The End of the World Began With a Writer's Strike  

Posted by Brock Booher

When we look back in history at the beginning of the downfall of the United States of America, we will see that it all began with the writers’ strike in Hollywood.

Go ahead and scoff at that statement, but hear me out.

After the writer’s strike of 1988, TV producers began looking at alternatives for producing programing if and when the next strike came along. That alternative came in the form of Survivor and reality TV was born. Now all producers had to do was pull together a group of narcissistic fame seekers and put them on an island, in a house, or in a dating competition, add some contrived drama and BAM! —the viewing public lined up in droves to watch. Who needed a plot when you could watch someone get naked on an island and try to spear fish, or each other? Who needed to cast strong noble characters when you could ask for volunteers to compete in a singing competition and thousands lined up outside coliseums? Who needed a romantic setting when you could fly wooing couples around the world to exotic locations? Why pay for writers to actually write drama when you can put a bunch of housewives together and let the drama unfold? Writers became obsolete.

In 2001 when the next writers’ strike loomed, the Writers Guild had less leverage than in 1988. And the strike of 2007 pushed reality TV to the top of the charts. Our society ate it up. We longed to see the likes of Snooki or the Bachelor. We yearned to enter the world of ice-road truckers, crab fishermen, or doomsday preppers. Now TV is filled with self-absorbed characters looking to extend their fifteen minutes of fame and cash in through some flamboyant act of self-indulgence that attracts the public attention like a two-headed calf, or the Kardashians.

Reality TV was the beginning of the end of the world.

Since writers could not make a living producing actual stories with plot and characters, they began working in reality TV. Producers, directors, and writers all worked together to make “reality” TV more emotional, drama-laden, and bizarre. They encouraged conflict since they didn’t have a plot to thicken. They encouraged brash behavior since they had no characters to develop. They manipulated the dialogue since they weren’t required to produce any. In other words, reality TV isn’t real, but it appears to be, and that has the viewing public conditioned to believe anything they see on TV. The lines between fact and fiction became so blurred that we actually thought two people could fall in love while millions watched.

Fast forward to the election cycle of 2016. What did we get? We got possibly the two worst candidates in US history. Why? Because the public longed for more reality TV and these two candidates provided more material than anything the viewing public had seen to date: clandestine (and illegal) email servers, claims of sexual misconduct, violence at rallies (intentionally promoted and fostered by the way), shouting matches, secret meetings on airplanes, third-grade name calling, secret deaths, political spies, moles, and hidden tax returns. As the campaign unfolded candidates stood on the moral high ground the size of an anthill and hurled disparaging tweets at each other. The viewing public stood on that same moral high ground and snapchatted about the need for a third candidate. It was a reality TV bonanza! Unfortunately, the results of this season’s voting has more serious consequences than a record deal.

Reality TV conditioned us to accept whatever we saw on TV as reality. We no longer have the ability to discern between fact and fiction. We no longer look for a moral deeper than who gets the most votes. We lost our ability to guess the culprit in a mystery, or unravel a tightly woven plot. We have been reduced to spoon-fed entertainment and spoon-fed information. We are no longer capable of eating the solid foods of individual thought or critical thinking. We just want to know what the Kardashians are wearing.

Yes, reality TV made us easy to manipulate and control. When the 2016 election cycle began, we got front-row seats to the biggest reality TV show of them all—the biggest losers—and we voted for them.

Don’t mess with writers. They will destroy you.

Finding Mount Zion  

Posted by Brock Booher

watched the dawn burst across the dark morning sky from the seat of my motorcycle and wondered how the day would go. Would I enjoy the trip? Would the weather be good? Would I finish it without any mechanical problems and without accident? Would we make it to Zion? Would I make it to see my new grandson?

Zion is an interesting word full of symbolism. Originally it was a mountain outside of Jerusalem, but over the years the word has taken on the meaning of a utopian society where everyone lives in peace and cares for each other both spiritually and temporally. Several religious groups seek to establish “Zion” where their followers can be free from the toil and trouble of the world. My goal for the day was not so lofty. I simply wanted to ride trouble free from Gilbert, AZ, to Zion National Park in Southern Utah, and then on to Provo, Utah, the next day.

