Soldier Writing Letter Home

Exactly one year ago, on 12 December 2016, I made 3×5 Leadership public and began sharing the blog online and across social media. Inspired by the military blogging giants of The Military Leader and From the Green Notebook, I have tried my hand at sharing personal reflections and lessons through a blog with no idea if it would resonate with others or if it would materialize into much.

Now with tens of thousands of blog visitors and hundreds of followers via email and social media, all I can say is that I am immensely grateful and humbled by the feedback. Though my experiences are singular, it certainly seems that the lessons from them are not. I never imagined anyone cared to hear what I have to share, but it seems there are a few out there that in fact may. Thank you for your feedback; it is one of the greatest personal pleasures to hear from readers that what I am sharing is helping them in their own lives and organizations. Thank you for your responses; I always want additional input so that readers can learn from each other, not just my singular thoughts. Most importantly, thank you for your time; I know readers must deliberately carve out time in their busy lives to grow their leadership capacities, and time is never abundant. Thank you for choosing to make 3×5 Leadership one of those platforms you choose to learn and grow.

Why Start 3×5 Leadership?

Goal #1 has always been leader development. I am absolutely passionate about leadership, leader development, and helping grow others’ leadership capacities to ultimately improve their organizations and those around them.

Over this year of blogging, though, I have learned another benefit to the 3×5 Leadership blog, and it is one that is personal to me. This blog is a means of reflecting for me.

A Discussion on Reflection

How do you make meaning of an experience and learn from it, whether it is a positive or negative outcome? Simple answer: reflection. So many times, we move from experience to experience without taking the time to pause, think about that experience, and identify what we learned from it. Reflection is a conscious action that requires deliberate time and effort; it is not a passive or subconscious lesson that comes to you out of nowhere.

So, what does reflection look like? Well, like with many individual actions, it depends. Reflective action is unique to an individual and is based on how that person thinks and learns. Popular reflective activities include journaling, seeking feedback from others, conducting after-action reviews (AARs), event counseling with a co-worker (also known as peer coaching), and so on.

One way I reflect is while running. Running naturally allows me to mentally play back the week’s key events and think through them, make sense of those experiences, and even make connections between seemingly unrelated information. I often am recording my personal reflection lessons while running on my phone or immediately when I get home; I discuss that further in an earlier post: What ultramarathon running has taught me about military leadership.

Beyond that, the 3×5 Leadership blog has become another major reflection activity for me. First, it now forces me to seek out lessons and insight from every experience in my life in case it could become a valuable blog post. I am always searching for a new blog content ideas, which makes me hypersensitive to experiences, how I react to them, their results, and what I learned. Once I feel that I found an idea, I am forced to think through the experience, and my lessons from it, in order to create a well thought out concept that makes sense to others and that they would find valuable to read. Blogging has become a primary reflection tool for me over this past year. It is leading me to learn more lessons from more experiences than I ever have before.

Now, I have entered a season in my life where I am very interested in learning how others reflect, especially regarding leadership. Currently, I am researching effective and tested reflection journal techniques to try it out as another means of reflecting. Ultimately, I am constantly intrigued by how and why others write down the ideas that they do. I have some reflection questions I would love to hear back from readers about:

  • If you conduct reflective journaling, what is your journal method and framework? Do you have an outline or specific questions you answer?
  • How do you keep your personal record of reflection insights and lessons? Personally, I record in-the-moment lessons on a 3×5 card, but I transcribe them onto a series of Word documents I maintain on the Dropbox. How do you record, store, organize, and recall your reflection lessons?
  • What other reflective activities have you seen or personally use that are beneficial?

I heard a quote once about reflection (that I wrote down on a 3×5 card of course), though I don’t recall the author of it, that has resonated with me for years: “preparation and reflection must be the bookends of every experience we encounter as well as ones we offer our subordinates.”

I will certainly be coming back to this topic of the “art of reflection” in a future 2018 blog post.

Final Thought

I started 3×5 Leadership with a post that I still consider one of my personal favorites. It is still immensely relevant today as it was then, when I was relinquishing my company command. “Leaders come in to an organization, they make it better, and then they move on.” Check out that first post here.

Again, thank you all dearly for your support and time. Here’s to another successful year of 3×5 Leadership! Cheers.

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1 Comment

  1. Look into Donald Schon and his work on reflection in action and on action. Such an important activity and especially within our oft-action centred mitary culture where too much time can be spent doing without apportioning sufficient time to think- my optimum time is showering, shaving and cycling. @CO_EMUOTC

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