General Stan McChrystal on Eating One Meal Per Day, Special Ops, and Mental Toughness (#86)

Chris Fussell and Stan McChrystal on the Tim Ferriss Show
General Stan McChrystal (Photo credit: David E. Alvarado, ISAF Public Affairs)

Stanley McChrystal (@stanmcchrystal) retired from the U.S. Army as a four-star general after more than 34 years of service. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates described McChrystal as “perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat I ever met.”

From 2003 to 2008, McChrystal served as Commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), where he was credited with the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

His last assignment was as the commander of all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. He is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and the co-founder of McChrystal Group, a leadership consulting firm.

In this episode, we discuss everything imaginable, including:

– Why he only eats one meal per day, and what he eats

– His exact exercise regimen

– Tactical and psychological lessons of combat

– Self-talk used before and after difficult missions

– The development of mental toughness

– Favorite books, documentaries, etc.

– And much, much more

Chris Fussell (@FussellChris), who also joins the conversation, is a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, former Aide-de-Camp for General McChrystal, and a current senior executive at CrossLead.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#86: General Stan McChrystal on Eating One Meal Per Day, Special Ops, and Mental Toughness

Want to hear a podcast related to personal security in the digital age? — Listen to my conversation with Marc Goodman, a former FBI futurist focused on defeating high-tech crime. Learn how not to be an easy target — stream below or right-click here to download:

Ep 48: Marc Goodman, FBI Futurist, on High-Tech Crime and How to Protect Yourself

Also, don’t miss my interview with hacker Samy Kamkar. — Listen to our conversation on conquering online dating, opening locked cars, and his story of accidentally taking down MySpace with the fastest-growing “worm” of all time (stream below or right-click here to download):

#74: How a Computer Hacker Optimizes Online Dating, Opens Locked Cars, and Hijacks Drones

This episode is sponsored by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could only use one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is, inevitably, Athletic Greens. It is my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in the The 4-Hour Body and did not get paid to do so.  Get 50% off your order at Athletic

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY:  In your opinion, what makes a good leader, and who exemplifies those qualities? Please share in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Website | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

Show Notes

  • Why eat one meal per day? [5:36]
  • Understanding SOCOM and JSOC [9:21]
  • On the role of an aide-de-camp (ADC) [13:21]
  • How Chris Fussell reduced friction as Stanley McChrystal’s ADC [15:46]
  • Stanley McChrystal’s daily exercise habits and why they’re important [19:36]
  • Most gifted books for those entering combat situations [28:21]
  • On West Point: Slugs and Area Tours [31:01]
  • On mischief in school and success in the Army [34:11]
  • How peer reviews worked at West Point [35:11]
  • On vetting applicants for important positions [38:11]
  • Stanley McChrystal’s selection criteria for candidates [47:11]
  • Why Chris Fussell left the service early and defining “intelligence fusion cells” [53:21]
  • The most underrated military leaders? [57:36]
  • Fanatical audiobook listening habits and book selection [59:36]
  • Why Stanley McChrystal personally attended battlefield operations [1:06:21]
  • Hopeless dilemmas and managing self-talk in high-pressure environments [1:14:31]
  • Who comes to mind when Chris Fussell thinks of “successful”? [1:20:21]
  • Common organizational misperceptions between civilians and military personnel [1:24:21]
  • Meditation practices [1:29:11]
  • The “Red Team” concept in the military [1:31:11]
  • What are good ways for the average citizens to practice military strategy? Games? Activities? [1:36:06]
  • Stanley McChrystal on chess vs. backgammon and the complexities of modern day leadership [1:38:51]
  • What surprised Stanley McChrystal about Yale University [1:41:21]
  • The story behind Team of Teams and modern leadership challenges [1:44:01]
  • Stanley McChrystal’s advice to his thirty-year old self [1:55:06]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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88 Replies to “General Stan McChrystal on Eating One Meal Per Day, Special Ops, and Mental Toughness (#86)”

  1. Just a suggestion: Any chance I can find the written versions of these podcasts? I seem to have more time reading than listening to podcasts 🙂

    1. Me too, I’d like to have the transcripts of these podcasts. Good examples of transcripts are the ones on Chris Kesser’s website (RHR)

      I’ve never listened to the Tim Ferriss’ Show even though the titles caught my attention many times! But I’d have read the transcripts.


