#Monday Musings: Robert Behrman

“Monday Musings” are designed to get quick, insightful thoughts based around three questions from those interested in strategy, from the most experienced and lauded, to our newest thinkers/writers.

1 — Who had the greatest impact on you intellectually (whether through writing, mentorship, etc.)?

Miyamoto Musashi, in The Book of Five Rings. Musashi was not an intellectual, but he was probably one of the greatest fighters* in history, and he happened to live at a time when fighters were encouraged to write about it. The Book of Five Rings is not an excellent book about strategy (hence, the reason it is not my answer to the second question), but it — and especially The Book of the Void within it — is in my opinion the definitive text on how to approach the study of strategy. My three take-homes from it:

  1. To achieve true mastery, to be the greatest at any art, you must be self-taught.
  2. The only test of a warrior is to win the fights he finds himself in.
  3. What you believe in often proves to be contrary to the true way, distorted as it is by tendencies to favor your own thoughts and views.

A free online version, with a translation that I like. (I’m not qualified to judge its accuracy)

* the translation I posted calls all Samurai strategists… coincidence?

2 — What book (fiction, history, or academic) do you think best explains strategy?

The rules to the game Diplomacy, by Avalon hill. See previous comment #2, about the only test of a warrior. I think that you have to practice strategy to understand it. The best game I’ve ever found to practice strategy is the game Diplomacy.

3 — What do you want your legacy to be?

I want to attempt to change the world for the better, fail miserably, and retire into academia. I have not yet decided how, so I just attempt to do the best with the opportunities I am given. I want my legacy to be my example — that people can use their careers to make things better, and when they do they will either succeed and go on to the next target, fail and try again, or bow out having given it their best.

Dr. Robert Behrman spent most of his early career in U.S. Army Civil Affairs as a reservist, while also pursuing a PhD in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University as a civilian. Rob is currently using these experiences as a professional military strategist in the Washington, DC area.

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