Technology and vast sources of entertainment surround us. As a society we watch and play more while reading, learning, and doing less. Holding the title of “U.S. Marine” doesn’t make us superior to, or more educated than, our civilian counterparts.
It does, however, dictate we are warriors with the responsibility of leading others and performing in dynamic and chaotic environments.
As leaders and Marines, cultivating a “5000 Year Old Mind” is not a suggestion, it is a requirement.
Most will become fatigued from constantly reading military books and literature. These suggestions offer alternatives to commonly recommended books.
To truly embrace the “whole Marine” concept one must be versed in all trades related to their personal and professional character. It is about harnessing a diverse set of skills that will increase creative capacity and enable the realization of effective solutions.
DON’T MAKE EXCUSES
I know all about making excuses. I’ve used them many times and, unfortunately, still do.
Allowing good consistent habits to dictate your time will cultivate rewarding behaviors.
Tell yourself you can’t afford the books and I will tell you there are free books online.
Tell yourself you don’t have time and I will tell you to reevaluate your habits.
Tell yourself you don’t want to learn and I will tell you not to lead Marines.
I have read most of these books and a few are in my queue. Note there are affiliate links and these suggestions are offered based on personal opinion and recommendations from others.
Leave comments and let me know what you think, or add suggestions.
The Basic School will be a first realization writing is important. Expect to write peer evaluations, response to counselings, orders, and a biography. Seemingly insignificant mistakes will have your SPC throwing the paperwork back at your face.
A Marine’s career is reliant upon the awards and recommendations you write for them. A small typo could cause promotion delays and have serious repercussions.
Simply put, officers are writers, so learn how to write.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
A book focused on the principles and methods associated with writing. It’s about simplifying the way we write in order to connect with readers and keep them engaged. Take this as a framework for the mindset you should have when writing.
The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well by Paula LaRocque
An easy to understand guide on the best and worst practices when it comes to writing. LaRocque advocates for clear and concise writing using fewer words to convey ideas. The book is not dedicated to grammar, and focuses more on techniques essential for writers to be familiar with.
Communication and Relationships
There’s no substitution for the advice you will get from SNCOs on how to work with young Marines. The military is without a doubt a social engine unlike any other. What other organization encourages yelling and makes employees rake sand as punishment?
Reading different books will help you build perspective on varying methods of leadership and communication.
Challenge the status quo, build strong, trusting, relationships, and communicate more effectively.
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Carnegie’s focus is on making friends by appealing to ideals one could argue is biologically programmed into people. Most seem commonsense such as remembering a person’s name, listening more than talking, and directing conversation towards the interests of others. Unfortunately, they are rarely a natural occurrence in conversation.
It’s been said officers shouldn’t be “friends” with their Marines. Challenge the perspective of others and determine what an officer and enlisted relationship should be for yourself.
As General Lejeune would have it,
The relation between officers and enlisted men should in no sense be that of superior and inferior nor that of master and servant, but rather that of teacher and scholar. In fact, it should partake of the nature of the relation between father and son, to the extent that officers, especially commanders, are responsible for the physical, mental, and moral welfare, as well as the discipline and military training of the men under their command who are serving the Nation in the Marine Corps.
People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts by Robert Bolten
Life and getting things done is about interacting with others. Bolten asserts that people naturally possess bad communication patterns, and he seeks to provide a framework to alter the way we talk with one another. The book focuses on listening, assertion skills, conflict-resolution, and problem-solving.
The way you manage money and invest will have long term impacts on your life. Many officers start their careers deep in the hole after taking the USAA/Navy Federal Career Starter loans. A great option for someone wanting to pay off high interest credit cards, or student loans. A questionable option for someone wanting to buy a new mustang!
Learn and teach your Marines, because everyone needs to understand investing and finance.
One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch
An incredibly well known book filled with timeless knowledge about the fundamentals of investing. Lynch simplifies investing to it’s very core and offers pros and cons for all types of investments such as stocks, mutual funds, bonds, etc. A surprisingly interesting read that won’t take long to get through.
Get Rich Carefully by Jim Cramer
A modern look at investing, exploring today’s companies, CEOs, and investment strategies. Jim Cramer is well known for his shows, appearances on CNBC, and decades of experience. A hands on approach to choosing great companies to invest in.
Productivity and Decision Making
The Marine Corps is a machine that prides itself on efficient and consistent systems which enable fluid decision making. We do not live in a black and white world, and war is no exception. There are great military books that discuss tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as tactical decision making. Here are a few with a more business and social perspective.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
A look at how habits influence individuals, businesses, and retailers. A huge chuck of our daily routine revolves around habit. As leaders, it is important for us to develop productive habits such as running, strength training, studying our profession, and READING. More importantly, we want our Marines to understand and develop good habits.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Explore the systematically illogical mind of humans. The fast thinking system is a result of human development since the beginning of time. We make quick decisions in order to survive, but they are natural occurrences that do not apply human logic. The slow thinking system is about examining situations in the context of more than a single event.
Despite the purpose and title of this post, it seems fitting there should be at least a few recommendations in the military genre. If none of the above suits your taste, maybe these will draw some interest.
On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace by Dave Grossman
A critical must-read for all military personnel. Grossman reveals the tough and realistic truth about the physiological affects of combat and stress on the human body. More importantly, he gives insight into how we might train to prevent debilitating bodily occurrences.
Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership by Bryan McCoy
A book by a Marine for Marines. Colonel McCoy provides detailed guidance into how Marines should be trained, disciplined, and held to high standards. There is an emphasis on the idea that what may seem like a small deficiency can lead to further degradation of standards which affect our combat capabilities.
Photo by Lance Cpl. John Wilkes from Marines.mil