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398: Lt. General Paul Van Riper USMC, part 2: A Marine Versus Coffee

October 21, 2020
Paul K. Van Riper (born July 5, 1938) is a retired United States Marine Corps officer. When he retired, he was serving as the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia. He gained notoriety from the Millennium Challenge 2002 wargame. He played the Red Team opposing force commander and sank a carrier battle group with an inferior team in two days, declaring the wargame fixed to falsely validate U.S. Navy doctrine. Marine Corps career The Marine Corps University documents his full service career. Here are some salient parts. Van Riper enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina in 1956, joined Officer Candidate Course in June 1963, and commissioned as second lieutenant in 1963. In 1965, Van Riper served in Vietnam as an Advisor with the Vietnamese Marine Corps, was wounded while attacking a NVA machine gun in a rice paddy outside Saigon, and evacuated in 1966. He later served in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Okinawa. He commanded 3rd Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Mike Company) in South Vietnam during 1968, later, stateside, as the Battalion Commander of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment from 1983 to 1985, and later the 4th Marines until 1986. He served temporarily as a member of the MARCENT/I Marine Expeditionary Force during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991. In Washington, D.C., he served as Assistant Chief of Staff, Command, Control, Communications, and Computer and as Director of Intelligence from 1993 to 1995. He advanced to Lieutenant General, assumed his last post in July 1995 and retired in 1997 after over 41 years of service. He was decorated with Navy Distinguished Service Medal at his retirement ceremony. Since retirement Van Riper has served on several advisory boards and panels. He is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. Post-retirement In the Millenium Challenge, against far superior forces, he and his team adopted an asymmetric strategy. In particular, they used old methods to evade the Blue Team's sophisticated electronic surveillance network such as motorcycle messengers to send orders to front-line troops, WWII light signals to launch planes without radio communications, and a fleet of small boats to determine the position of the opponent's fleet. They preemptively launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces' sensors, destroying an aircraft carrier, ten cruisers, and five of six amphibious ships---simulating deaths of over 20,000 personnel. They "sank" another significant portion of the Blue navy with a fleet of small boat attacks, both conventional and suicide, capitalizing on Blue's inability to detect them. He is also critical of plans for the occupation of Iraq and their implementation following the Iraq War. In 2006 he joined several other retired generals in calling for then Secretary of Defense and Iraq War architect Donald Rumsfeld's resignation Initiative As podcast host, I'm taking the liberty of sharing Rip's review of my book, Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work). He wrote: Whether leading or following, you need to read Initiative. I have long yearned for such a book—the most clear and persuasive on personal development and leadership I've found in 60 years of adulthood. Spodek's focus on initiative and reflection matches what I found important serving in and leading organizations from a few people to over 15,000 Marines and Sailors. He illustrates key ideas with meaningful examples and helpful practical exercises. It's lucid, succinct, easy to read, and deeply profound. It has earned a prominent place in my library.
Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper USMC

398: Lt. General Paul Van Riper USMC, part 2: A Marine Versus Coffee

Rip committed to avoid waste through coffee, which he describes as harder than he thought.

Wait a minute. A three-star Marine Corps general is describing not using coffee cartridges as hard? In the Millennium Challenge we talked about in our first conversation he led a team taking on the best of the entire US war machine and won. How hard can coffee be?

That's the point of this podcast. Personal change doesn't depend on calories burned, monetary costs, and so on. It depends on our hearts and minds, which depend on our stories, beliefs, images, and so on. It's as easy or hard as we believe.

Another main point of this podcast is to empower you to change our beliefs, stories, and images. While a belief may make something as materially simple as changing how you make coffee seem impossibly difficult, recognizing that our belief is the issue puts resolving the problem under our control. We don't have to accept that belief. We can change it.

That's why I value Viktor Frankl and people like him so much. He turned living in Auschwitz into including experiencing love and bliss. What he can do, we can.

Rip shares how he saw the situation before starting, how it ended up harder than expected, then he got to work on himself and his views, and you'll hear the results, as I heard more positive than he would have predicted.

Systemic change begins with personal transformation. If you think the change will end with a few coffee cartridges, you're missing how systemic change happens. Among other things, now there's a Marine Corps three-star General who concerns himself with household waste and sees it as something to enjoy and look forward to. He presents it as decreasing feelings of guilt, taking responsibility, enjoying results. You'll hear that talking about responsibility and personal growth leads naturally to personal and professional growth at the highest levels of the military, about policy, strategy, campaigns, operations, and tactics.

