What the Business World can Learn From the Navy SEALs
U.S. Navy Seals are combat trained special forces who protect and safeguard freedom around the world. One of their graduates, Admiral McRaven, who survived the gruelling 6-month training program, made a speech at the University of Texas, outlining the lessons he learned from that challenging mental and physical regimen. Some of his experiences can be applied to the every-day principles of today’s business community.
Make your bed first thing every morning. This is a good way to start the day. It gets a task done and sets the tone for accomplishing more tasks throughout the day. Even if you had a bad day, you can at least go back to a freshly made bed and sleep well that night.
Part of the training is to paddle out beyond a 12ft. swell to get into open water. In winter it takes a herculean effort to get over the waves, so you need to ensure that the team you are with is going to paddle hard; it’s all about teamwork. The same applies in business. You need a good team to combat challenges you’ll face as an organization.
McRaven stated it wasn’t the 6-foot all American types who persevered and overcame adversity in team competitions. Instead, the “munchkin” team that won was a rag-tag bunch of small stature guys from all over the U.S. with different ethnic backgrounds and no special “pedigree.” These guys had a chip on their shoulder and fought hard to compete and win. In business, it’s not all about a flashy LinkedIn picture of a snazzy company event, or a lovely office in the centre of Dublin, London or New York. You’ve also seen types of famous business celebrates who have perfect (but shallow) Facebook lives. It’s more important to identify and surround yourself with people of depth and business savvy, who possess the right attitude and are willing to fight and WIN. Find your “munchkin” team.
The worst physical part of the course was when you reached the last group challenge, and qualified for punishment exercises consisting of up to 2 hours of sit-ups, push-ups etc. called “circuses.” Yet after a couple of months a curious thing happened – those caught for the circuses survived and began to thrive. They became battle hardened. In business, you are going to experience difficult challenges and failures, but you have to come back. Moreover, you can learn valuable lessons from these setbacks. Success is not linear. Learn to NOT be afraid of circuses that come your way.
One obstacle had a record that lasted 20 years. No one came near beating it, and no one thought they could break it. It involved climbing a wall and then sliding down a rope feet-first. Yet one of the recruits tackled the rope, jumping head first to catch it and slide down, decimating the record. He took an incredible risk but reaped the reward of success. In business, never be afraid to tackle a “seemingly” impossible task. Sometimes it’s worth it to dive in head first. Risk can be rewarding.
Probably the most fearful experience was a night swim off San Diego. The waters are shark-infested and the Vietnam veteran instructors took great glee in describing the man-eating types, including a “Great White” which might be encountered. They said sharks would be in the water all around them but not to become alarmed unless they began to circle. If the sharks did circle, they advised not to swim away but to stand your ground, make yourself big and stare the shark down. Most importantly, if the shark attacks, muster all your strength and punch the sucker right on the nose! In business, you’ll experience many sharks. Stand tall, face them down, and punch them in the nose!
Still another hurdle during night operations was attaching mines to enemy ships. Seals have to search for the keel at the bottom of a ship to attach a mine. In the deep depths at night, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. But you must persevere. This is a period of extreme adversity, so you must be at your best. In business, you will face situations when you must present pressurized interviews or deliver public addresses in front of large groups. Summon your inner strength and BE AT YOUR BEST.
The Tijuana mudflats are cold and forbidding in winter. Part of the course was to become immersed up to your neck for hours in mud. The instructors said if a few guys quit; the rest could get out of the mud. No one moved. After a while a recruit began singing and all joined in, even after the instructors told them to stop. No one stopped and no one left the mud. In the end, everyone got out. The key to staying in this phase was HOPE, which is a great driver. Never give up hope in the darkest hours of your business career; keep going until you get out of that mudflat.
The participants went through hell daily throughout the course. However, there was a bell in the middle of the yard. The instructors implored the participants to simply ring the bell and the ordeal could be over. They could leave the course any time. Just ring it, and you can give up and go home. In business never-ever ring that bell. Never give up!
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