Riding into the storm with lightning in the clouds
I met up with Tom and Tim, two of my riding buddies, and we headed northbound watching the sun come up over the mountains. As we climbed in elevation, I listened to the playlist of 80’s music my daughter helped me put together the night before. Back in the day when I was listening to those songs, the world was full of gloom and doom—the Cold War, hostages in Iran, nuclear winter, etc. I never expected my life to turn out as good as it has. Lately, however, I feel like the best days are behind me. It’s a nagging feeling that lurks in the back of my head like some dirty thought I have disciplined into the recesses of my mind in an attempt to remain virtuous and can’t seem to shake. Tomorrow doesn’t hold the promise that it used to, but today I am on my motorcycle climbing a winding mountain road watching the sunrise with friends. I have been blessed.
Three BMW R1200 RT motorcycles without riders

My grandson is inheriting a less than perfect world. Zion is still just some ethereal place longed for by the faithful. The world is still full of conflict, trouble, and despair. I hope he gets to experience some of the great things I have experienced and that his life will be better than mine. I hope the world he inherits from my generation is a better place than the world I inherited, but when I watch the news I can tell that our world is still a long way from Zion. Maybe Zion will be possible in his lifetime.

Riding motorcycles is risky, but that’s part of the enjoyment. Having a baby is also risky. Women shake hands with the Grim Reaper to bring a child into this world. Sometimes the Grim Reaper wants more than a handshake, and women have to slap him across the face. Only a mother can understand what if feels like to stare death in the face in order to produce life. Only a mother understands the physical cost of delivering a child. Thankfully, we all benefit from a mother’s risky endeavor and enjoy the fruits of her labor. Each child renews our hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

We traversed mountains, crossed the painted desert, and endured an afternoon thundershower, but we arrived at Zion National Park without accident or incident. The towering canyons of painted rocks against a blue sky reminded me of majestic temples. Man may build tall towers and broad domes, but God’s works of architecture are unrivaled.
Zion motorcycle selfie
After a long day of riding we enjoyed dinner (topped off with pie) and headed to bed. My riding buddies were traveling in different directions the next day. I would be traveling solo to meet my grandson.

A thunderclap woke me up at 0454. I could hear the rain pelting the windows and checked the radar. The only storm in Utah was right over my head. Fortunately, I had recently purchased some good rain gear, and now my ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. By 0600 the worst of the rain had passed and I climbed on my bike in the dark. Tom waved at me from his hotel window as I pulled out of the parking lot and rode off into the storm. I had an appointment to meet my first grandson, and was determined not to let a little rain stop me. However, I must admit that I took things a bit slower than usual, especially when I passed flashing signs warning of deer. Would I make it without incident or accident? Would meeting my first grandson be all that I hoped it would be?

As I rode, I wondered how I was supposed to feel about being a grandfather. Everyone tells me that being a grandparent is the best thing ever. My friends say it’s much better than being a parent, or that grandkids are the payback for all the struggles as a parent. I knew my wife was giddy, but I wasn’t sure how I felt.

I can honestly say that being a father is the best thing I have ever done. It has brought me more joy and happiness than I ever expected. It has stretched me in ways I never knew possible. As a father, my emotions have ranged between the extremes—worry, fear, elation, joy, impatience, frustration, anger, and yes, happiness beyond compare. I was afraid that being a grandfather might somehow diminish the greatest experience of my entire life. I didn’t want to adopt some cynical attitude about my struggles as a father because being a grandfather was so much better. I wanted it to add to my joy, not diminish the struggle, or joy, of fatherhood.

The rain subsided and the sky burned with streaks of red, yellow, and orange as the sun came up. I wasted no time and only stopped when I needed gas or a bathroom break (which is more often than I like as I get older). Somewhere overhead my wife was flying to Salt Lake City, and I needed to arrive around the same time she did. Fortunately, I didn’t hit any of the deer the flashing signs warned me about.

I arrived ahead of schedule and traded the thrill of the motorcycle for the safety of a rental car. When we pulled up to my son’s small basement apartment, my wife was so excited that she jumped out of the car before it stopped rolling. I took a deep breath and tried not to let my emotions get away from me. I was holding it all in. How would I feel when I held my grandson? Would it be everything my friends told me it would be? Would I take one look at that beautiful baby and suddenly have disdain for my parental journey thus far? Would I mock the years of struggle, the frustrating nights, and the moments of sheer joy that fatherhood had brought me?

I entered the apartment and found my grandson doing what newborn babies do—crying, eating, sleeping, and filling diapers. I washed my hands and waited my turn to hold him. When my daughter-in-law put him in my arms, all my fears melted away. I found myself transported back to my early years as a father pacing the floor with a crying baby and worrying how I was going to provide for all his or her needs, but when I looked up at my grown son and his wife, the sting of worry melted away.

I suddenly got it. Being a grandparent is awesome because your children have taken over the burden of the parental struggle. Grandparents are there to love, support, and spoil. My years of parental happiness had not ended. They had just been multiplied. I smiled and relaxed.