    2. Hey! Great idea. Since you have more time, why don’t you transcribe a podcast episode or two first? Then share it with everyone for free.

    3. There’s a big button called ‘Click here to access the Transcripts’ directly above the ‘This Episode is sponsered by Atheletic Greens’.

      I’ve attached a screenshot:

      I just signed up. Not sure what happens after that!

      1. Ok, I should get the dust out of my eyes and try it 🙂 THANKS!

  2. Hey Tim! thank you for this ep. Very interesting, as always… I just thought It was hard to follow at the beginning. Specially if you have no knowledge about armies or combat and you are not a US-citizen. I’m colombian and I lose interest fast when something is about war, we are tired of it. But for the rest, I loved this episode. Keep doing them!

  3. Tim, I think it would be fantastic to include a tiny blurb with each conversation that you have that details how the conversation came about. I think people take great interest in how a conversation with people of such high standing positions (currently or formerly held) is obtained/organized.

    In other news, if you were serious about considering a search for a personal Aide-de-Camp, I’d love to talk with you about that.

    Maybe you could set up a test that people could participate in so that you might better find what you are looking for from that type of helper.

  4. If you’re seriously considering an Aide-de-Camp of your own, set up a test so that you can find the right one. I’ll gladly participate!

    1. from the same URL: Captain Thomas T. Craven was the chief driving force for converting the collier Jupiter into the first U.S. Navy carrier, Langley.

  5. Great interview. After listening, I got the book and got through half of it in a night. This is my favorite leadership book of the year.

  6. His book ‘Team of teams’ is excellent – I’m desperately trying to get my commanders to read it.

  7. The best leadership I’ve experienced is based on celebrating incompleteness. Although good leaders have to help other people reach their full potential, the most inspiring leaders that I’ve ever worked under recognize that they, themselves, are improved through collaboration.

    One great example is Mandeep Malik, a business professor at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. His teaching philosophy holds that his students are important allies that he must collaborate with to elevate the learning experience. From his teaching philosophy statement;

    “… it is my firm belief that students must come up with the solutions and know that they did; that they can. I know that I must, therefore, seize and create opportunities that add unexpected value to the learning experience, and make it memorable. Students reciprocate this faith by committing to more than just their classes, course deliverables, and exams.”

    Mandeep is a co-founder of Canada’s largest university marketing competition, Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec. Although he’s the faculty advisor for the program, it was, and is, entirely run by student volunteers, many of whom are now leaders in their respective fields.

  8. The one meal a day/fasting is really easy. If you keep this in mind:

    *What your body uses while fasting is what you ate the day before.

    That’s what was stored and is being recompositioned.

    Requires that you eat well the day before: High nutrient density. (Slow carb diet, for instance)

    *Keep in mind that the body’s ability for recompositioning is better than you think.

    *Blood sugar regulation during fasting is dependent on mitochondrial capacity, which is upregulated by it. Which is a good thing.

    It’s only difficult when you’re adapting to it. Or when you didn’t eat right the day before.

    Loved this interview. Thanks a lot Tim.

    It changed my perspective in one key way:

    Rather than ask myself “What do I want to learn?”, I tried replacing it with “Who do I want to learn from?” and “Who do I be more like?” (Who has qualities I want to develop or maintain) which yielded some pretty interesting answers.

    In short: Gave me a new question to ask myself which will lead to action rather than inaction.

    1. On your question:

      A good leader is someone who causes his subordinates or followers to take actions which have positive, constructive consequences for the world.

      Nothing else.

      No quality of the leader is objectively good or bad. His quality is measured by what he causes people to do.

    2. A key issue with fasting is that it can affect the adrenals. You feel energised at first then burn out. Best to start with a big eating window and ease it up for body to get used to it and do other things to manage adrenals. Some people get away with it more than others.

      1. Thanks for the reminder.

        I fell for a lot of the beginner’s mistakes initially: Using too much pure coffee to extend it to 16~ hours. But since starting SCD, i.e. getting higher nutrient density, and replacing the coffee with tea, it’s effortless.

        But still, it’s only a tool, utilized when necessary.

  9. Appreciated General McChrystal’s advice at 49:00 – 2 things to help individuals succeed. 1) Push themselves 2) Deal w/uncertainty.

