Thursday, February 17, 2011

In my experience….

In my experience, moral courage is as important as physical courage, and is needed by everyone. It’s also in much shorter supply.

In my experience, women can be beautiful, pretty or cute. A pretty woman can also be cute, and a beautiful woman would likely qualify as pretty, but not necessarily the other way around. I don’t know how to define these states of being, but I know it when I see it. And on the whole, I prefer cute.

In my experience, when someone says, “It’s not the money, it’s the principle”—it’s the money.

In my experience, the more focused on self a person is, the less happy that person is.

In my experience, bad politicians get elected because we like the bad policies they promise us for our own short term gain.

In my experience, voters want lower taxes, but they also want more spending in any area they care about, especially if it benefits them personally. Which is why government is frequently in fiscal crisis.

In my experience, un-earned self esteem does more harm than good. It creates “praise junkies,” who expect endless compliments on the flimsiest of pretexts. “Good boy, John—you got your socks on the right feet.” “Nice outfit, Mary—it almost matches.”

In my experience, parents, teachers and bosses who praise mediocre performance get more mediocre performance.

In my experience, Major Gene Duncan was right in his great leadership book, Dunc’s Almanac, when he wrote, “Never give a bum a third chance.” But I had to learn to appreciate that wisdom the hard way.

In my experience, the most incompetent government employee is that woman who pulls the lottery numbers. But I keep giving her another chance.

In my experience, you can destroy the initiative of any subordinate through a little judicious micromanaging. Try it and see. If you need to micromanage, you did a poor job of hiring and/or a poor job of developing your people.

In my experience, more volunteer organizations are ruined by people seeking self-aggrandizement than those seeking self-enrichment.

In my experience, putting one wrong person in charge can turn the best job into a hell job.

In my experience, people who lie on resumes are often punished by getting put in jobs where they are over their heads and make fools of themselves. Unfortunately, this means other people around them suffer as well.

In my experience, people who use drugs—like people who draw to inside straights at poker—think they are personally so special that the laws of nature don’t apply to them and the negative consequences that hit everyone else will pass them by. I suspect that drug abuse may be higher among those who have been victimized by the “You’re Special” self-esteem movement.

In my experience, “Expect a Miracle” is not a plan.

In my experience, “change” is as likely to be negative as positive, perhaps more so. People who hope for—or who demand—“change” without specifying what change they want are like people who say, “I wish something interesting would happen to me today—I don’t care what it is.”

In my experience, a women who is flawlessly beautiful will often have internal flaws created by people fawning over that beauty. Good looks can be a blessing, but without character can become a curse. Not that I know from personal experience.

In my experience, children tend to trust parents long after the parents have proven they can’t be trusted.

In my experience, people tend to forgive flaws and behavior in politicians they like and agree with for which they would pillory politicians of other view points.

In my experience, women who try too hard to improve on the beauty that God or nature (your choice) gave them often make themselves less attractive. A bath and a comb are pretty essential, though.

In my experience, most married men would have been dead long ago if they hadn’t gotten married and had wives to point out daily all the things they were doing wrong.

In my experience, it was often the people who were toughest on me, who did me the greatest service. Starting with my Marine Drill Instructors, to whom I owe a great life.

In my experience, nothing prepares one for the vicissitudes of life like Marine Boot Camp.

In my experience, if you work long and hard for many years and become a success, people will be amazed and comment on how lucky you are.

In my experience, the subordinate who says, “I think you are wrong there, boss,” pays you a great compliment. If your employees are afraid to tell you when you are wrong, eventually you will drive over a cliff while they smile and wave.

In my experience, life is too short to drink cheap whisky.

In my experience, you can buy a lot of good Scotch with the money you save buying nice second-hand clothes at places like Goodwill.

In my experience, many people are charitable or environmentally-friendly just so they can feel superior to other folks.

In my experience, a non-fiction book about real people fighting bravely to overcome evil against great odds beats any movie or TV show about “superheroes” with magical powers.

In my experience, people who say “everything works out for the best” can’t explain things like the holocaust. It comforts them, but it also relieves them of the responsibility of taking the One Ring to Mordor themselves.

In my experience, recipes, especially for soup, are only general guideline—just like many people see the Ten Commandants as the Ten Suggestions.

In my experience, the three best things in life are a whisky before and a nap afterwards.

In my experience, if it wasn’t for wishful thinking, some people would do no thinking at all.

In my experience, people who tell the most heroic war stories usually did the least. Say, did I tell you how I won my National Defense Medal? (That’s a joke for any vets reading this.)

In my experience, a bad poet or painter is better than a good critic.

In my experience, hiring for experience is good—if it’s good experience.

In my experience, Id rather have a politician of character and ability who disagrees with me, than a crook who is on my side on the issues. The crook will eventually sell out principles and you’ll have nothing.

