We All Have to Know WHY We Are Doing What We Are Doing

The Debrief w/ Jocko and Dave Berke #16

The Debrief w/ Jocko and Dave Berke #16:

How to effectively communicate to the team WHY they are doing what they are doing to accomplish the big picture goals.

Jocko Willink (00:01):

This is the Jocko Debrief podcast episode 16 with Dave Burke and me, Jocko Willink. Before we jump in and debrief Dave, in case this is the first time someone’s hearing the Debrief podcast, how would you explain it to people?

Dave Burke (00:20):

The Debrief podcast is actually kind of me debriefing you on things that are going on at work. So, at Echelon Front, I get to work with a whole bunch of different clients, with all these different situations, and all these different things going on. And I actually try to keep you up to speed on some of those and share with you some of the areas where you help me solve these problems with the clients. And some of it is me just kind of keeping you aware of what’s going on. And there’s a lot of overlap also with EF online, because a couple days, three days a week, we’re on, usually you leading it, and sometimes I’m on there with you. And we’re interacting with clients through the online resource as well and they’re asking questions.

Dave Burke (00:58):

So, it was a way for me to combine the things that I’m giving you feedback and we kind of turned into a podcast. And to be clear, all the things I’m telling you are sort of little variations or big variations of what’s really going on. It’s not the actual client in the actual situation. We adjust that so we’re not revealing anybody or any particular industry or any particular client. But a lot of times, that subject matter is really helpful. So, we were trying to distill down some of that to share with other leaders going through similar problems.

Jocko Willink (01:28):

Yeah. So, that’s the idea of the Debrief. So the clients that we’re talking about, when we talk about a manufacturing company, it’s not really a manufacturing company, it’s probably a financial company or whatever. We change them a lot. The personalities that we talk about, we change them as well so that we keep our clients confidential. And just to let you know that. I think, at some point, you and I got done with an actual debrief. And I said something like, “It’d be really good if we recorded that. So we could play it for people so that other people can learn these lessons, which is the mission of Echelon Front is to pass on the lessons that we learned.” So, that’s what the Debrief is. That’s what this podcast is. So let’s debrief, what do you got?

Dave Burke (02:16):

There are a lot of different ways to create alignment across your team. And we talk about alignment all the time. And I think often this need to create alignment sounds really difficult. But there’s actually some very easy ways to create alignment in an organization.

Jocko Willink (02:31):

Well, let me jump in. So you said we talk about alignment all the time. And what’s interesting about that is I think we’ve been talking about it a lot lately. But it’s not something that comes up all the time. And the reason it doesn’t come up all the time is a vast majority of the time, when you’re working with a team, a business, a company, they, in fact, are aligned. And there are some broad things that just about every single company in the world is trying to do. They’re trying to take care of their team. They’re trying to take care of their clients and they’re trying to be profitable.

Jocko Willink (03:12):

And so most of the time, we don’t even have to get there. When Dave doesn’t agree with [Leif 00:03:18] about how to do this one project, we just need to sort through that project. We don’t get to the point where Dave’s not trying to tank the company, whatever it is, and Leif’s not trying to tank the company. Everyone’s moving towards, hey, we want to take care of our people. We want to take care of our clients and we want to be profitable. We want to make some money. And as long as we’re kind of aligned there, which most companies are, it’s the same thing with the military. Do you have a battalion? What does the battalion want to do? They want to take care of their troops. They want to accomplish their mission.

Jocko Willink (03:50):

It’s very hard to find someone in a Marine Corps or an army battalion, where a company commander says, “Yeah, I don’t want to take care of my troops.” Or a company commander or a company first sergeant says, “Yeah, I’m not really looking to accomplish the mission.” No. So, most of the time, organizations are aligned. Now, you might have to go up what we call the alignment ladder of, hey, Dave wants to assault this target from the west and I want to assault it from the east. Okay. Does that mean we can’t come to an agreement? No, because we both want to assault the target. We both want to accomplish the mission.