    It seems our culture offers endless methods of distracting oneself into comfort. There are endless ways of achieving the illusion of certainty through creature comforts. I believe this seeking of “comfort” kills creativity and success – the General’s advice is a counter to this.

  10. What an amazing interview, it has given me a completely different view on the military being someone who supports none violence. looking forward to reading the book recommendations and also ensuring I have a large bag of pretzels before I start the one meal a regime.

    Not blue darts to fire this week!

    Thanks Tim!

  11. Very interesting interview, with another outside-the-(tech)box personality. The diversity of guests featured really helps keep things fresh, and is a distinguishing characteristic of the show. Keep it up!

    Tim, I also wanted to apologize for my rant/’gotcha’ following the Glenn Beck podcast. I tried to keep it balanced, but I’m not sure what good could come from airing out a random and meaningless beef in this forum. I’ve had other stream-of-consciousness comments that were well received here before, and I think my radar was down for what constitutes adding value versus just noise. That comment was mostly noise, and overstepped the boundaries on what is acceptable living-room conversation. Sort of like taking a sample of your homemade bean dip and then going off on a tangent to the other guests about how completely overrated garbanzo beans are. Validity aside (which is also debatable), its a dick move. My bad — won’t happen again. Thank you for all of your amazing, neverending content that consistently adds insane value to the community.

  12. Loved this podcas,t but then again there hasn’t been a bad one. Looking forward to listening to their book. This podcast reminded me of two great books, one, on business and teamwork, is The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack, and the other is In Search of the Warrior Spirit by Richard Strozzi-Heckler.

  13. Loved this podcast, but then again I haven’t heard an uninspiring one yet. Looking forward to listening to their book. This podcast reminded me of two books, one is The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack, and the other is In Search of the Warrior Spirit by Richard Strozzi-Heckler.

  14. Very interesting interview, with another A-list outside-the-(tech)box personality. The diversity of guests featured really helps keep things fresh, and is a distinguishing characteristic of the show. Keep it up!

    Tim, I also wanted to apologize for my rant/’gotcha’ following the Glenn Beck podcast. I tried to keep it balanced, but I’m not sure what good could come from airing out a random and meaningless beef in this forum. I’ve had other stream-of-consciousness comments that were well received here before, and think my radar was down for what constitutes adding value versus just noise. That comment was mostly noise, and overstepped the boundaries on what is acceptable ‘living-room’ conversation. Sort of like taking a sample of your homemade bean dip at a housewarming and then going off on a tangent to the other guests about how completely overrated garbanzo beans are. Validity aside (which is also debatable), it’s a dick move. My bad — won’t happen again. Thank you for all of your amazing content that consistently adds immense value to the community. The best on the web.

  15. Brilliant Podcast, one of the best so far.

    Amongst a few follow up questions, I was wondering…

    1) If Stan gets up at 4(!), how many ours sleep does he get a night as a rule?

    2) Stan’s morning workout sounded pretty intense. What food/liquids (if any) does he consume before or during?

    3) What sort of foods does he eat for his 1 meal a day?

    Love it Tim. Great stuff.

  16. Military has the funding so it is powerful. But it really lacks in tactical decisions. Many argue a real mess was made in the Iraq war, assuming that people after would just set up a democracy and be happy ever after. It ended up making the world more unstable. Inspired terrorists etc. The whole reason that was declared for the war, that they had weapons of mass destruction, was false, and even (it seems) fabricated. So this all acts as fuel when recruiting people into IS. And now they take out the leaders of IS. This I think is not achieving much as there are endless leader types ready to take their place. You can have an incredible well funded team behind you, but if they make the wrong decisions. Each new type of war is different, we cannot look to wars of the past as templates. We must question our assumptions and ask list every type of detail and see what is different.

  17. Wow! what an unexpected surprise. Great interview! Love your choice of ‘invited speakers’. Would love to hear the author Bill Bryson once, if possible, and Dr. Attia again.

  18. Tim-

    When you were at the Defense Language School, were you in the military?

    If not, have you ever considered serving? Why or why not?

  19. Thank you for this compelling interview. Very well done and I look forward to reading his memoir as well as his new book. He is a fascinating leader.

