FORGING KOKORO CHARACTER
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” –Aristotle
Let’s get back to basics and start to examine how we can develop this fifth mountain in our own lives. We can’t even begin to develop Kokoro until a few solid values are forged into habits. Our habits define us. They are the little actions we take every moment, day in and day out. The problem is that many of our habits, though maybe not “bad” habits such as smoking or overeating, are not “excellence habits.” Thus we tend to view them as “ok” and do nothing about them, while wondering why we don’t get the results of elite performers.
We must examine our habits, and seek to drive out weak habits with excellence habits. As a nail drives out another nail, so a new habit will drive out an old. What are the “excellence habits” of Unbeatable Mind, practiced by SEALs, top tier athletes and other elite performers?
The three values we will immediately forge into excellence habits are discipline, drive and determination. These three words are more than values, they are a way of life that when habituated will propel you relentlessly toward victory over any goal or challenge.
When we habituate discipline, drive and determination, we become motivated by great challenges. We learn to “embrace the suck” and grow stronger through trial and tribulation. We develop self-knowledge of our powers of accomplishment through a disciplined approach to self-mastery. We grow stronger by driving forward, not shying from hard challenges or quitting when the going gets unfathomable. We grow through quiet determination to win and we persevering until we do. Our kokoro spirit is stoked and strengthened by habituating discipline, drive and determination.
Discipline is the habit of the daily grind. Discipline literally means to be a disciple to a higher purpose. Developing the discipline to train hard every day means we are a disciple to the higher purpose of training, which is to develop ourselves fully as human beings. We do this not so we look good, or to stoke our egos, but so that we can be more useful in life and ful ll our purpose for being here. Discipline starts with training the mind to reject discomfort, embrace pain if we must, avoid distractions, and eject negativity from our lives. Harken back to the First Premise lesson and you see how discipline of the mind stems from gaining control of and taming our minds. Then seek to use our minds wisely to develop effective skills, knowledge and strategies for accomplishing our goals without wavering or quitting.
Drive provides the motivation behind our disciplined actions. Drive is fueled by the desire, belief and expectation that we can achieve – that we are capable of more measure than we have given before. Drive comes from deep within, and is a re ection of our purpose enacted in the arena. Drive is a powerful “why” propelling us forward relentlessly. We habituate drive by contemplating deeply our purpose, and connecting with it daily. The Unbeatable Mind morning ritual is an excellent method for doing this. Journaling and ensuring that our purpose is ever present when we make decisions is another. Does this action move me closer or farther from my purpose, my main aim in life? We should be “driven” to stay on purpose and not allow ourselves to get pulled off.
We have all been pulled off track before. In early 2006 my company was hired by the Navy to launch the SEAL Mentor program for the Navy Recruiting Command. This program was a huge endeavor, and the team I recruited did an amazing job taking the pass rate on the SEAL screening test (the PST) from 33% to over 85% at boot camp in the rst 9 months. Yes somehow the contract was tossed out and awarded to Blackwater USA (now XE) one year into what was a 5 year deal. Though the reasons for this were pretty suspect on the surface, the bottom line was that this pursuit was “off purpose” for me and losing it got me back on track. It should never be about the money. For a small company like mine, the impact of the loss seemed like a huge blow at the time. However, it did not take me long to see the reason it had to go – my purpose was to train warriors, not run a government contract handcuffed by the bureaucracy. Everything that happens to us can have a silver lining if we know our purpose!
Determination is the willpower to keep going after everyone else has gone home. The SEAL trainees who succeed are the ones who go the extra mile on every evolution, including the evolutions not graded or observed by the training cadre. When everyone else is done for the day, the determined will stay for an extra hour honing a skill, working on their gear or studying. Similarly, the best athletes, actors, doctors and warriors are not always the most talented. Rather they are the ones who work the hardest. They are determined to be on the team, determined to be the best, and they go after it through relentless hard work. News flash to the world: hard work works! I know I am preaching to the choir in Unbeatable Mind, but the FIFO system, “ first in, last out,” is the accounting system of the determined individual.
Universal Principle Alignment
“Will do today what others won’t, will do tomorrow what others can’t.” — Smoke Jumper Creed
Kokoro is the most difficult of the five mountains to isolate and train. We can- not easily separate the training of the mind, body and spirit into nice little chunks and say, “I am now working the body and tomorrow I’ll work the spirit.” My experience is that Kokoro must be trained slowly and methodically over time. A crucible experience can greatly accelerate this process. Although difficult to carve out spirit and train it separately, we can begin to “sharpen our sword” of self-mastery with a daily commitment to the practicing of the first four mountains of physical, mental, emotional and intuitional development. Through this training our Fifth Mountain will be strengthened as well.
SHARPENING THE SWORD
“Do or do not, there is no try” –Yoda
How can we do today what others won’t, so we can do tomorrow what others can’t? Let’s start by challenging ourselves today to be 1% better than yesterday. We don’t leave this to chance. We have got to have a plan and that plan must be simple, effective and executed daily. Clearly we need to habituate discipline in order to execute our plan daily, or we will veer off the path. Most people gyrate between starting a new training program, training for a few months, then losing interest and stopping entirely. Then they start something new when they get disgusted enough to get off dead center again. I see this all the time with our US CrossFit gym. Folks come in all excited and we put them to work. Within two months the grim reality sets in and before they habituate discipline and start to enjoy the fruits of the tapas, they bail.
