Two-Time USA Memory Champion; memory-training expert and memory keynote Ron White shares lessons learned from former Navy SEAL TC Cummings as he taught his Mind of a SEAL program on how U.S. Navy SEALs use their training techniques to teach discipline that can carry through life.

The following is taken from TC Cummings’ Mind of a SEAL program:

Training to become a Navy SEAL is not just a matter of building muscles and playing war games. In order to become the “best of the best” in the U.S. armed forces you have to have the discipline and determination to follow things through, no matter how tough. If you set your mind your body will follow. That is how so many people who can be called heroes have been able to dig deep and pull up that last bit of adrenaline to allow them to do things that would otherwise be impossible.

Clint Eastwood, in the movie “Heartbreak Ridge” took a group of mismatched and arrogant street toughs and trained them to become Special Forces Marines (although not SEALS). He taught them the meaning of the term – Adapt, Improvise and Overcome. It saved their lives, taught them to work together, to become better men and leaders.

Navy SEALs training

Those men who think they can get into the Navy SEAL program and only do the minimum to get through the basics are in for a real surprise. Whether they were star athletes, in high school or on the national scene, or muscle bound wrestlers who train hours to build their biceps, they all soon learn that there is no such thing as doing the minimum in the SEALs. You are always in competition with yourself to do better than your best time. It doesn’t matter what others are doing, you have to push yourself to become better and better.


That may seem like a mind game, but trainees soon discover that the biggest muscle a SEAL uses is his brain! This is why only 19%-20% of those entering the BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition SEALs) training course will complete it, and those that do may be the ones who came in looking like the least likely to finish – the geeks, scrawny country boys, and non-athletic types who puked on the runs and were visibly terrified of the instructors.

Becoming a U. S. Navy SEAL means working through great pain, and using your brain to discipline yourself to keep on going, push yourself past the limit you think you can do, and not “ring the bell” and give up (When a Navy SEAL feels he can go no further he rings the bell three times and then leaves the program). They learn to discipline themselves to overcome the pain in their bodies, the intimidation of the instructors, and focus on the goal with positive thinking.

When they understand that the instructors are there to make them strong, not make them fail, they are able to adapt their thinking. When given a task that seems impossible the SEAL learned that he has to improvise to find a solution, and overcame all the barriers in order to complete his task.

To be able to undertake the missions assigned to the SEALs teams each member has to be able to withstand the intense training, preparations and multiple practice runs. They have to be prepared for every contingency. As some SEAL instructors say, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.”

Most of us will never be in life or death missions, but we can still learn from what SEAL instructors are trying to teach – that becoming successful in every phase of your life is not because you are born to be successful, or taught to act a certain way, it’s because you have become disciplined to follow through on a goal, keep learning from others and believe that you can lead and teach others to do the same.


This lesson was excerpted from TC Cummings Navy SEAL program ‘Mind of a SEAL’