All attacks happen at the same time: Now.
If you intend to meet the attack, you must be there mentally, not just physically. Readiness exists only when both mind and body are prepared. Walking into the campaign event with the Governor and his wife, you overhear snippets of their intense conversation. It seems he’s forgotten something; no, she’s forgotten it. She’s sorry, she needs it, left it behind, on the sink, in the suite, nobody’s fault. The Governor turns to you and says, “Hey, do me a favor: During dinner, ask somebody to get Elaine’s makeup case from the suite. Just be sure somebody grabs it and gets it to the car before we go. Thanks.”
An innocent-seeming request, but the Governor has just given you a mental virus. Because of this bug, everything in the Now will become a distraction from Operation Makeup Case. More importantly, Operation Makeup Case will become a distraction from the Now. You imagine pulling up to the airport in two hours and realizing you forgot the makeup case. You imagine the Governor judging your entire worth on the basis of this one oversight, saying, or at least thinking, “The guy can’t even remember the simplest thing!” All the while, as you stand near the elevated platform where the Governor and his wife are sitting down to pretend they’re having dinner, your mind is fighting with itself— and losing: “Isn’t that the same guy who made the big disturbance at that rally, the guy who wouldn’t let go of the Governor’s arm? Keep an eye on him. Hard to imagine he’s got the money to buy a ticket for this reception.
Does it look like he’s here alone, or with someone? Makeup case, makeup case, makeup case. He seems to be keeping his distance; he’s joining people at that table. Good time to radio somebody to call the front desk. No, better not rely on anyone with the hotel; I’ll send one of our guys up to the suite. He’ll have to get a key. That is the same guy, something about the Governor invading his privacy via computer. I knew we’d see him again.
Who can I spare to go to the suite? I’d hate to take Steve off the car. What if we have to leave early? I’ll ask Anne. No, she may think I chose her because she’s a woman. He’s up from his table… headed this way? No, toward the back, maybe the bathroom or something. Makeup case, makeup case. My wife carries her makeup in her purse; she doesn’t need a whole case. It sounds so professional: makeup case. I guess being the Governor’s wife is a sort of a profession. He’s coming this way. No, it’s not the same guy — unless he’s gained weight. OK, Steve goes to the suite, hands me the car keys as he passes by so I can drive if it comes to that. Anne can stay on post. Steve can take the makeup case right to the car. I could ask one of the staffers, but the last time I asked Bradford for something, he said, ‘Hey I’m doing my job — I’m here to meet people.’ Well, I’m here to meet people too, the kind of people who can cause serious problems, the kind Bradford wouldn’t want to handle. Where did that guy disappear to? Makeup case, makeup case. Where’s that guy? Oh shit, that’s him grabbing the Governor’s shoulder right now. I wish I’d…” “I wish I’d…” are three words you never want in a protection story.
Since peripheral assignments like this derail our focus, one solution is to handle them immediately, and then get back to the Now as soon as possible, but even after the makeup case is handled, that hardly solves the other 60,000 distractions a day we create on our own.
You see, your mind, like everyone else’s, doesn’t care what it’s chewing on — as long as it’s chewing. The mind doesn’t need the Governor to distract you. Threat case or makeup case, it’s all the same. The mind is built to pose and answer questions, to tell and re-tell stories, to explain things, to figure them out, to divide them, to put them in categories, to turn them over, to compare them, to grind everything down to its smallest particle, to attach each experience to a memory, to draw some conclusion, to treat irrelevant, unconnected facts as if they are great clues, and then use the manufactured clues to solve mysteries, as if they are great mysteries. The undisciplined mind is a constant assembly line that painstakingly produces thousands of useless gadgets every hour, and only rarely puts together something of value.
Come to Your Senses
When a protector is lost in thought he is literally lost to the present moment. To be there in space is one thing, but to be there in time is the main thing. To be present means to be pre-sent, to already be there when it happens. Since the nature of the mind is to wander, it must somehow be coaxed into the current moment, tamed specifically for protective work.
The big question, perhaps the biggest question in protection, perhaps the biggest challenge in any important endeavour is How to stay in the present moment. The answers: Commitment, physical readiness, conditioning of the mind, and practice at seeing each new event as really new. This will all require freedom from craving.
Few things remove a person from the present moment as completely as craving. Imagine a smoker on a protective assignment, three hours since his last cigarette. The space between every relevant perception is quickly filled by the urge to have a cigarette. All day, he is riding the addiction roller coaster, chugging his way up the steep track toward satisfaction, thinking of little but reaching the top, perhaps getting a cigarette and then rolling downward into the next valley, a valley in which he’ll predictably slow to a chug as he climbs up the next steep track. Craving, imagining, planning, anticipating, attaining, satisfaction, and then a brief moment of freedom from craving — till the cycle starts again, and then again.