  20. Tim, great interview that I will be sharing with others. It is interesting how we typically hear about generals or CEOs of organizations while lower ranking members of organizations don’t seem to get the same spotlight, yet form the backbone of any organization. They are the ones at the end of the day who must execute on the plans and directions that are given to them. I believe success is highly correlated to execution. I would love to hear more from these men and women on how to lead from where you are at, no matter what level of an organization (leading both up and down the organization). An example would be Tom Spooner, a former Special Forces and Delta Force operator. I have read/heard him speak very eloquently about his time in elite units of the military, transitioning from the military to civilian life, PTSD, and TBI (traumatic brain injury). I think he would be a great interview for you and your listeners.

  21. DUDE. Great show. I also share your enthusiasm for applying special ops & high level military tactics to business and life. Well done!

  22. Dear Tim,

    Thank you for the fantastic content. I have been a long time fan of your books, podcast and most recently, your TV show. Your insights and work have improved the quality of my life and that of my friend’s lives. For that I’m immensely grateful.

    If I could make one very humble suggestion for your podcast please. I think the standard questions you ask at the end of the interview are incredibly useful and well thought out. I have taken many of the book and documentary recommendations from those very questions at the end of your podcast.

    However, particularly for the question: “Advice to your 30yr old self” and “Who do you think about when you think about success” perhaps these two questions might yield more insightful or interesting responses if the guests were allowed to see them in advance. This would give him or her time to come up with a more discerning answer.

    Anyway, I thought about this while listening after to the McChrystal interview as he seemed a little bit pressured to come up with an answer on the spot.

    In closing, thank you again for consistently putting out FANTASTIC content and thank you for sharing your insights with us Tim.

    Sincerely yours and very very grateful,

    – Diego Fuentes

  23. Tim – in all the podcasts you invite people to offers suggestions for future casts. I’m sure it has already crossed your mind but Neal Stepheson would be an awesome subject. In one of them you mentioned Snow Crash which has clearly become a classic but I also found in interesting that one of your guys mentioned Diamond Age in regard to the educational project getting modern technology in the hands of African kids. Also interesting was that Neal mentioned Planetary Resources as inspiration and research for Seven Eves.

  24. Tim-

    Nice interview. I thought your voice reveled a great deal of respect and sense of learning (something a bit different) – this is consistent with my thoughts. Thanks for putting it together – always enjoy listening.

  25. Hi Tim – I’m particularly enjoying the ‘beyond my day-to-day’ interviews you’re doing – Beck, Schwarzenegger, McChrystal, etc. Regardless of political inclination or views on the military, there’s so much that is fascinating and to learn from each that might otherwise never cross between ideological silos. Thanks! That’s all… -Robin

  26. Brilliant podcast Tim – so well done. I have been a huge fan of your podcasts for some time now, and this was hands down my favorite one yet.


  27. Three things, to me, make a good leader. Respect, Integrity and..Manners. When people in the military write books about life suggestions, I wonder why they didn’t honor their oath of service? Such as protecting our constitution, instead go going to war whenever there is a “resolution’. McCrystals one of the good ones, but we have lost our way in America.

    You can’t say you have integrity, then order, or support, bombing neighborhoods of civilians,,sorry, doesn’t cut it. You don’t sit by and just shake your head and do nothing, about the NSA revelations. And why are we still taxing waitresses on their tips?

    We could make this country really work, if we all embraced the above three principles.

  28. This was one of my favorite’s so far! I think that the leadership ideals that were presented are something that can serve anyone in whatever endeavor they choose to pursue. Loved it!

  29. Tim since you’re such an avid reader you should have read Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars” before you interviewed McChrystal. He is by far the most key actor in a period of time that institutionalized torture, murder (for the first time US citizens without due process) and much more. Yes he is a fantastic leader but it would be interesting to explore how he feels about the complete abdication of respect for the constitution that he did with JSOC. It’s really hard to police the world when the “good guys” are committing atrocities on a similar scope and scale as the “bad guys.” I implore you to look into JSOC a lot more. I love your work and you have done so much good out there. This one is a mis fire under the guise of super high production and leadership. The question is: what if that level of efficiency is applied to torture and rendition? it could be scary and it was (is still going on). One thing to have asked him about was the official list of US persons that are ok to be murdered without due process. This is a thing and it exists because of McChrystal. I don’t want to highjack the thread any more but it had to be said. Keep up the good work and please look into this some more – you will be shocked.

