Chris Kolenda, founder of SLA, helps principled business owners who want to drive their growth at the right time, with the right team, in the right way.

Six paratroopers from my unit in Afghanistan were killed in action. They served and sacrificed so that Americans could pursue their dreams in peace and safety. Each one died executing the orders that I gave them.

Their stories are frozen in time. Their legacies, however, live.

The Fallen Hero Honor Ride is a 1700-mile bicycle ride to visit their graves and raise funds for scholarship endowments in their names so that their legacies continue to help Americans achieve their dreams.

Six paratroopers from my unit in Afghanistan were killed in action. They served and sacrificed so that Americans could pursue their dreams in peace and safety. Each one died executing the orders that I gave them.

Their stories are frozen in time. Their legacies, however, live.

The Fallen Hero Honor Ride is a 1700-mile bicycle ride to visit their graves and raise funds for scholarship endowments in their names so that their legacies continue to help Americans achieve their dreams.I’ll begin the ride in Spalding, Nebraska, where Chris Pfeifer is buried, and proceed through Carroll, Iowa, to visit Adrian Hike’s final resting place and Elwood, Illinois, to see Jacob Lowell’s grave. The route turns south to Hall, Indiana, to see Ryan Fritsche’s site and Minersville, Pennsylvania, where Dave Boris is buried. The ride concludes at gravesite 8755, section 60, Arlington National Cemetery, where Tom Bostick rests in peace.

You can learn more about their stories here.

My goal is to raise $400,000 so that the endowments last in perpetuity.

There are many ways you can support the Fallen Hero Honor Ride. The Saber Six Foundation is a 501c3 tax-exempt public charity, so your donations are tax-deductible.
1. Donate online.
2. Donate by check to The Saber Six Foundation c/o Chris Kolenda, 2245 N Lake Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
3. As a 501c3, we are eligible for employer matching donations. Check with your company for their procedures.
4. Share this email with your friends.
5. Join me for part (or all) of the ride.
6. Donate $1 per mile ($1700), and you’ll get a cycling jersey and a personalized thank you video from me during the ride. If you sponsor me by July 4, 2022, I’ll add your name to the jersey (and the name of your company if you use matching donations).

I’m thankful for Iqbal.

He and his family arrived in America with only the clothes on their backs. A group of us visited him in Seattle this weekend.

Iqbal worked his way from being a day-laborer on our outpost in Afghanistan to a cultural advisor and then an interpreter because he taught himself English (Iqbal speaks 5 languages). He helped Nate Springer (below, right) and I build bridges to local communities by letting us know about decades-long blood feuds, ways people tried to manipulate us, and behind-the-scenes issues that helped us understand why people were doing what they were doing. His support saved American lives. Iqbal never used his position for illicit gain.

He applied for a Special Immigrant Visa in 2014. A bureaucratic error from a human resources officer at a government contractor resulted in the State Department denying the application. I threw up in my mouth when I read the letter. Several of us, spearheaded by Dan Wilson (2nd from right), helped him re-apply.

He tried to start a business, but the corruption costs were too high. He enlisted to serve in a special operations force. Despite having no formal schooling, Iqbal rose in the ranks quickly to become an officer. By 2021, he was a lieutenant colonel in charge of 1000 soldiers.

His bosses expected him to use his position to move money into their pockets. Iqbal refused. His integrity earned him spite from those officials and dangerous assignments. The last of those was defending the Kandahar airfield in August as the Afghan state was disintegrating. Nearly out of food, water, and ammunition, Iqbal’s unit fended off Taliban attacks as hundreds of Afghans evacuated to Kabul. Iqbal made certain that two American reporters made their way out safely.

When he discovered that not all his soldiers had gotten out, Iqbal flew back to Kandahar to get them. The plane returned to Kabul, stranding Iqbal and about 100 others. He delayed the Taliban through skillful negotiations. Miraculously, a final aircraft returned to Kandahar to pick up Iqbal and his men.

