American Elephants


James Mattis Once Wrote a Letter on the Importance of Reading by The Elephant's Child

29firstdraft-mattis-tmagarticlePresident-Elect Donald Trump has announced his choice of Retired Marine General James Mattis to be his Defense Secretary, to wide acclaim. Mattis is widely respected in the military, loved by his troops, and is an outstanding choice.

The Daily Caller published a famous letter today that General Mattis wrote on the “importance of reading and military history for officers” “who found themselves too busy to read.” His response to the lack of time went viral, with good reason. It’s a clear testament to the General’s character, and a good lesson for all of us.

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

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