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January 15, 2018

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Building Confidence in Your Ability to Learn

When preparing for war and for the unknown challenges that protectors and warriors will encounter in the future, a person’s confidence in their training is an essential element of their development. Because confidence is a significant contributor to a person’s belief that they can overcome adversity, improving confidence minimizes the risk of hesitation in the face of threats.

Confidence in the ability to hit a target when they pull the trigger is why infantry Marines and soldiers spend so much time practicing their marksmanship. It is why magazine reload and malfunction drills are done to the point of muscle memory and why people spend countless hours firing from a variety of positions and conditions.

Confidence to act is one of the reasons why first aid training is repeated until each member of a unit is comfortable and competent enough to provide a certain degree of medical care to themselves or others. These drills are done until the person knows they can perform the task in the most time-constrained and stressful situations possible.

These are tasks that require such a high degree of self-confidence that there is nothing about a person’s ability to perform the task left to chance. In an age when our enemies and adversaries can adapt at a breakneck pace to avoid our strengths and attack our weaknesses, we need to develop the same level of confidence and proficiency in our ability to bring our most powerful weapon system, our brain, to the fight. In order to ensure that we are prepared to out-adapt our future adversaries, that in turn means we must ensure that we are confident in our ability to learn.

Building Resilience in Confidence

The purpose of this post is to address some ways that you can develop confidence in your ability to rapidly learn in dynamic, complex and changing situations. But before I can address some of these methods, it is worth noting that there is a difference in self-confidence that has been earned and the perceived self-confidence that is the result of bravado and the mindset that someone can simply “do anything,” even without putting in the work to master it. The difference between earned confidence and shallow bravado is important because it can help determine how resilient or how fragile your confidence is.

Something that is fragile will break when it is exposed to stress, while something that is resilient will stay the same when exposed to stress. To understand this distinction, you could put a pint glass and a plastic cup next to each other on a table that is at least three feet high. Push each of them off the table onto an uncarpeted floor. While the “stressor” of falling off of a table is not what the glass or the cup were designed for, you will see that the plastic cup is resilient (it has stayed the same) while the pint glass is fragile (it is in a hundred pieces on your floor). Confidence in your abilities should be thought of in the same way. The choices you make about how you develop confidence determines whether that confidence breaks or remains steadfast no matter what stressor it is exposed to.

In a future battle or conflict where our adversaries are adapting in unanticipated ways, our skills will

January 5, 2018

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Learning How to Learn: The Steps

This article is part of an ongoing series to help subscribers of The CP Journal’s Practice Section pursue mastery in behavioral observation, situational awareness and decision-making.

Being able to learn and adapt more quickly than our adversaries is a key skill as we prepare for war. But do you know how to learn?

It’s a funny question to ask, and I’m willing to bet you’d say yes without much hesitation. You may have graduated from high school or college or obtained an advanced degree that gave you a piece of paper to prove that you know how to learn. If you’re in the military, law enforcement or the security industry, you’ve likely spent countless hours in training to learn what is needed to succeed in your field. You probably have a great number of experiences that allow you to confidently state that you know how to learn and have proven it.

Because it’s usually answered without much thought, I’ve found that asking this question framed in this way isn’t the best way for someone to assess their actual ability to quickly break down and understand new concepts. For self-guided learners who need the ability to objectively determine how quickly they can acquire a new skill the better questions may be:

Can you take any subject in the world and outline the steps that you would need to go through to progress from the point of not knowing anything about it to becoming a true master in the field?

Do you have a defined process and framework that allows you to outline the steps of learning without talking about the subject or topic itself?

Answering these two questions might not come as quickly as they did to the more general, “Do you know how to learn?” Learning isn’t just about reading, going to trainings or finding a mentor. Those are all elements of the development process, but they aren’t the process that you can apply to any subject you may want to learn in the future. Learning how to learn means that you are able to know what information and experiences you are looking for at each step of the learning process in order to become self-reliant in your development. It means that you have a process to learn; a process that you are able to refine, develop and improve upon throughout your life. Not having a process that is broadly applicable and generalized enough to apply to any subject, yet specific enough to identify critical components and steps to improve upon, means that we have a limitation and gap in our armor. It is a limitation that needs be corrected for as we prepare to face our adversaries in the future.

Dissecting the Learning Process

In creating, designing and developing a system of learning that works

December 17, 2017

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Combatting the Strengths of Our Adversaries and Learning How to Learn

This article is part of an ongoing series to help subscribers of The CP Journal’s Practice Section pursue mastery in behavioral observation, situational awareness and decision-making.

Following the overwhelming shock and awe campaign that characterized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, America’s enemies and adversaries faced a very simple and straightforward dilemma: give up, adapt or die.

For the Iraqi insurgents the American military was searching for, it didn’t take long to realize that wearing any sort of identification that made it clear they were an enemy of the coalition would have swift and tragic consequences for them. As a result, Iraqi insurgents learned how to blend in with the local population, avoid detection and defeat many of the equipment and technological advantages American troops had over them. After observing where so much of the American military’s strength came from, insurgents learned what was needed to survive, and they adapted. The Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Course, which was created in 2007, was one method to counter the advantages the insurgents had as a result of blending in with civilians and disguising their affiliations, but the question that I often find myself asking is why it took four years for the American military to adapt to this new reality of the situation being faced on the ground. While that’s a question that historians may examine in years to come, the more important question for warriors is to ask is, what can our military do differently in future wars to shorten the time required to learn from our enemy and make the required adaptations to win?

Anticipating Future Wars: What We Know and What We Don’t

It is difficult (if not impossible) to successfully predict the way future wars are going to be fought. While the creative exercise of anticipating the wars to come can be helpful in many ways, the sheer number of variables involved in the specifics of future conflict make any attempts at prediction merely speculation. In Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winning economist and author Daniel Kahneman dedicates numerous chapters to explaining the biases and limitations that prevent people, especially “experts,” from being able to make accurate long-term predications about the future.

Despite the limitations in making predictions, there are still opportunities for warriors to discern some high probability assumptions about the future of conflict. Consider a likely sequence of events that a future war might follow:

1: Both sides of a conflict enter a war with a

December 1, 2017

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Defining Success in Your Personal and Professional Development

This article is part of an ongoing series to help subscribers of The CP Journal’s Practice Section pursue mastery in behavioral observation, situational awareness and decision-making.

For self-driven learners, one of the biggest obstacles to making the most out of the time and money you invest in your development is not having a clear picture of what success looks like. When the end goal for your training or education isn’t clearly defined, it can be hard to know what skills need to be developed in order for “success” to be reached. It can be challenging to track your progress. It’s difficult to attain a high level of confidence in what you’ve already learned. From my conversations with students who have gone through our Tactical Analysis course, the problem isn’t in knowing that having a clear goal is helpful, though. It’s in knowing how to put that goal into words.

Opposite Ends of the Spectrum: Thinkers and Doers

One of the reasons why we love working with members of the military, police officers and security professionals so much is because they are some of the few groups of professionals who truly understand the fact that learning a skill is not enough. For them to be successful, they have to be able to put what they learn into practice. They are people with their own skin in the game and who constantly (and willingly) put themselves into situations where there are life and death consequences for failing to solve a problem. For them, proving knowledge by