#100 Why Me?

This is my 100th post to Fen's Thoughts. I wrote my first message on August 2nd, 2009 and have pretty much written every week since then. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to consider the work on these pages. I truly do enjoy your feedback and am glad that you are finding something here worth reading, considering, and furthering the discussion on. It has been a very gratifying experience, one that I intend to continue for years ahead.

A special debt of thanks goes to those who have become members or followers on the site itself, and to those who have provided me with commentary, suggestions, and support over the last year and a half. What started out as a small mental exercise on Sunday mornings has grown substantially and now averages about 100 page views per week here, another 50 or so on the Army's website, and is followed by 45 different people or organizations on Twitter. Hopefully 2011 will continue to bring new members and input from a variety of sources.

100 posts equals a body of work. There is now enough material here that it can be looked at holistically to search for themes and trends. And I think that it's good every once in awhile to do that - to take time to see exactly what those main points are. This past year's posts have helped to narrow that field down. As my Dad told me one week, it seems as if you're talking about the same things over and over, just using a different source piece to buttress the argument. Essentially, he is correct. There are 4 main themes to this blog and what I write about.

*Self awareness and the impact it has on 'how' you think, act, and lead.

*The critical importance of your personal value system and Orientation and where and how it interacts and intersects with the institution.

*The choice to be a servant leader, or to be served by those you lead.

*The effect that organizational structure has on leadership - how the hierarchy moves the person.

These four themes have consumed a lot of my thinking this year, and hopefully, have done the same for the reader as well.

And maybe I have been just fortunate enough to start writing at this particular point, because it appears that many of these topics are ones the Army is starting to delve into as well. I am extremely grateful for the support of CC, RS, and BF at BCKS/CALL for helping me to get my work published there as well. It has certainly allowed me to expand my audience inside the organization and to add my two cents to the larger body of ideas and knowledge that drives thoughtful consideration and dialogue.

Why me? Why am I doing this? I've been thinking a lot about that recently and I think it comes down to this: I believe that I am uniquely suited for many of these discussions because I have actually experienced many of these situations. For me they are not theoretical or academic, they are real and they are personal. But more than that, I think that I possess an ability that does set me apart from many others. I am passionate, intelligent, and articulate about what I do. My life, my calling, is to serve the Army as best as I can. I do not know how to do anything else. But, (and this is important) I also doubt myself often as well. During those times when it feels as if I am swimming against the tide, I often wonder whether or not I'm seeing my world correctly. Am I Oriented correctly, or are those who view the problem and the solutions differently than I do? And I think that's important. I think that after awhile, a lot of folks simply keep doing what they have always done because it doesn't require any more thought or energy. Because they are no longer worried about their place in the organization. Because they have reached a point where they are protected. I have never felt that way - at least not for long. I have always felt that tomorrow could bring some new problem that I cannot Orient to. That is the reason that I keep pushing so hard. I have no real desire for accolades or promotions anymore, now I am trying to follow my dreams and do what makes me happy. Which is, I think, to write, and participate in these discussions which will help shape the organization I have devoted my entire adult life to. As we enter into 2011, I would ask the same question of each of you, are you simply working? Or are you following and contributing to something that is your passion? Believe me, it is not an academic question. Someday, somewhere, what you do for a living will put you in a box where all that you know and trust will be called into question. Only then will you be faced with yourself and your passion. Think about it...The study of leadership, and the profession of arms, calls to me because while others write blithe statements in professional journals about moral imperatives, or ethical character, I have walked those roads and they are not academic at all. Not on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. There, we entrust both the character of our Nation and the ethical decision making of modern warfare to a young person who deserves nothing less than our fullest efforts towards their development. That is where I want to be.

These thoughts came to me the other day while reading a magazine article. My parents send me a yearly subscription to Yankee Magazine - a coffee table publication which highlights the variety and beauty of the New England states. In the Jan/Feb 2011 edition there is an article entitled "The Restorer" which chronicles the work of Jon Wilson. Wilson is an aficionado of wooden boat building and started a highly successful magazine "Wooden Boat". Wilson then became interested in something called Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) which brings together the family members of those lost to violent crimes with those who committed the crimes in order to help bring closure to both sides. It is a compelling article and captured my interest right away. First, because Wilson's success with "Wooden Boat" has a sort of Horatio Alger feel to it, but more importantly, because of the following paragraph:

"...in 1989, Wilson was feeling the pangs to do something different with his life. "I feel like I'm taking up space on the planet, " He says. "For me it's how do I make myself worthy enough? It's kind of a flaw, but it drives my work, and has always driven my work. I could never quite do well enough, so I kept trying to do it better."