Iqbal and his family made their way to America during the chaotic evacuation and just arrived in Seattle. Josh Rodriguez (seated between me and Iqbal), who Iqbal advised in 2008, started a fundraiser. Thanks to boosts from people like CNN’s Jake Tapper, the fundraiser amassed over $104,000. Iqbal had no idea.

As we gathered around the carpet in his new apartment, Iqbal (in the corner to my left) told us how thankful he was. “I’ve never had formal schooling,” he said, “but you taught me how to lead, to live a life of integrity, to do what’s right, and to take care of the people on my team.”

“When you came to my country, I was very grateful. You left behind your families to help us. When I arrived in America, I became even more thankful.”

What do you mean by that, one of us asked?

“Being here has allowed me to see what you left behind to come to Afghanistan.”

Tears welled in his eyes when Josh told him about the fundraiser. He could not believe that Americans could be so generous.

He plans to build a business and employ as many of his former soldiers as possible. They stood their ground in Kandahar because Iqbal was their exemplar of courage, integrity, and caring.

I’m dedicating this Thanksgiving to the exemplars in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Quit

In August, over 4 million Americans quit their jobs — the so-called Great Resignation — despite COVID unemployment supplements expiring. Last Tuesday’s election delivered shockers such as a Republican winning Virginia’s gubernatorial election and Minneapolis, Seattle, and other cities rejecting Defund the Police advocates.

Common to these seemingly disparate events are a backlash against the finger-wagging classes who tell people to shut up and do as their self-appointed betters tell them to do. People are challenging the mandate-centric approach to leading and governing.

People don’t leave their jobs; they leave their bosses. Seventy-five percent of those who quit their jobs did so to get away from their managers (Gallup, 2019). The 2021 numbers could be even higher.

COVID has lowered people’s tolerance for bad bosses and self-appointed betters. Leaders — public and private — should be exemplars, not overlords.

Persuasion gains buy-in, which motivates people to provide their discretionary effort. Coercion may gain compliance, but it also creates resistance. People vote with their feet.

There are times when mandates are necessary. When you establish a reputation for using persuasion to gain buy-in, you will get the benefit of the doubt when a crisis emerges.    

Gratitude

Leading a balanced life is not a matter of dividing time. It’s being clear on your priorities and ensuring that you meet commitments in the important aspects of your life.

It’s easy to drift. You let your email inbox become your daily to-do list and get sucked into the social media vortex. You meet everyone’s demands, but you feel like the most important aspects of your life are passing by. I’ve been there.

Here’s a way to take back your life.

1. Identify the four or five most important aspects of your life. Career, Family & Friends, Health & Fitness, Community, Faith, Mentoring, among others, are common ones.

2. Create a bullseye or spider web chart with a spoke for each aspect. Label the rings 2-4-6-8-10.

3. Assess how well you feel that you are meeting commitments on each one. 0-2 = very poorly; 8-10 = highly satisfied.

4. Connect the dots. How happy are you with the picture?

5. To boost your engagement in a particular area, put time on your calendar for it and do not compromise that commitment.

6. Each morning, write down three things you want to accomplish that day. At the end of the day, write down three things that you achieved.

7. Find a partner or trusted adviser who will help you stay on track and do the right things the right way. Accountability shortens your path to success.

“THE KEY IS NOT TO PRIORITIZE WHAT’S ON YOUR SCHEDULE, BUT TO SCHEDULE YOUR PRIORITIES.” – Stephen Covey,

david vs goliath in businesss

Small businesses can innovate faster than big businesses.

Iran is building drones that fire ship-killing missiles while nerds with laptops launch business-crippling cyberattacks. The English longbow defeated the heavily armored French knight. “Two thousand pounds of education,” Kipling lamented of British officers shot down by rifle-wielding Pashtun fighters, “Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.”

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Innovation is applied ingenuity that gives you a competitive advantage. It does not have to be expensive or hi-tech.

Problem-solving restores performance to a set standard. Leaders who fixate on it do not move their organizations forward — they create yo-yos.

