Penguin: General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, USMC, on Why “Too Busy to Read” Is a Moron’s Cop-Out on Leadership Responsibility

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General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis Email About Being ‘Too Busy To Read’ Is A Must-Read

Geoffrey Ingersoll

In the run up to Marine Gen. James Mattis‘ deployment to Iraq in 2004, a colleague wrote to him asking about the “importance of reading and military history for officers,” many of whom found themselves “too busy to read.”His response went viral over email.

Security Blog “Strife” out of Kings College in London recently published Mattis’ words with a short description from the person who found it in her email.

General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, USMC (Ret)

General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, USMC (Ret)

Their title for the post:

With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading

[Dear, "Bill"]

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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May 11