He shared preparing reading Von Clausewitz's On War. I almost can't believe the wisdom and experience I got to hear. This conversation helped prompt me reading the strategy works he described as well as valuing writing about sustainability. Beyond my blog, I'm working on my book and seeing how it reveals the core, as he described. I remember watching a video biography of President John Adams. After he was President a scene showing him fixing shingles on his roof. I thought of how human we all are, whatever our status, whatever importance we give ourselves. As JFK said, in the end we are all mortal. We share the same air, land, and water.

We can view changes as obligations, chores, sacrifice, and burden---hardships for us. Focusing inwardly on ourselves characterizes depression. By contrast, we can view stewardship of nature as connecting us to others. Little improves how we feel more than acting in service of others. That's leadership. Even if we want to get ahead and think we have to do for ourselves, acting in service of others responsibly is leadership. If I want to get ahead it works. If I want more happiness itworks. If you prefer seeing stewardship as a burden keeping you from your career, that's your choice.

Rip shared otherwise, as I heard it.

397: Eric Orts, part 1: Exploring a Senate Race

October 16, 2020

Eric Orts is a tenured professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is also exploring a potential race for the U.S. Senate: the seat from which two-term Senator Patrick Toomey has announced he will retire in 2022.

On this broadcast he promises, as an expression of his values, not to fly for the next year. He pledges further, if he decides to run for office, not to fly during his campaign.

396: Margaret Klein Salamon, part 2: Political or Personal or Political and Personal

October 14, 2020

My goal in this podcast is to bring leaders from many fields and share what made them effective. I believe sustainability and stewardship would benefit from learning more effective leadership. A goal with each guest is to feature them. Everyone is unique. Everyone brings something we can learn from.

Sometimes I don't achieve my goal. Sometimes a guest and I end up talking at cross purposes, which I think happened this time, meaning I didn't do justice to the guest. This time I started off exploring Margaret's views and experiences but part way through misunderstanding arose and I don't think I gave Margaret the chance to shine that she deserved. I apologize to her. I hope I didn't distract from her work. You'll hear at the beginning how her book led me to reflect, introspect, and act so I recommend it.

If I messed up, I welcome constructive criticism. I hope she looks all the better for the conversation even if I don't. I hope you, the listener, enjoy hearing the conversation and get value from each of our perspectives. I think I captured the two purposes at the end---that I had trouble seeing her view that getting distracted from political change would not achieve the effects we need to turn things around and that she didn't see my view that personal action augments the political, not distracts.

I hope each of us surprises the other by succeeding more in ways the other couldn't have conceived of, illuminating the other's world and expanding the other's view to where each of us becomes more effective than we would have otherwise.

395: A Time I Gave Up

October 10, 2020

The rest of my story riding 100 miles a week and a half ago, where I gave up on myself, having lost faith in myself, but then getting lucky to force myself to finish. Only finishing strong showed I could do it.

I've since fallen into the easy path of sharing my pride in finishing, but not the shame, guilt, and disappointment in myself at giving up. Finishing strong only reinforced my giving into the sweet lies I told myself to justify giving up.

394: Joe De Sena, part 2: The Sustainable Spartan starts here

October 7, 2020

You're in for a treat. Joe and I start talking business so you'll hear things happening while we're talking. We start by talking about his exercising while we talk, then my plans to swim across the Hudson about 48 hours from the recording (and the guy I swam with holding out on the video footage I describe in another episode). We talk about his picking up beach trash, but really about doing things, not just talking.

Then we start doing. He starts planning during the call to transform Spartan Race's food and garbage plans. He puts me in touch with a food friend and starts the process to schedule a presentation to Spartan Race's leadership team to kick the process off. I tell him about podcast guest Marina McCoy for helping organize food

Since this recording, I can't give details, but the business has continued. I visited that weekend in Vermont, appeared on his podcast, and started working on sustainability. His team and mine are continuing to meet to continue the collaboration started in this conversation.

You heard it hear first!

393: Jaime Casap, part 2: If a global pandemic isn't the end, what is?

October 6, 2020

Jaime and my second conversation is enjoyable and challenging. It was different than usual because for whatever reason we're talking about views on environment, personal action, education, and so on, but I didn't get to the personal challenge I like to.