  30. Kenneth Whiting became known as the “Father of the aircraft carrier” for his pioneering work after WWI.

  31. Tim – granted, this podcast was more about the mindset of a different type of leader. Super valuable. But, I wish Gen. McChrystal would’ve dug deeper into the mental toll leaders face who are calling the shots — but are far removed from actual combat. I spent a few weeks filming a Vietnam veteran returning back to the country for the first time since war. A country and people he feared for over forty years due to PTSD. Long story short, it was remarkable how much peace came of our journey and now witnessed in our film. But, our conversation while in country always came back to the leaders who were calling out the hills. Leaders that lost sight of a the young life of combat veterans, but rather saw numbers and hills. Tim, the veteran, came to know his commander Griz (man up in the chopper). He found out that Griz never wanted to know what his men were going through as it was too tough to handle. Same for Gen. McChrystal?

    Regardless, thoroughly enjoyed listening to these two guys. So much reverence for their service and training. Thank you for what you do, brother! – Neal

  32. Great interview Tim! What Chirs Fussell described with re distributed networks our maneuvering large bureaucratic companies is playing out right before our eyes – they are being disrupted into irrelevance by this new way of competing through networks. IT is pushing this faster then most are ready for and they are struggling to adapt.

  33. So much homework! I love it. Thank you. 🙂 .

    What makes a good leader –


    Leading by example (getting in the trenches as the boys said)

    Being tough but fair.

    Available / accessible when required.

    Good Communication skills – they can share the vision and the why behind the request.

    Appreciative and have the ability to recognise and reward good work.


    Being Present

    Empathetic & Caring

    Quick decision makers


    Mentally stable (especially under pressure)



    They back/defend their team when required.


    Who exemplifies those qualities?

    I’ve had a number of bosses who have both shown and lacked these qualities.

    My Dad

    Tim Ferriss 

    David Wood

    This guy – How to start a movement –

    Tony Robbins


    Scott Dinsmore – Live Your Legend

    Sebastien Terry – 100 Things

    Mike Dooley – Notes from the Universe

    1. I am familiar with Mike Dooley and find his notes can uplift and inspire which makes for leading in spirit . I also like Eckhart Tolle” A New Earth,” Power of Now” which help one recognize that we are part of a universal consciousness which is important for those who lead to recognize and help all of us live beyond EGO and Love one another. Namaste

  34. Hey Tim, love the podcast and the Tim Ferriss Experiment! Just wanted to let you know that your Athletic Greens offer page opts people into a paid monthly “loyalty subscription” plan in a pretty scammy way. I ordered one pack via your discount page for $48.50 last month for an upcoming trip, which they sent and everything seemed fine…. but then a few days ago I was surprised to get a shipment confirmation email that said they were sending another pack and had automatically charged me $97 for it.

    I replied immediately, assuming it was just a mistake, but they said it was in the terms of service when I placed my order, and that it was too late to cancel the second shipment but if I wanted to cancel the subscription before next month’s shipment to avoid getting charged a third time I could call their 800 number.

    I assume you didn’t already know about this so I wanted to give you a heads-up that they’re (mis)using your endorsement IMO.

    Thanks for all your great work!

  35. Thank you for this great podcast. Chris Fussell talked about how people need to read and learn about the country they are deployed or visiting. So on target! I grew up in a Mediterranean city where there is NATO and American military base. I witnessed some American soldiers’ displaying obnoxious behaviors and getting negative reaction from the locals. Not all of them were like that, but those bad apples did enough to give bad name to the rest. It is important to respect the culture of the country you are visiting. In other words, don’t be an a-hole when you go to another country, especially if you are not wanted there.

    “In your opinion, what makes a good leader, and who exemplifies those qualities?” In my personal experience and knowledge, people confuse being a leader with being a boss. Controlling, loud people like to think of themselves as leaders rather than admitting that they are just control freaks who need constant attention. What makes a good leader:

    – Leaders encourage and inspire everyone around them. This comes naturally. They don’t create a fake image.

    -Leaders pioneer people. They take brave decisions. Therefore, they are not always popular.

    – Leaders are approachable, personable people. They listen to others and take their ideas into consideration, but they are firm when they make a decision.

    – As the famous saying goes “Leaders aren’t born. They are made.” They usually have tough childhoods. All the hardships in life prepares them to be decisive adults. Even though they are people oriented, they need their solitude sometimes to recharge.

    The best ones have an unconventional mind that doesn’t respect the public opinion. They can see an argument from all angles. My father was a real leader for me and everyone around when I was growing up. His mind was 100 years ahead of his time. His soul purpose in life was exploring, learning and educating.

