Daily Entropy: blindness

General Westmoreland requests more troops

Entropy blindness is the worst habit of highly effective people.  It is often baffling how  successful leaders can be so naive about the corruption in their associations.  Think about Westmorland and McNamara in Vietnam or McChristal and Patreus in Iraq: all behaved as though they were oblivious to the scale of corruption in the local military and politic establishments, pumping money and men into the shifting sands of the allegiances that govern the ungoverned.  It’s easy to call them  optimistic or arrogant, but you see this pattern repeating in financial, educational and environmental crises all over the world.  Successful people are almost universally blind to entropy, and that makes it hard for them to see the corruption seeping in around them.  In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, success is built on an “abundance mentality.”  And it’s true.  Effective people see themselves as fantasy superheroes whose power comes from nowhere and wastes nothing.  For people with personal assistants, there is a curious physical manifestation of abundance.  A glass that is half-empty has a significant chance of being filled by the assistant (or someone trying to curry favour).  While most of us experience half-empty glasses being emptied before they are filled again, a successful person may well experience the opposite: that half-full glasses always fill themselves.  In this way, financially successful people are also conditioned, like your hearing in this experiment, to see success in all circumstances, which makes them highly effective right up to the point of catastrophic failure.  It’s like watching a match when you know the result: you can enjoy the game, but you can’t un-know what’s going to happen.  Highly effective people have that feeling about everything they do, so they can’t see, hear or discuss the uncertainty or distortion that could lead to failure.  In the abundance mentality, there is no entropy.  This is why corporate leaders can talk about sustainability with a straight face.  Entropy is the domain of the curmudgeon.

When it comes to relationships, information is the enemy.  The Afghan war alliance flowchart was both incoherent and obsolete by the time it was drafted.

afghan ppt.jpg


From the Washington Post

“Michael Flynn’s fall tells a much bigger story, By David Ignatius Opinion writer April 27, 2017:

James J. Angleton, the CIA’s legendary counterintelligence chief, was secretive to the point of paranoia when he was at the agency. But when he left in the 1970s, he couldn’t stop talking to journalists and others about his conspiracy theories. Some other former CIA officers are similar: They work the press or lobbying clients the way they used to work their agency assets.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, one of Flynn’s mentors, got fired as commander in Afghanistan after he and his staff made inappropriate comments to a Rolling Stone journalist. Gen. John Allen, a much-admired commander in Afghanistan, got involved in an email correspondence with a would-be Florida socialite that led to a Pentagon investigation, which derailed his appointment as NATO commander. Gen. David Petraeus, perhaps the most celebrated commander of his generation, pleaded guilty to improperly sharing classified information with his biographer, with whom he was romantically involved.

Each of these people served the country in remarkable ways. But looking at the difficulties they encountered, one senses a pattern. Senior command is a world unto itself. The tribal culture that envelops all our military and intelligence personnel is especially tight for our most secret warriors.”

From The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam:

“Among those dazzled by the Administration team was Vice-President Lyndon Johnson. After attending his first Cabinet meeting he went back to his mentor Sam Rayburn and told him with great enthusiasm how extraordinary they were, each brighter than the next, and that the smartest of them all was that fellow with the Stacomb on his hair from the Ford Motor Company, McNamara. “Well, Lyndon,” Mister Sam answered, “you may be right and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say, but I’d feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.” It is my favorite story in the book, for it underlines the weakness of the Kennedy team, the difference between intelligence and wisdom, between the abstract quickness and verbal fluency which the team exuded, and the true wisdom, which is the product of hard-won, often bitter experience. Wisdom for a few of them came after Vietnam.”
David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest


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