It was enjoyable because we're both into it for exchange, education, and understanding. Challenging because we have to figure out where the other is coming from. We start this conversation where we ended the last one, which is each putting forward his view. Getting and understanding another's view takes time, especially while trying to make yours available for the other to get and understand. Probably a third party will get and understand both faster and easier than either party.

We end up at what will be a starting point for a third conversation. Reaching there, I suspect we'll say things that you've heard before---I'm sure he and I have both heard most of the other's view but not talked it through.

Most of the conversation I felt he was asking what people were doing to point out its futility. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't, but at the close I thought he was actually asking.

As I said, I think there are scales of disaster and we can avoid the worst. Actually, I think everything we do can decrease suffering for others.

Anyway, I think we'll start next time with talking strategy.

392: The doomsayers aren't who you think

October 3, 2020

People criticize environmentalists as doomsayers while celebrating futurists. This episode shares key examples where the doomsayers were the ones saying acting sustainably would ruin us. On the contrary, in these cases and many others, doomsayers said changing our polluting behavior would undermine our way of life. Yet acting on sustainability improved our situation in these cases.

I also share, by contrast, cases where people projected new technologies would only improve our situations, and they may have in limited areas, but they deteriorated them in others.

We can learn skepticism of those saying stopping polluting will deprive us of income, well-being, or liberty.

391: Bob Inglis, part 2: Is Biden better for conservatives on climate legislation?

September 30, 2020

Bob and I begin lightheartedly, covering mulberry trees, gingkos, and how our views of nature change when we act in stewardship of it. Then I ask him about the decision as a conservative to endorse Biden. Question to you, the listener: will Bob describe that decision as hard  or easy? Did he face serious repercussions, wide support, or something else?

What would you do in his situation? I couldn't put into words what he does. It's his leadership journey, so you'll have to listen.

Another question for you. Who traveled more since our last conversation: the guy who wants to travel but can't but committed if he does to bring a spoon to avoid polluting or the guy who isn't  flying?

We also talk about conservativism, sustainable living, and how to practice them both. Do they need reconciliation or do they make sense together already?


2020 has meant most political talk is polarizing and divisive. I've learned any two people can find something to disagree on. I've also found any two people can find things to learn from each other.

I hope he's wrong about future generations not knowing what changed things. I believe that people who take a stand today to live by their values---when the overwhelming culture motivates keep doing what you've done, maybe recycling a bit more when convenient, even among people who call themselves environmentalists, who mostly tell others to change first---I believe we will leave legacies that others look back on.

He described Wilberforce's difficult, decades-long challenges. Whatever challenges he and his peers face, I know he feed better doing what he did, knowing his world and how doing anything different would prolong an industry he knew he had to do everything he could to end.

t hit me yesterday as I walked home from my daily picking up other people's litter in Washington Square Park. I used to think it curious to view picking up litter as spare-time activity like going to a park or beach. Yesterday I asked myself, given my neighborhood's litter, what would I rather do, watch Game of Thrones? What would you rather do, clean up your neighborhood or watch Game of Thrones?

390: George Chmiel 1.5: Sustainability, hard even for an ultramarathoner, but he doesn't give up

September 29, 2020

George's challenge involved people congregating outside, which California banned, increasing his challenge. Personally for him, Badwater got canceled for 2020, the race that starts in Death Valley and ends up, over 100 miles later on a mountaintop. Widely regarded as the hardest race in the world, he was looking forward to it. Can you imagine the training, then you feel like what was it for?

So life conspired to make acting on his environmental values for the podcast more difficult. He contacted me to ask about taking more time. I share with him how guests have struggled before. I'm not trying to suggest change is easy, but to accurately show listeners the challenges. George magnanimously agreed to share his vulnerabilities. So we scheduled this episode 1.5 to share the challenges he faced.

Leadership isn't about doing easy things. It's about facing what others don't and overcoming it. I believe you'll hear from George that the rewards are more than worth it. What he shares about emotions, I believe will inspire you. He speaks with experience having felt disappointment, despair, futility, and more beyond what most of us do.

I love this podcast for bringing people like George into my life. Actually, not the podcast. The podcast is just one manifestation of living by my values even when it's hard. He reminds me I haven't hit hard yet. Not flying? Avoiding packaged food? Picking up garbage? They're child's play compared to what he does.

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