Jocko Willink (04:28):

Dave wants to offer a new client this package and I want to offer a different package. Is Dave’s package one that’s going to tank their company? No, it’s a good package, and mine might be a little bit different. But we both want to help that company succeed. So, most of the time, as opposed to dealing with alignment, we’re dealing with, “Hey, Dave’s got a little different agenda than mine.” And if Dave’s agenda is okay and it supports the alignment of where we’re trying to go, we can usually go with it. So, we have been talking about alignment a lot lately. But most of that has sort of been to put the spotlight on the fact that, hey, you’re sitting here arguing inside your company, and you all want to go to the same place.

Jocko Willink (05:17):

Like Dave and I want to go to the steakhouse, we want to go to Raglan Ob for dinner, Dave wants to take this road, I want to take that road. We can argue about that all day long. Or I could say, I could put my ego in check for 4.3 seconds to say, “Sounds good, Dave, take whatever route you want. I know where we’re going, we’re going to go get some steaks, at Raglan, all good.” And we do have companies where they fight about how they’re going to get there because there’s a 30 second difference.

Jocko Willink (05:47):

So usually, we’re talking about alignment to highlight to companies that they actually are aligned. Very seldom do you have someone inside of an organization that doesn’t want to actually accomplish the mission, doesn’t want to make money, doesn’t want to take care of the people, doesn’t want to take care of the clients.

Dave Burke (06:05):

Yeah. And as long as we can step back and see that, when we talk, we at Echelon Front when we’re talking with clients, it’s about finding the alignment, not necessarily even creating alignment it’s just finding the alignment. And what tends to happen is exactly what you said is I get so buried in this one decision, that I somehow in my mind think, “Well, if this doesn’t happen this way, then this mission will not be successful. We are not going to succeed if we don’t do it this way.” It’s like, “Hang on, take a step back and let’s climb up a little bit. Jocko has a different plan, it would accomplish the same thing.” And if I can see that and go, “Oh, we are going to get to where we want to go.”

Dave Burke (06:42):

And what’s interesting about this particular situation is kind of like you said, there wasn’t a whole bunch of misalignment. Meaning you actually don’t want us to be successful and you don’t want us to be profitable. What we’re discovering and it was early on in our relationship and it’s a relatively small company. So I think it had like a hundred or so people, which in my mind, that’s small. When I say small, I mean, small enough that everybody kind of still knows everybody. We’re not talking about 20, 30,000 people around the globe. This is a group in the same place. And creating alignment or interacting with that group isn’t that hard. They haven’t grown so big that even logistically it’s difficult just to interact with their people.

Dave Burke (07:24):

But as we spend a little time just getting to know this group, which is often what we do when we start working with companies, we just meet people. We build relationships and see what’s going on in their world. And some of the sub teams, the smaller teams, the leadership was kind of recognizing that those teams, when we ask them, “Hey, what is your mission?” They were having a hard time explaining what their mission was. And let me try to kind of clarify a little bit. It wasn’t that they didn’t know what to do. They knew what to do. But they didn’t fully understand what they did. Supported and reinforced the bigger strategy, the thing the team, the big team, wanted to do.

Dave Burke (08:02):

And they were having a hard time helping their people understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, making that connection. Which is actually really good to recognize that because what you don’t want is a bunch of people knowing what to do, but not knowing why they’re doing it because when you run into problems, what that ends up leading to is this firefighting, which is solving little problems and doing a bunch of things but it really never connects to the bigger strategy, so.

Jocko Willink (08:26):

You also take a hit. Clearly, you take a hit. People don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. You take a big hit on decentralized command. And now, no one can make decisions. The second part that you take the morale hit is a morale hit, which is, “Look, I’m here working all day, every day, I make this part, I assemble this thing. And it’s a grind and I feel the stress. And I don’t even really see how that ties into what we’re doing. I never get to see that.”

Dave Burke (08:52):


Jocko Willink (08:52):

So, providing that information, where people understand that, hey, that part of that machine that you’re making, here’s what it does, here’s where it ends up, here’s how it benefits the clients that we have, here’s the feedback that we get. It is a beautiful thing just understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Dave Burke (09:12):

Yeah, I mean, that in and of itself is kind of the root solution to what they were recognizing as, hey, my teams can’t make that connection. They can’t make that connection. So the initial thought was, hey, we of course know we want to make that connection. And how do we do that? And what this sort of executive leadership team decided was, hey, we’re going to do this. The executives are going to sit in a room and come up with a mission, the vision, the values and clarify those things and make sure that they can explain that all the way down to the very bottom of the organization.

