Think Like a Navy SEAL to Achieve Greatness

navy seal

Think Like a Navy SEAL

This is not your typical career: after graduation, start as a CPA with a prestigious accounting firm, then go back to school at night for an MBA at NYU Stern School of Business, and leave it all behind to become a Navy SEAL. After full-time active duty, show your entrepreneurial side by co-founding Coronado Brewing Company, NavySEALS.com, and then other businesses like SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind.

That’s the unconventional career of Mark Divine.

I love to learn from people with varied experiences, and Mark is in a rare category. Of all the people I’ve met, no one has quite this type of resume.

His book, The Way of the SEAL, caught my attention a few years ago, and he is now re-releasing it in a second edition.

Truth be told, I’d much rather read his book than go through his brutal training program!

I recently caught up with him to talk about his work and his new book.

 

You were already a successful consultant when you decided to join the Navy and become the best as a SEAL. What drove you to make this decision? 

Shortly after starting my job as a CPA and consultant with PriceaterhouseCoopers (I was with Coopers at the time), I began a practice of Zen meditation with a martial arts grandmaster. Though I was a competitive athlete growing up and in college, meditation was new to me, and at 21 years old it had a powerful neuroplastic effect on my mind’s development. What I experienced as a result of extended practice over several years was increasing clarity and ability to see how the choices I had made subconsciously had driven me into this career that I did not feel inspired by. So I began to challenge all of my assumptions and see them as biased. Then I pondered different questions, such as what is my true purpose or calling in life? I found that what I was called to do was serve as a warrior and leader… and the SEALs became my new focus. This experience taught me the powerful truth that we must all align with our calling, or what Buddha called “dharma,” to find true fulfillment in life.

 

Think Like an Elite Warrior

The subtitle of your book is “Think like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed.” A powerful statement. How is our thinking directly tied to leadership?

We are all leaders and followers… leading our family, our corporate tribe or ourselves. Whether we do it well is another issue. To think like an elite warrior means to train your body-mind to be able to excel in an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. All Special Operators become masters in “VUCA” environments, and the business world is becoming a lot like the battlefield of the Spec Ops warrior (albeit less risky). If the corporate and entrepreneurial leader can learn to find clarity amidst the uncertainty and take powerful action in spite of ambiguity, then they will lead and succeed at an elite level.

 

Leadership Tip: Find clarity amidst uncertainty. Take action in spite of ambiguity.

 

Lead from the Front

Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed

How to Set and Attain Your Goals

Mark Divine retired as a commander in the US Navy where he had served as a SEAL for 20 years. He holds an MBA from NYU and is the founder of SEALTFIT, NavySeals.com, and U.S. CrossFit. His latest book is The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed.

Mark, it’s great to have a chance to talk with you as everyone is thinking about New Year’s resolutions: how to make them, but more importantly, how to keep them. Your book is a blueprint for success and is packed with principles, ideas, methods, and specific actions all designed to change your life. We can’t cover even a fraction of them, but I want to ask you about just a few.

 

“The best leaders keep their minds positively focused.” –Mark Divine

 

Visualize Powerfully

Let’s start with visualization. You put it this way: “Visualize Powerfully.” How do you personally visualize your goals and your success?

I learned in the SEALs the importance of winning the mission (goal) in my mind before stepping off the ramp into the dark of the night.

What this means for me is a three step process:

Go after well defined targets

First, I ensure that the targets I go after are the right targets and are super well defined so I don’t waste valuable time and energy chasing impossible dreams or improbable projects. In the past I often had poorly defined new year goals that quickly fell by the wayside. That happened because they were the wrong targets, or poorly defined to begin with. I outline a powerful process for preventing this and selecting the right targets in my book.

Imagine what victory looks like

Second, I imagine what victory looks like for my target / goal. I see it as clearly and with as much detail as possible in my mind’s eye. In fact I have built an imaginary training space I call my ‘Mind Gym’ where I do this inner work. In the gym I see the outcomes of the goal, see myself achieving it and what my life is like after. I see myself as the type of person who CAN achieve the goal and possessing all the skills and knowledge necessary to crush it.

Review your goals daily

Third, I visit my mind gym daily to review the visualization while tackling the tasks and preliminary steps toward accomplishing the goal. This strengthens the image and eventually leads to greater confidence and certainty of mission success.

 

“Decisiveness is a must for anyone seeking to gain momentum toward their critical targets.” –Mark Divine

 

Breathe for Success

You talk about the importance of breathing in your book. Why is it so important and would you share one of your breathing exercises?

The Benefits of Deep Breathing

In a firefight or any intense situation, I learned to perform better by controlling my physiology and psychology. The key was learning how to breathe more powerfully. It is the first and most important of what I call the ‘big four of mental toughness’ skills. Deep diaphragmatic breathing, through the nose, brings two immediate and critical benefits for mission success:wayofseal_cov

First, It is a stress release mechanism because it stimulates the automatic nervous system’s calming function. We are riddled with stressors coming at us from all angles, many self-imposed, and this breathing technique slows down our heart rate, calms our body and allows us to get back in control of our physiology so we can direct it towards performance.

Second, it centers us by narrowing the range of our critical mind’s thought patterns. The concentration required to breathe deeply means you are now focusing on health and stress release. This triggers positive feelings and thoughts, and the mind slows down so we can direct it towards the important tasks leading to success.

The training technique is simple, called the ‘Three part breath.’ Begin by exhaling all the air from your lungs, then inhale deep into your belly . . . your belly will move out. When the lower part of your lungs are full (your belly is ‘full’), then activate your diaphragm to fill the middle of your lungs. When that is full, then use your upper chest to fill the top of the lungs. The exhale is then done in reverse order, and the whole breath cycle should be a five count inhale and five count exhale. Over time you will do this naturally and unconsciously in one step, versus three steps. It will help you stay positively focused on your important goals in 2014 AND have great benefit for your overall health and peace of mind.