Peak Business Performance Under Pressure by Bill Driscoll

“Way over the top” was my first impression of Peak Business Performance Under Pressure: A Navy Ace Shows How to Make Great Decisions in the Heat of Business Battle by Bill Driscoll and Peter Joffre Nye (Allworth Press, 210 pp., $19.95). The length of the title alone overwhelmed me. And then a flood of endorsements by admirals and a rousing blessing in the Forward by Sen. John McCain further wowed me. The wealth of hoopla turns out to be justified.

Driscoll presents an inspirational blend of personal experience and advice from others in offering his formula on how to be a successful executive leader. And he does it with boundless enthusiasm.

The blend includes his experiences from a forty-year association with the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and twenty-six years of selling real estate, along with interviews with more than 200 senior executives and twenty-six Ace fighter pilots.

Along with Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Driscoll became an Ace while flying 170 Navy F-4 Phantom missions in the Vietnam War. Driscoll opens the book with an account of his final mission in which his crew destroyed three MIGs before being shot down by a surface-to-air missile. That success had created momentary complacency that nearly killed the crew. The remainder of the book presents similar lessons.

Driscoll’s “Peak Performance” goal is winning every time. His credo for cockpit or boardroom is: “The day you stop wanting to be better is the day you stop being good.”

Bill Driscoll

Success in any endeavor requires a person to “follow every element of the Peak Performance Formula, every day,” Driscoll says. Each element has its own chapter. The lessons contain steps to maximize success.

Each chapter ends with a probing question-and-answer “debrief,” much like what follows a combat mission.

Overall, the text is to the point and personalized so that the reader easily becomes involved in the discussion. At the same time, the book resembles a training manual because it is interspersed with facts and advice that parallel the topic at hand.

You don’t have to be seeking success in business to benefit from reading this book. Driscoll provides suggestions for behavior that can enhance just about anyone’s everyday life. Although highly zealous, he recognizes when enough is enough and helps the reader to do the same.

The author’s web site is

—Henry Zeybel

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, the founder and director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, began practicing psychiatry in 1978 at the Boston VA Clinic. On his very first day on the job he ran into an extremely troubled Vietnam veteran. That former Marine became “the first veteran I had ever encountered on a professional basis,” van der Kolk writes in The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (Viking, 464 pp., $27.95), his best-selling blend of memoir, clinical observations, and recommended treatments.

It won’t surprise any Vietnam veteran to learn that Dr. van der Kolk—who today is one of the most renowned experts on post-traumatic stress—ran into nothing but roadblocks at the VA in 1978 as he attempted to work with the former Marine and other Vietnam veterans with what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder.

van der Kolk was not trained to deal with war-related post-traumatic stress. So after he began working with his first Vietnam veteran patient, he decided to read up on the subject at the VA’s medial library. van der Kolk  was looking for “books on war neurosis, shell shock, battle fatigue, or any other term or diagnosis I could think of that might shed light on my patients,” he writes.

Back in 1978, van der Kolk didn’t find one book “about any of those conditions” at the VA, he says. “Five years after the last American soldier left Vietnam, the issue of wartime trauma was not on anyone’s agenda.”

Bessel van der Kolk

After a breakthrough in 1980—when a group of Vietnam veterans working with pyschoanalysts Chaim Shatan and Robert J. Lifton convinced the American Psychiatric Association to recognize PTSD–van der Kolk wrote a proposal for a study that would look at traumatic memories and PTSD.

The VA rejected his proposal, saying: “It has never been shown that PTSD is relevant to the mission of the Veterans Administration.”

Nor surprisingly, van der Kolk soon left the VA, and went to work at Harvard University’s Massachusetts Mental Health Center. As frustrating as it was, van der Kolk’s experience at the VA proved to be good training. His experiences treating Vietnam veterans, he writes, “had so senstized me to the impact of trauma that I now listened with a very different ear when depressed or anxious patients told me stories of molestation and family violence.”

In many ways, he says, “these patients were not so different from the veterans I had just left behind at the VA. They also had nightmares and flashbacks. They also alternated between the occasional bouts of explosive rage and long periods of being emotionally shut down. Most of them had great difficulty getting along with other people and had trouble maintaining meaningful relationships.”

van der Kolk has spent more than three decades doing innovative work with veterans, their families, rape victims, and other survivors of trauma. In this well-written and readable book he explains how trauma rearranges the brain’s wiring and offers ways to treat PTSD. That includes neurofeedback, group role-playing, mindfulness techniques, and yoga.

