“My purpose in writing this book is to convey the lessons I learned for those who might benefit, whether in the military or in civilian life. I have been fortunate that the American people funded my forty years of education, and some of the lessons I learned might prove helpful to others. I’m old-fashioned: I don’t write about sitting Presidents. In the chapters that follow, I will pass on what prepared me for challenges I could not anticipate, not take up the hot political rhetoric of our day. I remain a steward of the public trust.
The book is structured in three parts: Direct Leadership, Executive Leadership, and Strategic Leadership. In the first part, I will describe my formative years growing up and then in the Corps, where the Vietnam generation of Marines “raised’ me and where I first led Marines in battle. …
In the second part, I will describe the broadening years in executive leadership, when I was commanding a force of 7,000 to 42,000 troops and it was no longer possible to know the name of every one of my charges. …
Finally, in the third section, I will delve into the challenges and techniques at the strategic level. …
The habit of continuing to learn and adapt came with me when I joined the administration as a member of the cabinet, where my portfolio exceeded my former military role. Yet at the end of the day, driving me to do my best were the veterans of past wars I felt watching me, and the humbling honor of serving my nation by leading those staunch and faithful patriots who looked past Washington’s political vicissitudes and volunteered to put their lives on the line to defend the Constitution and the American people.”
~ Jim Mattis and Bing West from Call Sign Chaos
General Jim Mattis is the former Secretary of Defense and one of the most formidable strategic thinkers of the twenty-first century. He wrote this book with Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine.
This book is, as per the back cover, “a clear-eyed account of learning to lead in a chaotic world,” in which Mattis “recounts the foundational experiences and lessons he learned over four decades and in three wars. It is a journey about learning to lead at every level, with insights equally applicable to the military, to business, and to individual growth.”
I got this book on the recommendation of a new, dear friend who happens to be a long-time student (and Heroic Coach) who also happens to be a commanding officer in the U.S. military.
It’s an absolutely FANTASTIC memoir packed with wisdom on how to lead—which is why it has nearly 5,000 5-star reviews. (Get a copy of the book here.)
The book reminds me of two other memoirs by military leaders I admire: Admiral William McRaven’s Sea Stories and General Colin Powell’s It Worked for Me. It also reminds me of Phil Knight’s memoir Shoe Dog and Ray Dalio’s Principles.
And... For related books on leadership, check out our Notes on General Stanley McChrystal’s Leaders: Myths and Reality plus Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Turbulent Times.
As you’d expect, this book is packed with Big Ideas. I’m excited to share some of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!
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