Dave Burke (09:44):

And what we actually talked about is …

Jocko Willink (09:47):

I like to stay ta the front lines of the organization, the bottom. Come on. We didn’t call it Echelon Bottom, right. Let’s use a proper term.

Dave Burke (10:00):

That’s valid.

Jocko Willink (10:01):

The front lines where the people are doing the real work. Yes, thank you.

Dave Burke (10:05):

The heavy lifting. So another way to do that, though, and we just talked a little bit about the philosophy of creating this alignment or creating this understanding is, if you can … And then you as the founder, as the CEO, as one of the key leaders, as one of the key leaders in the organization. If you can bring in your people and have them see your vision, if you can show them where we’re going, what we are trying to do, what we want to be, and if you can show them, even the generic path, the direction, kind of the cardinal direction. We’re moving north, this is where we’re going to go. This is what I want to accomplish.

Dave Burke (10:46):

If they understand what they do, literally what they’re doing, and they see where we’re going, they can actually create the mission. They can actually explain how what they do connects to the strategic vision. Rather than me sitting you down saying, “All right, Jocko, here’s the vision. I created this company. This is my vision. This is where I want to go. Here’s what you do. Here’s how you do it. And here’s how I want you to see what you do. I can actually let you fill in that middle piece.” And I know I’m doing that right as a leader if I can go down and go, “Hey, where are we going?” “I can tell you where we’re going boss, we’re going over there.” “Hey, what do you do?” “I do this and this.”

Dave Burke (11:29):

“Can you tell me how what you do connects to that?” And if they can make that connection and you already, of course, brought up decentralized command before you even started talking of now you know that when they run into a problem, when they get a little roadblock, or some friction, they got some issues with a supplier or they have a problem with another team or whatever that problems come up. If they know how what they do gets us to where we’re going, I guess the simplest way to put it is they get to lead, even at the front lines. Because they now know how to make a decision that reinforces not just the mechanics of what they do every day, but actually how what they do contributes to the big picture, contributes to the strategy.

Dave Burke (12:15):

So rather than me come down and say, “Hey, this is your mission.” I can actually ask you to say, “Hey, do you know where we’re going?” “Yes.”” Tell me what your mission is.” “I’ll tell you what my mission is.” And they get it. Now you even talk a little bit above the morale piece and the grind piece, when they can create the mission, literally, a mission statement. We talked about, actually, each different department has a little bit of a different mission. Now, the tasks are different. What they do is different. The end strategy is the same. But everybody has a little bit different approach to that when they are creating that mission.

Dave Burke (12:46):

The byproduct of alignment is so strong, because now you know what to do to solve a problem that you’re dealing with that I don’t need to micromanage. I don’t need to come down there. I don’t even necessarily need to be available to answer your questions. Because what I’m really going to try to do is get you to understand why anyway. And now you get to lead and the whole organization, even at the front lines, is filled with leaders who understand their mission. And it’s not something I just have to explain to you, it’s actually something that I want you to understand. And if you create that, then I know you get it. And then you get to lead. I’m going to stop because I see that look in your face and I’m dying to hear what you had to say.

Jocko Willink (13:23):

I was trying to track if you were …

Dave Burke (13:25):

Going to say …

Jocko Willink (13:26):

Here you were just brushing up against it like, oh, yeah, he’s going to bring this home. Here it comes. Wow, what an epic setup and he’s great. He’s probably going to say it right now. And yeah, I guess he’s not going to say it. Okay. He’s not going to say the fact that when I let Dave come up with his mission, He has ownership of that mission. And that ownership is the most powerful compensation you can give a human being is ownership. That’s what we want in the world. Look, money is nice. Benefits are nice. But when you allow someone to control their own destiny, you give them ownership of what they’re doing, that is the best thing you can give.

