on his desk.  He sighed in exhaustion as he realized that after 6 months of effort, the stack had actually grown larger instead of smaller.  Had someone told him 25 years ago that life as a military psychologist would have been this complex, he would have taken an easier job.

“Maybe minefield clearing”, he thought to himself sarcastically.

Leaning forward, he reached into the pile and randomly pulled out several files.

His eyes scanned the files lightly.  A fighter pilot, two GIs and a couple of Marines – all struggling with the same classic post traumatic stress disorder that was so common amongst the brave men and women fighting in the Middle East.

He tossed the files back on his desk, rubbed his eyes wearily, stood up and stretched and then headed for his office door.

“This batch is going to need a double espresso”, he thought as he walked out of his office.

“The bears have returned, sir”, a radar technician shouted over his shoulder.  He was referring to two TU-95 long-range, nuclear-missile-equipped bombers from the Russian military command that were encroaching upon US airspace near Alaska.

His commanding officer leaned over the technician’s shoulder.  “What do you have there, son?”, he asked as he studied the screens before him.

“Confirmed, sir”, came another voice from across the room.

Striding across the room, the commanding officer picked up a phone.  He waited for the other side to answer before speaking.  “This is Colonel Steuben over at Peterson.  Get me Lieutenant General Robinson in Elmendorf and make it pronto”, he snapped.

After a brief wait, he began to speak.  “General Robinson, Colonel Steuben at Peterson.  Two bears headed your way”, he said quickly.  He paused as he heard the General shouting instructions to someone on his end and then acknowledged the General’s goodbye with a sharp “yes, sir”.

Lieutenant General Robinson watched as the two F22-A Raptors flew off into the sunlight. 

“Another routine day with these clowns flying into our airspace”, he thought.  “Jablonski and Kettering will have fun with these guys.  They always give the Russkies a ride for their money”, he grunted.

He turned back to address the technician standing at attention at his side.

Major Franklin rubbed his eyes and pulled the next file out of the pile.  “Captain Jordan Jablonski”, he thought to himself.

He opened the file and stopped cold a few pages into it.

He grabbed his phone, dialled a number quickly and impatiently waited for an answer.  “I need to speak to Lieutenant General Robinson at Elmendorf immediately”, he barked.

As he waited for the General to come on the line, he looked at the file before him.  Jablonski had been treated for PTSD several times before being recommended for early discharge.  What bothered him the most were the references from several officers who had flown with him.  They had expressed concern about his suicidal thoughts and his beliefs that the world needed an awakening to “straighten it up” as he was often heard to say.

“Why is this man still flying?  He is a menace to everyone including himself”, he thought.

Suddenly he snapped out of his reverie when he heard the General’s voice on the phone.  “General”, he began, “This is Major Franklin over at Wright-Patt.  We’ve got a problem with one of your airmen ……”

Captain Jablonski closed in on the pair of TU-95’s rumbling on the edge of US airspace.  Occasional tears of gratitude obscured his vision as he realized that the scrambling of his jet this morning had been a gift from God. He had felt when he got up this morning that this would be HIS day and for that reason, he had left a goodbye note stuck to the bathroom mirror.

His mission to reset the world on behalf of God was about to be achieved.

As he closed in behind the two bombers, he prepared to arm his missiles.

General Robinson slammed the phone down and shouted to his second-in-command.  “Get Jablonski on the ground NOW”, he yelled.  “No questions.  Just do it NOW.  Shoot him down if you have to.”

“Yes, sir”, came the order acknowledgement.

“Jablonski is preparing to fire his Aim-9, General”, shouted another voice.

“Sir”, shouted someone in the back of the room, “Captain Jablonski’s wife is on the line and needs to speak to you ASAP.”

“Christ”, muttered Robinson.

Jablonski armed his AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and prepared to fire.

Deep in the bowels of Russia, word spread quickly as its great military machine sprang to life, preparing to accomplish the sole objective for which it had been designed.

The United States of America had declared war by shooting down one of its nuclear bombers.

To be continued.

© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


Watching recent news about renewed Russian incursions into our airspace, including this video, made me wonder what would happen if the wrong person went up to escort the Russians out of our airspace.

Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado is the center for NORAD/NORTHCOMM command center operations.

Wright-Patt refers to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and provides services in the areas of medical assessment in addition to many other services.

Elmendorf (or more precisely Elmendorf-Richardson) is a US military facility in Alaska with F-22 Raptor interceptors based there in addition to many other aircraft.

If you think mental illness can’t catch the military by surprise, consider the 2009 Fort Hood shooting in which a US Army Major and psychiatrist shot and killed 13 people and injured 30 others.

In regards to mental health concerns in the military, there are many brave men and women who have suffered the scourge of post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incredible stress they have been placed under on the battlefield.

Some are still serving, having not been diagnosed at all or whose diagnosis has been downplayed or misread.

It was the latter idea coupled with the increased Russian incursion frequency that fuelled my imagination.

Series Origin:

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Do You Play To Win Or Not To Lose?

You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win. - Zig Ziglar

If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats. But if you take no risks, you win no victories. - Richard M. Nixon

A few years ago, I walked into a car dealership, picked out a vehicle I wanted and asked the salesman for the best price he could give me.  We haggled for a while and then I thanked him and told him I would think about it.

I went to the dealership down the street and gave the second dealer the best price from the first dealer.  The second dealer gave me his best price and I told him I would text this to the first dealer if he didn’t mind.  The dealer agreed and after I sent the first dealer the new offer, the first dealer promptly texted me back with a better price.  I showed the text to the second dealer who promptly beat that deal (which I then texted to the first dealer) and a bidding war immediately ensued between both dealers with my phone as the conduit.

In the end, I purchased the vehicle from the second dealer for $110 over the rock-bottom price and as I left, the dealer looked at me and asked me if everyone bought cars like that where I came from.

We both laughed and I left.

The bottom line was that I had entered the negotiation to win and I played to win, whether it was buying a car as in this case or building successful companies.

However, most people don’t understand the difference between playing to win and playing not to lose.

For example, in Alberta, Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, in a move of desperation to unite liberal voters who follow the Liberal and Alberta Party brands, offered a non-aggression pact between the two parties where the Alberta Party would not field candidates in certain ridings if the Liberal Party agreed to not field candidates in other ridings.

While Alberta Party strategy folks will insist that such coalition-focused strategy is the best way to offer opposition to the juggernaut presented by the ruling PC Party, it in fact is a non-sensical way of carving the liberal voters between the two parties and then rationalizing that by bringing the same voters back together, they somehow add up to more voters than they started with.

Not only does the math not make sense, in fact the strategy is one in which one is playing not to lose instead of playing to win.  Instead of establishing that he is a leader who would be so strong that the Liberals would be demanding he take over their party, Clark is soft-pedaling a solution that doesn’t help either party, thus weakening him in the public eye.

The approach reminds me of the young orphan in the Dickens’ classic Oliver who tentatively approaches the headmaster and timidly says “Please sir, more soup?”

While political “experts” may say that politics is different than other worlds and that this makes for good strategy, playing not to win is never a good strategy.


Well, that is unless one feels that pretending to be weak can be leveraged later in a surprise coup of some sort.

But at least one can fall back on cool posters when strategy is absent … posters like this one:

Winners: Because nothing says "you're a loser" more than owning a motivational poster about being a winner.

Winners: Because nothing says "you're a loser" more than owning a motivational poster about being a winner.

I’m not suggesting that Mr. Clark is a loser.  In fact, I believe that he is sharp strategically and tactically and that he is potentially the most capable leader of all the political parties in Alberta.

However, if one intentionally plays not to win or someone else convinces them to play in this way, such gifts are quickly wasted.

The Bottom Line

Do you play to win or do you play not to lose?

Do you know the difference?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Four Cardinal Virtues–Which One Are You?

The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others. - Albert Schweitzer

Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy. - Sai Baba

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

Frank knelt in silence in the Cathedral, staring upward at the statue of Jesus on the cross.  The lights of the Cathedral were off and he knew he didn’t have long before the encroaching darkness on the outside forced him to leave the building.