In my experience, I’d rather spend time talking with someone who reads a lot than someone who has seen all the latest movies and TV shows. Assuming they read something more than People or movie fan magazines.

In my experience, the soup almost always needs more pepper. Which may be why my wife hides it.

In my experience, warriors are the most sentimental people I know. You can almost always get ten bucks out of an old Marine to help a kid or save a kitten.

In my experience, three things that will ruin your life are a high-maintenance car, a high-maintenance boss and/or a high-maintenance woman.  Some people seem to enjoy all three, though.

In my experience, the nicer and more intelligent a woman is, the better looking she becomes.

In my experience, beauty is only skin deep—but mean goes all the way to the bone.

In my experience, “civil libertarians” complaining about surveillance cameras on the streets have never been mugged—or had a love one raped. The right to be safe trumps the right not to be on a grainy video no one watches unless there is a crime.

In my experience, a person or an organization can do a few things well, or many things poorly. The ability to focus is a valuable skill.

In my experience, people tend to over-estimate their own skills, looks and intelligence, and under estimate those of others. This can be used against them.

In my experience, by the time you know absolutely everything you need to know to make a correct decision, it’s too late. Delay is a decision as well, very often the wrong decision.

In my experience, the ability to make timely decisions with far less then perfect information—and be right more than 50% of the time—is what executives are compensated well for. Unfortunately, many are compensated well without this ability.

In my experience, people will support things that make them feel good, without regard to the impact on real people in the real world. If supporting “black rule” in Zimbabwe made them feel good, then the fact that its advent lowered black life expectancy from 63 to about 36 and resulted in wide-spread death from disease, starvation and violence made no difference to them. If supporting a ban on DDT made them feel good, the fact that it led to millions of deaths among black, brown and yellow people from Malaria—most of them children—didn’t signify.

In my experience, people will go to long, convoluted lengths to justify their past actions and positions—see the above.

In my experience, most people prefer soothing lies to hard truths, which is why politicians make promises that no one with a turnip-level IQ looking at the facts would believe. And why so many projects turn out badly.

In my experience, even the most intelligent people regularly get caught up in fads. Fads sweep business (Total Quality Management). Fads sweep education (the Self-Esteem Movement). Fads sweep science (Global Cooling followed by Global Warming). Fads sweep health care (vaccines cause autism). Fads sweep language (people no longer call, write or e-mail someone, they “Reach Out” to them). A little caution about jumping on the latest fad will serve you well. Much of what is popular in clothing, music, entertainment, politics or other areas of life is only people being swept up in fads—it will go away.

In my experience, it’s often better to let a bad idea die a natural death, then to expend energy and capital fighting it. I wish I knew this many years ago—or could always remember it now.

In my experience, it’s a waste of time and energy to hold a grudge. Once I get even with the SOB, I let it go!

In my experience, wisdom is worth repeating. Which is why you may have read some of this before in my writing. But, in my experience, we older folks tend to repeat everything—wise or not.


  1. I loved this jarhead. As fellow Marine, (1982-1990) one of the greatest leadership source material was Maj. Gene Duncan. Sorry to hear about him. I loved those little canvas backed books.

    I know about people and their war stories. When people ask me what I did in the Marines, I tell them I was a grunt. I wasn't a super ninja jumping out of planes and capturing cities single handed. I wasn't in recon, and I wasn't "attached" to the SEALS. I walked up and down hills stateside and various countries overseas. I slept in dirt holes and I cleaned the shit out of squad bays. I was a squad leader. Nothing except trying to be a good father was as rewarding.

  2. Very very good stuff here, Marine! THANKS!

  3. This is the only one I disagree with:

    "In my experience, “civil libertarians” complaining about surveillance cameras on the streets have never been mugged—or had a love one raped. The right to be safe trumps the right not to be on a grainy video no one watches unless there is a crime."

    I've been mugged (attempted) AND had a loved one raped (succeeded) and I still don't want the cameras. My take on such things is well summed up by the words of Mr Jefferson:

    "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."

  4. All good points. You go right on repeating yourself; maybe we'll learn something.

  5. Thanks for the excellent guidance. Too bad for me I didn't read it 40 years ago. Good words.

    Semper Fi

  6. This jarhead is great...and I'm not even a Marine! I continue to marvel at the simplicity and wise observations he continues to write day after day. He's a joy to read.

  7. Great job, as always, my good friend! This old Jarhead is an almost life-long friend of mine. I don't care about the cameras; the only liberty at risk is that to impose crime on ohters. About the DDT...there are many excellent replacements which can and should be used. DDT was weakening the shells of wild birds and therefore should be banned. Remember Silent Spring? Who would want to lose the delight of song birds after a long winter?

  8. Wise words from a wise man....i hope you are well. Robin