You can make a case that one of the biggest influences on van der Kolk’s pioneering work has been the time he spent working with Vietnam veterans at the uncooperative VA back in the late seventies.

–Marc Leepson

Wommack’s The Art of Leadership by David R. Wommack

Wommack’s The Art of Leadership: Moving from Military to Industry  (CreateSpace, 118 pp., $12.95, paper; $4.99, e book) is a gigantic book crammed into just over a hundred pages. Author David R. Wommack’s career stretches through several realms in the military (including serving as an Army lieutenant in the Vietnam War in 1969-71) as well in the public sector.

The text is a clear-cut, well-organized guide designed to empower former military personnel to move into leadership roles in industy. It is obvious that the author speaks from personal experience in the workplace and not from a theoretical perspective.

Perhaps the most important concept that Wommack explains is the difference between management and leadership. Both are necessary positions in industry, but are very different. Wommack uses quotes from successful leaders to illustrate his points. For instance, this observation from Peter Drucker: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

What makes this book unique are the first 88 pages in which Wommack describes the characteristics of a true leader and how military life, by its very nature, develops those important skills. I believe anyone with military training will better understand the possibilities for leadership roles as the author explains how to make the transition from military to industrial leadership.

Chapter 3, “Leading,” is the book’s powerhouse. In it, Wommack explains how trust, honesty, and a willingness to take responsibility are integral components to successful leadership. Wommack also suggests using humility and humor—traits that one might not expect to come across in an industrial setting.

David R. Wommack

The author believes that humor can lighten the workplace atmosphere.  “Humor can make work fun. Fun? Yes, fun! Jokes. Laughter. Puns. Pranks. Games. Humor. Keep away from sexual humor for obvious and legal reasons, but self-deprecation—poking fun at oneself—is a sure sign of humility.”

Chapter 5 deals with motivating, training, and coaching of groups and individuals, necessary skills for any successful leadership career. Later, Wommack discusses finding a new job, covering areas such as resume writing, interviewing, and the need to be persistent in follow-up with employers.

While this book focuses on individuals leaving the military, I believe it would be helpful for anyone looking for a career. Any energetic job seeker is bound to feel grateful for the empowering ideas Wommack presents.

When you finish reading Wommack’s the Art of Leadership, the pages should be severely dog-eared and profusely highlighted.

The author’s website is

—Joseph Reitz

Healing the Warrior Within by Alan Cutter


My feeling while reading Alan Cutter’s Healing the Warrior Within: A Veteran’s Spiritual Journey (CreateSpace, 240 pp., $11.95, paper) was that it needed to be reorganized with the chapters placed chronologically for clarity. I believe that the last three chapters would have been more effective moved up to follow the introduction.

Parts 2, 3, and 4 contain well-written examples of Cutter’s Vietnam War combat experiences and his post-traumatic stress disorder. I also would delete the first Letter of Paul to the Beloved Warrior, adding the absent footnotes indicated by numbers in the text of the letter.

In the preface to Paul’s letter Cutter quotes his mother’s philosophy “that we all are writing our own sacred book.” This led the author to comment that he found nothing sacred in his “unholy task” as a warrior so he rearranged “sacred” to express how he did feel: “scared, then scarred.”

I recommend that readers of the commentaries to Paul letters discuss them with trusted friends, family, Vet Center groups, or in a retreat setting when intense subjects such as reconciliation, the “unholy task” of combat, thoughts of suicide, or self-destructive behavior are mentioned.

The commentaries following the Paul letters provide insights into the author’s combat and subsequent PTSD. “I found it hard to explain what if [sic] like to be told that because of some physical loss I was now disabled,” Cutter writes. This came after his Agent Orange-related Parkinson’s Disease was diagnosed.

Alan Cutter

The section called “The Gathering” in Part 2 has several references related to Cutter’s war experiences that are worthy of note, such as: “I always arrive a little early at these retreats, or wherever I go. Before I can feel comfortable, even partially safe which is about as good as it gets, I have to have a chance to walk the perimeter.”

Part 3 contains more personal thoughts. In “G for Gratitude,” Cutter writes: “When I first stepped into a Vet Center I was not filled with gratitude. I was filled with resentment. I didn’t want to be there.”

In Part 4 Cutter writes about joining the National Conference of Vietnam Veterans Ministers, which became the International Conference of War Veteran Ministers when the membership grew more inclusive. This final part features biblical passages from the Christmas season accompanied by the author’s thoughts .