Jocko Willink (14:09):

And the other point in this is, you mentioned that, hey, look, if Dave’s on the front lines, and he knows what the mission is, and he knows why he’s doing what he’s doing, he sees how it connects to the strategy. If there’s a problem, he’s going to figure out a solution to that problem. And that’s great. But guess what, it’s even better than that. Because as Dave’s doing what he’s doing, and he knows why he’s doing it, he knows what the mission is. He actually starts to look for efficiencies. He doesn’t need a problem. He just needs to do what he’s doing. And he’s going to figure out a way to do it better, especially when the first time he goes, “Hey, boss, I’m looking at this right now. And I think we might be able to do this better.” And I go, “Hey, absolutely. Let me know how your plan works out.”

Jocko Willink (14:57):

I just gave him more ownership. Now he’s even more in the game. So, you don’t need a problem for decentralized command to be beneficial. You just need a mission. And the frontline troops who are smarter and who are in the game and who have ownership, they’re going to dig and hunt and try and find ways to increase efficiencies without even having a problem.

Dave Burke (15:25):

I like it. Check.

Jocko Willink (15:30):

Did you know, as soon as I started laughing, were you like he’s going to say ownership? When did it hit you? Did the words come out of my mouth?

Dave Burke (15:36):

Before I knew?

Jocko Willink (15:37):


Dave Burke (15:37):


Jocko Willink (15:39):

That’s was such a beautiful setup. I was like, oh, look at this. He’s tying this all together. He’s there. And I was like, Yes. But you kept saying some other word. What was it? You kept saying some sort of really close word. You’re like, these guys are going to understand the mission. And I was like, yeah, they’re going to own it. Own it. Yeah, they can own it. No, I didn’t get there. Hey, right off. It’s all good. Luckily, I’m detached over here, I saw it. And extremely patient, which is good. All right. Maybe I should have just a lip sync the words. I should have been like, ownership. And you said, and this is all about ownership. That way is much better. All right, what else?

Dave Burke (16:26):

All right.

Jocko Willink (16:26):

Got another one?

Dave Burke (16:26):

Yeah, I got a question. A question from, I think, also EF online. And this was about micromanagement. And as you know, and as you’re listening, you might guess we get questions about micromanagement, or being micromanaged a lot. So this was a version of a question we’ve heard a lot. And I guess it’s fair to say too, is a lot of questions that people ask us is centered around the idea of how do I deal with a boss who’s difficult sometimes to deal with. And one of the things bosses can do that can be difficult is they micromanage you sometimes. And for the most part, most people don’t like micromanagement. So this was a question that was very much around that idea.

Dave Burke (17:04):

And it’s important to see that first, there are definitely some practical things, some actual things you should do when you’re being micromanaged. So, if Jocko is my boss, Jocko is micromanaging me. One of the things that I need to do and something we talk about a lot is what I need to do to respond to that. And what I need to do is I need to give you more information. I need to give you more of what you need. I need to be ahead of your timeline. I want to build a good reputation. I want to deliver on time, under budget and in schedule. I want to do a whole bunch of practical things that hopefully with the goal is that you see less and less need to micromanage me.

Jocko Willink (17:44):

Can I wrap up everything you just said? Can I wrap up everything you just said in 14 sentences?

Dave Burke (17:53):

Please do.

Jocko Willink (17:54):

Many fewer?

Dave Burke (17:55):


Jocko Willink (17:56):

I’m becoming echo Charles over here, what’s happening. So, if you’re micromanaging me, my immediate suspicion is you don’t trust me. So, what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to build trust. That’s why I’m giving you more information than you need. That’s why I’m working a little bit extra to make sure you understand what we’re doing. That’s why I’m presenting you with that plan a little bit more advanced. That’s why I’m going through the contingencies that I thought of, because I’m trying to build trust. I’m trying to build your trust.

Jocko Willink (18:24):

Because for me, I know for a fact, if I’m actually micromanaging you, the primary reason isn’t because I want to hang out with you. It’s not because I want to get your business, not because I want to do your job, it’s because I don’t trust what you’re doing. And so, I’m going to micromanage you so I can see what you’re doing, so I can give you good direction, so that I can point you in the right direction. So I can give you corrective measures. So that eventually in a week or two weeks or three weeks, my trust level is up and now I can kind of let you go.

