Where We Are Now: May 15, 2020

Work From Home — Day 60

26th Secretary of Defense, retired General James N. Mattis

5:15AM PST

Team –

I made a small donation to the SEAL Family Foundation, and as a result yesterday I enjoyed a one hour conversation with retired General and 26th Secretary of Defense, James N. Mattis. When I originally signed up, it was to be a dinner in Orange County organized  by David Frosh, former PUI Board member and longtime business friend. This is not a political message.

The webinar may have been somewhat more special as I really felt Mattis, the legend, was talking directly to me. Mattis is a fluid, calm and confident communicator – no surprise as we don’t believe there were “bad guys” on the call. The former President of Mexico did ask a question.

My father, Robert McLaughlin, was [is always] a Marine. Many of the lessons I heard today, I have heard from my Dad. Thank you, Dad. I love you!

In the webinar, Mattis communicated in the clearest and simplest of terms. Terms that will relate to your business. Take a pause and listen if you can.

Asked about the Coronavirus and our military’s preparedness, Mattis articulated that the US military is constantly prepared for multiple, simultaneous threats that generally do not sequence according to “plan.” So, the military plans for unpredictable change.

He reminded us that this Coronavirus threat impacts everyone – all our competitors – so it seems to neutralize the risk. How we successfully respond to the threat makes the difference in the world.

Asked about the most serious military threats in the next three to five years. His confidence was wonderful. “No one can take on our military successfully.” He followed with “our power creates peace.”

The four threats in today’s world were described as:

  1. Terrorism as an ambient threat.
  2. North Korea as an urgent, unpredictable threat.
  3. Russia is a declining threat largely due to their declining economy.
  4. China as a political and military threat.

Again, all calm and confident. More later.

Referencing “resilience” of the US military, Mattis talked about the importance of body, mind, and spirit. The importance of physical fitness, mental strength, and your source of spirit. He over-emphasized “living up to your word,” and if you do, you will have fewer problems in life. Put others first and their problems go away, followed by your own.

Mattis transitioned to his role as the 26th Secretary of Defense, a role he was familiar with but never aspired to achieve. On day one he understood the gravity of the role and asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “What is our Strategy?” Answer: we have not had one in ten years. Not a political issue, as there had been party changes, just a fact.

Mattis made strategy the #1 mission on day one, and a year later through a collaborative bi-partisan process, had a strategy approved by the appropriate branches of government.

High Level:

  • Return the Office of Secretary of Defense to his successor in a better position than he stepped into on day one.
  • Maximize the lethal nature of our military so that it empowers our diplomats and we never have to use our military.
  • Broaden our global alliances. Stronger together!
  • Enhance our business processes and transparency to the American people.

Mattis is optimistic by nature. We do not control “actions” in the world, only our “reactions.” How we react sets stage for the ultimate outcome, not the action but the reaction. He promotes humility in a big way. He leads by coaching and not authority.

Things go wrong. Expect them to. It’s normal. Take initiative when things go wrong, be aggressive. Bad attitudes or bad spirits are more lethal in an organization [military] than a germ or a virus.

  • Mattis prefers coaching teams vs individuals.
  • He will coach someone that is not humble ONCE, but not twice. Coaching and learning require humility.
  • He rewards collaboration but ultimately someone [likely Mattis] needs to decide.

In recruiting, Mattis principles are:

  • Recruit for attitude.
  • Train for skill.
  • Educate on how to react when things go wrong, and they will go wrong.

In closing Mattis’ messages were:

  • Live life with “no regrets.”
  • Do everything you say you will do.
  • Do it all to a standard of excellence.

As you finish your coffee, I hope you have been able to listen to these messages. Mattis refers to the US military as a “national treasure” and we should honor it as such – he sure does.

Some of our basic freedoms have been taken away in SIP, but our freedom as Americans is a result of many of the fine men and women that Mattis and others have led for our ultimate freedom.

This is Where We Are Now.



Mark A McLaughlin