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

Who in Your Life Deserves a Gold Medal?

Winning Gold

The Olympic rings must be magnetic, pulling me in every few years. Whatever the event, I’m fascinated by the competition and by the stories of the athletes. They are irresistible. The fact that the world comes together, for just a few weeks, is incredibly inspiring.

 

“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.” – Dan Gable

 

If you’re a student of success, the Olympics offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand drive, determination, and discipline. Every individual has a unique story of overcoming obstacles. You don’t make it to the field without years of practice. You also don’t make it without a team of supporters.

I especially love watching the podium during the award ceremonies. As the medals are placed around the winners’ necks, and especially when the anthems are played, you glimpse the sheer joy of victory. It’s common to see tears, the emotion raw at that moment. And then, if the camera catches it right, you also see some of the others who are also part of the success. Friends, family, and coaches are beaming with pride.

 

“By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property.” -Voltaire

 

Champions Behind the Scenes

As the games in Rio draw to a conclusion, I think about all of the people who help us succeed every day but never get a medal. These people are instrumental in shaping us. Maybe it’s a mom or a dad, a teacher, or a friend who is always there. You may have had a mentor or a special boss who inspired you to do more than you thought you could. If you’re as fortunate as me, it may be your spouse who deserves the Gold.

 

“The joy of leadership is helping others succeed.” –Roger Stilson

 

Why not take the time to recognize some special people? Who deserves a Gold Medal in your life? Go ahead and share this post with them. Tell their story in the comments (it’s really not that hard to leave one! You can sign up for Disqus, sign in with your social media account, or sign in as a guest) or in your social media stream.

 

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“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” –John F. Kennedy

 

“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.” –Veronica Roth

Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed

Getting Stronger

What happens when you get a stress management expert, a successful entrepreneur, and a Navy SEAL together to write a book? You end up with Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed, a powerful new resource that will help you better thrive under pressure. The three authors have such varied experience that, when combined, works magnificently. The result is a powerful book that will help you not only understand resilience but learn how to build it for yourself.

Two of the authors, George Everly and Dennis McCormack, collaborated to answer some of my questions and to give you a glimpse into the power of resilience. Dr. Everly is one of the founding fathers of modern stress management. He teaches at Johns Hopkins and Loyola University of Maryland. Dennis McCormack is one of the original Navy SEALS. He pioneered SEAL combat doctrine and tactics in Vietnam.

 

“Resilience is the ability to personally rebound from adversity.”

 

The Single Most Powerful Factor to Your Potential 

You call personal resilience the single most powerful factor to realize your potential. Is resilience something you are born with or can develop?

While for some, resilience may be a trait they are born with, for most of us resilience is learned…and that’s the great news! Recent research suggests that it is NOT age dependent either. So we can learn to be resilient at ANY age.

 

“Optimism is more than a belief, it’s a mandate for change.”

 

5 Factors of Personal Resilience

You reference 5 factors of personal resilience. The first is active optimism. What’s the difference between active and passive optimism? How do you increase it?

Great question. People who are passively optimistic believe things will turn out well, but they wait for such things to occur. Actively optimistic people believe things will turn out well because they are decisive and action-oriented. In short, they MAKE things turn out well. They take advantage of the self-fulfilling prophecy effect. When they fail, they see that failure as a temporary setback. Regarding the issue of leadership, whom would you rather follow, someone who waits for good things to happen, or someone who makes good things happen?

As for increasing active optimism, both in yourself and others, follow this principle: Active optimism is fostered in an environment which is supportive, instructive, and forgiving; one that sees failure as a stepping stone to success.

Avoid toxic devaluing environments. When failure does occur, and it will, understand failure is what you did, not who you are. Learn from it. You will be stronger next time!

 

“The optimist always has the capacity to look forward to another day.”

 

5 Core Factors of Personal Resilience

  1. Help people withstand adversity.
  2. Help people make good decisions under pressure.
  3. Motivate people to achieve peak performance.
  4. Allow people to bounce back quickly and effectively even when they are temporarily knocked down.
  5. Serve as important features in determining satisfaction in life and overall happiness.

 

3 Steps to Manage Impulsive Urges 

Why Winners Take Risks

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Tom Panaggio, entrepreneur, strategic advisor, speaker and amateur race car driver about taking risks, winning, and using failure to propel success. Tom is the author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Edge.

 

The 2 Big Advantages of Risk

 

“A leader who accepts risk is setting the stage for long term success.” –Tom Panaggio

 

Why is risk an advantage?

 

There are two big advantages to risk.

First and foremost risk is directly connected to opportunity.  Every opportunity must have an element of risk or there will be no benefit.  Risk is the cost of opportunity.  All businesses and organizations must be in a constant state of forward progress because of competition and the ever-changing demands of customers.  Therefore, as an entrepreneur or business leader we must continuously seek out opportunities to meet these demands.  A leader who recognizes the vast importance of forward motion for their organization accepts risk as merely a cost of opportunity and then actively endorses this philosophy throughout his business in setting the stage for long term success.

Secondly because most people have a tendency to avoid or minimize risk, those who have the courage to embrace it already have a competitive advantage.  For example my company was a non-stop marketer.  We knew that our competition was not willing to risk the investment in marketing to the degree that we were.  So we took advantage of their unwillingness to risk the marketing dollars and dominated our market space by out-marketing them.  We put ourselves in a position to win by embracing the risk of marketing.

 


“The only way to achieve success is to have the courage to embrace risk every day.” –Tom Panaggio

 

How do you encourage the appropriate amount of risk?

It is important to understand that my position on embracing risk does not advocate blindly engaging in any and all opportunities regardless of the potential outcome.  But the only way to achieve long term success is to have the courage to embrace risk each and every day.  With that said, there is no standard to determine what level of risk is appropriate, and there is only a blanket rule of thumb that can be generally applied.  That’s the great challenge of being a business leader: recognizing worthy opportunities.  Any opportunity that is void of a sufficient benefit or is described as “no-risk” should be avoided.  Each situation that requires one to embrace risk must be evaluated on a unique basis.

If pressed for an answer, I would say that we always start with the end to determine if this is an opportunity worth pursuing.  What is the reward or benefit the company receives from committing to this opportunity?  If an opportunity provides little reward or doesn’t help with the company’s forward motion, then we limit the amount of risk.  If the opportunity can change the competitive landscape for the company or increases the value your product or service has for your customers, then the level of risk increases by the potential return.

Everyone wants a formula or template they can apply to all business situations.  That shifts the responsibility from the business leader to the formula.  But in the end, business leaders need to rely on their gut intuition and have the courage to step outside the comfort zone.

 

Adapting A Winner’s Mindset

 

How do you adapt a winner’s mindset?

This is really a difficult concept to grab hold of because human nature is pushing us to play not to lose rather than to go for the win.  A study was done and it found out that most people get twice as much joy from not losing as they do from winning.  Lose aversion creates risk aversion: “I don’t want to lose what I have.”

My father was a basketball coach so from a very early age the idea of winning was a way of life. I was conditioned to want to win and, therefore, not only to think like a winner, but more importantly ACT like a winner, which means having the internal drive that says, “I want to win” and then focusing on preparing for competition, execution and moving forward.

 

“If you do not have a winner’s mindset, odds are you will not succeed.” –Tom Panaggio

 

The truth is business does not support the theory of, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”  In business you not only better play the game right, but you have to win, too. Competition in business has no level of compassion, you either want to win and then act like a winner or you get eliminated.  So if you do not possess a winner’s mindset when you launch a business, the odds are you will not succeed.

 

Using Failure to Succeed