03/19/19

United States – Taliban Negotiations

The United States has been engaged in a war in Afghanistan since 7 October 2001 on the heels of 9-11, the attack on the World Trade Towers in Manhattan.

The US justified its invasion because the Twin Towers raiders, under the direction of Osama bin Laden, had trained their terrorists in Afghanistan. In addition, the Taliban refused to extradite OBL to the United States when we charged him with masterminding the 9-11 attacks. He was then living in Afghanistan.

We have been continuously at war during Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (2001-2014) and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (2015-present). This has spanned the presidencies of George W Bush, Barack H Obama, and Donald J Trump.

George W Bush started it. Barack H Obama sustained it — sometime, reluctantly. Donald J Trump is trying to end it even if it means taking a huge blow to American prestige.

Initially a US operation  (joined by the United Kindgom), the war became a NATO operation in 2003. Almost immediately, the US defeated the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda hosts using a coalition of Afghan warlords that became known as the Northern Alliance. The US provided leadership, Special Forces, and firepower in the form of artillery and air support.

In 2004, the Afghan people held an election which resulted in Hamid Karzai being anointed as President. Afghanistan was and is a narco-corrupt country.

The Taliban and other affiliated groups, operating from rebel strongholds and Pakistan, engaged in fierce guerrilla warfare that motivated the NATO allies to send as many as 140,000 troops (100,000 American included). This insurgency continued unabated with a crescendo in 2009. In 2009, clearly the Allies were winning, but hadn’t yet delivered a knock out punch. Pakistan was sheltering the Taliban during the winters, something that should never have been tolerated.

Then, the United States (President Obama) announced that its military commitment would end in December 2014 though it would maintain some military presence thereafter. [I consider this announcement to have been one of the worst public utterances by any warring nation in the history of warfare. The US, in effect, told the Taliban, “Uhhh, we are going home in December 2014,” to which the Taliban said to themselves, “What say you we spend the time between now and December 2014 in the south of France working on our tans?”]

In 2009, during the Obama administration, the US sent out the first peace feelers indicating the US would consider a negotiated settlement. Here is a pic of a loya jirga, the local deliberative body of tribal Afghanistan.

Image result for images loya jirga

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03/17/19

Diversity

Today we talk diversity in a big sun ATX day —¬†65F with just a few clouds.

So, the issue of diversity keeps being bandied about. I was speaking to a person with whom I had worked as a CEO for about a dozen years.

We were trying to assess whether that company was “diverse.”

He said, “I don’t think what we did was impacted by some specific goal of creating diversity as that word is used today.”

I agreed with him, but I noted that we were extraordinarily diverse by the standards of today. Who knew? I was “woke” before woke was woke.

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03/16/19

Tarheels v Blue Devils

If you are a basketball fan, last night you were treated to a spectacular basketball game when the North Carolina Tarheels played the Duke Blue Devils. Duke took it 74-73 and the game was every bit that close as the Heels missed several opportunities to take the game.

This is the best rivalry in college basketball. It is a guaranteed dramatic struggle. There is no rivalry that has been as consistently excellent as these two teams.

Last night, the rivalry was made even better.

This year, the Tarheels beat the Blue Devils twice but those wins have to be asterisked because Zion Williamson did not play in those two games. [OK, injuries and staying healthy ARE part of the game and you have to play with the team who shows up and laces up. Fair point.]

This game Zion Williams came with a full strength performance of 31 points and one of the fiercest dunks ever recorded in the history of collegiate basketball.

This is guy is amazing.

Image result for images zion williamson

Duke starts a lot of freshmen. Coach K has come to grips with building teams around “one-and-done” players who will not stay long enough to graduate.

These Duke athletes are some of the best to ever play the game. Ever.

Roy Williams builds his teams around players who may never play in the NBA or who will not be leaving early.

This is a difference in style and strategy that translates into two competitive programs and teams, but with a different view of things. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

Your Big Red Car thinks the Heels lost the game because the Heels Coach Roy Williams failed to call a time out and organize things when the Heels had the ball at the end of the game and were behind by a single point.

When the Heels did try to win it, they took a poorly selected three point attempt. Still, it had a chance to go in and we would be singing a different song if it had. It certainly could have.

The Heels, usually a good shooting team, went 4/27 on three point shots.

In spite of this, both teams could have won this game. When you win by a single point, every shot and every free throw was a game winner. But, if you shoot 15% from beyond the arc, you are likely to lose.

Now, let’s get onto the National Championship.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? Hook ‘Em Heels!

 

 

 

03/16/19

Copycats — The Kiss

Ahhh, a wonderful, crisp Texas day for a pre-Saint Patricks Day celebration in the ATX. Happy Saint Patricks Day!