Zion is a mountain because we only find happiness in worthwhile struggle. Being a parent is the greatest, most rewarding struggle of all. A newborn baby reminds us that tomorrow still holds as great a promise as yesterday. I had set out in search of Zion, that mythical place of enduring happiness, but the journey had not been an easy one. As I held my grandson, I knew that I had found it.

Escalante Staircase

Riding With Nutnfancy  

Posted by Brock Booher

Back in the day I needed to ask a hot girl out to the AFROTC Dining Out (a formal military dinner), but I wanted to do it with pizazz. Having watched my six teenagers over the years I know that nobody these days picks up the phone to ask someone out on a date to the big dance. They all do something special like drop off a poster with candy glued to it and some cute saying to ask out their date. Back in the day, we really didn’t do that. However, I really had the hots for this girl, and I wanted to make a statement.

My buddy was a year behind me in AFROTC and in charge of the Honor Guard. He was one of the most squared-away troops I knew. On top of that, he had a sword. So I hatched a plan. I offered him, and a few of the other Honor Guard members, pizza if they would go over in their uniforms (complete with the drill rifles and the sword) and ask out this hottie to the Dining Out on my behalf.

When they knocked on the door with the sword drawn, it got everyone’s attention in the apartment complex. With a crowd of young ladies looking on, my buddy delivered the invite with perfect military precision and bearing. He barked out commands. The sword flashed. Rifles twirled. Heels clicked together. The invite was delivered in perfect military fashion.

How can you refuse a man in uniform with a sword? She said yes.

Fast forward almost thirty years. My buddy and I finished our military careers. We both pursued post military goals. We both had families. We both got back in to motorcycles. We both got gray hairs and put on a few pounds. I was going to be in his neck of the woods riding my motorcycle, so I gave him a shout and asked if he could lead me on one of his favorite local rides. He accepted. The night before the ride he sent me a text with a time and coordinates.

The next morning greeted me with a clear blue sky and cool temperatures. I geared up and left the condo early. I pulled off the highway and looked at my map to confirm my position, but before I could get the map pulled up on my phone I saw my buddy riding up on his KTM decked out in high visibility gear. He pulled up beside me, opened up his modular helmet, and gave me a long once over. “It’s good to ride with someone who knows how to find coordinates and be on time,” he said with a grin. “Nice gear too.” Then he proceeded to give me full safety briefing on his riding style, signaling, and hazards of the road we were taking. I knew right then that I was in good hands.

The ride was an alpine loop combining crowded four-lane highway and a small mountain road without any striping. I followed him through traffic and then through the hairpin turns and switchbacks of the deserted mountain road. He was fun to follow and he pushed me to improve my riding performance. As we rode we talked via Bluetooth headsets. He caught me up on his family. I caught him up on mine. We talked about riding, flying, and our common faith. Then he told me he had started a YouTube channel on the side—Nutnfancy. It was doing pretty well and he enjoyed it. Just like all those years ago in AFROTC, he was still the same squared-away guy going above and beyond the average Joe. He was still living life with a touch of pizazz.

I enjoyed riding with him and catching up after all these years. I’m a better rider because of it. He reminded me that it only takes a little more effort to be prepared, squared-away, and above average. He showed me what it means to manage high risk without sacrificing safety, or fun.

I still remember how he impressed that bombshell blonde all those years ago. She said yes to the Dining Out, but she also said yes when I asked her to marry me. I guess I owe my buddy another pizza.

Until next time Nutnfancy… I’ll buy lunch.

Want to Make Better Decisions? Train Like a Pilot  

Posted by Brock Booher

What does a good decision look like?

History is littered with infamous bad decisions. The Donner party took a shortcut. The Titanic launched without enough lifeboats. Engineers chose to fill the Hindenburg with flammable hydrogen gas. Each bad decision seemed like a good idea at the time. Hindsight is 20/20, but how can you tell the difference between a good and bad decision before it becomes history?

We often learn more from bad decisions than we do from good decisions, but learning from bad decisions is high risk, and the results can be catastrophic. Take the decision to jump off of a tall building with nothing but a beach towel as a parachute. The risk of an unsuccessful outcome is enormous, and failure leaves no room for a repeat attempt. We can learn from a bad decision, if we survive it.
Aircraft Crash in Taiwan

Can we learn to make good decisions in advance and glean the experience of bad decisions without incurring all the risk? Yes!

