Personal Development

A smart person knows everything about a single topic. An intelligent person knows as much as possible about more than one topic. Both have great value, and depending on the industry, some organizations value one more than the other. In general, though, smart people fill entry-level jobs, who then become intelligent people to move up the ladder1. A robust personal development strategy will help you go from the former to the latter.

Effective personal development takes a lot of time and effort. To make this less complex, I broke it up into a four-step process. I also included several resources to get you started.

  1. Choose topics to study. Your profession may dictate that you focus on certain things. As a Soldier, you must learn military history and tactics; as a cyber Soldier, add technical topics to that list. After the things you have to study, look at your own interests to round it out: if you like programming, learn about it, too; if you like woodworking, include it.
  2. Find reliable resources from which to learn. Once you know what you want to study, start searching for quality resources. You might not have any choice but to take a formal class, but do not discount the value a peer or supervisor can bring to the table. Most experts love to share knowledge. Many people at the top of their fields also like to write online, so do not discount the viability of an online course or even a personal website.
  3. Learn. Once you know what you want to study and how you want to study it, do it. Real learning — the type that stays with you, and that you can use to become more intelligent — takes effort, as any type of growth does. Make a deliberate learning plan, then make a concerted effort to execute it.
  4. Use that knowledge. Most people forget the last step in a solid personal development strategy, “Use that knowledge”. If you do not learn something and then put it to good use, you will forget it — and in losing what you worked so hard to gain, you waste all that time, effort, and money. Do not make this mistake. If you learn a new skill, use it; if you learn something new, teach someone else. Just don’t lose it.

These steps outline a process for personal development that will help you stay relevant in an ever-changing, ever-advancing domain. Take it to heart, implement it, and you will find yourself far ahead of your peers. I designed the list below, and chose the resources it comprises, with an audience of cyber soldiers in mind. I plan to update it as I find new and worthwhile books, articles, project ideas, and other resources. I will also update the list as better resources surface, and take away the things that prove useless. Like my morning and evening reads, this is a living document — a reflection of the best knowledge I have on this subject to date.


As a cyber Soldier, you must divide your personal development time between military, professional, and personal education. I call this a “one-third” model. Those unencumbered by the demands of the military may use a “one-half” model, where they split their time between personal and professional education. As a cyber Soldier, I divided the list below between those three areas, and further divide it into books and articles you can read, topics you can study, and projects you can try. Some sections include others areas, such as newsletters or podcasts.

The vast and complex nature of the fifth domain offers practitioners an easy excuse for ignoring adjacent fields and their place within any sort of a broader context. While this document features many resources that will aid in your technical development, it does not neglect those other topics. As David Heinemeier Hansson said in Programmings should stop celebrating incompetence, “You can’t become an expert at everything, and it’s fine to accept your boundaries. But it’s not fine to think you shouldn’t be on some paths towards mastery.” You do not have to master every topic here, but you should become familiar with all of them on your road to mastery of your chosen niche.

1/3 - Military Education #

“Professional readings and study are not solely the responsibility of military schools. Individuals cannot afford to wait for attendance at a military school to begin a course of self-directed study. Military professionalism demands that individuals and units find time to increase their professional knowledge through professional reading, professional military education classes, and individual study.” Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1-3: Tactics. Enough said.

Books #

Military leaders must read, understand, and live doctrine. These documents govern every aspect of military life, both on and off the battlefield. All soldiers should read the following Field Manuals (FM) and books. For more information, some have Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) versions, or Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) versions. These tend to consist of similar information presented in different ways, which can sometimes aid in the understanding of a difficult topic. Most soldiers will read many FMs throughout the course of their military careers, but start with these manuals. This list also contains several books worth studying in the course of one’s military development.

Articles #

Look to unofficial sources for military education as well. Some people like to put doctrine on a pedestal, above all other sources of institutional knowledge, but humans write both. Find the good in each and learn from it.

Podcasts #

Movies #

Nothing can replace first-hand experience, but by listening to the stories of those who came before us, we may benefit from their hard-learned lessons in war. Movies like these have valuable lessons to teach soldiers about leadership and the conduct of war.

Projects #

Newsletters #

Topics #

1/3 - Professional Education #

The Army expects all soldiers to maintain both technical and tactical proficiency; industry expects civilians to stay near the front of their fields. Professional education will help make that happen for both. In general, pursue classes and certifications related to your field, and stay up to date on current events related to your domain. For cyber soldiers in particular, I suggest studying these books, articles, and topics, and working on these projects.

Rather than maintain duplicate lists, this section includes few books or articles related to cyberspace operations. I spent a great deal of time reviewing such resources for my book The Tactical Employment of Cyber Protection Teams, in which I devote an entire chapter to this subject. Members of USCYBERCOM and its subordinate units may request a copy by sending a message to my work email, available in the global address list.

Books #

Articles #

Podcasts #

Topics #

Windows Active Directory #

Authentication Methods #

Projects #

1/3 - Personal Education #

No matter how much you love your job, I encourage you to read, write, develop personal projects, and pursue your own interests — especially if they lie outside the cyber domain. Technical people in particular seem to have a tendency to work in front of a screen all day, then do the same at home. Find something to do with your hands — or, if you work with your hands all day, think about switching it up at home. I recommend reading these books and articles, studying these topics, and working on these projects.

Books #

Articles #

Topics #

Projects #

There’s a saying, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” Something similar applies in the cyber domain: “He not busy learning is not busy at all.” In a field based on complex technologies and full of remarkably smart people, the only way to stay relevant — to stay employed — is to become a lifelong learner. This habit takes a lifetime to build, but you can start by taking an active role in your personal development.

 Consider the best network administrator in the world. That skill alone does not generate revenue, so he or she must work for someone else. If, instead, this person sits at the top of the org chart in their own company, they have made themselves a generalist, with skills in other areas; that has come at the cost of being the best network administrator in the world, though. Someone else, who does nothing but administer networks, now has that title.

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