A note from Gavin de Becker: Some readers might already be aware that our firm deploys a nicotine-free workforce. That doesn’t mean simply no smoking at work. It means no smoking or other tobacco use at any time. Every employee in our firm is nicotine-free, 24 hours a day, and we have random urinalysis to ensure it. Years ago when I made that decision there was some controversy. I took a fair amount of criticism: Was I trying to control the off-duty lives of our protectors? Did my firm have the legal right to disqualify applicants who used tobacco? Etc.
We learned that some military sniper units had made the same decision about nicotine use because (among other reasons) snipers might be positioned at concealed locations for hours and must be careful not to reveal their location through lighting a match, for example. And even with the stakes involved, do you know what many addicted smokers do when in concealed sniper positions for hours? They light the match. Of course. They have no choice. A highly stressful situation is hardly the ideal circumstance to quit a powerful addiction. And if they resist the cravings, what happens to precision and accuracy after a few hours without nicotine? Let’s just say it’s not improved: hands shaking, blurred vision, inability to concentrate, looking for any opportunity to take a break and get a cigarette — all things that distance the smoker from our goal of being present.
So when I was facing this decision I thought: Can I really look at our clients — who trust us to protect their safety and to protect their children — and say: “We are completely committed to your safety, except for this one thing: We assign people who are either withdrawing from or dosing themselves with a consciousness-changing chemical, hour-by-hour, all day, every day — and they’ll often be thinking of ways to fulfill their cravings rather than thinking of being in the right place at the right time.”
When people asked if I was trying to control the off-duty lives of our associates, I replied Yes — and not just trying. I was ensuring it through testing. There are many policies and requirements that influence the off duty behavior of professionals: You can’t smoke pot or have a few beers an hour before work. A pilot can’t arrive at work drunk or exhausted and expect everyone to accept the off-duty choices that left him in that condition. You cant pass our Physical Fitness and Readiness test each year unless you dedicate some of your off-hours time to exercise. Professional readiness requires a full commitment, period.
Imagine you owned a race car. You certainly wouldn’t let someone pour anything in the fuel tank that would detract from peak engine performance. Now carry that thought to a biological example: Imagine you own a champion racehorse. You wouldn’t give it nicotine. I’ve been told we’re the only protection operation on earth that maintains a nicotine-free workforce — I don’t know, but I hope it’s not true.
People crave ingestibles other than nicotine, of course. Depending upon a protector’s habits, addictions, metabolism, nutrition, and peace of mind, he might crave sugar, coffee, chocolate, or even food itself. It’s obvious that to do their best work protectors must be in excellent physical condition, so obvious that it’s taken for granted in these pages that serious protectors will be in excellent physical condition. However, a person can appear to be in excellent physical condition, and yet still be a slave to cravings. The concepts we’re about to explore might well be the most important in protective work, and they require the willingness to condition the mind through practice.
Among other things, this means avoiding the trampoline-like effect of cravings. Sugar is the prime example of something that provides a bounce, a brief moment that feels like flight, then the rapid and weighty descent to the canvas, and then what feels like low energy, followed by the belief that sugar is needed again to keep going. We said what feels like low energy because, in fact, you have all the energy you need, Snickers bar or no Snickers bar.
What will help most people to have ready access to their energy is a lifestyle and dietary change involving several smaller meals (as opposed to two or three big ones), and choosing snack foods that metabolize more slowly than sugar. This is made quite difficult by the fact that nearly every snack that’s conveniently available is a form of sugar.
You feel hungry and want to grab something in a hurry. At most populated places throughout the world, you can find — usually within a hundred yards of where you’re standing — someone selling some form of sugar. Think about this: Walk a hundred yards in any direction, into any hotel, gas station, convenience store, pharmacy, even health food store — and you’re likely to find a wide selection of small doses of sugar, offered in a variety of forms, textures, and flavours, with varying levels of deceit in the packaging. You’ll also find cigarettes and caffeine just as easily, 24-hours a day, and virtually always within a hundred yards. Why? Because millions of people are addicted to these chemicals. For the purposes of protective work, addiction is defined as any habit that leads to craving. Craving is any strong or uncontrollable desire, any persistent tug on your attention that can be stopped only through feeding it, and even then the cessation is temporary.
Nicotine, sugar, and caffeine are three popular products people crave — but what the body actually seeks is nutrition. Accordingly, all intelligent logistical plans by security professionals will include opportunities to eat, and access to foods that don’t inspire cravings. On this planet, that just about certainly means protective teams will have to bring along some of their own food: otherwise, the only thing you’ll be able to find quickly will be sugar. Lest we sound preachy, we certainly don’t pretend to have mastered the nutritional plan that perfectly matches the realities of protective assignments We’re always working to crack this nut, so to speak (and speaking of nuts, they are part of the solution because they are metabolized more slowly than sugar) This isn’t a book about nutrition, of course, and all we’re intending here is to give you the goal: to be free of craving, because it undermines (you could say under-minds) a protector’s ability to be present for the mission. If we go one level deeper into the subject of craving, we see that craving is not actually linked to hunger at all. As one quickly learns when fasting, even if for just 24 hours, the craving for food that we initially think will worsen to the unbearable point actually passes entirely after a while.
