I thought I was tough… I’m a fit guy who’s able to run 10-15 miles at a time and knock out 2,000 pushups in a day. But recently, I had the privilege to train with the Navy SEALs for a day and in just an hour’s workout, I got my butt whooped. Despite my sore muscles (and bruised pride), the experience taught me more about myself, my limits and my approach to business – not to mention how intense the SEALs are!
Navy SEAL Training
Just so that we’re all on the same page, here’s a rough overview of what it takes to become one of the Navy’s most elite soldiers:
- Passing an initial Physical Screening Test (PST) with the minimum requirements of a “500 yard swim using breast or combat sidestroke in under 12:30 with a competitive time of 9:00 or less, at least 50 push-ups in 2 minutes with a competitive count of 90 or more, at least 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes with a competitive count of 85 or more, at least 10 pull-ups from a dead hang (no time limit) with a competitive count of 18 or more, run 1.5 mi (2.4 km) in running shorts and boots in under 10:30 with a competitive time of 9:30 or less.”
- Attending an 8-week “Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School” program, complete with an even more demanding closing PST.
- Taking part in 24 weeks of “Basic Underwater Demoliton/SEAL (BUD/S)” training, including the infamous “Hell Week,” during which candidates undergo five and a half days of continuous training, sleeping – at most – four hours during the entire week, while running more than 200 miles and doing physical training for more than 20 hours per day.
- Following that up with “Parachute Jump School” (3 weeks), “SEAL Qualification Training” (26 weeks) and “SEAL Troup (TRP) Training” (12-18 months).
Only after years of brutal training are SEAL Teams certified as SEAL Squadrons and readied for deployment (which typically lasts 6 months at a time, as part of a 12-24 month cycle of external deployments and internal operations).
I guess it’s no wonder I got my ass so thoroughly kicked in a single hour of training!
Lessons Learned from the SEALs
Besides discovering that my physical fitness is far from its peak, I learned a lot from the attitude and mentality of the soldiers I was fortunate enough to train with.
You think a single Navy SEAL can take down an enemy on his own? Of course not! Navy SEALs don’t try to show off; instead, they work together to accomplish strategic missions. In the same way, you – as an employee or entrepreneur – can’t get everything done on your own. You’ve got to be able to work effectively as a team if you want to make any real progress on your goals.
One of the things that impressed me most about the SEALs is their ability to communicate effortlessly, without really saying or doing anything at all. With the trust that they’ve built up in their teams, all they have to do is point a gun in a different direction or alter their body language slightly – that’s enough to convey their thoughts and intentions to their fellow squadron members.
Certainly, this ability is forged in Navy SEAL teams as a part of the extensive training described above – and you might not ever get to the point where you’re able to convey your thoughts to a fellow employee with a look alone. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take communications just as seriously. The better you communicate at work, the better your team can function, so don’t be afraid to invest your time and money in whatever tools you need to get this critical job done.
When it comes down to it, trust is communication without the actual communicating part. Navy SEALs trust each other so much that they don’t even need to speak to be sure their intentions are clear. You’ve got to strive to achieve the same thing with your entrepreneurial team – but know that that trust goes two ways. Not only do you need to know that your team has your back, you’ve got to trust them to do the right thing by giving them the level of autonomy that’s appropriate to their roles.
Bombs are going off and bullets are flying at their heads, but Navy SEALs are still calm. Why? Or, better yet, how?? Simple: training. The schedule of trainings I laid out above is so intense that most SEALs have been through much worse in their preparations than they’ll ever experience during live missions. The level of mastery they’ve attained helps them to keep even the scariest situations in perspective.
So what does this mean for you and me as business owners? It means that, if there’s a skill that’s essential for your business, you’ve got to continually invest in mastering it. That way, no matter what your business throws at you, you’ll be prepared for anything!
Navy SEALs don’t just “wing it.” Before they deploy for a mission, they’ll discuss every possible scenario and plan for different potential outcomes. By the end of their planning sessions, they’ll have hundreds of hypothetical situations mapped out so that they’re truly ready for anything they might face.
Now, imagine if you adopted that level of planning within your business! If you took the time to map out what you’d do in response to every possible outcome (both good and bad), you’d already be prepared with solutions for any future problems you faced while doing business. No matter what you had to confront, you’d always be acting from a position of strength and preparedness.
You don’t have to be as strong as a Navy SEAL, but you can do so much more than you think you can. Your body can handle at least 50% more effort than you think you’re capable of – in fact, in most cases, it’s your mind that’s holding you back. So push harder and toughen up. In business, you’re going to be pushed beyond your limits all the time. The faster you learn how to deal with this, the better off you’ll be.
Life is Good
After chatting with a dozen Navy SEALs and hearing their stories, it’s impossible not to recognize how good I have it. From now on, every time I approach a hard decision or a tough time in my life, I’m going to look back on my experiences and think, “At least I don’t have to do this with bombs going off and bullets flying at me, or while swimming through the ocean in 35 degree water.” Because that’s what the SEALs do – and they do it all without complaining or giving up on their missions.
Truly, I’m indebted to the Navy SEALs for my experience with them and for their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect and serve the country they love. Even my hardest days as a business owner pale in comparison to theirs, and I’m humbled to have had the chance to learn such valuable lessons alongside those whose efforts give me the freedom to worry about things like customer retention and profit margins in the first place.
So thank you, Navy SEALs for such a great experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with you and for the lessons that I’ll carry forward from it in both my personal and professional life. Hooyah!