“If you’re not the kind of guy who can do everything perfectly right, have everything go catastrophically wrong, and come back fighting the next day, you’re not ready for this job.” – former Navy SEAL Commander Rorke Denver
If you’ve read my posts on Navy SEAL training, you know it’s insanely hard. Trainees will do thousands of pushups and pullups. They’ll run and swim hundreds of miles. They’ll carry boats and logs overhead until their bodies give out. They’ll do underwater work with instructors fighting them and sabotaging their air supply. They’ll tread water water for hours. They spend their entire training cold and wet, sometimes to the point that their muscles spasm from shivering. And they’ll go without sleep for days at a time.
But the hardest part is often not the physical torture. It’s the mental aspect. SEAL commanders often go above and beyond to make sure that things aren’t “fair”. If the trainees aren’t on time and prepared to begin the day’s activities, it’s going to be a rough day. The commanders make sure to include extra PT (physical training) during that day’s work. But here’s the trick. The commanders sometimes include even harder physical training on days when the trainees arrive early and are in perfect formation. They are “unfair” on purpose.
This is more than many trainees can stand. They can handle the physical work. But they can’t stand the unfairness. They say the program is rigged against them. They say they can’t win. So they quit.
And that’s a bit intuitive, isn’t it? We want fairness. We don’t mind hard times when we make mistakes. We expect them. But when we do things right, we expect to be rewarded. We expect good results. We expect to win. We don’t like unpredictable things. We don’t like randomness. We like to feel in control.
Unfortunately, as those SEAL commanders know, that’s not how things happen in combat. You can train and plan everything to the best of your ability and still lose dramatically. Whether it’s because of an unknown variable, an equipment malfunction, the weather, or just plain bad luck, your plan goes to shit and all hell breaks loose. And if you can’t weather that storm and continue to fight day after day until you reach your goal or accomplish the objective, you’re not SEAL material.
Combat is often a microcosm of life. We have goals and objectives. We plan missions to reach them. We train, individually and with others. We have allies. We may not have enemies, but we competitors and rivals. We have limited resources. We face obstacles. We have incomplete information. We have less time than we’d like. And we have to manage all of that in a way that creates the life that we want to live.
And, like combat, life is not fair. We get on the right track. We’re eating right. We’re training. We’re creating. We’re engaging with our kids. We’re taking care of our wife. We’re building friendships with other men. But then something happens. We get sick. We get injured. We wreck our car. Our kids make a stupid decision. Our wife gets depressed. A business associate quits or a new competitor enters the market. Or a virus shuts down the country.
Life is not fair. It rarely goes smoothly for very long. That’s why it’s not always the most talented people who become SEALs or who win in life. It’s those with tenacity. Those who are relentless. Those who have grit. Those who will never, ever let go of the rope and give up. The toughest men are the ones who win.
So determine to be that kind of man. You can complain all you want about how life isn’t fair. But that does nothing but keep you from becoming the man you could be. Hate the unfairness if you want, but never let it distract you or beat you. Keep hold of the rope. Even when you’ve done everything right, life will punch you in the mouth with something you never expected. No matter. When the bell rings to start a new day, always come out fighting. That’s the man’s life. Godspeed.
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