Strategy Notes is a newsletter and community for anyone who wants to survive, succeed, and smile (or smirk) their way through high-stakes competition, written by an award-winning professional military strategist and university professor.

Welcome to Strategy Notes, a newsletter written by me—ML (Matt) Cavanaugh—where I dispatch & cache my field notes on strategy-making for life, war, business, politics and power. My aim is to expand strategic knowledge by sharing lessons from battle, books, and the classroom. If there’s one North Star here, it’s that the tactician fights harder, tougher, longer. The strategist changes the game.

Strategy Notes runs on Substack, a medium that enables writers to build better connections to small, tightly-bound communities. These communities bypass and break-free from the social media shouting match to tackle really wicked challenges.

What you’ll get

Strategy Notes publishes weekly (typically on Mondays). Strategy is the simplest, hardest thing at which to succeed. Side-stepping confusion is usually the biggest hurdle. SN’s goal is a few minutes’ of conversational writing that’ll put a few extra bullets in your strategy-ammo-belt. (It’s better to have ‘em and not need ‘em than need ‘em and not have ‘em, as the saying goes.)

Weekly, you should expect insights for strategy and strategies for insight, from an award-winning professional military strategist and former West Point strategy professor. I’ve spent decades in service organizations, writing a war plan in South Korea, a command vision for future high-tech conflict, and the past dozen observing firsthand what differentiates successful generals from unsuccessful ones (a subject I’ll take on in my forthcoming book, The Art of the General). Many of these battle-borne experiences and principles apply well in other competitive contests.

The upshot is that strategies have infinite forms—but there’s really only one consistently successful strategy—that’s to change the game. 

Insights are cheap, but good ones aren’t free. One idea can change everything. Strategy Notes is $10/month, a little over a quarter a day, a wise investment with great upside. Most posts will be subscriber-exclusive, particularly as this community gets off the ground. Subscribers also get one-on-one response, as appropriate, and dibs on leading the conversation and directing the topics covered in Strategy Notes.

About Matt

Lieutenant Colonel ML (Matt) Cavanaugh, PhD, is an active duty US Army Strategist* with experience in 11 countries and assignments ranging from Iraq to the Pentagon and Korea to New Zealand (abbreviated CV available here). He co-founded and is a Senior Fellow with the Modern War Institute at West Point, and is a graduate-level Professor of Practice with the Arizona State University (teaching a course on strategy for armed conflict). Matt’s also been the youngest recipient of the Army Strategist Association’s professional award – the Order of Saint Gabriel the Archangel (2015), in addition to earning West Point’s faculty-wide Apgar Award for Excellence in Teaching (2014), and was once named the US Army’s Athlete of the Year (2009).

His writing’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Sydney Morning HeraldUSA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and at ForeignPolicy.com. Matt was lead editor for both Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict (Potomac, 2018) and Winning Westeros: How Game of Thrones Explains Modern Military Conflict (Potomac, 2019). He earned his Master’s in Strategic Studies at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, and his PhD in International Relations under Professors Colin Gray and Beatrice Heuser at the University of Reading (UK). 

Matt can be reached via Twitter @MLCavanaugh or through the “contact” tab on his personal website at MLCavanaugh.com.

*As always, all the content on this site, including all essays, are unofficial expressions of opinion; the views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Point, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or any agency of the US government.

…so which is it, “ML” or just “Matt”?

When I started writing more widely, I found that some folks confused me with an American football coach and an actor/singer that’s roughly in my age bracket. So I started using “ML Cavanaugh” on my byline. If it’s in print, I’m “ML,” and if it’s in person, just please call me “Matt.”