“As fast as the wind, as quiet as the forest, as daring as fire, and immovable as the mountain.” –-Samurai Battle Flag
King Leonidas, when chided by his Allies for bringing “only” 300 to battle the Persians at Thermopylae – asked what the profession these men came from. “Baker,” “Butcher,” “Farmer” were the answers. He turned to his Spartans and asked their profession. They boomed with one voice “AROO< AROO, AROO (Sort of like our SEAL HOOYAH)”
They were showing their Kokoro Spirit. The Navy SEALs have Kokoro spirit. I would take one Spartan or one SEAL by my side over 50 regular soldiers. They lead with heart and are not afraid to stay in the fight to the finish. That is you now!
Staying in the Fight
I have learned some simple tricks for staying in the fight mentally when embracing the suck. The main ones I call “the Big Four Skills.” I have written about these extensively in both The Way of the SEAL and Unbeatable Mind, so I will just summarize them here.
- Embrace the suck with a swim buddy or team. You conquer challenges together and support each other. A lot of strength accrues when you embrace the suck with others in a common pursuit.
- Find humor in little things. Crack jokes. Have fun with it. Don’t be so serious.
- Learn to look for beautiful things. What’s precious about the moment of embracing the suck? What grace or beauty can you find a human being doing something hard, growing and leading by example. This leads to joy over the long-term
- Over prepare. Remember the 6 P’s – Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Any project, training or mission that’s worthy must be planned well, and over-prepared for. Don’t just dive in and pray. Break it down into component parts and 2X your way to 20x performance.
Use The Big Four When on the Edge
As you get closer to the edge, where pain, fear and your objective looks insurmountable, you tap the big 4 skills to get you through. These are a hallmark of my Unbeatable Mind training and discussed in depth in The Way of the SEAL. You develop and use the skills in the following order to blast through weakness.
- Controlled Breathing. Calm down and focus.
- Positive Attitude. Feed the courage wolf with positive self-talk and a mantra.
- Visualize yourself as the person who’s going to succeed. Connect to your Why
- Micro Goals. Keep your focus on the smallest goal right in front of you. You keep asking, “what’s the smallest task I can achieve, right now, that moves me toward my larger objective?”
Applying these to my 300 burpees a day looks like this: When I need to embrace the suck, I Inhale and exhale to a five-count each. Then I recite to myself internally: “I’ve got this, easy day” I visualize myself strong and successful. Then, “what’s my next task?” Oh yeah… all I have to do is another burpee! Good. Drop down, do the burpee. Stand up. Inhale, exhale. “I got this, easy day.” See myself succeed. “What’s my next task?” Do another burpee. Simple, right?
I don’t have to think about how many burpees. I track my steps and hit my milestones. I make a notch in my notebook every twenty burpees. I’m not thinking three hundred. I’m thinking twenty. By the time I have fifteen notches, I’m done. You can change the world just one burpee, or one good decision, at a time.
John (not his real name) returned from work one evening to find his wife, daughter and three sons passed out and unresponsive. A faulty exhaust pipe on their water heater had released enough Carbon Monoxide to knock out his entire family.
His training in the big 4 skills kicked in immediately. He got control of his breathing and mind, then focused on one micro-goal at a time. That, of course, was to get each of his family members out of the danger zone… without succumbing to the poisonous gas himself.
His stand in life, which he had articulated a few months earlier when reading the book, came back to him in full force: “My purpose is to serve the best interests of my wife and children. I will do whatever is necessary to fulfill that purpose. I will not let them down. I will give my life for my wife and children.”
John embraced the suck and did the work, so that when a crisis hit he was prepared mentally and emotionally. Quitting was not an option, no matter what the situation was. He was prepared for the known and unknown, and able to act immediately and with a clear head when a crisis did hit. He’s now able to look back and experience the joy of knowing just how valuable and worthwhile the time and energy of developing his “unbeatable mind” was.
Exercise: Challenge Yourself
- Think about a challenge that you want to be prepared for or to overcome.
- Write down your ideal outcome, then the targets to tackle (goals) to get there.
- Decide the milestones that will mark your progress to victory.
- Chunk the first target down to the smallest steps that make sense.
- Practice the 4 skills above when you get challenged.
- Create a ratchet plan to 2X, then 20X your achievements.
When you experience even a small level of that confidence in these four skills, you will be compelled to train them relentlessly. To do so will require that you create some new habits and replace some old, common ones.