When you're a spy, your life depends on connecting thinking to action.
The Spy's Guide books illustrate the mental tools of a spy with true spy stories.
The tools are useful under pressure. They bring focus. They remind us what sets us apart: We think.
Bottom line: They work.
The first (short) book is A Spy's Guide To Thinking. Here's the first part:
Spy gadgets are fun. Not Q’s rocket cars and jetpacks. Not James Bond’s remote detonators. The real world stuff. Crazy, complicated things. Fun, yes. Interesting, yes.
But if you’re a spy in the field, you start to think. Do I want to bet lives – my life – on a gadget working?
You say no to a lot of gadgets. You turn down most of what they send you. When you get one that might be good, you ask questions. Does it work? Does it work in a simple way? Will it break?
Even then, you pause. You want someone else to use it first. Just to be sure. You learn the best things aren’t the new things. Used things are better. Worn things. Things that have worked in the field. For fifty, sixty years, if possible. Updated, sure. But tested. Proven. If the mission fails because a gadget breaks, it’s not Q at risk. It’s you.
When you find something that works, it’s gold. The thing does its job, you do yours. You go out and be a spy. Maybe even save the world.
The first part of this book is about thinking, but it’s like a gadget. It has tools that work. In a simple way. Without breaking. Even better, the tools have been used for a long time. Updated, sure. But used successfully by people and organizations for many years.
The tools here are most useful under pressure. First, because they stop us from only reacting. They bring focus. They help us resist the takeover of the lizard brain. They remind us what sets us apart: We think.
Lastly, they’ve been tested in a variety of environments with a variety of people. With varying levels of complexity. Different situations, different people, different needs.
Bottom line: They work.
On that, I bet my life.
Read more . . .
The second book in the series is A Spy's Guide To Strategy. Here's the first part:
He told me a lie.
And then, more lies. A whole bunch of lies.
But that wasn’t the problem.
Lies are normal, when you’re a spy.
The problem was that it was the wrong kind of lie.
Usually, a spy’s lies:
1. Conceal something and/or;
2. Protect the spy.
Sometimes, a spy’s lies do both. But these lies didn’t. They didn’t do either one. They did the opposite.
The lies exposed him. And didn’t protect him. The lies made things more dangerous.
Not just dangerous for him. Dangerous for me, too.
Which made me wonder if it was an accidental lie. Maybe it was a heat-of-the-moment kind of lie. Maybe it was an emotional lie. Maybe he lied from embarrassment. Or shame. Or insecurity.
Then, after he lied once, he had to lie again. And the second and third and fourth lies were told for the usual reasons. To conceal the first lie. To protect him.
Maybe that’s what happened.
Whatever the reason, I had to do something about it.
He had lied. Now, it was my turn to act.
It was my turn to do something about it.
But first, I wanted to understand why. I wanted to understand the decision behind the lies.
You see the action of a lie and you take a step back in the Data-Analysis-Decision-Action sequence. You look at the decision to lie.
Then a step further back. What were his choices?
Then a step further back. What analysis led to that decision?
Then another step back. What information or data did he analyze to make the decision that led to that action?
Then you go back to the action and take a step forward.
What result did he expect from lying?
You look at intent.
Like the courts do. They dole out different punishments depending on why something happened. When someone gets killed, the courts want to know why.
They want to know intent.
Accidental? Negligent? If so, third-degree. A crime of passion? If so, second-degree. Maybe third. Malice aforethought? Cold-blooded and pre-meditated? First-degree. The worst kind.
It doesn’t matter if the initial crime was third-degree if a worse one followed. You get judged on the worst one. If there was first-degree crime to cover up a third-degree crime, you’re judged on the first-degree crime.
Which he had done. Whichever way they started out, his lies had become first-degree.
They were done on purpose.
Which meant intent.
And his intent mattered for a practical reason.
His intent was a clue to what he would do next.
If you prefer fiction, there's a novella called The 24th Name. It applies the lessons of the Spy's Guide series in the life of an ex-spy gone soft. It has lots of surprises. Here's the first part:
When I knocked on the door, a guy pulled it open and blinked into the sunshine. He shaded his eyes and found my face. “No girls?” he asked.
He thought he knew me, which happens a lot. I’m mostly average. A little taller. More scars. But overall, mostly average.
I look like a lot of guys. Including somebody this guy was expecting.
I took advantage and pushed the door open. The guy backed up into the hallway. I closed the door behind me.
In the darkness, he saw his mistake. “You’re not Rick.”
He was confused. Probably like most days. You would think if you liked drugs you’d be in a place where there wasn’t as much sunshine as Florida. Maybe Seattle. Maybe Chicago. But no, Florida was the drug capital of America.
For a while, it had to be proximity to coastline and ease of transportation, which kept the costs low. But since the 2000s, drugs were more likely to come in pills than in powder. And they were more likely to come from a truck than a speedboat. But maybe guys like this knew they would eventually find themselves passed out and sleeping outside. Most days, it’s better to sleep outside in Florida than Seattle or Chicago.
Before knocking on the door, I didn’t know what kind of scam they were running. But I knew it involved women. So I looked up the most popular female baby names in Florida in the 1990’s. In 1990, it was Ashley. In 1991, it was Ashley. All the way until 1998, it was Ashley. Then Emily took the top spot.
To give the guy focus, I started with Ashley. “Where’s Ashley?” I asked. Not threatening. Not angry. Just curious. And a little hopeful. Like there was an opportunity for him if I found Ashley.
All he said was, “You’re not Rick.”
To move things forward, I agreed with him. “I’m not Rick.”
He seemed relieved to hear that. Like until that moment he wasn’t sure who he was looking at. Like he wasn’t sure if reality was what he was seeing. Now, he was more confident.
He shook his head confidently. “There’s no Ashley.”
“What about Emily?” I asked.
“What – first you wanted Ashley. Now you want Emily?” Fear jumped back into his eyes. Then he saw an opportunity. “You want a blonde Emily or a dark-haired Emily?”
“The Emily who’s my sister,” I said.
Confusion returned. “I think I should call Rick.”
“You should call Rick,” I agreed. “How long will it take him to get here?”
© 2018 John Braddock
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