Jocko Willink (18:58):

That’s the most benevolent way for you to view this. If I have someone that’s micromanaging me, the most benevolent way for me to view it is, okay, I haven’t done a good job of building trust. Because, Ken, if I’m working for Dave, and Dave’s micromanaging me, is it conceivable that Mike, that he’s a control freak? And you just can’t let anything go? Yes, that’s absolutely possible. Is it possible that you’re an egomaniac and you just like being the person that gets to pull the strings? Is that possible? That’s why we’re micromanaging? It’s absolutely possible.

Jocko Willink (19:30):

So I’m going to start my corrective measures with the most benevolent possible view of the situation, which is I work for Dave. Dave’s micromanaging me. This is my fault, because I haven’t earned trust with him. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to start to earn his trust by pushing information up the chain of command, by answering every question, by anticipating the questions that he’s even going to ask me and getting them to him before he even speaks up. Those are the kinds of things that to do to build trust, because the first, the primary step in eliminating micromanagement is increasing trust, and that’s the most benevolent attitude I can have.

Dave Burke (20:12):

Check, yes. Much more succinct and much more articulate. And it’s actually, in all seriousness, actually … And it’s a good segue. And I wanted to make the connection, I think, this is really what you’re doing. I wanted to make the connection between the things that you do to respond to a micromanaging boss. But there’s also a way to think and I think the deeper point is, what you’re saying is the way to think about it. And if I’m being micromanaged by you, I want to think about what you want. Why are you doing this?

Dave Burke (20:45):

And if you can keep your ego in check, which is so critical, but so hard to do, the truth of the matter is, in most situations, almost all situations, really what you want, you actually want the same thing as me. What you’re concerned about is the outcome. You’re down, you’re micromanaging me, mostly because you are concerned about the outcome. Now, listen, I might not like the way you’re talking to me. I might not like your methods. And I can make a long list of things I don’t like about why you’re doing and what you’re doing. I don’t like those things.

Dave Burke (21:16):

I don’t like being you over my shoulder. I don’t like you micromanaging my decision. But if I can think about what it is you’re trying to accomplish, what I will discover is that you actually want the same thing. And if I can see it that, oh, hang on, Jocko was just down here making sure we’re successful. Yeah, maybe I wouldn’t do it that way. But if I can change my perspective on what you’re trying to do, all those frustrations, all those things that I don’t like about it, those things start to go away a little bit. And then I can start to look at, oh, hey, hang on, let me actually figure out what I really need to be doing so he doesn’t … And what I said was, so he doesn’t have to be concerned about the outcome.

Dave Burke (21:55):

But really a better way to say it is, so he trusts me. And what I need to recognize is that you and I actually want the same thing. You want the same thing. You want the company to be successful. You want us to make money. You want this project to be on time. You want to satisfy the client. And what I have to do is in my mind is recognize this isn’t about you. This is about me. And that trust gap, that trust gap that you just described, the way for me to get you to trust me is I have to first recognize, I have to trust why you’re down here to is, hey, what you want is the right outcome.

Dave Burke (22:30):

And if you can change the way you view it, you realize the boss isn’t the issue. His methods isn’t the issue. The way he talks to me isn’t the issue. The issue is with me. And there are things I can do to actually get you to use your words to trust me more. And when you trust me more, guess what you stop doing? You stop micromanaging me so much.

Jocko Willink (22:50):

Yeah. And what’s interesting about this is, you’re talking about the same benevolent micromanager that I’m referencing, right? If the reason I’m micromanaging Dave is because I don’t know you very well. You just got here. I don’t know what your background is. I know you have some experience, but I want to make sure you understand our protocols. That’s the most benevolent micromanager I can be, right. And that’s kind of where we’re starting out. But what’s kind of nice about this is even if I’m at the other end of the spectrum, the solution set is the same.

Jocko Willink (23:24):

Now, you’re not going to progress as quickly because I’m micromanaging not even because of a lack of trust. I’m micromanaging, because I’m a control freak, because I’m an egomaniac, because there’s nothing that makes me feel better than kicking in Dave’s door to your office and saying, “You need to debrief me on that plan again and seeing all your little troops scramble around and watch you tap dance as you try and figure.” I love that, it makes me feel good, right? That’s like the malevolent person.

