Two Is One, One Is None

January / 2021
Author: Dan Bradley

Isn’t it kind of funny that the mistakes you regret the most tend to turn into the lessons that you value the most?

Here’s one of mine. As a young and inexperienced Officer, I was training with my unit in northern New York. It was a late night in early November, which means two things – it was dark, as nights tend to be, and it was cold, as northern New York almost always is. The primary tool I was training on that particular evening was my radio, and I felt that I had prepared my tool well – I had my channels and COMSEC (communications security codes) programmed, a well-packed rucksack, and a fully-charged battery, which I assumed would last me through the night.

If you know anything about how batteries work in the cold, you know how this is going to end.

Within a few hours of starting the training event, my radio started flashing a notification that my battery was low. “That can’t be right,” I thought. It was a brand-new fully charged battery, one that typically could last through the night. The freezing cold had completely drained it, and I found myself standing in the Adirondacks, in the dark, freezing cold and alone, without my primary tool. Needless to say, I failed my training mission.

The word “embarrassed” doesn’t begin to capture how I felt at that moment. 

It was that night that I was introduced to the phrase “Two is One, One is None.” In my case, I had one battery, which quickly turned into no batteries and a lot of frustration. Had I possessed the foresight to add redundancy to a potential sole source of failure, I like to think I’d have passed that training mission with flying colors.

That’s all that redundancy is – FORESIGHT. Preparing something that’s not an immediate necessity, but you’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

How does it apply to your team winning the Talent War? 

How many jobs in your organization have the potential to become sole sources of failure? In other words, what roles can you not operate without? Some people might default to high-level leadership roles like President or CFO, but the most important roles might not be the ones you think of right off the bat. For example, in my industry (commercial HVAC), our field technicians rely on our dispatcher to tell them where they’re going, who they’re meeting, and what work to perform when they arrive. No dispatcher, no communication, no work, no revenue, a lot of angry customers. What if the dispatcher quits without a redundancy plan in place? If they deserve a promotion to a new role, would you withhold that opportunity from them because they’re too important to move? Think about that. Could your lack of redundancy prevent you from taking proper care of the people who trust you to do right by them? 

People quit. People get promoted. People call in sick. People chase other opportunities. People take leaves of absence. There are hundreds of reasons that a role can end up vacant, both short-term and long-term. It’s not if – it’s when. Prepare better than I did – pack that extra battery and build redundancy into everything your organization does. 


After graduating from the Air Force Academy, Dan served for over five years as an officer in the elite Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) community within Air Force Special Warfare. In that time, he became qualified as an Air Liaison Officer (ALO) and a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), rising quickly to be entrusted with prominent leadership, management, and director roles. Dan partnered with EF Overwatch in 2019 and now works as the Director of Sales for Kahn Mechanical Contractors, a commercial HVAC company in Dallas. He and his wife Lauren live in Flower Mound, Texas.