Extreme leader Mark DeLisle,
former Navy SEAL
Have you ever felt like making a comparison between entrepreneurship and extreme competitive sports? If so, you’re not the first. My team member Adam Torkildson drew my attention this week to someone he met through his interest in extreme fitness–Mark DeLisle, a former Navy SEAL and current fitness instructor at National Institute of Health and Fitness.
It seems fitting that Navy SEAL training would be ideal preparation for business ownership. Everything begins with commitment and attitude for the Navy SEAL Teams. The idea of failure is not an option. In order to fathom this concept they are trained to eliminate the words – “I can’t.” They know their capacity to perform at high levels drops substantially the minute they let doubt enter their minds.
If you have the desire to be a corporate warrior, DeLisle claims, you need to let go of any normal parameters that can restrain an average corporate executive’s way of thinking. His favorite phrase is this: “The only limitations we face in life are the ones we place on ourselves.”
How are Navy SEALS like successful entrepreneurs? It turns out there are plenty of ways. For example, to be successful, you must fully commit and must fully believe in yourself. Ask yourself “What is the objective?” Then visualize it, believe it and achieve it. No excuses allowed.
Motivation comes from within, Mark maintains, and unless you internalize your motivation, you are done. He and other Navy SEALs refer to this internalization as “gut check.” Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve something, he says. The time for gut check is now. How could Navy SEAL-style thinking and training prepare you for your own business success? Here are a few additional thoughts:
Perceived Personal Limitations
The human body has a survival mechanism and it does not like to leave its comfort zone or be surprised. In order to guard against extremes of discomfort, fear and surprise, the body may place doubt as a roadblock to success.
The body will do whatever it takes to keep you in its normal rut. Doubt will come in many forms, ranging from mental games, to limiting physical capacity to prohibiting emotional motivation. Mark has observed that an otherwise perfect specimen of a SEAL candidate will sometimes quit just 30 minutes or even 10 minutes short of an activity’s termination point (or time limit) because the candidate has lost focus on the goal.
The candidate fell short because of an unwillingness to sacrifice the energy and an inability to find the will to go on. He or she was not sure how much more their body or mind could take. They get ten minutes from greatness and from achieving a goal that would stand for the rest of their lives, and they stop.
So if you’re preparing to succeed in business, you must eliminate perceived personal limitations on the spot. Any doubt must be removed from your mind in an instant. Do not let the words “I can’t” enter your vocabulary again.
Make It Happen
Now that you are willing to break down the walls and start from scratch, let’s look at the making of a corporate warrior. From the start of SEAL training to the end, these candidates were empowered to achieve those things that others say are impossible.
Many briefings are closed with the phrase: “Make it Happen.” Instead of saying, ‘I want you to figure out how to do this’ or ‘Do you feel you are ready?’ the SEALs were told, “Make it happen.”
The commanding officer, the boss, does not care how participants accomplish the goal or if they are ready. His confidence in them does not allow him to doubt that a task would be done. It is as simple as “Make it happen.”
To empower yourself, or even better, to empower your team, verbalize those three words every day. It shows that you have no doubt you or your team can get their accomplishment done. It shows you have the confidence that you and the team will get all the way to your goal. Force your team members to get out of their comfort zones, to be creative, and find new ways to accomplish their tasks.
Visualize walking into a meeting, giving your team your objectives and telling them what needs to happen. You simply say, “Make it happen” and walk out. They may be puzzled at first but will soon switch into “survival mode” and figure out a way to make it happen.
You have just empowered your team to become an unstoppable force. You have shown a tremendous amount of confidence in them and what they can accomplish if they work together as a team. This will give you a chance to see hard chargers rise to the top.
Empowering others shows trust and confidence that they will not want to fall short of, and will never forget. You will be amazed at the level of creativity individuals and groups can achieve when they go into survival mode and must rely on themselves. You might be even surprised at the concepts or ideas that come out of your team when they are asked to find the path to reach their goals.
A SEAL’s true potential is never achieved unless they are broken down and forced to rely on instinct and personal strength, Mark maintains. True warriors learn how to do this for themselves first, and then for the team.
A phrase the SEALS use often is “You are only as strong as your weakest link.” Don’t be afraid to take the weakest person in your team and turn them into a strength. Maximize the strengths of those around you while strengthening those assets of someone’s weaknesses. A sign of a true corporate warrior is not being afraid to make those around you better than they are.
Leadership By Example and Sacrifice
What sets SEAL training apart from other military branches is the assertion that SEAL training is the toughest in the world. In addition, there is no special treatment or exemption for officers or executives. SEALs leaders go through the exact training as enlistees and they get dirty in the trenches alongside their teams.
According to Mark, “there would be nothing worse than being lead by a ‘cake eater’ that couldn’t lead by example.” In the corporate world it happens time and time again. Managers and executives become disconnected, and thus discounted or disrespected by their teams.
During Hell Week – the final training week, which must be without sleep, by the third day the SEALs are tired, cold and miserable. The platoon officer is just as cold and miserable as his team. He picks the team up off the ground and looks at them as he says, “We are not going to let them beat us!”
The incredible respect for each other within a SEAL Team comes down to having sacrificed through the toughest of times together. Trainees know that no matter how tough it gets, the team members right next to them will all have their back.
Do you have your team’s back? Are you willing to get dirty in the trenches along with them? Are you willing to lead by example?
If a team feels disrespected, or their leadership is not willing to get into the trenches or not allowed to get out of their comfort zones without fear of consequences, they are not being utilized to the best of their ability.
How would you feel as a hard charger if you were allowed to drive hard, be creative, and make things happen knowing that those above were giving you their all-out support? It would be amazing.
Now apply that same principles to yourself as a leader. Eliminate the parameters that are restricting your progress and do a gut check. Find the internal motivation necessary to make things happen to ensure your motivation will not be short lived. Do not limit yourself to what you currently think you are capable of doing, and set newer and more powerful goals that will take you and your team to the next level you seek. “The only easy day was yesterday,” as Mark would say. Hooyah!