So, I am chatting with a high tech personage and they decry the tsunami of copycat apps and startups. Not something I have noticed myself, but he made a strong and logical case for it. He convinced me.

He went on to say that it was a fairly recent occurrence which made me ponder that notion.

After a bit of pondering, I came to the conclusion it has been around forever. I cite as my example the history of sculpture.

“What, Big Red Car, sculpture? WTF do you know about sculpture?”

Yes, I can understand your natural skepticism as I am not really much of a sculptor myself, but I have a set of eyes, don’t I?

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03/15/19

Turnover — How To Miminize It

Turnover can be a costly ill. But, can be prevented? No, but it can be minimized. Here’s how.

So, I am speaking with four CEOs of small to medium-sized companies, all less than 100 employees. All the companies are in the “walk” phase of crawl, walk, run. All the CEOs are feeling salty, comfortable in their skins. Bit of wisdom starting to accumulate like barnacles.

We start talking about turnover. I listen carefully, saying nothing. I often do that. I learn a lot that way.

I also stumbled on an interesting blog post from a former client of mine at www.anthonybucci.com on the subject. Anthony was an excellent, high energy CEO who I worked with for more than a year. He took his company to the paywindow and made out very well. I always enjoyed working with him.

I came away with the notion that the issue of turnover for most companies is something they embrace AFTER it happens. Anthony’s blog post spoke to a pizza party — a cultural ritual of which I heartily approve — but it was after the fact. The individual was already on the way out.

So, here’s what I want to focus on — how do you prevent turnover? How do you minimize it?

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03/14/19

Beto’s Dog Artemis Announces for First Dog

If y’all have been following the air waves, you know that Robert Francis O’Rourke of El Paso by God Texas has decided to throw his gimme cap into the ring and seek the presidency of the United States of America.

This is Beto’s “thoughtful” gaze. It projects that quality we want in our presidents — a vacuous stare with a finger over their lips telling them not to say anything stupid. Haha, just kidding. Love the guy. He’s from Texas. Yes, El Paso is part of Texas.

Here he is rehearsing his lines: “Man, I’m just born to be in it.” Pretty sure there were no copywriters involved with that bit of genius.

Image result for images beto

But the real star, the real driver of the Tribe Beto is Artemis, a Labrador. We were able to grab Artie, a real bitch, for a quick interview. She did not hold anything back.

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03/13/19

You Are All Alone

Nice warm day in the ATX after a morning of rain. Ahh, On Earth as it is in Texas! It’s SXSW time in the ATX.

As a founder, entrepreneur, CEO there are times — most of the time — when you must rely solely upon yourself. You are all alone.

Even when you are a member of a team, at times you are all alone because you are the decider.

This is not a bad thing; it is just a thing. You can relax knowing that every other founder, entrepreneur, CEO has had the same feeling.

That feeling — when the butterflies in your gut become condors and they try to slice their way out with their sharp talons. Your stomach is an acid pit and your breath is like kerosene.

It is real, but you can handle it. Learning to rely upon your own judgment is critical.

I am not counseling you to ignore advice. Solicit advice, but know that sometimes, you will jump alone.

Here is a video of a stick of paratroopers (with equipment) getting ready to jump over White Sands as part of a training exercise. Every soldier who approaches that door is a member of a team, but when they jump they make that decision alone. You as a founder, entrepreneur, CEO will make that same decision.

You got this, trust me.

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03/12/19

Half a Loaf

As a leader of a startup, a public company, a charity — you will find yourself dealing with the planning for, advocacy of, and implementation of change. Change is the constant.

As change is the constant, resistance to change is also a given. People do not like change in the workplace. They like to settle in, do their jobs, and become expert at what they do. They want the comfort of a known gig and a known operating model.

Change, by its very nature, creates discomfort. This discomfort gives rise to resistance. Resistance becomes an internal barrier to the success of the change.

So, what is a leader to do?

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03/11/19

What Chaos?

We Americans are a tough people. Hard to believe that when you see what a bunch of victims and cupcakes we see on the Internet, but at our core, we are resolute survivors.

I used to ask my father if he thought my generation could have fought and won World War II. He received a battlefield commission in Italy running a Cannon Company shooting it out daily with Kraut 88s while in his twenties.

He would get a solemn look on his face and say, “The sons of tigers are tigers.” I never really understood what he meant.

I recently read something sent from a pal and it hit home on the subject. It focused on who we were back in 1969, half a century ago. Most of y’all weren’t born then, but I was a cadet at Virginia Military Institute, the Vietnam War was raging, in the mess hall there were moments of silence for VMI men killed in that war, and the country was aflame with riots.

I like to tell people today, “You have no idea what a proper riot looks like, Ace. You should have seen the Vietnam War riots. Now, those were riots.”

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