    Leaders work to move the society forward. They aren’t after only personal profit. They are natural teachers. I must say, Tim Ferriss, you are a leader too. You have all the qualities of a leader.

    I hope this comment wasn’t too long. I swear, I tried hard to cut it short. 😛 Thanks for all the Periscope meetings and other quality stuff.

    All the best. xx

    1. By tough childhood, I meant people who weren’t given everything on a silver plate. President Obama is a great example actually. He made it to the top out of nowhere. His life story is very inspirational. He is made to be a leader. Labels and status don’t make someone a leader. As we know from the history, when people are given high status responsibilities without leadership skills, they cause irreparable damages.

  36. And yet again, another winner. I thought your respect level to these guests in your careful use of polite language, pauses, etc was again a sign of who you are. Thank you.

  37. My best experience of leadership involved sacrifice.

    My current department boss came into a situation where people were demoralized and scattered, and he worked like a dog to turn that around. He protected us from unreasonable requests from other departments. He worked nights and weekends so we didn’t have to. In two years, he turned us completely around, and working here is very low-stress and pleasant now, plus the work gets down way better than it used to.

    That’s probably why there isn’t a lot of good leadership out there in the world – good leaders don’t sit and enjoy their privileges, as tempting as that can be. We may have authority, but authority doesn’t make us leaders all by itself. Leaders sacrifice themselves for the sake of the people they lead.

  38. Hi Tim and Folks,

    Another thought provoking podcast.

    Especially dealing with the ‘No Win Scenario’

    I don’t know how you didn’t mention the “Kobayashi Maru” scenario from Star Trek 😉

    Any suggestions on other excellent reading on dealing with No Win Scenarios in corporate settings?? Particularly in a way that helps you not get fired when you know there will be significant ‘casualties’??



  39. GREAT, great podcast. Your best, in my opinion. I vote for round 2 – have them back. Planning on listening to this segment again and buying Team of Teams. Also using the learning from this segment to potentially springboard into a career change. Thank you.

  40. Tim, another great podcast. Of all the people you’ve interviewed, I was dying to hear their answers to the “punchable” question! I was sure two warriors would give an answer to that one! Very interesting insight into the world of the military that as civilians we really know little about. I look forward to the next episode.

    One other question – what equipment do you use to record these interviews? The sound quality is quite good.

  41. GREAT SHOW, listened to it all! Now that they are civilians, I would love to ask these two “deep insiders” of the armed forces two questions: 1) I am a USA citizen living in Thailand where we had a coup last year, so I need to ask, in their opinion, would a MILITARY COUP ever be possible in America, and if so, under what type of circumstance? Or, if not, why not? And 2) They mention the different teams and task forces operating within the military. What if some of these teams/units differed as to the prime goal in an emergency situation wherein they were given a directive in direct opposition to some of their countrymen — or even local police — inside their own country? I wonder if there is much planning about this and if they have Red-Teamed it. In my mind, this is about the scariest scenario one could think of: the federal military fighting against your own countrymen. Might not be as far-fetched as we once thought.

  42. Shame there was no discussion of the role that US foreign policy has played in America’s almost constant state of war; the role that the control of resources like oil plays; the fact that the second war in Iraq was completely unjustified; the absurdity of the concept of spreading American style ‘democracy’ to other parts of the world. Then again if you’d brought any of that up I’m sure they wouldn’t have appeared on the show. As Major General Smedley Butler said “War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives”.

  43. Great episode, but I felt that a lot was unexplored. The whole thing about a large correlation between “success” and “being in trouble” is a complex correlative narrative worthy of further depth in discussion. I suspect Stan got into West Point based on his father’s connections and career–and therefore wasn’t “Good and math or science” trope would have been impossible for your standard low middle class applicant with no connections.

    In the same argument, people form privileged backgrounds (not middle or lower-middle-class) are less likely to get in trouble for the hell of it, because we come from backgrounds where that isn’t humored or tolerated–we’re hammered for it, relentlessly. A lower middle class guy who works his ass off to get into a service academy with good grades may be not so cavalier about getting in trouble his first two years there…

    So, his TAC Major who said “you’ll do great” was really reading into the fact that his dad was a general and he was well liked. In other words, a well connected guy who was already part of the establishment.

