For Calgary’s Police Chief, reading is a law of nature

Blog For Calgary’s Police Chief, reading is a law of nature

“I enjoy reading because it allows me to explore stories I have yet to experience. It’s a way for me to connect with people I may not otherwise meet, cultures I might not otherwise know, and points of view I might not otherwise see. It brings people of all backgrounds together.” Roger Chaffin, Chief Constable, Calgary Police Service

These books are important to me:

The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL by Eric Greitens

“This book may look like a typical American sensationalizing of military life, but is anything but. The author takes the reader through a perspective on what it truly means to be a humanitarian, but from a perspective of the goals of humanitarians being met through a balance of courage and compassion. His early experience as a humanitarian showed him some of the truly heart wrenching struggles in the world, but he soon realized that the goals of a  humanitarian can often be frustrated by the fact that sometimes these victimized communities need someone with the means and the courage to stand up for them and protect them as well. The author then set about a course of action which led him ultimately to become a Navy Seal, where he set about to bring a balance of both worlds. A must read for those people who are serving the public in the form of policing or military: ‘without courage, compassion falters, and that without compassion, courage has no direction.’ Eric Greitens.”

 SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin 

“I actually bought this book expecting a more traditional look at the life of a Navy Seal, but was quite surprised to discover that this was not the purpose of this offering. This book spends the first portions really diving into the experience of those attempting to join the Navy Seals through Hell Week, and Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUDS), and then starts to explore the nature of the human condition of those that push their physical and mental limits to the extremes that those in special force seem to do. What I found fascinating in this book was following a catastrophic injury to the author (which occurred during battle in Mogadishu) was how the book turned to explore the author’s very troubled journey to define the real meaning to his life (including his personal battles with PTSD) and his ultimate answers to redefine himself.”

Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot, by Jim Stockdale

This book is actually a series of articles, speeches and essays from the author ret. Vice Admiral James Stockdale. What I found truly fascinating is the exploration of the thoughts of a man, shot down over North Vietnam (during the Vietnam War) and his subsequent brutal and isolated incarceration for seven years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. It was uniquely fascinating how the author connected his learnings from a classical philosophy education at Stanford University, to his fundamental realizations about how to survive physically, emotionally and morally through such horrific conditions. His work often cites his thoughts on the writings of philosophers such as Epictetus, and what it meant to his ultimate grasp of his moral and ethical compass while imprisoned in Vietnam. His writings led to some timeless understandings of what is now known as the Stockdale Paradox, which is best described as when faced with difficult circumstances: ‘You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties . . . AND at the same time . . . You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be’. A set of concepts that led him to survive all, derived from his interpretation of his classical education.

This is a somewhat difficult read as the articles are disconnected from each other and often dive into the thoughts of various philosophers; but, by the time I was done reading I found myself quite taken by the how this author converted his education into guiding principles of a moral and ethical life.”

Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government by Mark H. Moore

“I came across this book as part of an executive development program I attended at the University of Boston. The author (among other academic accomplishments) is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The book explores one of the most difficult concepts for those who lead government organizations: how to create real and definable value in government offerings to the public. I still refer to his thoughts many years later in my work and career at the Calgary Police Service, particularly as it relates to finding true value in the relationship between innovative thinking, political support and the capacity to deliver in a world where you simply have to deliver efficiencies in flight. 

 A must read for anyone serving in public organizations.” Think! Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye by Michael R. LeGault

“This book is an interesting juxtaposition to Malcolm Gladwell’s offering ‘Blink’.  In my own career I have struggled at times with senior decision-makers who often ignore the complexities of critical thinking in favor of going with gut instincts. The real dilemma for me was in how critical thinking was often disregarded and sometimes belittled by the emotion of subjective thinking. The author explored these phenomena in America in what he called the decline of critical thinking, which was leading to an intellectual crisis, and further linked this to the decline of government institutions as well as private sector businesses.

 Overall I liked the message that the author presented in that instincts and subjective thinking remain important for government leaders, but not at the exclusion of academia, intellectual discourse, and evidence based thinking.”


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