According to the Aviation Safety Network, 2015 was the safest year in the history of air travel. ( We have come a long way since the 1970s when several thousand people were killed each year in air travel. Multiple factors have contributed to the improvement in air safety—better maintenance, better airplanes, better pilots—but perhaps the most significant improvements were made in aviation training. Air travel is safer because of better training, and training is better primarily because of improved simulation tools and techniques.

If you want to make better decisions, train like pilots do.

Aviation is not inherently dangerous, but it can be unforgiving of error and the results of error can be catastrophic. Yet, successful aviators cannot gain the skills necessary to succeed without trial and error. To develop good airmanship, pilots must exercise bad airmanship and live to tell about it. Pilots become better by surviving their mistakes. It is an effective way of learning, but risky, inefficient, and costly.

To solve this problem, Edwin Link, a barnstorming pilot of the 1920s, invented and patented the first flight simulator—The Pilot Maker—in 1929. Flight schools weren’t interested at first and his invention ended up as a carnival ride, but when WWII began the military employed his simulators to increase the survival rate of their student pilots. ( Simulation has been a hallmark of aviation ever since.

Can we apply these same training techniques used to make pilots safer in other areas such as business, sports, or families? Yes.

Successful leaders in any field can teach the principles of good decision making using three basic simulation tools: 1)Historical simulation 2)Role playing 3)Risk-free or reduced-risk execution.

Aviators love to sit around and tell harrowing stories of survival. It may seem like a simple ego-building exercise in braggadocio, but in fact the stories serve a very important purpose. They convey hard-earned knowledge to other aviators and allow them to learn from someone else’s experience. This experiential storytelling is a type of historical simulation. Listeners can put themselves into the story and learn the same lesson without the dangers or the risks.

Historical simulation can take on other forms such as Monday-morning quarterbacking, case studies, and accident investigations. Decisions can be reviewed, analyzed, and learned from without the risk of personal failure. Furthermore, information conveyed in the form of a story is more likely to be remembered. With additional resources, successful, and unsuccessful, events can be converted into full-blown simulation to convey historical knowledge effectively.

Do you take time to mentor the up-and-coming leaders of your organization by sharing your personal experiences of success and failure? Do you encourage your leaders to learn from the mistakes of others through open communication? Do you review performance and debrief good and bad decisions so that everyone can learn? Historical simulation can be a powerful tool for improving decision-making.

Role-playing is an inexpensive and risk-free form of simulation that can be used effectively in a variety of situations. The US military has been using role-playing scenarios for over fifty years to train its pilots. During the rigorous training to earn their wings, pilots are subjected to scenario-based emergency training that tests both the nerves and knowledge of the pilot trainee. They are given an emergency situation that requires a prescribed course of action and then asked to talk their way through the resolution of the emergency step-by-step to a logical, and procedurally correct, conclusion. To simulate the stress that the actual emergency situation might cause, this is often done in front of their peers, with the threat of being grounded for the day if they don’t handle it correctly. Effective? Yes. Risk-free? Yes. (For more about scenario-based training in aviation visit

The use of role-playing can take on several forms from simple one-on-one training, group discussions, or even expanded scenario-based training simulations. This allows all the participants to put themselves into character and experience the teaching moment without the actual risk of failure (other than perhaps embarrassment with peers for poor performance). It allows participants to experience a problem from a specific point of view and develop an understanding of the problem and solution from a variety of viewpoints, thus increasing, and perhaps more importantly, personalizing their experience and knowledge.

Do you use role-playing exercises to train and teach your team? Can you think of an experience (personal or historical) that would make an effective scenario for everyone to learn from in a role-playing exercise? Effective role-playing can allow us to learn the lessons of a failure, or success, without risk.

In spite of our best efforts to prepare someone to make decisions, we cannot eliminate all the risk in the learning process. However simulation can provide learning options that are free from the risk of bodily harm. Edwin Link’s Pilot Maker did just that. A potential pilot could practice decision-making, execution of procedure, and manipulation of controls without risking life and limb. Modern-day simulation elevates the experience to such an advanced level that landings performed in the modern simulator are recognized by the FAA to validate landing currency. A pilot can perform a variety of emergency procedures in the simulator, and the only risk incurred is that of failure to advance in training. Advanced simulation can provide a risk-free learning experience.

Modern Aircraft Simulator
If simulation is not available or impractical, provide side-by-side mentoring to reduce the risk in learning. Aircraft with dual controls provide student pilots the opportunity to fly the airplane with an experienced instructor ready to take control when the risk becomes too great. The instructor can also demonstrate each maneuver, and save them both from harm. The learning process involves numerous transfers of aircraft control as the student pilot struggles to manipulate the aircraft. Flying with an instructor provides a reduced-risk option for learning to fly.

