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From the Library

November 26, 2019

After I posted about Gavin DeBecker’s The Gift of Fear, several readers responded with comments recommending Left of Bang. It was, no shit, the next one on the list for me to suggest anyway. The authors helped stand up the USMC “Combat Hunter” Program, and leveraged that experience to write this book.

In the training industry, a lot of bandwidth and ink is spent discussing the importance of “awareness” for avoiding trouble. The problem is, all too often, the people discussing this importance lack the ability intelligibly define “awareness,” let alone provide a method for actually practicing awareness, beyond “always keep your head on a swivel.” In my book The Reluctant Partisan, Volume 2, I spent a significant amount of time discussing this, including many of the concepts discussed in Left of Bang.
Like my book, but in far more depth, since it’s a single subject book, the authors spend a lot of time breaking down what awareness actually is, by providing the biometric and atmospheric indicators that constitute awareness, and then spend time discussing how to leverage and decipher those, both the universal ones and the cultural ones (an example is looking someone in the eye when speaking to them. In our culture, that’s a sign of respect and honesty. In other cultures, the exact opposite. One thing that takes guys deploying to the Middle East the first time a bit of getting used to…and other regions as well, to be sure…is the proximity in which it is “normal” to stand to other people, especially other males, during conversation. On the other hand, there are many physical cues that are universal human responses to stimuli, cross-culturally).

The one complaint I’ve ever heard about this book was from a dude who grew up in a really rough environment. He pointed out that he didn’t really learn anything he didn’t already know, from the book. I had the same experience. There wasn’t anything in the book I hadn’t learned, intuitively through experience.

The value of the book though, even in that context, was that it allowed me to better articulate what I was observing. This benefited me as a teacher, because I could better explain to students, exactly what indicators I was looking for, and why. As a dude who carries a gun in a society where the police and courts are still—at least arguably—functional, being able to articulate what I saw that convinced me I needed to punch some dude in the dick, or to shoot him, and WHY it convinced me that I needed to do so, may be the difference between ending up in prison, and going home to my family.

Most middle-class Americans are going to get a great deal of benefit out of this book. Some of it will be shit you know intuitively, although I’d be surprised if a dude who grew up WASP, went straight to college, and then into a professional field, didn’t learn SOMETHING from this book, that he wasn’t previously aware of. More importantly, even for those with considerable experience in shitholes, it will help provide a framework for explaining and understanding what you’re recognizing “in your gut.”

I highly recommend this book.

I have a pretty extensive library at home. Combined with stuff that is still in storage, waiting for the library building to be built on the farm, my wife and I have somewhere between 7500 and 8000 books. One of the things I’ve taken to doing is handing books to the guys in our training group to read.

One of them read these two a couple months ago, and has been nagging me ever since to post them in these From the Library segments. They’re that important, and that good.

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9 Comments
  1. Lathechuck permalink

    Speaking of libraries, what’s your plan for keeping your books dry and rot-free? I can run a mechanical dehumifier in my basement during the humid summer months, as long as the power stays up, but that might not be a sustainable solution. I can get a gallon of water per day from a small room with the door closed, so I don’t think that a cloth bag of desiccant is going to do much good. Since you’re building a library, I suggest that you consider bookcases with tight-fitting glass doors, which might make chemical moisture control feasible. I recently read that Sir Kenneth Clark used some of the wealth from his TV programs to accumulate a massive library of old books, which ended up rotting in his damp English castle! (However, google has been unable to verify this tale.)

    • Russ permalink

      Barrister bookcase cabinets with glass facings had a primary function of making shelves of books very portable and seemed an old timey purpose built solution to protect from dust and moisture as well. Gold & silver gilding of book page edges was not only aesthetically pleasing it had the practical purpose of protecting the book from moisture & dust. Gold leaf can run on the order of 1/250,000 of an inch in thickness and is typically burnished to a surface with a fine painter’s brush. 25 x 5.5″ square sheets can be had for around $50. Make sure it is 23/24 ct gold as some leaf being sold is 85% copper & 15% zinc and sells for around $8 per 25 sheets. I’m not sure if the later is effective beyond aesthetics. Book care and preservation in a non-technical environment is one of those problems best solved by looking to the past.
      When I was a dumb little kid in Fairfax, Virginia there was quite a bit of history still laying around. Old Picket mansion on…Picket Road had fallen to time and disrepair. We rooted around in it with a sense of adventure. The chandelier still hung molested in the fourier and the library in a side room still had
      many books in the shelves. I was amazed how well the leather bound and gilded paged books had survived. We did not know it at the time but there was probably a fortune in old books just sitting there abandoned. We were squirrel hunting in nearby woods so the books remained as we had more important matters at hand.

    • MoreSigmasThanYou permalink

      Based on my own experience, which involves stupid mistakes, he should be able to construct something on well drained soil, use an air gap, and be fine. Also, you can test your library with a super reliable and accurate Hygrometer that doesn’t rely on batteries and costs four bucks.

  2. fool permalink

    you post a lot of useful technology manuals, but i have the hardest time with the psychotechnology ones. does this book have exercises in it? what kind of measurables do we attach to the knowledge gained this way? that is, what, in practical terms, differentiates an accurate but unapplicable book from “secrets of the navy seal killer revealed” shlock? a lot of psychotechnology manuals that exist outside of the tacticool circles come with progressive exercises, bakhtiyarov’s deconcentration stuff, yoga/meditation, NLP and freezone manuals, everything that in some way works with attention and perception gives you ways of training. have you tried applying awareness training to measurables on the range and have you noticed any kind of improvements in your students?

  3. Jay McClung permalink

    Anyone read When Violence is the Answer by Tim Larkin? And have a any recommendations?

  4. Russ permalink

    Breaking down ‘awareness’ through analysis is a decent exercise. In truth, analytics is the ‘real time’ enemy of awareness in the time critical environment. What I distilled from a lifetime look-back and teach my kids is this.: Allow your instincts the ‘luxury’ to be wrong.

    Awareness is so intangible yet has so many working parts. To try and checklist them in the real world is dangerous. The analytical mind is so very slow when held up to the nanosecond teradata crunching of the instincts. Short circuiting the instinctual mind with the analytical mind will stunt the development of powerful instincts. Allowing the instincts the ‘luxury’ to be wrong means that the validating experience of feedback may not and probably will not happen. Until it does. There is nothing like the exhilarating experience of a bullet dodged to set one on the right course for developing a powerful awareness.
    I did not know until recently that a pain nerve response covers about a square centimeter on the body whereas an itch nerve response covers about three square inches. We are so hardwired for survival but sometimes we need to get out of the way and let the system perform unimpeded.

  5. Russell Fruits permalink

    Left of bang is required material for our security team. Helps convey the mindset we strive for, big fan of the book..

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