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Two points Trump understands but few others do

Posted by John Reed on

Trump repeatedly makes two valid points that the media and public do not get:

1. Competitors must be unpredictable.

2. Absence of a specific plan is not proof of no chance for success.

Cannot be predictable

Media people keep trying to nail Trump down on this or that. He keeps protesting that he cannot answer because it would make him predictable. Even on carrying a gun, he refused to say when he did and when he did not. He’s right.

That does not apply to everything. But it does apply to negotiation, sports coaching, war, electoral campaigns, business, playing cards. We were told in Army Ranger School that you must never be predictable when moving around behind enemy lines. For example, you would never return by the same route you took to get to the objective. I recently wrote about the fact that you cannot always bluff, like Obama, nor can you never bluff.

This is game theory. I have written about it many times in my coaching books and in Web articles. It is also the element of surprise which is one of the nine principles of war.

For the last three years I have been working on a novel called The Unelected President which is about a guy like me accidentally becoming president. In the course of dealing with the issues of 2013 when it is set, I learned a lot about the nature of the presidency. Game theory and the element of surprise are big in that book as the president reacts to Congress and our foreign enemies.

That does not mean you can be a total cypher and refuse to tell the voters what you believe. But neither do you negotiate with yourself or the media and end up on Inauguration Day having entered into a million-page, one-sided contract that binds and restricts you, but none of your opponents.

Figure it out as they go along

The other issue is how are you going to accomplish such and such.

Trump is an entrepreneur. So am I, albeit, less driven. To me, the distinguishing characteristic of entrepreneurs is that they adopt a goal then pursue it with a zeal and persistence that causes them to try, try again if at first they don’t succeed.

Trump can give the media Plan A, although he probably cannot justify the time to come up with a really good Plan A on every possible Presidential topic when it is so early. Plus, to the extent that he will be opposed on the project in question, laying out his entire plan will make it easier to stop.

The extreme interest in everyone’s Plan A shows the ignorance of the media about the subject of how people who get things done in life make that happen.

Edison’s ‘plan’ for inventing the light bulb

For example, consider the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison. The media would have demanded to know how to he was going to invent the light bulb. In fact, the way he did it was he tried every potential filament known to man. Carbon won. There are still light bulbs in Edison’s Fort Myers home that have not burned out—they use carbon filaments. (GE used tungsten which did burn out but that’s another issue.) About all Edison could have said at the beginning was, “I will try everything and I am sure I will find an acceptable material. This is what I do. I have done it many time before.”

FDR’s ‘plan’ for winning World War II

Or go back in a time machine to December 8, 1941 and ask FDR how he was going to win World War II. He sure as hell would not have described the atomic bomb, the super-advanced-for-its-time B-29 bomber, wing tanks, Higgins Boats, Kaiser shipyards, and so on—the stuff that actually won the war. That actual “plan” on December 8, 1941 was to muddle through, play it by ear, and then to figure it out as they went along. And he is one of our great war-time presidents. Basically, we won because he had the right, or adequate, instincts with regard to whom to put into the important positions in his war effort and administration.

Because of his extensive business background, Trump is more likely to have those instincts than any other current candidate.

Entrepreneurs succeed, if they succeed, with Plan K or L, not the Plan A that the media keep demanding to hear.

The media are like most of the candidates: they have never accomplished anything in their lives other than completing academic studies and getting anointed by some group of interviewers as a reporter. They have never produced a crop or a product or managed people or built a building, etc. In their ignorance, they guess that doers or makers create a plan then simply carry it out.

Ha! Listen to the acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards about how hard it was to make the movie in question. Those are good snippets of what entrepreneurship is really about—and yet another example of why guys like Trump cannot explain step-by-step how they are going to solve some difficult problem years in advance.

To an extent, all the candidates will be unable to spell out in detail how they will do complex things. So voters need to look at the history of each candidate asking “what, if anything, has this candidate accomplished in his career?”

That will, or should, eliminate the Senators—Rubio, Cruz, Graham, Paul, Hillary, Sanders, Santorum. They just talk. Governors, CEOs, and Doctors, have a record of accomplishment and failure. In the case of the outsiders—Trump, Fiorina, Carson—Trump’s background is broad, mixed, net extremely successful in multiple fields.

Fiorina had brief high position with success at getting anointed, but what actual results she achieved is not clear.

Carson was spectacularly successful in an important, world famous, extremely narrow specialty—pediatric brain surgery—which I guess is akin to assembling model ships in bottles or engraving. It could be described as the most high tone form of manual labor, but still manual labor. I say the same about being a symphony orchestra musician or a ballet dancer—manual labor, albeit with huge amounts of intellectual mystique. It is very laudable, but extremely narrow preparation for president.

Trump is dead wrong on international trade and could cause a worldwide depression if he starts the sort of trade war he seems to promise. He also seems reckless and childish when he brags. But if you were hiring a manager for a substantial business you owned and these candidates applied, you’d hire Trump or one of the governors.

The other guys only contend because people see the presidency as some sort of abstraction where somesone else pays the salary and someone else is affected by the performance of the executive, not them.

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