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Call Sign Chaos

Learning to Lead
Written by: Jim Mattis, Bing West
Narrated by: Danny Campbell
Length: 12 hrs and 1 min
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A clear-eyed account of learning how to lead in a chaotic world, by General Jim Mattis - the former Secretary of Defense and one of the most formidable strategic thinkers of our time - and Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine.

Call Sign Chaos is the account of Jim Mattis’ storied career, from wide-ranging leadership roles in three wars to ultimately commanding a quarter of a million troops across the Middle East. Along the way, Mattis recounts his foundational experiences as a leader, extracting the lessons he has learned about the nature of warfighting and peacemaking, the importance of allies, and the strategic dilemmas - and short-sighted thinking - now facing our nation. He makes it clear why America must return to a strategic footing so as not to continue winning battles but fighting inconclusive wars. 

Mattis divides his book into three parts: Direct Leadership, Executive Leadership, and Strategic Leadership. In the first part, Mattis recalls his early experiences leading Marines into battle, when he knew his troops as well as his own brothers. In the second part, he explores what it means to command thousands of troops, and how to adapt your leadership style to ensure your intent is understood by your most junior troops so that they can own their mission. In the third part, Mattis describes the challenges and techniques of leadership at the strategic level, where military leaders reconcile war’s grim realities with political leaders’ human aspirations, where complexity reigns and the consequences of imprudence are severe, even catastrophic.

Call Sign Chaos is a memoir of a life of warfighting and lifelong learning, following along as Mattis rises from Marine recruit to four-star general. It is a journey about learning to lead and a story about how he, through constant study and action, developed a unique leadership philosophy, one relevant to us all.

©2019 Jim Mattis and Bing West (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“Combining simplicity and thoughtfulness, Jim Mattis has produced a classic account of a lifetime of service. Call Sign Chaos is a lesson in leadership and an evocation of humanity in the cause of peace.” (Henry Kissinger)

“In this magnificent memoir, Jim Mattis details many important events in his career, but he also does much more: He explains how he is informed by his experiences in a way that teaches you how to learn from your own. Read, enjoy, and learn.” (George Shultz)

What members say

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  • Fountain of Chris
  • 2019-09-06

A pleasant surprise

This book surpassed my expectations. Unlike so many books by people who have recently left the Trump White House, this is not a politicized expose. It is both a memoir and a book about leadership. Mattis devotes little space to his personal life, instead spending large chunks of the book on Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and the second Iraq War, all done as an exploration of leadership (what he did right, what he needed to improve, and what he recommends for others).

Very little of the book is about Mattis' time as Secretary of Defense. He does make it clear that he resigned due to a difference of opinion with the administration, but he focuses more on a general climate of tribalism in America as his principle cause for worry going forward.

All told, I came away with a great respect for both his skill as a soldier and his thirst for improvement through learning. He and Bing West put together a solid book, accessible to advanced high school students and up, all while largely staying above the political fray.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Jonathan Levi Leach
  • 2019-09-11

Must Listen 👍🏼

As a vet and a Marine, I ate up every ounce of this audiobook. Mattis is a legend to us USMC grunts, and his decentralized leadership style is exemplary. I aspire to continue to grow in personal competencies, education, and leadership skills, and through his stories Mattis outlines good ways to do just those things. I'm thankful that he decided to release a book, better yet an audiobook, that we can digest & take notes on.

The narrator/voice is respectable; it wasn't too great a stretch of the imagination to liken his voice to Mattis'. I did, however, keep it at ~1.30 speed, as it was pretty slow otherwise.

10/10, glad it includes Mattis' list of books to read in the appendices.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Tweed
  • 2019-09-04

Great content, but I can’t finish it.

I was so looking forward to listening to this book, I’m a big James Mattis fan. However, the reader sounds like he’s on his death bed and is about to keel over to the point where I can’t even finish the first chapter. I’ll buy the book and save it for my next vacation to read.

19 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • North Texas Girl
  • 2019-09-03

Narration is horrible

I absolutely love Jim Mattis and Bing West but I only got as far as the prologue and stopped listening. The reader's voice is not suitable for audio books, it's not engaging at all. I certainly can't do 12 hours of this. Contrast this with the readers for other books like Sea Stories and Greg Hurwitz's books and this is a giant snooze fest.

Fortunately I have a hard copy from a book signing.

34 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-09-05

great listen, increase speed to 1.05

Memorable account of a truly dedicated American. Speeding up the narration to 1.05 was perfect.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeffrey
  • 2019-09-06

This book needs to be on Gen.Mattis’s Reading list

This book is a must read for every soldier, sailor, airmen and marine on active duty. General Mattis lays out his thoughts on leadership which has been honed by 40 years of service to our country. Furthermore, General Mattis’s consul has been honed by reading hundreds of books on war, politics, anthropology and world history. To quote General Mattis “if you haven’t read hundreds of books as an adult, you are functionally illiterate.”

This book is an example of what it means to lead men and women at war and do it with the least amount of loss of life on our side and inflicting maximum pain on the enemy.

Very Respectfully,

CPT Jeffrey Burke, USA

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-09-12

Excellent

Well written and thoughtful. Insight into one of the best strategic military leaders of all time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Topgunz1
  • 2019-09-12

Awesome Read

Take it from a 30 year Marine Corps Enlisted Veteran, this book is a must read. This should be on any corporations "MUST READ" list for all Managers, Directors, Vice Presidents, Presidents and CEO's. Its not just about how the Marine Corps or Joint Military operations function, its about Leadership!!!! Its about trust and the hard decisions that come with positions of responsibility.
Read it, Study it and learn from it!!! ONE GREAT READ!!!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-09-08

Great look behind the scenes.

Great story from a great American hero. I really liked the look into NATO. It almost has me looking differently at the organization.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon User
  • 2019-09-16

Thrilling and provoking

One of most relevence and a must read for military leaders at every rank. Thought provoking for leaders and military strategists. Dumbfounding and heartbreaking for those that are intimately aware of the ultimate price paid when leaders failed to listen to such a fantastic student of history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful