Environmental Awareness, Breakpoints, Pride & Red Lines: Lessons for Life and Investing

I’ve long been an admirer of the military and more so the elite special forces. At Capital Camp I had a chance to take a short workshop with the awesome folks of Asymmetric Solutions on tactical awareness and shooting. All the instructors were ex-SOF (Special Operations Forces) like Navy SEALs & US Special Forces. A tough, impressive crew and it was pretty eye-opening. The biggest thing I learned was their amazing mindset and frameworks for life.

The Mission Matters: At the end of the day, whether in business or life, there has to be a driving force for whatever you do. For them, it’s about taking care of their team and their family and getting home safely.

Pride is Dangerous: This was stressed more than a few times. It’s always better to walk away from a fight, even if you know you can win. There is way too much risk in being hurt or being sued. And going back to the first point, if the mission is to get home to your family, who cares about pride. Easier said than done though for a macho guy.

Situational Awareness: How often do we walk around caught up in our own thoughts unaware of everything around us. I can’t tell you how many times I see people walking down the street with their face in a phone. It’s also why I don’t walk around with headphones blaring music.

This causes terrible situational awareness. You can’t see possible threats around you. This is a huge issue in San Francisco which is full of insane drugged-out crazies in the downtown area. Or an issue really in any major city you go to. It’s not just about crime, it’s also about avoiding possible traffic accidents.

Risk Management and Breakpoints: Basically before you go anywhere like a restaurant or movie. Play scenarios in your mind and understand what could possibly go wrong. Evaluate possible exit points and the safest and fastest way to get out with your family.

A Breakpoint is where you can’t see anyone and an area of possible danger. Make sure you know where these are. So for example, I never sit with my back to the door. Always with my back facing the wall. I think many of us naturally do this because you don’t want anyone walking or moving behind you. Basically, Have a plan anywhere and everywhere you go.

Have a Redline: Break distances from possible threats into different zones. Keep them as far away as possible, but as they get closer entering each zone, you can act or evaluate accordingly. Basically use the OODA loop. Orient, Observe, Decide and Act.

For many of us who have families, a Redline could be a high potential threat to our families.

If they cross the Redline, you have to act with incredible speed and violence. Hold nothing back. As they say, Shoot to kill.

So for those reading this, I know the question is how is this relevant to business, investing or life outside of self defense. Well there is a lot here.

For every business, every investment, you should always have a plan or thesis. You should always be aware of your environment (read trends around you) and play out possible scenarios in your head even when nothing is happening. Always have a plan. When bad things happen, at least you have some clear steps on what to do. This will help prevent you from being frozen in indecision and surprise. As I heard from the guys, in times of shock and tiredness, you regress to the level of your training. And most importantly, don’t let pride get in the way in admitting you screwed up. Own it, fix it and move on. Pride has REKT more than a few investors and businessmen.

Basically, as Marine General James Mattis once said: ‘Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.’

This is a pretty good rule in life I think, especially in America these days and in the chaos around us during the pandemic age.


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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com