This yo-yo approach leads nowhere because one is always returning to the starting point. It is a cycle of frustration and failure. I recommend we choose a tried and true method, then start it and stick with it. Easy day right? We must implement a plan that gets us on the bus and keeps us there until we reach our destination. This plan should drive incremental improvement daily in the five key human capacities – the ve mountains.
As we embark on a five mountain approach to our training our sense of self expands. We develop broader perspective and break away from narrow minded behavior and closed system thinking. Perspective itself results from the unfolding of our consciousness as we break through barriers and see the world through fresh eyes. Most people never embark on this journey in earnest, preferring to stay in the safe confines of their mental and emotional box. Those seeking an Unbeatable Mind, however, embrace change and seek to accelerate it, finding thrill in the journey of their ever expanding potential.
After a year or more of training we find we have unlocked our potential and are now on a path of self-discovery to fully explore it. We seek travel, challenges, interaction with new people and ideas, and are not afraid to try new things. Thus begins the upward spiral that occurs when we sharpen our sword every day.
Developing perspective also allows us to more intimately understand our inner nature, thus the nature of others. This study of human nature happens through experience, contemplation, heightened awareness and study. Understanding human nature allows us to lead authentically and have compassion for our own weaknesses as well as those of others. We become better people and connect more deeply.
On this journey we learn to accept everyone and every moment as our teacher. We humble ourselves to the reality that we really don’t know “shit” as we become lifelong learners. The moment we start to believe in our own importance, intelligence or infallibility, we get smacked down. Those who do not learn this lesson will learn it in a glorious and painful manner later on.
The founder of Anusara Yoga was revered by his nearly half a million followers. Yet he was not training on a five mountain path, and had some chinks in his armor. He allowed his ego to get out of balance, which means he was not doing the inner work and challenging “tapas” that we are speaking of here in Unbeatable Mind. He started to believe that he was better and different and that the usual rules don’t apply to him. Sounds familiar right? We have seen many glorious falls over the years – preacher, scholar, politician, businessman, military or tness leader. No one is immune from the disease of an inflated ego. By aligning universal principles and infusing our ego with spirit, we will avoid this threat. Any structure, including the human mind, not built on a solid foundation will ultimately fall down. The Anusara founder took a glorious fall in 2012 as the result of having extramarital relations with many of his instructors. One YouTube video and it came crashing down. Staying on the path and sharpening the sword daily will prevent such disaster.
The most basic sharpening the sword technique is our disciplined physical training. By following a weekly training plan and sticking to it, our confidence grows. We are more courageous in our actions. Functional physical has a positive spillover effect on our psychology. We can do more useful things in life. Learning to pick up heavy objects and move with them safely makes us feel good and useful. This is not just a skill of those who work with their hands. Unfortunately most professions in the west have been stripped of the need for any sort of physical labor. We take this as a sign of societal progress…but is it? It appears to me that as our society has progressed, the human experience of health, happiness, peace and fulfillment has regressed. That can’t continue on forever. Humans need their bodies to operate at peak capacity. It affects everything else in our lives. When we are physically strong, we are “healthy” inside, we are mentally alert and more connected spiritually. In essence we are happier people and more useful to others. We are productive and don’t expect to be taken care of. We contribute more than we take. We serve and love. Everyone seeks this at some level, but most are held down by a system that encourages and rewards mediocrity. Disciplined physical training can set us free from this downward spiral. We don’t need to be an elite athlete or Navy SEAL. We just need the right attitude and to sharpen our sword daily. We must train for life. Unbeatable Mind physical training is about self-expression, growth and optimal health and not looking good in your boxer shorts or bikini. The physical training is a bridge to spirit!
Sharpening the sword through daily disciplined action helps to eliminate fear and develop courage. As we habituate discipline, drive and determination through our training we gain control over our minds and egos. With mental control, we can focus longer, achieve more, and accelerate toward our goals. We can start to use a broader range of thinking skills and access more of our minds, using it for worthy purposes. Fear is eliminated as we develop the ability to focus intently on a task, thereby blocking negative input and fear-based thinking. When we can focus on a particular action or goal with all of our emotional, cognitive, subconscious and action energy, there are no compromises, there is no quitting, and there is no fear of failure.
Fear is a non-issue when we are totally committed, when we stop trying and just do it. I have seen many SEAL candidates fail on “try.” “Do or do not, there is no try,” says Yoda. The word “try” is a cancer in our English speaking society. It immediately gives the speaker an out, a back door. Many languages have no word for “try.’ Once a decision is made and the line crossed, we must proceed with total commitment – a commitment fueled by discipline, drive and determination. There is no room for “try.” By burning our boats and committing fully to the mission, we are compelled to draw upon that reservoir of Kokoro spirit to propel us forward.
By studying our emotional lives and seeking to understand our human nature -its raw emotions as well as stored negative emotions – we can root out our false evidences appearing real (FEAR) hindering our growth. This false evidence exists in the gap between what we know to be true, and what perceive to be true. I like the Zen story of the monk who sees a coiled snake and runs away full of fear, only later to be shown the snake was actually a coiled rope. Most of our fears are like this rope – concoctions of our minds, unfounded and based upon faulty thinking or a stored negative emotion.
As we narrow the gap between the known and unknown our fears are illuminated and dissipated. Present moment awareness diminishes the possibility for a gap in the first place. In present moment awareness the monk would acknowledge that what looked like a snake may or may not be a snake. He would not leap to false conclusions, rather would investigate further, and deduce or induce truth. Seeking truth in the moment allows us to eliminate fe