Pete Blaber’s book “The Mission, the Men, and Me” gets a lot of rave reviews about business practices and management tips. It’s hard not to agree with some of his principles, such as “Don’t Get Treed by a Chihuahua”. His phrase is a cute way of saying know your adversary before taking action. Who would disagree with that?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The book begins with a story of childhood, where Pete reflects on how he topographically mastered his neighborhood and could escape authorities. That leads to a story of his trials and tribulations in the Army, where he was given unfamiliar topography and faced unfamiliar threats.
It is from this unfamiliar topography and unfamiliar threat scenario that Pete formulates his principle to not jump off a cliff when a pig grunted at him (sorry, spoiler alert). Maybe a less cute and more common way of saying this is managers should avoid rushing into conclusions and avoid taking a difficult path when a little reflection on the situation is possible.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. — Abraham Lincoln
How should someone identify they aren’t facing a Chihuahua as the other option from climbing a tree? Pete leaves this quandary up to the reader, making it less than ideal advice. I mean if in an attempt to identify whether you are facing a pig or a bear you get mauled to death, could you sue Pete for bad advice? No, because it was a bear and instead of being up a tree you are dead.
Given the lessons learned in joining the Army, Pete transitions to topographical study. He masters mountain climbing with a team in harsh weather. It’s an enjoyable read. I especially like the part where money is no object and the absolute best climbing technology is available. There’s no escaping the fact that the military pushes boundaries in gear research and keeps an open mind to innovations.
From there I can easily make the connection to the climax of the book, where he leads a team on a topographically challenging mission and minimizes their risk of detection. It really comes full circle to his childhood stories.
However, there are a few parts of the book that I found strangely inconsistent, and marred an otherwise quick and interesting read.
For example, he makes a comment about religion and culture that seems uninformed or just lazy, calling Cat Stevens the “most renowned celebrity convert to Islam”:
I’m not claiming to be an expert in celebrity status or Islam, just saying it’s kind of obvious Muhammad Ali (nee Cassius Clay) is a far more renowned celebrity convert to Islam. You have to look at the fact after winning the Olympics in 1960, the hugely popular Clay went on not only to convert and also to refuse serving US armed forces in Vietnam because a minister in the religion of Islam.
Pete’s comment about Cat Stevens suggests he may have lacked knowledge in topics essential to winning the conflicts he was training to win. A quick look at discussion of Islamic celebrities backs up this thesis:
Pete was thinking about that flat line on the bottom while unexplored mountains of culture stood right in front of him.
There are at least two more examples of this class of error in the book. I may update the post with them as I have time.