The U.S. Navy SEALs are the world’s most elite force, carrying out specialized and intensely challenging warfare that is beyond the means of, well, everyone else. From direct combat to special reconnaissance and counterterrorism, SEALs prepare for their roles with the most physically and mentally grueling training the military has to offer — and that includes the mental component as well as the physical one.
“I’ve learned that while these guys are some of the most physically fit specimens on the planet, their mental fortitude might be their single greatest asset,” Andrew Ferebee, host of Knowledge for Men, told me. When Ferebee recently picked the brains of four SEALs on his podcast, it drew more than four million downloads. “SEALs literally will themselves to success,” Ferebee said.
Entrepreneurs, take note! While most of us will never walk a path as treacherous as that of a SEAL, adopting some of these “supermen” tips and mantras may help you tackle even the most difficult business challenges you’re bound to face. Here are three pieces of SEAL-tested advice that entrepreneurs would be wise to heed.
1. “Keep your cool, even when those around you can’t.”
Those words come from Admiral William H. McRaven (Ret.)
If this name sounds familiar, it’s because McRaven organized the execution of Operation Neptune Spear, the special ops raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Over a nearly 40-year military career, McRaven served as commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
During the podcast, McRaven offered advice from one of his favorite poems, “If“, by Rudyard Kipling. “Keep your head when [everyone] about you is losing theirs and blaming it on you,” said McRaven, author of the New York Times bestseller Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . And Maybe the World.
He also cautioned against getting ahead of yourself, saying: “If you start focusing on the next job, then you’re probably not going to do the one you have very well.”
The business application: For Stephen Culp, co-founder of tech startup PriceWaiter, keeping your cool is highly applicable advice for an entrepreneur. “We have a practice of saying, ‘Give me your third reaction to what I’m about to say,’ because your best judgment comes after you’ve taken a breath or two,” Culp told me.
2. “You have to get your butt kicked . . . and fail.”
The speaker was Platoon Commander Cade Courtley (Ret.).
For Courtley, a former sniper and author of SEAL Survival Guide: A Navy SEAL’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster, consistently challenging yourself to the point of failure is not optional; it’s a motto he lives by. On the podcast, Courtley recalled a personal experience during SEAL training, where a top-ranked triathlete cruised through most exercises but failed to succeed.
“He would finish 2-mile swims when the rest of us were only halfway done. He would do these runs breathing through his nose. It was a joke for him,” says Courtley. “But this guy got into Hell Week and quit on day two because he had never been challenged his whole life.”
For entrepreneurs, challenging yourself is a crucial part of the process. Otherwise, you might buckle at the first sign of pressure.
The business application. “Losing a challenging deal now and again is inevitable,” Jose Cuartas, a real estate entrepreneur based in Connecticut, told me. “But I live for that challenge. If I fail, I use the experience to find out what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again.”
3. “Train your mind before it is necessary.”
The speaker was SEAL Commander Mark Divine (Ret.)
On the podcast, Divine, who graduated first in his class at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) and created SEALFIT, stressed the importance of being prepared. “If you’re not fine-tuning your mind and [connecting with] your emotional and spiritual self, everything kind of lacks meaning, and eventually you’ll quit,” Divine said.
“It starts with training the mind to develop mental control,” he said, recommending breathing exercises, which he said, can help keep entrepreneurs focused, level headed and on task.
The business application. “Mental and emotional intelligence is paramount to every entrepreneur’s ability to generate success,” said Don Ross, president of the Americas at Trustpilot, the fast-growing tech startup I work for. “Try negotiating a six-figure deal at the end of a long week on little sleep during a 30-minute layover,” Ross said. “You’ll quickly realize just how invaluable mental resilience is to maintaining consistent top performance.” As for Ferebee, those SEAL interviews were popular but not the first time the podcaster had interviewed such tough guys. In fact, he’s spoken with hundreds of the world’s most successful leaders about topics like health, wealth and personal growth. And he told me, he’s learned that every entrepreneur should go to great lengths to learn his or her weaknesses.