The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street by Ken Marlin

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The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street: 11 Key Principles from Battlefield to Boardroom (St. Martin’s Press, 256 pp, $26.99) is a meticulously interweaving of basic Marine Corps strategies with business activities on Wall Street. The introduction, which at first seemed a bit lengthy, provided evidence of the merits of author Ken Marlin’s concepts. In fact, the Preface and Introduction alone could arguably be worth the price of the book.

Marlin, an investment banker, will never be accused of not being a proud Marine. His admiration and respect for the Corps come charging through loudly and clearly. His belief that “once a Marine always a Marine” is the foundation upon which he has built his business career.

Unlike many books based on Vietnam War experiences, in this one Marlin—who served as a Marine from 1970-81—jumps right into the business world on Wall Street. In a unique manner, he describes succeeding in the corporate world by incorporating the basic principles he learned in the Marine Corps.

This reviewer claims no great knowledge of the workings of Wall Street, but after reading the book, I felt like I had gained a better understanding of the complexity of daily activities at the high levels of business. I began to understand how some of Marlin’s Marine principles were used and why they were effective.

The validity of the old saying “It’s hard to argue with success” is well substantiated chapter after chapter. I found that the chapter titles themselves clarified Marlin’s application of the military into business. “Take the Long View,” “Know the Enemy,” “Know Yourself,” “Negotiate from the High Ground.”

Marlin also uses events to show how the principles have worked—or not—in  other wars, including in the Civil War and the Korean War. He served as a senior Marine officer on the USS Tripoli in the early 1970s, and uses every opportunity to describe how problems were solved through Marine ingenuity.

Quick fixes of problems often lead to additional problems in the future. In his chapter “Take the Long View” Marlin uses the battle of Khe Sahn to illustrate what can happen when long-term objectives are unclear and winning is all that matters.

“There has to be more to justifying the cost of a battle or a war than whether or not we won,” he writes.

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Ken Marlin

In the “Negotiate from the High Ground” chapter Marlin deals with business and corporate relationships on Wall Street, as well as international diplomacy, politics, and personal relationships. I found this chapter to be a kind of spiritual reading in which Marlin extrapolates the rules of conduct for the success of any group endeavor.

The author closes his book with these words: “I have seen that those that do apply these principles with honor, courage, competence, commitment and loyalty have a much higher likelihood of successfully achieving their long-term strategic objectives – and along the way they have less drama and feel good about how they got there too. I like that. It’s the Marine Corps Way.”

The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street is a powerful book for the business world and for anyone who desires to better his or her life and relationships.

—Joseph Reitz

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