Jocko Willink (23:52):

But still, the best way to handle me is by already sending me that brief in the morning and showing me that, hey, I had the team put this together. “Hey, Dave, had the team put this together yesterday afternoon, we stayed late doing it because I know these things are really important. And I want you to have the best information.” So, you already know, you already got a little ego left. The whole team is there scrambling around to support Dave’s little desires, right.

Jocko Willink (24:17):

So even if you have the malevolent micromanager, the solution is the same. You’re not going to make the same level of progress. And there was some people, I always was able to kind of clean up the micromanagers over some period of time. Of course, not as much, some a little less than others. I never had somebody … I’m trying to think. I can’t remember off the top of my head anybody that didn’t move, that didn’t improve their level of micromanagement that I didn’t get a little more freedom, that I didn’t get them off my back a little bit.

Jocko Willink (24:54):

Because eventually, I would also then start to tip, if you’re a malevolent micromanager and I can’t get you to back off. Now I’m going to start pushing you information that’s … The joke that I make is, oh, Dave wants to know the schedule for tomorrow, cool. I’m going to wake up at this time. I’m going to brush my teeth at this time. I’ll go to the bathroom at this time. The team is mustering at this time. We’re going to do this. And we’re giving you a minute by minute schedule. I’m going to have everything filled out. And by the way, I’m not doing this, as … I’m going to ride the line of being offensive. But I’m also going to be a little over the top.

Jocko Willink (25:26):

So, as I start to do that, I’ve done that a couple times, I’ve had a couple bosses where I had to go to that level of, okay, I see the game we’re playing. And I’m going to go a little bit over the top. Again, am I going to be offensive? Absolutely not. But am I going to give them so much information that they start to look at me and go, “You go ahead and carry on, you can go ahead, go do what you got to do Jocko. We get it. Yeah, I know you know what you’re doing. I trust you.”

Jocko Willink (25:54):

So, you might have to go a little extreme sometimes. My guess is most of the time, you throw in some of these habits, you start pushing information up the chain, you start giving a little bit more detail, you start anticipating their questions, and you’re going to get to a much better spot pretty quickly.

Dave Burke (26:12):


Jocko Willink (26:15):

With that, I guess what, it’s my turn? Okay, so check this out.

Dave Burke (26:19):

Yeah. I want you to have a chance to say something.

Jocko Willink (26:23):

So I was thinking about jujitsu the other night. And so, one thing that occurs in jujitsu, especially from a defensive perspective is that if you stop moving, if you stop moving, you actually get stuck and you lose, you get tapped out. That’s what happens in jujitsu. Now, the opposite is, if you’re on offense, what you’re actually trying to do is stop the other person from moving. But that’s actually what a submission is. That’s what a submission is. I never thought of this until the other night, what a submission is, you get the other person into a position where they cannot move, which means they can’t escape, which means they get tapped out.

Jocko Willink (27:12):

So, that was the initial little seed that got planted in my brain at 11:30 at night and I thought about this for seven hours. Because then, what does that bleed into? I’m saying, well, what about on the battlefield? How does this apply on the battlefield? On the battlefield, what happens? If we get ambushed and we don’t move, what happens? We get killed. We get killed. If we get ambushed and we don’t move, you get killed. If you get ambushed, what are you supposed to do? You’re supposed to assault. You got to move.

Jocko Willink (27:44):

Other side of the spectrum, if we can pin down the enemy with the combined arms dilemma, and they can’t move, guess what’s going to happen? We are going to destroy them. This is a cover move by the way. We have to move. We have to move. And I want you to think about this. And it sounds simple but your mind has to move too. Your mind has to move. You cannot get pinned down. You can’t get stuck in a position.

Jocko Willink (28:37):

When I’m answering questions, when I’m answering questions, so Dave, you’re sitting there listening to me answer a question, when I give an answer that you don’t expect. So you and I, we know we hear whatever percentage of questions that we’ve heard before, we kind of know what the answers are. But occasionally, I’m going to give an answer that you didn’t expect. You’re like. You didn’t expect that? Why is that? Where does that answer actually come from? Where does that answer actually come from?

Jocko Willink (29:06):

Does it come from me being stationary? Does it come from my mind being in the same place in the same position? Does it come from my mind seeing the question from the same perspective that I’ve always seen it from? Of course, my mind has to move to get to this new place. It’s the same thing if we’re trying to solve a problem. We’re trying to find a solution to a problem. Where is that going to come from? Where is the solution to the problem going to come from?

Jocko Willink (29:41):

And by the way, let me just throw this out there. If the solution to the problem is already known, it’s not a problem. Okay. So, if you get presented with a problem and you already know the solution, it’s not a problem. It’s not a problem. You already know the solution. We can’t even call it a problem. It’s just a thing. We’re just going to execute. We’re just going to do what we’re supposed to do.

Jocko Willink (30:04):

So, we only have actual problems when we don’t know what the solution is. That’s the only kind of problem that exists. If we know the solution, it’s not a problem, we just execute the solution. But if we don’t know what the solution is, if we actually don’t know what the solution is, then we have to find it. And we will not find it without moving. We will not find it looking in the places that we already looked. We will not find a solution to a problem by looking at it from the same direction we’ve been looking at it the whole time.

Jocko Willink (30:47):

We have to move. So, that’s straightforward. But here’s the problem. The problem is that there are things that prevent us from moving. There are things that trap our minds in the same spot, seeing the same things from the same angles. Those are in your head, you have these things in your head that trap you, that trap me. We know what they are. I can tell you the biggest walls that are built in your head, in your mind, that keeps you trapped is your ego because what the ego tells us is that we already know the answer.

Jocko Willink (31:39):

That’s what the ego tells us so we don’t need to move. Why would we move if we already have it? So, our ego is actually limiting our thinking in an infinite number of ways. Well, it’s either an infinite number of ways or it’s just one way. Maybe it’s just one way because our ego thinks that we don’t need to think because we already know the answer so we don’t need to move. So, our ego is going to trap us, our perspective traps us. And what a massive trap that is. And now, we can’t see anything except what we see.

Jocko Willink (32:23):

We can’t see anything except for what we see. And what we see is what we see, nothing more. Right? Nothing more. That’s right. We’re always talking about hey, you got to see that other person’s perspective. You got to see what their perspective is. You got to see what the team’s perspective is. You got to see what your boss’s perspective is. You’ve got to see something beyond what you can see. And the only way to do that is to understand what other people’s perspectives are.

Jocko Willink (32:49):

And again, if we could see the answer without moving, guess what, we wouldn’t be digging around for it. The answer would be there and we’d execute on it so we wouldn’t need to move. Well guess what? If you can’t see it, you can’t see the answer, you got to move. And then, our past experiences, our past experiences also build walls that trap our mind. Trap our thoughts.

Jocko Willink (33:19):

And there are some obvious ones, hey, you’re a fighter pilot. And you’ve seen this scenario before in this situation. And so, you know what to do. And that’s kind of a trap. It’s a trap. Because you’ve done this so many times, well, I’m just going to do it again, it’s worked before it’s worked 100 times. So, one of those is actual experience. I’ve been in this business situation. I’ve handled this type of leader before and so I know what to do with this subordinate that’s out of line. I already know what to do. So my past experiences is trapping me.

Jocko Willink (33:50):

But what’s interesting about this is it’s not just these similar experiences that you’ve been through in the past that compare to what you’re dealing with right now. I’m not just talking about like scenarios, oh, I flew this type of mission and I did this or I executed this type of marketing plan and I’m going to do it again. I’m not just talking about those, I’m talking about all the experiences that you’ve had in your freaking life.

Jocko Willink (34:21):

All those experiences, the interactions that you had when you were seven years old, they created a little path, right? They created a little path in your head of how you’re going to handle this certain situation. All of your experiences put down paths for you to follow, which is great, except for the fact that they also put down paths that you’re following. And we have a tendency to stick to the paths which isn’t really moving. It’s moving in places we’ve already been. It doesn’t give us any great benefit because we’ve already been there before.