But he found himself unable to leave anyway.

As he knelt, his mind churned as he contemplated the difficulties before him.  “Pray”, people had told him and pray he did, fervently and often, but it seemed to produce no results for him.

“Why has God abandoned me?”, he asked himself as his eyes misted over.

“Why do you think He has abandoned you?”, a deep, gentle voice asked beside him.

He practically jumped out of his skin as the voice broke the sacred silence of the Cathedral.

Looking to his left, he found himself looking into the eyes of a non-descript man who stared intently back at him.

“Why do you think He has abandoned you?”, the man asked him again.

“I’m sorry”, mumbled Frank, “You startled me.  I didn’t hear or see you sit down.  Why did you ask me that question?”

“I didn’t mean to startle you”, replied the mystery figure. “You seem to have something on your mind and I felt that you needed to talk about it.”

Caught unawares by the mystery figure’s easy demeanour, Frank suddenly found himself explaining his dilemma.  The mystery figure sat in silence and absorbed the story, occasionally nodding his head in understanding but saying nothing.

“I may be able to help you”, the mystery man said as Frank finished his story.  “Please come with me.”

He stood up, stepped into the aisle and paused, waiting for Frank to join him.

They walked behind the altar and down a long corridor to a meeting room.  Peering tentatively inside the door, Frank saw four people seated around a table inside.

“Please”, said the mystery man, gesturing for Frank to enter the room as the occupants smiled warmly at him.

Frank and the mystery man stepped inside, with Frank sitting at the head of the table while the mystery man sat down towards the other end.

“Frank has a problem that he needs help with”, said the mystery man.

Frank frowned as he didn't’ recall telling the man his name.  Nonetheless, he explained his story again and the occupants of the room said nothing, allowing him to tell his story in its entirety.

When he finished his story, there was a brief moment of silence.

The individual closest to him, adorned with a well-groomed goatee, leaned forward.  “Thank you for sharing your story, Frank.  I can see why your mind is full regarding this.  What is important for you to realize is that in your deepest struggle, you are never alone and that there are always people around you who want to help.  We in this room will not let you fall.  Always know that all it takes is for you to ask for help or to let someone help you should they notice you in distress.  Do you understand this?”

Frank swallowed hard as Mr. Goatee’s gaze burned into him and he nodded, his mind going numb as he wondered what was going on.

The large, broad-shouldered man sitting across from Mr. Goatee leaned forward and looked Frank in the eye.  “What my colleague says is true”, he said.  “It is also important that you separate that which you imagine from the realities of your situation.  Having done this, you can truly see what is worthy of your mind and what is merely noise, adding fear and confusion to a worried mind.  Remember that basking in fear never removes danger or solves problems and eventually if you are not careful, you will drown in your own fears.  Stand up for what you represent, for who you are and with the gifts that you have been given and do so uncompromisingly and you will find a way that honors the person that you are.  People who do this in the name of service to others are always served in turn.”

Frank nodded quietly as his mind struggled to comprehend what these strangers were telling him.

“It is so hard to keep moving forward”, stammered Frank, “When everything seems to be going against you and no one is listening.”

He paused before continuing.

“Not even God.”

The brunette at the far end of the table spoke softly to Frank.  “I know why you feel this way.  It is at the moment when solutions are at hand that it is most important that you not give up.  You have heard the old adage that most people give up within sight of their goals.  These people fall into traps of self-abuse, whether emotional, physical, spiritual or otherwise, and they condemn themselves to the very failure that they fear.  It is at this moment that you must be strongest in order to persevere through to the success that your potential demands of you.”

Frank could feel emotion overwhelming him and he broke down in tears.  The other occupants of the room said nothing as he composed himself, wiped his eyes and mumbled an apology.

“No apology necessary”, said the fourth stranger, a silver-haired lady.  “Here is what you need to do.”

Frank listened as she explained a plan for his Life and the best way to accomplish it.  He sat in stunned silence as she referenced details in his Life that she could not know and yet she referenced them casually as if she had known Frank his entire Life.

