Hitmen in our Midst (redux)

Hitmen in our Midst - MediocreMe.com

    A thousand years ago, in the early part of the eleventh century, a rebellious Shiite Muslim sect called the Nizari seized control of a mountaintop castle in Teheran, the capital of modern day Iran.  This was the first in what would turn into a series of attacks this group carried out against political leaders of the Islamic world. Using their weapon of choice, the dagger, these men employed deceptive tactics to murder princes, scholars, crusaders, and anyone else who didn’t share their agenda. And while their loyalty to others could never be ensured, their dedication to achieving their own selfish goals was never questioned. 

    The founder of this group was Hassan-I-Sabbah, a man who so epitomized extremism that it’s believed he ordered the death of his own son for drinking wine. In fact, the members of this group of dangerous killers were so fanatical to their cause and fickle in their allegiances that they would execute Crusaders in one moment and then offer their services for hire to carry out execution attempts on behalf of the Crusaders the next. 

   Clearly, the only true loyalty these men had was to their own interests.

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An Army of One?

Strength In Numbers - MediocreMe.com

      Many of you may remember seeing the following TV commercial several years ago: A soldier is running alone across the desert, carrying a backpack but no rifle. Helicopters swoop overhead. A squad of soldiers runs past, moving in the direction opposite of the lone runner. Voiceover: "Even though there are 1,045,690 soldiers like me, I am my own force. . . . The might of the U.S. Army doesn't lie in numbers. It lies in me. I am an Army of One."

     For those of us serving in the military, this seemed a particularly odd recruiting slogan. With very few exceptions, the image of a warrior acting alone is far from the reality we either espouse or embrace. Our strength, we know, is in numbers. In always knowing that help is never far behind. 

     The idea that we are stronger together is reinforced every day in the military. Take, for example, even some of the more mundane practices, such as parade-ground drills, formation runs, and training projects geared to collective problem solving. All are intentionally designed to reinforce that every individual is simply one part of a larger group at work. Be it a squad, flight, platoon, company, squadron, battalion or wing, no one who chooses to wear the uniform of the nation ever feels as though they fight alone. 

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Character: The Coin of the Realm

Coin of the Realm - MediocreMe.com
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”
Marcus Aurelius

     There is a famous story of a nobleman, Sir Philip Sidney, who, fighting for his beloved England in the sixteenth century, was mortally wounded on the battlefield. Though he was desperately thirsty from loss of blood, he chose to do the unexpected and gave away his water flask to a dying young soldier. His final words, “Thy necessity is yet greater than mine,” serve as a stark contrast to how the majority of people of power, privilege, and position of his era would have likely acted in that moment, had they found themselves facing the same choice.

     Examples of leaders like Sir Philip Sydney provide us with living, breathing definitions of character. And although we use this word frequently, we rarely take the time to fully unpack and understand it, despite its almost unquantifiable significance to us as human beings.

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Monkey’s in Our Midst

Monkeys in our Midst - MediocreMe.com

     It’s unlikely Wolfgang Kohler had any reason to believe that when he conducted his now famous monkey experiments on Canary Island in the early 1900’s, he was providing us, almost a century later, with a powerful symbol of what it takes to win in today’s world. 

     Kohler, a psychologist, arranged an experimental cage in which he placed several different sized boxes and other objects.  He then hung a plump bushel of bananas high in the cage so they would be inaccessible to the monkeys.  After releasing the monkeys into the cage, it didn’t take them long to notice their favorite delicacy positioned high above their heads.  Most of the monkeys proceeded to jump around, whooping and hollering.  Although all the monkeys had their gazes firmly fixed on the bananas, none of them even came close to possessing them.

     But it turns out one pair of monkeys was different than the others.

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Lessons on Tossing Out the Rule Book from Apollo 13

Apollo13 - MediocreMe.com

   “Houston, we have a problem!”

    These five words, originally spoken over forty years ago by astronaut Jack Swigert of Apollo 13 on April 14, 1970, immediately captured the attention of citizens the world over. 

    The warning to the Houston Space Center of a major technical fault in the electrical system of one of the spacecraft’s oxygen tanks, immediately sent technicians and scientists into a full-fledged search for innovative solutions to this life-threatening situation.

    For the next seventy-two hours, scores of people worked around the clock to determine what could be done to bring the astronauts safely home.  Creativity meters soared, innovative ideas were explored, and no possible remedy was ignored.  And, as lead flight director of Mission Control, Gene Kranz made abundantly clear, failure just wasn’t an option.   

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