During a fast, you might think, “I have to eat right away,” and then you see that 3, 5,10,15 hours later you still haven’t eaten and yet you’re just fine. This shows that craving is in the mind, not the stomach; craving and hunger are much different things. The experience of fasting for 24 hours is a profoundly valuable one for protectors because once you know that you can go ten or fifteen hours without even a snack, waiting an hour or two till the next break becomes far easier. Above all, you know your body is fine and that the challenge is in the mind only. (There is a body issue in fasting, however: Drink plenty of water.).
So, we’ve seen that craving is in the mind and not the body, and we’ve seen that craving is destructive to effective protection because it takes the protector out of the present moment. From here, we can go still one level deeper and see that more than just keeping you from being present in the moment, craving is a symptom, a signal that you are already not present. You’d never crave a Snickers bar while in a free-fall skydive, or while scuba-diving with sharks, or immediately after hearing what you think is a gunshot. Being fully present in the moment and craving never go together. Thus, at the instant you become aware of a craving, you’re simultaneous being made aware that you are not fully present. If you use craving in this way (instead of allowing it to use you), craving is a superb and reliable reminder to wake up and come back to the present. And the instant you are fully engaged in the present, the craving stops! Assuming freedom from craving, or wise use of craving, the following concepts can now be applied: In the TAD exercise, a protector is told that an attack will come within 30 seconds, making pure and complete focus somewhat easy. But in actual protective assignments, each of us must keep our mind at bay for hours and hours. To keep something “at bay” means to keep it protected from the sea, to keep it anchored. What’s tugging on that anchor? The same thing that tugs on all anchors: The constant moving of the water. The mind is a surging ocean of thought-waves, most of them irrelevant to the mission at hand. Unless we give the mind a specific task, such as Design That Building, or Total Up That Column of Numbers, or Find Those Car Keys, we’re usually treading water in a sea of constant distractions.
With the mind at bay, your attention can move from Now to Now, releasing each moment almost instantaneously so that the next can be perceived. In protective work (and in life), the rewards come when each past moment is allowed to expire gracefully, without resistance, so the current moment can live fully. Remaining in the Now means, in effect, that you lose your mind and come to your senses. Then you can perceive what is going on around you. Our thoughts sometimes become scattered all over the mental field, and to direct them toward a single goal, we must collect them. The protector’s mission needs to be constantly remembered, recollected, in the most literal meaning of the word.
In order to avoid problems like Operation Makeup Case, our firm seeks to remove logistical responsibilities from those assigned to close protective coverage when possible. Contrary to a practice applied by some in the field, we do not automatically assign the Detail Leader to close protection, because we want our close protectors free of the need to deal with logistics and planning We want them actively looking into each fraction of a second to see what it contains — and we don’t want them thinking too much about the future. In fact, we don’t want them thinking too much at all.
How To Stay Present On Task
(An extract taken from the beginning of Chapter Three of the best selling book Just 2 Seconds)
By: Gavin de Becker, Tom Taylor and Jeff Marquart
Gavin de Becker is the founder of a 200-person firm that provides consultation, protective services, and logistical support to many of the world’s most prominent figures in media, politics, and culture. A two-time Presidential Appointee at the U.S. Department of Justice, he is currently a Senior Fellow at UCLA’s School of Public Policy. Mr. de Becker designed the MOSAIC systems used to screen threats to Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, CIA officials, Members of Congress, and the Governors of twelve states. He has appeared many times on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, the Today Show, 60 Minutes, and in TIME and Newsweek. His bestselling books on violence are published in 14 languages.
Thomas Taylor worked on protection teams for four governors while with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. In 1989, he was selected to be Commander of the Governor’s Security Division, a position he held until 1997. He served two terms as president of the National Governor’s Security Association (NGSA). Mr. Taylor has worked senior positions in protective operations for the Pope, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, and every U.S. President since Gerald Ford. Author of two previous books on protection, he is now Special Projects Advisor with Gavin de Becker & Associates.
Jeff Marquart is Executive Vice-President of Gavin de Becker and Associates, directing all service divisions of the firm. For the past 15 years, he has developed protective security strategies and supervised security operations for many of the world’s most famous people, including four of the five Americans considered most at-risk in 2007. Mr. Marquart has managed protective assignments in more than 40 countries, and currently oversees more than a half-million.