You decide that you wish to dedicate your life to becoming a professional killer and hunter of dangerous men. That’s how you start to become like a United States Navy SEAL.
I really hate questions like this, which I have received many times about how a person can absorb the military mentality, while never taking part in the military experience. They assume this mindset is just a collection of habits that are all about winning, efficiency, or kicking in doors, or general badassness. It’s naive because it always ignores the obvious point. These habits aren’t something the military or the individual warriors ever had to work to gain. They come with the willingness to make the only required step involved in the transition; you must decide to become a killer. Everything people who ask these question want: the dedication, the perseverance, the badassness, that is all an after effect of the mentality of one who has accepted the need to kill bad people, protect your friends, and come home safe. You can’t just take the good parts.
I’m not saying being a killer in this regard is a bad thing. Becoming a professionally trained gunmen in service of your country, I think, is a honorable and necessary profession for the continuation of liberty and prosperity of free nations. Becoming one is a sacrifice that is deserving of respect, and admiration even, but you can’t just buy the CliffsNotes version to think and act like one. There are no shortcuts to being like a warrior. You can’t read a book that will make you like a warrior. You can’t meditate yourself into being a soldier. There is no workout that makes you like a Marine. There are no training seminars that will train you to think with the precision and focus of an Air Force fighter pilot. You can’t go to the gym and do boot camp exercises to get ripped. There are no weekend “boot camps” that will give you a lasting “military mentality”. The warrior lifestyle and only this act of living as a warrior does that; suffering, sweating, waking up every day before the sun and living in deserts where people might kill you… waiting for the opportunity to kill them first; these underlying and unseen conditions cause the outward traits that others see as the “military mindset” or the “warrior mentality”.
Is that what you want for the perfect body? You would do all that to get a better review on your next quarterly eval? You think you can get by with just the condensed version? You can’t get the core values of the Marine Corps without being a Marine. You can’t become a SEAL without making it through their selection process. It is a whole body, whole mind, whole spirit transformation toward the goal of being ready and able to kill people as real warriors do. You join the military or you don’t. You become a warrior or you don’t. You become a SEAL or you don’t.
I mean, let’s get gut check realistic, here. Only about 20% of people in the world could even make it through Marine Corps boot camp. Less than eighty thousand a year even try. That isn’t a place you go to learn cool warrior stuff or a new way of thinking. This will happen, but not because someone gave them a class on it. It is a place where you are completely isolated from the everything that isn’t the Marine Corps. You won’t see friends, family, the internet, TV, phones, or even anything other than other Marines for three solid months. The Corps saturates every piece of your being during that time, to the point that when you finally go home, you wake up and your wives or girlfriends are shocked to see you instinctively standing at attention when the lights go on. I’ve enumerated the extreme environment before inIt’s worth exploring to understand how very much you can’t just mine the methods for quality behavior modifications.
Even this, however, is nothing compared to SEAL training. I’m going to be honest, without all the safety supervisors around you during that training, all but maybe 1% of humans who took part in that training would die from the experience in the first few weeks. For the information of all those curious, these SEAL candidates are swimming across a pool with their feet and hands bound, while others are bobbing for several minutes just to deal with the reduced oxygen. By the way, the bindings are semi-voluntary. You must maintain the Velcroed cuffs while swimming through your own willpower. If you break them – you fail the exercise. Imagine that, you must forcibly make yourself swim across an Olympic sized pool, forcing yourself to swim like a worm. Fail twice, you’re done. Back to the fleet for you.
Is that intimidating to you? It scares the crap out of me, an Iraq veteran and Marine – a warrior class whose name is synonymous with water. What is the most important thing to understand about that exercise? This isn’t even real SEAL training. This is called INDOC where candidates basically just need to survive the tests to a satisfactory degree. If they can manage that, they are allowed to begin SEAL training at BUD/S. Early in BUD/S, they enter Hell Week, the official name of one of the world’s most terrifying training scenarios. This excerpt from Marcus Latrell’s book Lone Survivor describes the beginning of Hell Week in BUD/S.
I can’t remember the precise time, but it was after 2030 and before 2100. Suddenly there was a loud shout, and someone literally kicked open the side door. Bam! And a guy carrying a machine gun, followed by two others, came charging in, firing from the hip. The lights went off, and then all three gunmen opened fire, spraying the room with bullets (blanks, I hoped).
There were piercing blasts from whistles, and the other door was kicked open and three more men came crashing into the room. The only thing we knew for sure right now was when the whistles blew, we hit the floor and took up a defensive position, prostrate, legs crossed, ears covered with the palms of the hands.
Hit the deck! Heads down! Incoming!
Then a new voice, loud and stentorian. It was pitch dark save for the nonstop flashes of the machine guns, but the voice sounded a lot like Instructor Mruk’s to me—”Welcome to hell, gentlemen.”
For the next couple of minutes there was nothing but gunfire, deafening gunfire. They were certainly blanks, otherwise half of us would have been dead, but believe me, they sounded just like the real thing, SEAL instructors firing our M43s. The shouting was drowned by the whistles, and everything was drowned by the gunfire.
