If you described a SEAL as hard, he would take that as a compliment and most likely agree. Hard in terms of being a SEAL means that he is strong mentally and refuses to accept mediocrity. He has attained a level of mental toughness grasped by only a few. His mind views pain as weakness leaving the body and thus pain is good and something to be greeted warmly. Being hard is what allows him to survive when others would die, remain focused when others would drift in thought and press on when others would quit. A SEAL who is hard may complete a training evolution with a broken bone or carry a wounded SEAL on his back for miles when he himself is seriously injured. The state of being hard as a SEAL is part of the territory.
SEALs work incredibly hard to obtain the grade of being hard. When a SEAL is hard it means that he is accepting no complacency and no mediocrity in anything. There will be no complacency when he runs with the group, plans a mission, executes a mission or cleans his gear. A SEAL who is hard must stay hard and he does this by spending his time with fellow SEALs. Associating with those who are not hard themselves and accept mediocrity as a way of life is a trap that ends in being second rate. When a SEAL is losing his hardness and become fat or out of shape, his fellow SEALs will stay on him until he realizes he is losing his hardness and regains his physical strength for the good and safety of the group. In other words, SEALs stay hard by soaring with other eagles and not running with the turkeys.
The training during BUDS is a training specifically designed to make men mentally hard. The instructors will yell out to the group as they are in bone chilling waters, ‘We have donuts, coffee and blankets here for anyone who wants them. Come on you know you want to quit…’ The longer you say no to these requests by the instructor the more confidence you gain in yourself and the harder you become. The more the instructors ingrain attention to detail into your mind with rigid inspections searching for a speck of sand in your gear, the harder you become. Your life in BUDS is designed to make you hard and your life as a SEAL is a state of being hard all the time. Expecting the best from your self and routinely delivering the best is an enviable position to be in. Although being hard is part of the territory, so I being smart and sometimes these two mindsets can collide.
Former Navy SEAL TC Cummings was a corpman during his tenure. In layman’s terms this means that TC was the doctor or medical staff for the unit. Because of this, part of TC’s responsibility in the group was the health of the men in his unit. When a SEAL is injured, he will often continue to train because he is so hard. It becomes difficult to stop training even when in pain because your mind refuses to quit. However, a strong corpman must be aware that his men are hard and may train when they should stop. TC noticed one such man in his unit who was having trouble hearing. This SEAL was saying, ‘Huh’ a lot and TC decided to pull him.
‘What is up with your health?’ TC probingly inquired.
‘I am fit as a fiddle.’ Was the SEALs reply in his native southern accent.
‘What is wrong with your hearing?’
‘Now, Doc…why would you ask that?’
‘I need to look in your ear…’ TC insisted.
TC did look in his ear and he found that this SEAL had a hole in his eardrum that you could drive a Mac truck through. Mimicking his southern accent TC commented,’You have a mighty big hole in yore ear!’
Upon being found out the SEAL admitted that he was having ear problems. He had been in an argument with his wife while cleaning his ear. His wife hit his arm and caused a chain reaction that punctured the ear drum. However, because this man was a SEAL and hard he did not want to stop training. In his mind, alerting the corpman meant that he was weak and enduring the pain was simply expected. He did not want to rest and recover. This state of being hard would have eventually gotten him and the safety of his unit in trouble. The following week they were going to be flying and the pressure changes would have caused problems with this damaged eardrum. To make matters worse on the schedule for the next week was days of diving. The only obstacle that keeps water from running down the Eustachian tube when diving is the eardrum and this SEALs eardrum was not able to function in that capacity. Without a strong corpman stepping in and noticing a hurt SEAL things could have gone from bad to worse.
Once a SEAL has graduated to this elite level of hardness it can become easier to be hard than it is to be smart. It can become more natural to work through pain than ask for help. Sometimes working through pain is good. You must push the envelope to grow. When a runner quits because he says that he can’t go one step further – he has just gone one step further as he was thinking this thought of surrender. SEALs know this and with each step after they thought they couldn’t go one step further they are becoming harder and harder. In the SEALs mind, you really don’t know how far you can go until you pass out. As strange as that may sound to the average athlete, that is the daily thought process of a SEAL. But remember – to much can do can do you in.
In the business world it can be hard to ask for help. A business professional can get to a point where they are mentally hard. They refuse to accept the status quo, mediocrity or complacency. They are hard and proud that they are hard. Yet, the hardness that has catapulted their success can also ignite their demise if they fail to ask for help. Being hard does not negate being smart and being smart means often times asking for help. When the eardrum of your business is punctured and water is trickling into your estachian tube as you choke on the waters of life – you must ask for help. Not doing so does not mean that you are hard, it means that you are not smart.
Perhaps this means finding someone on your team that you know is strong enough to say, ‘Hey, what is going on here? Something is not right.’ Or perhaps you are this person to someone who is being hard. When TC found a problem with this SEALs hearing he was not delighted that he caught him in the act of being hard. Instead, his only focus was the health and safety of this man and the unit. In the same tone, if someone you know is being too hard for their own good – to approach them with the ,’Ah hah! I gotcha!’ attitude is not going to fly. It must be a conversation not derived from you gaining pleasure in diagnosing their weakness. If this is the case, find someone else to ask the tough questions.
A SEAL must be smart enough to know when to pull back, slow down and ask for help and you must as well if you desire to be successful in your life. If the bolts on the wheels of your life have loosened and there is about to be a destructive separation of wheel and axle on the highway of life….please ask for help.
If you business is in financial trouble ask for the help of a trusted financial analyst to observe the facts from an outside perspective. If your relationships are in trouble do not what for the explosion of a final ending, instead inquire of how you can correct the problem. Ignoring the symptoms on a military mission is sometimes expected and necessary. Other times it will get you killed.
For the elite, sometimes it can be easy to be hard, but hard to be smart. Make sure that you are both.
1. Make sure that you are hard. It is good to be hard. When you are mentally hard this means that complacency and mediocrity have no place in your life. This state of being hard means that you will work through obstacles and even view struggles or pain as weakness leaving the body.
2. Understand that while it is good and required for success that you are hard – you must also be smart. Being smart insists that you ask for help when you are over your head in trouble. Perhaps, you may not need to quit but asking an expert their opinion is being smart. If the expert suggests you change your course of action – change your course of action. The good news is that you are still hard.
3. If you know you have a tendency to ignore the warning signs and press on when it is to your detriment. Get someone on your team who is strong and not afraid to call you out.
4. If someone on your team is obviously beating their head up against a wall and being stubbornly hard – in a gently way, come along aside this person and guide them addressing the challenge or roadblock.
5. Remember, it can sometimes be easy to be hard, but hard to be smart.
Find out more in the MIND OF A SEAL CD PACKAGE