As she finished, Frank said nothing and the mystery man who had escorted him into the room stood up and walked over to Frank. 

Placing a hand on Frank’s shoulder, he turned to the four strangers and addressed them.  “You have presented a lot of information to our friend here and there is much for him to absorb.  If you could headline in a couple of words what you have told him today, how would you do it?”

Mr. Goatee smiled at Frank and said, “Be strong.”

His companion opposite him said, “Fight for what you believe in and for what you are worth.”

The brunette smiled as well and said, “Be gentle with yourself.”

The silver-haired woman smiled at Frank but paused before speaking.  “You have been given the gift of knowledge”, she said, her eyes piercing through him.  “Make sure you apply it.”

“Well said”, said the mystery man.  Shaking Frank’s shoulder, he looked down at Frank.  “Time to leave”, he said as he smiled.

Frank stood up and followed the mystery man out of the room and back down the hall, lost in thought as he walked back into the Cathedral.

As they sat down in the pew where the conversation had started, Frank stared at the mystery man.  He struggled for words before finally asking, “Who were those people?”

The mystery man smiled.  “Ah yes”, he said, “I neglected to introduce them to you.  You may know them by their proper names, Fortitude, Justice, Temperance and Prudence.  Many know them by other names as well.”

“What kinds of names are those?”, Frank said as he frowned.

The mystery man gestured slightly with his head and said “Perhaps you should ask him.”

Frank turned to his right and saw a priest walking towards him. The priest smiled at him as he approached.

“Good afternoon, Father”, said Frank.

“Good afternoon, my son”, replied the elderly priest.  “It is always good to see someone enjoy solitude in our holy sanctuary.”

“Well, I’m not completely alone ….”, replied Frank as he turned to his left but his voice faltered as he realized that the mystery man was no longer with him.

“Is something wrong?”, asked the priest as he noticed Frank’s confusion.

“I’m not sure”, replied Frank, “I just had a meeting with this guy and four other people in a meeting room down the hall and now he seems to have disappeared.”  He frowned as his confusion overwhelmed him.

“Meeting room?”, asked the priest, “We have no meeting rooms here.”

“But that’s impossible”, protested Frank, “I went with him to this meeting room and we had a meeting with four other people that he called Fortitude, Justice, Temperance and Prudence.”

“Indeed”, said the priest, pursing his lips. 

“Tell me more”, the priest said as he sat down beside Frank.

Frank paused and began to speak.

To be continued.

© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


I was reading about the Four Cardinal Virtues the other day in the 1962 edition of the Roman Catholic Daily Missal.  The virtues are Fortitude (courage in pain), Justice (objectivity), Temperance (self restraint) and Prudence (wisdom) and it occurred to me that in a world of complexity where people need help, many of us have an opportunity to embody one or more of these virtues in an opportunity to help others.

At different times when we have such opportunities, it is important to realize that while we don’t always embody the same virtue to every person for every situation, we always have an opportunity to embody some virtue in some way.

What virtue have you embodied for someone who needs help today?

What are you waiting for?

Series Origin:

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

National Security: Saying Everything By Saying Nothing

A writer should have this little voice inside of you saying, Tell the truth. Reveal a few secrets here. - Quentin Tarantino

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

The job candidate squirmed nervously in his seat as he waited for his interviewer to return.  The room was empty of furnishings with the exception of a brushed aluminum desk, the chair he was sitting in and one for his interviewer, a fake plant in the corner, a large mirror and a large framed print on one wall.

He reflected back on the job ad he had responded to on LinkedIn.  It seemed innocuous enough.  Fishing out his phone, he found the ad and reread it.

“Hmmmph”, he thought to himself, “It didn’t say that you’d be working for a bunch of weirdoes”.

He looked up at the print on the wall.  In large letters at the top, the print was captioned with title The 9 Ways of Being an Accessory to Another’s Sin.  His eyes rescanned the list underneath the title:

I. By counsel
II. By command
III. By consent
IV. By provocation
V. By praise or flattery
VI. By concealment
VII. By partaking
VIII. By silence
IX. By defense of the ill done

He was still studying the list when his interviewer returned.  Noticing the candidate’s interest in the print, he smiled and said “We call that our corporate compliance and confidentiality policy.”