Exactly. Precisely. I read those words and they sank in deep. In fact, I had about half of this post written and erased all of it to start again.

When we talk about the profession of arms over the months ahead, the ethic, the calling, the service...these are the things that I want to confront. These are the issues that matter. Everything we do to prepare Soldiers to serve their country must generate from that place in their heart where the calling is felt most deeply. There must be risk. If there is a question about moral courage then it must be answered by the nervousness of the gut, the recognition that there are multiple choices to select from, but that ultimately, you will have to choose and then live with the outcomes of the choices you make.

These first 100 posts ultimately may have only set the stage for the discussions ahead. It may have taken every one of them for me to get it down to four themes. If so, I hope I haven't wasted your time and I appreciate that many of you still take the time to check it out. This is my passion. I hope it continues to provide you material worthy of consideration. I look forward to the year ahead.

As always, your thoughts and comments are more than welcome.


  1. From a friend of mine:

    I was reading your most recent entry when I came across the following statements that you wrote:

    "And I think that's important. I think that after awhile, a lot of folks simply keep doing what they have always done because it doesn't require any more thought or energy. Because they are no longer worried about their place in the organization. Because they have reached a point where they are protected. I have never felt that way - at least not for long. I have always felt that tomorrow could bring some new problem that I cannot Orient to."

    In my experiences, both as an officer and in the private sector, I think that those sentences hit the nail right on the head in a number of ways:
    (1) Complacency is deadly, both figuratively and, in some cases, in a literal sense.
    (2) Without challenges and constant analysis, of both self and external inputs, there cannot be any true positive growth as an individual and/or organization.
    (3) Events do not exist in a vacuum. Positive and negative outcomes are, often times, the result of numerous causalities and, often times, carry with them multiple second, third, etc. order effects. Simply put, in the end, life is the cumulative experience of many events over time.

    Thank-you for all of the time you have put into your Blog. With all of the so-called pundits out there that run their traps before fully employing their minds it is nice to be able to read something that is well-thought out and truly provokes some analytical thinking. Have a good night and I hope your holidays were good.

  2. congrats on #100!!!

    Clearly your experiences have changed you...and when I say changed, I don't just mean mentally or emotionaly, even though those are important.....I mean you behave differently....you are a changed person and act on those changes....we should all challenge yourselves by asking "how specifically have we changed (behaviorally)" based on our experiences...both good and bad....that is the mark of life long learners...

    gets back to self-awareness and self-regulation


  3. I've gotten a bit behind on reading your blog Fen, but I'm working on chaching up..

    When I retired back in 2005, All I wanted to do was get away, make as much money as possible, and live happily ever after. I shut out the last 20 years and look toward a new start, a new adventure, and I didn't even think about looking back.

    With that in mind, I ended up working as a security project manager for a well known oil refinery in Ohio. During my 4-year tenure dealing with the civilian "money hungry" clientel that normally hover around oil refineries, I started to realize that this was NOT my passion. I didn't realize that being around, and developing soldiers was what I really wanted to do until I saw the back-stabbing, non-caring corporate world up close.

    Tried getting back in the Army, but they tell me that it was too late, so I started looking for contracting work that would put me close enough to soldiers where I could still, indirectly help to develop them into better leaders.

    Finally, I found the "niche" and I intend to assist in soldier and leader development, probably for the rest of my life, because that, as you stated, is my "calling". I may not be as good at it as I would like to be, but I learn something new everyday, both from you, and the rest of the Army.

    You hit the nail on the head, it doesn't matter how much money you make, if you're not happy doing what you're doing, than you won't ever be good at it, you'll just be going through the motions.

    Soldiers should, as you say, look at the Army as a "calling" and not "just a job" because it's not for everyone...

    Thank You for this blog, and your service.