Jocko Willink (35:06):

So we don’t move off of those paths. And then, you get into things like fear, like which I know, look at sounds lame, whatever. But doesn’t it trap your mind a little bit? Doesn’t it trap your mindset when you’re afraid of what someone else is going to say? Or afraid of what the other people are going to think or afraid of how they’re going to view you? That’s fear and it will trap you. And tradition and precedence, right? Hey, this is what we always do. Freaking trap, that’s a trap.

Jocko Willink (35:41):

This is the normal standard operating procedure here. That’s a trap. Those are things that don’t allow you to move. Those are the things that inhibit your movement that restrict your movement because you’re not willing to step outside the norm. You’re not willing to take the criticism. You’ve been conditioned not to break the conventional ways of doing things, which means your mind is sitting in the same place that it’s always been. It’s not progressing.

Jocko Willink (36:07):

Here’s one. Here’s one. Lessons learned. Lessons learned. The freaking Holy Grail of knowledge. The Holy Grail of knowledge. I don’t know how many on Jocko podcast, I don’t know how many times I’ve pulled up manuals from World War Two, from Korea, from Vietnam. We covered these are the lessons learned. We did the squad leader makes a difference. And we covered the lessons learned at the end of each one. There’s three bullets. There’s four bullets. What an incredible tool.

Jocko Willink (36:58):

But can they trap you? Can a lesson that’s been learned actually trap you? Because now, we don’t want to move away from what we’ve learned. And you can see where I’m going with this. All these things, and we could keep talking, all these things are walls, all these things are traps. These are all things that immobilize our brains and immobilize our thoughts. Especially when they’re all working in conjunction which by the way, they are. One thought is blocked here. One other thought is blocked there, another one over here. And we end up stuck.

Jocko Willink (37:49):

We end up frozen where we’re not going anywhere. We can’t evolve. We can’t think. We can’t move. And therefore, we cannot win. Don’t let that happen. Break down the walls. Keep moving. And free your mind. Anything on that, Dave?

Dave Burke (38:34):


Jocko Willink (38:35):

I guess that’s a good place to stop. If you want to dig any deeper into these aspects of leadership and in any arena, really, you can join Dave and me and the rest of the Echelon Front team on efonline.com where we solve problems through leadership. You’ll hear these things live. You’ll be able to actually ask a question. You’ll be able to say, “Wait a second, Jocko, you just said this. It doesn’t make any sense. You just contradicted yourself. You said it’s always good to follow standard operating procedures. Now you’re talking, free your mind, which one is it?” We will have those conversations, efonline.com.

Jocko Willink (39:16):

At a minimum, three times a week, we are on there running Zoom meetings, talking, interacting, answering questions, usually presenting 15, about 15 minutes’ worth of, hey, here’s a topic for the day. And then, we open it up and we just start answering questions and going through situation reports that people have given us from the field, from every different aspect. So, efonline.com if you want to check that out.

Jocko Willink (39:45):

If you want leadership guidance inside your organization, you can come and check out our leadership consultancy, echelonfront.com if you want more information on that. I’ve also written a bunch of books about leadership, Extreme Ownership, The Dichotomy of Leadership and Leadership Strategy and Tactics. I got some other podcasts, Jocko Podcast is the main podcast that I do. I also have Jocko Unraveling. I got some new episodes out on that with Darrell Cooper. Grounded Podcast and also the Warrior Kid Podcast, which some new episodes are coming as well.

Jocko Willink (40:16):

And on top of all that, we also have Jocko Underground, which is another podcast. It’s behind the paywall. So, if you want that, you got to register. You got to register. Go to jockounderground.com. It costs $8.18 a month if you want to do that. And if you can’t afford that, I’m not trying to hold anything back. I want to free your mind. If you can’t afford that, just email assistance@jockounderground.com and we will get that taken care of.

Jocko Willink (40:53):

And if you want to support any of these podcasts including this one, you can also get some gear from jockostore.com or originusa.com. And I think that’s all we’ve got. So, thank you for listening to The Debrief. Now go lead. This is Dave and Jocko out.


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