    I went to a service academy and didn’t get in trouble but it wasn’t because I drank the Kool Aide or didn’t care, it was because I knew I wouldn’t be bailed out, as none of my family was vis-à-vis the “System.”

    1. His wifes father is also a General I think. He married well which is a good strategy for success. ( I am not knocking the guy at all.)

  44. Hi Tim,

    In your podcasts I see you always as there morning rituals. would also love to know there night time rituals, ie what time do they sleep , how many hours of sleep, do they review the day, do they do planning, do they ask their subconscious brain to think about something in their sleep etc.

  45. Don’t eat just one meal a day if you’ve had gastrointestinal bleeding in the past without first talking to your doctor. Particularly if your on certain medications like anti inflammatories. It could kill you, and you will die vomiting yourself inside out.

  46. Thanks for interviewing Stan McChrystal. I served with him while we were both Army Captains and attending the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Ft Benning about 35 years ago. I was actually his squad leader at that time. He was obviously the most successful officer from our class.

  47. Every podcast, I say “I’m going to write Tim and tell him this is my favorite ever!”. Everyone can’t be your favorite can it? This one, however, has been life changing. I work in a type of leadership consulting and former General McChrystals thoughts on teams and leadership is amazing. Thanks so much Tim and keep up the awesome work. Your the best!

  48. I thought this was an incredibly informative and relevant interview. Listening to these two servicemen describe how they navigated through a rapidly changing environment and were successful could not be more helpful to me at this particular point in my career. I have a question for them and/or Tim – Do you think that you can inspire a culture of adaptability and rapid, flexible action from the bottom up? Or is this kind of culture that has to be led from the highest level of management? Would love a follow up with Gen. McChrystal at some point in the future.

  49. Tim,

    The insight from General McChrystal and Chris Fussell was awesome! The variety of guests you are able to spotlight is refreshing and exciting. I’m never sure what will happen next! being able to peer “behind the curtain” with these two was very informative.

    How are you planning to zero in on an ADC? The opportunity and challenge to impact others really resonated with me.

  50. Moffet was a buddy of the president and only after the Navy reluctantly admitted that battleships might be vulnerable to air attacks did they have him start building aircraft carriers. It was Billy Mitchell who shocked and awed the Navy and the Secretary of War into admitting this by his demo of 1 plane sinking some mothballed captured warships. McCrystal definitely was referring to Billy Mitchell because Mitchell was a maverick who was eventually demoted and court-martialed for his very innovative thinking.

    I’m glad Mr. Ferriss asked about meditation. (Intense exercise and yoga was their meditation.) Perhaps asking guests how they clear their minds (become focused / absorbed, used altered states, etc) in order to be open to new ideas & thoughts would be a more general, open, and useful question

  51. Billy Mitchell proposed “floating landing strips” outside of the Navy’s purview. Moffet just made it Navy (after they reluctantly admitted Mitchell’s demos showed that batleships were vulnerable to planes at 1/1000th the cost.) Mitchell was demoted and court-martialed for being a maverick

  52. with the threat of ISIS I think we need a military man as President. some one who can take charge and handle the agression america will see in the coming years. I think Gen. Stan McCrystal could be that man

  53. The episode was a great reminder as to the intricacy of the military organisation, and how values – and human behavioural psychology – sit right at the core.

    Thanks Tim.

  54. Audiobooks & Podcasts for Optimal Living.

    It was lovely validation this morning to hear that General McChrystal uses audiobooks in a very similar way to me: for “reading” without making time for it, like when he’s already doing something (bathroom, gym, etc.) I would add podcasts (no 1. right now is yours, Tim!) to the list. But more interesting perhaps is to add audio-lessons too. I took a job in Nicaragua recently and needed to learn Spanish, so I downloaded a free podcast (Coffee Break Spanish) and learned the language in six weeks, while cycling or walking to meetings, showering, etc. – that is, I learned a new skill without giving a single minute of my time to the challenge.

    Tip: Good, loud Bluetooth speakers are well worth $100. That way you can use your earphones in public places, office, etc. and your speakers in the kitchen, steamy bathroom, etc. Then you can keep all your audio content on your mobile and just change audio output device when you move from one scenario to the next.

