How would you classify your latest work, what inspired its inception?
I was so fortunate to have two books published in 2021.
Leadership: The Warrior’s Art is a best book of the year nominee. It helps leaders inspire people to contribute their best, build a winning culture, and make the pivotal decisions that create lasting success. The best way to study leadership is to combine theory, history, and experience, so I organized the book into these sections. It’s an anthology with some of the military’s most extraordinary leaders contributing chapters. Originally published in 2001, the 2021 edition is revised and updated to help leaders thrive in a post-9/11 world of volatility and uncertainty.
Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War won the Foreword INDIES best book of 2021 in the War & Military category. It began as my doctoral thesis at King’s College, London. I wanted to investigate why the world’s most powerful military has been unable to succeed in large-scale interventions like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Having served extensively in Afghanistan as the first American to have both fought the Taliban as a commander in combat and engaged them in peace talks, the research and writing was frustrating and therapeutic.
I’ve found that breakthrough insights come from reading books and having experiences in other disciplines because they open your mind to new ways of addressing challenges and solving life’s puzzles. My best strategies as a commander in Afghanistan came from reading fiction, history, and behavioral economics. As an entrepreneur and trusted advisor, I gain thought leadership and action steps from business and non-business literature. You enrich your life when you expand your horizons.
How long did it take you to complete?
Leadership took about a year to revise and add new chapters. Zero-Sum Victory took about a year to polish from a doctoral thesis into something readable and then another year or so for the copyediting and publishing.
Who are some of your top 5 authors or writers you look up to & admire?
J.R.R. Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, Plato, Ron Chernow, and Stephen Pressfield top my list.
Why do you write?
I want to help people achieve their dreams. I’ve been so fortunate to have had great mentors and extraordinary experiences. I hope people can shorten their path to success by learning from my stumbles and the insights people have shared with me.
What’s the biggest takeaway you want your readers to come away with after reading your latest work?
The main takeaway from Leadership: The Warrior’s Art is that leadership means inspiring people to contribute their best to your team’s success.
In Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War, I’d like readers to understand that our wars don’t have to become quagmires. Some simple reforms will reduce the unforced errors and own-goals that increase the risk of fiascos.
How is the writing/reading scene in your locale?
Milwaukee is a great place for the arts. We moved here from Washington, D.C., which we also loved.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
There are too many great ones! I love Plato’s Republic, Homer’s The Iliad, and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Ron Chernow’s new biography on Ulysses S. Grant is also fantastic.
When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
Back in my high school fantasy literature class with Ms. Jeannie Brayman.
How have you evolved as a writer over the last year?
I write more simply now. I’ve gotten away from the academic practice of complexifying. Instead, I focus on simplifying so that people can take action.
If you could meet, have dinner, have a drink with anyone (writer/non-writer) (dead or alive) who would it be?
Socrates, except I’d prefer wine to hemlock. Socrates exemplified physical, mental, moral, and emotional courage. He gave the person he was speaking to his undivided attention. I think he’d be a wonderful dinner companion.
What’s next for you?
I’m undertaking a 1700-mile bicycle ride in September 2022 to visit the graves of the six paratroopers from my unit who were killed in action in Afghanistan in 2007. The Fallen Hero Honor Ride will also raise funds for the Saber Six Foundation, which helps people achieve their dreams.
End of Interview