Innovation, on the other hand, takes you to new heights. The medieval English had a significant disadvantage: the French knights could outspend them on armor and thus win battles. Instead of investing in better armor, the English invested in the longbow and archers and invented tactics to enhance their effect. The Battle of Agincourt showed the innovation’s devastating effects. 

Who’s helping you innovate so that your people, processes, and products give you a competitive advantage or make you distinct in the field?

Small businesses win when they think like David, not like Goliath.




I’m delighted to offer you the opportunity to join me and six other leaders at my Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event, December 7-10.

The battlefields will build your imagination for the action steps to make 2022 your best year ever.

Among the topics we typically discuss:

*Action steps to put the right leaders on the scene and empower them to make decisions.
*How to help your subordinates achieve “leader-on-horseback” inspiration so that people have clear examples to follow.
*How to create innovation and gain a competitive advantage. Ways to set up your new subordinates for success and keep them winning.
*Action steps that create clarity, buy-in, and accountability. Ways to let in fresh ideas and avoid smelling your own gunpowder.

You’ll come away from the event with action steps that will power your success in 2022 and lifelong relationships with other great leaders that will boost the quality of your life.

Find out more about the exclusive event here or paste this link into your browser: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iNdcCraLLzL1ioHT7hZAS4XvnTpcDJ8j/view?usp=sharing

Here’s what participants say about the event:
Gain buy-in like Chamberlain; encourage people to take the initiative like Buford. This inspiring and interesting experience is giving me new tools and stories to develop leaders.
Dick Gephardt, former Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives; CEO, Gephardt Group

Matrixed Organizations Don’t Work

Matrixed organizations don’t work. They suffer a disorder similar to siloed ones: poor accountability. The Afghanistan failure is exhibit A; it’s the same principle in business.

Members of Congress and America’s punditry recently awoke to the calamity in Afghanistan. The war ranks at the top of the biggest foreign policy disasters in U.S. history. In his Senate testimony on September 28th, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley admitted that we lost to a rag-tag militant group known as the Taliban. Cue the hue-and-cry. And yet, no one has been held accountable for the fiasco.

The reason is simple: there’s been no one on the ground in charge of the war.

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Wait. What?

That’s right. There’s no one in charge on the ground, so there’s no one to hold accountable for success or failure. There’s no single American the President can look to and say, “you are responsible for achieving success in Afghanistan.”

The military has a portion of the responsibility: fighting the enemy and training the (defunct) Afghan Army. The diplomats are in charge of building the (defunct) Afghan government capacity and coordinating with allies and neighboring countries. The U.S. Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) is responsible for helping the (destroyed) Afghan economy and infrastructure. In intelligence agencies coordinate clandestine operations and provide intelligence assessments, while training the (dismantled) Afghan intelligence agency.

There’s no one below the President of the United States who has the authority and responsibility for making it all work together half a world away. Everyone else works comfortably in their silos.

While the generals, diplomats, aid workers, and spooks each talked about their progress, the situation kept deteriorating. The main causes for failure include the vast corruption within the Afghan government and military, and the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. These problems occurred in the fault lines between the silos. Because no one was in charge of U.S. efforts on the ground, no one had the authority to address them or to tell the President that we needed a new strategy.

“Setting up a franchise is stupid,” Anna (not her real name) told me, “and forget about coaching. Coaches are a dime-a-dozen. You should enroll in our veterans’ program and figure out what you are able to do.”

Did you ever notice that unsolicited feedback is always about the sender and never about you?

Most feedback is about the sender. Look at your evaluations, and you’ll find that what your boss highlighted reflects their own priorities rather than an objective appraisal of you.

Unsolicited feedback is even more problematic because there is no accountability, and it’s often about control. The sender wants you to conform, be like them, and not rock the boat or challenge their beliefs.

Anna wanted to badger me into enrolling in a program that I did not need and discourage me from helping veterans build a meaningful, joyful, and profitable consulting business.

When someone gives you unsolicited advice, think SMILE: the five fingers of sanity and success.

