During recent air travel in the Middle East, I was taking advantage of a rare opportunity to get caught up on some dated emails, reading and reflection. Reflection, for me, is the return, rebirth or rediscovery of a crucial part of my personal thought and decision making process that has proven “therapeutic” in a lifestyle that is built for speed.

The re-addition of reflection to my decision making cycle has changed me from reactive, to proactive, to adversity. For me, reflection represents the complete circle of thought, concept, effort, result and adjustment. Without reflection, there would be no improvement or adaptation prior to re-engagement. Reflection should serve as your personal after-action report. I feel that reflection should be part of every person’s routine, thought and continuous decision-making cycle. The following experience serves as a product or vignette of my reflections from that trip.

For over a decade, specifically in travel, we have learned that safety is good, awareness is better and creating an environment of security and confidence is optimal. One can certainly argue with the order of that precedence, but regardless, the consideration of these factors and how we or others choose to act upon them determines our behaviors. Are you acting or being required to act in a logical or illogical manners that balance your personal security with your freedoms as an American citizen? Are you achieving life’s fulfillment in a post 9/11 environment, or are you conditioned to continually compromise your liberties based on past events that continue to drive fear?

Back to those emails. One of those emails contained an article sent to me by a respected colleague and mentor. Yay, another article on Al Qaeda! Out of professional courtesy,  I was obliged to read the article and conjure up a response with intellectual injection as a gesture of appreciation for inclusion in this “electronic professional development club.” This specific article instantly captured my interests as it broadly discussed the strategic foundation of Al Qaeda and referenced a book that defined their simplistic views of global insurgency. The book, published in 1965, is titled War of the Flea, by Robert Taber, an American investigative journalist who covered Castro’s operations in the late 1950s.

The title refers to Mao’s often-cited analogy that guerrilla warfare is like the attack of a weak flea against a powerful dog. The flea first agitates the dog with a few bites, and then the dog attacks itself in a frenzy but is unable to kill the flea; as the bites multiply and other fleas join, the dog is weakened and eventually dies. When I first digested the strategy, I found the book to be a wise foundational choice for Al Qaeda. The concept, although simple and primitive, provides both hope and morale for an enemy that exists as a perpetual underdog that leverages ideology as their recruitment strategy.

As I finished the article attached to that email, my meal arrived. Being ticketed on an airline carrier outside the United States, everyone on the plane, regardless of your seating class, receives a full meal. That may be surprising to most given the current food accommodations, or lack thereof, with U.S. airline carriers. What should really surprise you, as it did me, is that the meal came with utensils. Not a “spork” (plastic spoon-fork combo), but with actual cutlery, as in fork-spoon-knife, the metal type.

Being a conditioned security conscience American, I was shocked and instantly began assessing the situation from near to far. I was just provided with three legitimate weapons that now sat in front of me. Then, my interests turned into anxiety as I stumbled upon the realization that there were hundreds of individuals present within close quarters with the same weapons, only I had no way to determine their intent. I slowly and cautiously looked at my neighbors in the seats to the right and left of me, then was calmed with the realization that I was preemptive in my preparation prior to the flight.

I had adequately prepared by proactively seeking out and acquiring the proper education, which allowed me to choose an optimal seat aboard the aircraft. Essentially, I had bought down the risk and, as a result, security and confidence were high, therefore I was able to relax and enjoy my meal and flight. The situation was not optimal given a critical event, but was controllable because of my preparation and awareness. Before I leave you hanging………..the meal was a delicious four-course meal: chicken curry with rice, salad with ginger dressing and a rice pudding desert.