Cutter suggests that veterans write or record their war-time reflections and share them with family and friends. That’s good advice.

—Curtis Nelson


From Nam to Normal by Richard A. Price

From Nam to Normal: Battle of the Demons (CreateSpace, 182 pp., $8.99, paper) by VVA member Richard A. Price is a passionate, practical, well-organized handbook for Vietnam veterans dealing with PTSD.

Price makes no claims to be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. But in 170 pages he describes a lifetime’s worth of suffering with PTSD. He also includes a variety of useful techniques to help veterans back to normal. But he warns the reader: “Don’t kid yourself; the journey isn’t easy. But what has ever been easy for the Vietnam veteran?”

Richard Price spent many years teaching secondary school and college-level courses at Ohio State and Kent State Universities. His true passion surfaced when he began dealing with his fellow Vietnam War veterans and their PTSD. He credits Vietnam Veterans of America with providing him much-needed support in his work with Vietnam veterans.

In his book Price uses an impressive style in setting out his experiences and journey to normalcy. Each of the twelve chapters compares an aspect of the battlefield with a similar situation back home. The chapter titles include “The Firefight: My Symptoms Surface,” “A Friend in the Foxhole: The Value of a Buddy,”  “Search and Destroy: Attacking PTSD.”

Price spent two tours in Vietnam as a Seabee. He arrived on the first day of the Tet Offensive in 1968 and led a machine gun squad defending the Gia Le perimeter. Following Tet, he began working on Seabee construction projects. At the end of his tour Price flew home on a cargo plane that turned out to be a full of caskets.

“No one can expect a veteran returning from combat to be the same person he was before,” he writes. “That was expected of us, and for that matter, we somehow had that expectation of ourselves.” Price compares his home-front reception to an ambush that destroyed his dreams, and also set the stage for his PTSD demons.

Price explains that veterans often are unaware that their personal reactions often stem from wartime experiences, and that damage can be done to familial relationships as well is to self and property. The results often lead to escape through alcohol and drugs. Self-awareness and wartime buddies can help a veteran navigate this minefield on the road to recovery.

“The majority of people think of intervention as a positive thing,” he writes. “They couldn’t be more wrong.” This statement can be confusing, but Price makes it clear that it is necessary to be very selective in using intervention methods. Interventions in his own life have helped him overcome depression, but Price says that he still deals with depression and is always on the lookout for the triggers that send him down that road.

The chapter titled “Operation Normal II: My Continued Quest for Normal” is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Price tells of his love and pride for his family, but he also writes about how his PTSD hurt his family. He admits that instead of working to repair and strengthen his relationship with his wife, he immersed himself in work, a common symptom of PTSD.

In “Cans on the Wire: Triggers and Depression” Price explains “triggers” and their role in PTSD. He notes that there are many kinds of triggers, and that can make the identification of PTSD difficult. To a Vietnam veteran, dreams, the comments of a friend, or even a path through a forest can be triggers that bring on the fight-or-flight syndrome.

Nam to Normal discusses the role of movies in creating the image of a returning soldier. World War II movies produced heroes on the screen, while Vietnam War movies typically created a very different kind of image.

Price says that in writing this book he often suffered writer’s block. Anyone who reads his book will appreciate that he worked through the blocks. His book will help many war veterans on the long march to normalcy for a long time.

—Joseph Reitz

The Way of the Warrior in Business by Donald Wayne Hendon

VVA life member Donald Wayne Hendon’s The Way of the Warrior in Business: Battling for Profits, Power and Domination—and Winning Big! (Maven House Press, 216 pp., $19.95, paper), is a how-to marketing book that offers tons of useful information to sales and marketing folks—information that is framed in military terms.

Hendon—a veteran consultant who specializes in marketing, management, negotiation, and international business—says the book “is about knowing and using military strategies and tactics to increase your profits, your power, your ability to dominate your market.”

Donald Wayne Hendon

The book is based on a seminar that Hendon developed and has presented many times. It’s called “Business Warfare.”

The goal is to become what Hendon calls a “Business Warrior,” someone who wins in business adapting tactics and strategies used by famed military thinkers. That list includes the ancient Chinese sage Sun-Tzu, Mao Tse-Tung, Karl von Clausewitz, and even the former North Vietnamese leader Le Duan.

“Business,” Hendon says, “is not just similar to war–it is war!”

The author’s website is

—Marc Leepson