  55. How can we apply General Stan McChrystal’s Team of Teams approach to deconstruct the Silos of public education?

  56. 1. This interview changed my perspective on the army a little. Few days ago we had the Warsaw Uprising Anniversary, so I heard the sirens as I was listening to the podcast. So I thought of course “I am SO AGAINST wars!”, “I wouldn’t allow anybody from my family go and fight!” and so on…But then I thouht about an evolutionary perspective. If we have a mechanism that makes us go and search for territory and power, and – on the other hand -defend our land, territory, belongings etc., then maybe we should, as a culture, have the army as a structure, that makes it possible to somehow organise the possible outcomes of this mechanism (f.ex. agression). The problem is that the army means more power, so here comes the danger that it enhances the mechanism it was supossed to civilize, to “calm down” (I’m not sure I’m making myself clear in English, forgive me).

    2. I came up with several questions while listening to this interview, so did other listeners I suppose. The problem is not that you don’t ask the questions I would like to ask 🙂 The thing is, as Laura D. pointed out already (, that you don’t follow your interlocutors, you follow your questions-to-ask-list. Some interesting things came up (like the role of women!!!), obviously important to ones you talked to, and obviously ignored by you. As you often point out your questions are self-interested, so by asking them you are getting better at things you are already good at, but unfortunately some interesting issues get lost.

  57. Had me feverently wishing that all Silicon Valley billionaires – in fact, all billionaires, really – be sent on a tour of duty in Afghanistan to learn the humility they can’t seem to find on Necker Island.

  58. Tim, First of all, your podcast interviews are top notch (ex: Laird Hamilton, Glenn Beck, Sam Harris etc…). As such, I was expecting another excellent interview with General McCrystal, however you never brought up the “elephant in the room”; ie even when he mentioned tangentially the “Rolling Stone article”, it appeared that you didn’t hear it (did you guys have some agreement ahead of time to avoid this topic?). Anyway, it was very disspointing in that since your… goal is to deconstruct / dig deep into high achieving people and since we all learn from our mistakes, then why in the world would you not bring up Michael Hasting’s article / book? Many have read Hasting’s book, which seemed even handed, but perhaps it was hugely biased. This would have been an excellent opportunity to hear from Gen McCrystal his side of the story. This situation is akin to interviewing Gen Petraues without discussing his forced retirement related to the scandal involving his biographer etc… In that you are super well read, I have to assume that you were well aware of the “downfall” of Stan McCrystal, and such I’m… disappointed that you didn’t bring up this important area of discussion. With that being said, continue with the excellent work / service you’re providing for all of us.

  59. This interview was amazing…I’ve listened to it several times.

    If you want to hear another interview with Chris Fussell, search for The Construction Leading Edge podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, and find episode 32.

  60. The Officer in question is Billy Mitchell, a champion of Air Power who was with the Army Air Corp. The B-25 Mitchell, twin engine bomber, used during WWII was named for him. Copy and pasting a section from Wikipedia.

    William “Billy” Mitchell (December 29, 1879 – February 19, 1936) was a United States Army general who is regarded as the father of the United States Air Force.[1]

    Mitchell served in France during World War I and, by the conflict’s end, commanded all American air combat units in that country. After the war, he was appointed deputy director of the Air Service and began advocating increased investment in air power, believing that this would prove vital in future wars. He argued particularly for the ability of bombers to sink battleships and organized a series of bombing runs against stationary ships designed to test the idea. The tests, conducted off Cape Hatteras resulted in the sinking of the obsolete USS Iowa, and 4 WWI German Battleships.

    He antagonized many people in the Army with his arguments and criticism and, in 1925, was returned from appointment as a brigadier general to his permanent rank of Colonel. Later that year, he was court-martialed for insubordination after accusing Army and Navy leaders of an “almost treasonable administration of the national defense”[2] for investing in battleships instead of aircraft carriers. He resigned from the service shortly afterward.

    Mitchell received many honors following his death, including a commission by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a Major General. He is also the only individual after whom a type of American military aircraft, the North American B-25 Mitchell, is named. B-25 Mitchells were used in the WWII Raid on Toko by General James Doolittle.

  61. HAHAHAH. 34 years in uniform and not ONE day in actual combat at squad platoon company or battalion level. Yet he has every badge the army has to offer. Give it a rest McChrystal. You are as fake as they come with that ring knocking ego of yours.

  62. Good site. I always get inspired to do better and beore disciplined. Both hood men. Thank you for what you both do.