What risk-free or reduced-risk training opportunities do you provide for your team? Is simulation available for training dangerous or difficult tasks risk-free? Can you reduce the risk of the learning process with side-by-side mentoring? Simulation and mentoring make learning more effective while reducing the risks of the learning process.

How do we learn to make good decisions? Can we capitalize on the historic lessons of bad decisions? Can we achieve the benefits of experience while avoiding the risks? We can do all these things, if we employ some of the tools that made 2015 the safest year in commercial aviation—1)Historical simulation 2)Role playing 3)Risk-free or reduced-risk execution.

If you want to make better decisions, train like pilots do.




Cookies From Home  

Posted by Brock Booher

I had a small container of chocolate chip cookies tucked in my briefcase. They had survived the flight from Phoenix to San Antonio, but I wasn’t sure we would be allowed through the gates of Fort Sam Houston to deliver them to my son. It was July 4, and our son Carson was in the middle of combat medic training. Independence Day takes on a special feeling when you celebrate it on a military installation.

We parked in the visitor’s center parking lot and went inside to fill out the paperwork. The sign on the door instructed us to sign in and wait. I listened to the conversations at the counter about lost IDs and visitor access, and I wondered if all our paperwork was in order. After a few minutes, a man behind the counter called our name. With a few keystrokes he found our information, took my picture, and printed a day pass for us. Security was tighter than when I was in the Air Force twenty years ago, but then again we hadn’t heard of Al Queda or ISIS. We were fighting the communists and socialists. How the world has changed…

Maybe we would be able to deliver the homemade cookies after all.

As we approached the barracks, formations of soldiers in PT gear (matching exercise shorts and t-shirts) ran by singing cadence. “Hey, hey Captain Jack Jack…” Each formation was a mix of men, women, dark skin, and light skin. Even in the same uniform, their differences were noticeable, but the differences didn’t impress me. The uniformity and unity did. No matter where they were before or what their background, all of those soldiers had one thing in common—an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic.
The sun beat down on us and threatened to melt the chocolate chips in the cookies as we walked over to the barracks. Each building had a covered area outside for formations and some of them had soldiers in training lined up and waiting for something. All the soldiers that walked by had a “battle buddy” with them and a reflective colored belt around their waist or slung over their soldier. My battle buddy was my wife dressed in red, white, and blue.

As we approached the front door of the barracks, out walked our son in his field uniform and a colored reflective belt slung over his shoulder. He moved with purpose and bearing, not like the lackluster teenager gait he would have displayed just a few years ago. My wife squealed and gave him a big hug. I kept my military bearing and made my embrace short and professional, but inside I wanted to wrap him up and jump up and down.

He told us about his training as we walked to the mini-mall across the street. I still held the cookies, waiting for the right moment to share them. The mini-mall was a slice of the outside world—Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Dominoes Pizza. The Army really does travel, and train, on its stomach. We took a seat at one of the tables surrounded by soldiers in training and ordered lunch from Taco Bell. Nothing says “America” on the 4th of July like fast food.

We talked of home, and of training. We ate fast food and filled him in on the latest family news. CNN Headline News was playing on the big-screen TV above us. The commentators and guests argued about Donald Trump’s tweet with a six-pointed star, Hilary Clinton’s FBI probe, and how to fight terrorists. We asked about his teammates and his Sergeants. The news turned to attacks in Iraq by ISIS and the two hundred people killed during a terrorist bombing. I looked around the room at the young men and women eating fast food and wondered. Do they have any idea what is in store for them? Do we understand the cost they may have to pay for us?

One of the Sergeants told them during training, “ISIS has your picture up on their wall. They want nothing more than to kill you.” I watched the newsreel of mangled bodies and destruction from the ISIS attack and realized that some of the men and women in the room with me that day could be injured or killed at the hands of our enemies. I recognized that my son might pay a steep price to keep me free.

We fight an enemy that is ideologically opposed to our freedoms. I wonder if they understand what they are fighting against. After all, a Muslim has more freedom to practice his or her religion under the Constitution of the United States than anywhere else in the world. And yet, ISIS (radicalized Islamists) wants to destroy the freedoms the Constitution protects. Irony is always an integral element of war.

Celebrating Independence Day on a military installation transforms the experience. We civilians celebrate with barbecues, watermelons, and parades, and think little of the cost of our independence. But for the men and women who put on a uniform and take an oath, the cost of our independence is measured in pints of blood, months away from family, and white headstones.

I smiled and handed him the container of chocolate chip cookies.