He sat across the table from the candidate, adjusted some papers on his desk and then stared at the candidate intently.  “So are you interested in the job?”, he asked tersely.

The candidate squirmed again.  Clearing his throat tentatively, he looked at his interviewer nervously and spoke.  “So what you are asking me to do is to produce a web-based simulator that will allow any user on the web to explore different world-ending scenarios to see how they would be affected where they live.  The scenarios would include nuclear war, cyber attack on infrastructure, terror attack, financial collapse and even crazy stuff like alien invasion.”

He paused for a moment as he listened to himself saying this and then he continued.

“Is that right?”, he asked.

“That is correct”, said the interviewer.

“Why would you want to do that?”, asked the candidate.

“That’s not important for now”, replied the interviewer.

The candidate shivered a little.  “I don’t think I am interested in this opportunity”, he said quietly.

“I don’t think you understand”, said the interviewer, “Once you applied for the job, you were already accepted as part of the team.”

“How can that be?”, protested the candidate.

“I believe your answer can be found in point 2”, said the interviewer as he pointed at the print on the wall.

The candidate shivered again as he read point 2 – By Command.

Silence filled the room for several moments.

The interviewer quietly stood up and offered his hand which the candidate shook tentatively.  “Let me find someone who can begin your orienteering process”, said the interviewer, “I will be right back.”  With that, he left the room.

The candidate broke out in a sweat and wondered what he had done.

The interviewer walked into the room next door containing several men who had been observing the entire interview.

“Do you think he is up to the task?”, asked one of the observers.

“He is perfect”, replied the interviewer, “His background in predictive analytics and scenario modeling is known throughout his industry.”

“What makes you think he will comply with our needs?”, asked another observer.

The interviewer pointed at the print that could be seen on the wall of the room next store through the one-way glass.  He smiled and said, “Pretty soon, he will qualify for almost every item on the list and by then, he will do whatever we tell him.”

He paused for a moment and then continued.  “Besides”, he said, “Do you know of any other way to warn people of what’s coming in the world and providing a means of educating them on preparing for world events without actually telling them anything.  If we actually told them what was coming, we’d all go to jail and the people-at-large would not be ready.  This way, they figure out what they need to do and take their own action.  It’s perfect.”

There was silence in the room.

“Good”, said the interviewer, “We are all in agreement.  Let’s begin his orientation process immediately.”

He turned and left the room quietly, closing the door behind him.

To be continued.

© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


When I was a younger man, my former father-in-law, a Colonel in the USAF and now deceased, occasionally dipped into the scotch too much and told me interesting stories that he likely wouldn’t have told me if he were sober.  The exchange was always interesting.  He would offer a subject and then invite me to ask questions.  While he would never say anything outright, he would always say “yes” when I had hit upon a truth.  Our exchanges produced many a night of insight and horror for me.

The reality is that he never said anything although technically he said many things in answering yes or no to my questions.

There are many such people who walk around with great secrets, aching to tell their stories while rationalizing how to maintain the oaths that they have sworn.  They seek to serve their nation proudly while at the same time, they need to make sure that they warn people so that they might prepare for some problematic event in the future.

Politicians find reality to be problematic and doesn’t get them re-elected and with that, they prefer to hide reality from the people.  Terrifying people for no reason doesn’t serve much purpose either, potentially creating problems now while ignoring reality can leave the problems for someone else to deal with.  With these thoughts in mind and since there are many who would like to see people better prepared, I found the subject to be an interesting impetus for this musing.

The list of The 9 Ways of Being an Accessory to Another’s Sin is an actual list, contained within the 1962 edition of the Roman Catholic Daily Missal.  I thought it would serve as an interesting “motivation” to either recruit someone or keep them in line once recruited.

And finally, the job offer described in the post is real.  I know someone who has been offered such a job.

There are, after all, many ways to serve the people.

Some are obvious.

Some are not so.

Series Origin:

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.