Leadership / Thinking / Reflecting

Leadership Moment — 21 Apr 23

“A man should take time to contemplate.”

Mark McMillion
3 min readApr 22


Ibex73, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Louis L’Amour wrote that in several of his books, usually in the form of a father’s advice to his son, recalled years later in a dire situation.

Jason Gay is a phenomenal writer for the Wall Street Journal. In his article published today, he talks about “the joy of a totally empty brain.” In effect, his take is where he was once most stimulated by the thoughts of others, now he achieves his best creative efforts in isolation, unplugged.

It seems to me people are afraid to be alone with themselves. I find this in myself sometimes. When I go to a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment and have to wait (which is always excessively long for a medical appointment), I look around and see everyone else waiting . . . on their phone.

I used to take a book so I could read. Now I pull out my phone and scroll. Sometimes. But sometimes, I just observe. Channeling my inner Yogi Berra, it’s funny what you see when you look around.

Ernest Hemingway said, “If a writer stops observing he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.” I stumbled across that a few months ago. Now when I’m waiting for something, I try to really, really look at what’s going on around me.

I don’t know that I’m a better writer for it, but it’s more interesting than the Buzzfeed listicle or pop culture tidbits I read on the phone that are forgotten almost immediately.

I like to play chess on my phone as well. I’m not particularly talented, but I enjoy it. At times, I stop thinking and just play mindlessly. I lose quickly to obvious moves. It becomes frustrating and takes a tremendous effort to bring my focus to bear. Usually, I simply stop playing and move on to something else.

However, when I take my time and study the board, when I really put my brain to work on the game, I tend to do much better. It’s that willful concentration that allows me to be more successful.

This mindless processing of the world around us leads to poor thinking, poor decisions, and mediocrity, even failure. Sadly, so much of this is driven by our digital tools…



Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.