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Your thumb, closest to your heart, represents the letter S: self-care. Exercise, diet, sleep, study, and well-being are vital to sustainable success.

Your pointer represents M: mentors, coaches, and advisors. They point out the shortest path to success and help you avoid getting high from your own fumes. I have two coaches, and their support has paid for itself many times over.

Your middle finger stands for I: Ignore the Annas.

Your ring finger: L is for loved ones. Dedicate time to those who matter most. No one’s ever had a deathbed with that they’d spent less time with their loved ones and more time at the office.

Your pinky signifies E: your employees, customers, partners, and allies. They are the people you serve.

SMILE, and you’ll keep things in perspective. Here’s the video that you can view and share.

Chris Kolenda and Afghan Interpreter


MJ (Interpeter) & Chris Kolenda

Americans commemorate September 11th in their own ways. I spent the day at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, which houses roughly 13,000 Afghan refugees. A former interpreter from one of my units, MJ, is there with his family.

MJ served in one of the most remote outposts of Afghanistan. In such areas, interpreter turnover can be very high. Some take leave and don’t return; others get reassigned to more peaceful areas and larger bases closer to their families.

MJ stayed with his company for the full 15 months. I asked MJ why he stuck it out.  “I respected Captain Page and the company. They took good care of me, and we were making a difference.” What had been one of the most violent areas in Afghanistan in 2007 was one of the more peaceful a year later.

More Americans than ever are leaving their jobs for different employers or careers. Employee turnover, which can range from 50% to 200% of the employee’s annual salary, is one of the highest costs any company faces. For solopreneurs, turnover in your partners and subcontractors results in lost momentum, increased rework, higher expenses, and a greater risk of things falling through the cracks.

MJ provides insight on how to retain your top talent. Gain buy-in by letting people know what you need them to do and why, and having them figure out how. Set clear expectations and hold people accountable. Treat them well and make sure they’ve got the resources and support they need to be successful. Captain John Page did that for his company, which kept MJ on the team. MJ’s support and understanding helped save American lives and change Afghan lives for the better.  

MJ and his family of 8 left Afghanistan with only the clothes on their backs. The conditions in refugee camps, even ones like Fort McCoy, are difficult. MJ never complained. He’s grateful to have a chance to build a new life for his family and wants to open an Afghan restaurant.

The Biden administration has been stubbornly tone-deaf about the outrage and disappointment that many Americans feel about the disintegration of the Afghan government and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after we spent 20 years and over $2 trillion, suffering over 2300 US service members killed in action and thousands wounded.

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The President has been steadfast in his decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan and has defended it fiercely as the meltdown unfolded. The generals talk about working with the Taliban to help American citizens get out of the country. Diplomats whisper about recognizing a new Taliban-heavy government.

Many Americans are furious about all of it, and the administration’s explanations and rationalizations seem to dig the hole deeper. Unless the administration acknowledges the emotions of so many Americans, they’ll be unable to rally them for the difficult choices ahead.

As an expert business owner, you face tough choices all of the time. The stakes are different, but the emotions are genuine: fear about starting or growing your business, anger at a partner that let you down, joy at gaining a new client and supporter, anxiety about investing in yourself, joy at seeing your clients get to new heights.

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Emotions affect your judgment. People mostly make decisions based on emotion and then rationalize the decision after the fact. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman shows how this process can lead to major errors.

Here’s what to do when you’re facing a challenging decision.

1. Label the emotion that you feel: anger, sadness, joy, contentment, surprise, fear, confusion, among others.

2. Identify the circumstances that are driving each emotion.

3. Develop options to get to your goals.

4. Decide which one is best and act on it.

Creating space between emotion and action, in action:

I’m concerned that an investment in my business won’t pay off (fear of wasting time and money). The best way to reach my goals and shorten my path to success is by getting the right support. Here are ways to do that: A, B, C.

Which one has the best potential payoff at the lowest risk?

BOOM! You got this!

What’s your top takeaway? Please share your thoughts!