By now the air in the room was awful, hanging with the smell of cordite, lit only by the muzzle flashes. I kept my head well down on the floor as the gunmen moved among us, taking care not to let hot spent cartridges land on our skin.
There was indeed no mercy in Hell Week. Everything we’d heard was true. You think you’re tough, kid? Then you go right ahead and prove it to us.
The rest of this section is gripping and one of the best summaries of SEAL training I have ever read. To leave you with a last glimpse of what Hell Week consists of, I’ll leave you with the official first paragraph on it from the US Navy SEALs official website.
Hell Week is the defining event of BUD/S training. It is held early on – in the 3rd week of First Phase – before the Navy makes an expensive investment in SEAL operational training. Hell Week consists of 5 1/2 days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. Hell Week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude, and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress, and sleep deprivation. Above all, it tests determination and desire. On average, only 25% of SEAL candidates make it through Hell Week, the toughest training in the U.S. Military. It is often the greatest achievement of their lives, and with it comes the realization that they can do 20X more than they ever thought possible. It is a defining moment that they reach back to when in combat. They know that they will never, ever quit, or let a teammate down.
Now, as the reader, evaluate if you are at all willing to undergo this level of voluntary suffering to become a more productive human. I want people to take away from this that there is absolutely nothing you can do to emulate this. Nothing. It doesn’t leverage to just take the exercises of the military, absent the reasoning behind it. Rote actions without the mentality guiding them won’t help you to get out of bed faster, to do your homework on time, work out more, or succeed at work and life. Those who have made the transition do have these traits, but they are after effects of a lifestyle, not something they had to work to develop. They just happen when you decide to be a warrior. They happen when you decide you want to be a professional killer. Anything less is meaningless.
So what can you do?
I wanted this answer to serve the purpose that people who want to somehow absorb the warrior spirit without becoming warriors themselves are doomed to failure. Worse they are doomed to a false confidence borne from naive belief that they can take only part of the training, absent the whole person transformation needed to fully realize it. Anyone who wants to better themselves, therefore, should not do so by copying self-help guides and go to work out sessions called “boot camps”. They won’t make you a warrior.
Becoming an elite warrior, however, isn’t necessary to gain success by learning from the military. Creating elite warriors is something the US military does exceptionally well, but as I have said at length, isn’t something the common person can just absorb, however, that isn’t the only thing the military does extraordinarily well. Do you know what is the single most important part of warfare, something overlooked by everyone who hasn’t been there? Getting the right troops with the right gear to the fight. No other organization in the world has mastered the science of movement of goods and people, like the US military.
Take, for example, the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime. In one night virtually all major military assets, government leadership buildings and key strategic locations were either destroyed or under US and Coalition control at virtually no loss of life to civilians or Coalition forces. It took way more than just the SEALs to do that. That campaign involved a global coordination of military assets of the greatest technology, the most elite warriors, and units stationed from around the world to occupy and secure the nation. Bombers were flown from Missouri, Special Forces were directed from California, the Marines were called in from Japan, while Army soldiers were brought in from Germany as the Air Force guided planes and missiles from Italy and beyond. This doesn’t even include the efforts of coordinating with the UK, and other allied forces. In less than a month Saddam Hussein’s regime was completely annihilated and before year’s end, his Generals and the family’s leadership would be dead followed by the dictator himself being found filthy and unshaven in a desert hovel, to be tried for his crimes against his own people. Never before, has such a military operation been achieved so quickly, so completely, and with such a minimal loss of allied troops and civilians.
The US military has invested countless hours and the majority of its funds ensuring that their international logistical network is ready to perform complex operations in uncertain environments while experiencing extreme stress and at the risk of countless millions of dollars and untold thousands of lives, as well as to ensure that it is perpetually capable to do just that. Their academies have pushed the academic study of military strategy and tactics to dimensions completely unimaginable by masters of the art like Napoleon or Clausewitz. This science and art, has applications far beyond the battlefield. There is very little fundamentally different about shipping ten-thousand pounds of food to troops in the field than shipping tons of steel to factories in Pittsburgh or Brazil. Wisdom from one can be used to augment the other.
The way militaries organize themselves is also extremely efficient if your goal is mission success while facing constantly changing landscapes. Military structures create strong, yet flexible organizations through small-unit leadership. They are able to adapt to both industry-wide disruptions and competitor behavior through a common mission and culture. Focus on small group leadership, such as exemplified by the Marine Corps rifle platoon, has made billion dollar companies able to scale their operations by more aptly putting the right people in the right places within the company to maximize productivity.
Why is this useful? These techniques are things that can be copied. I’ve shown this in my series 7 Things Businesses Should Learn from the Military about Training that some elements of military leadership are useful, but more complex than general badassery. In that example, the topic was training and can mean things as boring and non-cool as annual re-certification schedules – like the military does. While I would love to dive into all this now, it is simply outside the scope of this answer. In the coming months, I hope to share more thoughts on how businesses and individuals can implement military organizational theory to better their lives and productivity. If you would like to follow that discussion, please follow my blog JDT. As for now, though, know that trying to pretend to be warrior won’t help you reach your goals. Looking in that direction will only let you down, exploring the rest of how the military wins wars… that will take you places.
Thanks for reading!
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