Across the ages, every great society has celebrated and revered a great warrior tradition and passed on the stories of these heroes in folklore. We can look back to the Spartans, Roman legions, Vikings, medieval Knights, Samurai, or Aztecs, and each time we will find that a strong warrior class coincided with a strong nation.
The warrior’s spirit is alive and well here in the greatest nation in history. Although it lives in the hearts and minds of the greatest fighting force in the world, our society is beginning to shun warriors and move them down the social ladder. At the turn of the 20th century, warfare began to move away from the martial art of combat and move toward a more mechanical, detached system of destruction. This has changed society’s view of what it means to be a warrior and paved the way for a society that now teaches our boys to be less masculine and more feminine. Now, we’re so far off track that it’s even okay to choose what gender you’d like to be (“Sorry God, you made a mistake.”), but not okay to train like warriors in an effort to defend yourself, your family, or even your country.
Another reason for this cultural shift in thinking is that people have seen an increase in the warrior’s dark side. Of course, when most of us hear about the dark side, we think of Darth Vader in Star Wars, and this is a good thing. If you understood how the force worked in those iconic movies, you’ll understand how it works in today’s most elite warriors—the U.S. Navy SEALs. Warriors have a certain set of traits that can be used for good or evil, and it’s up to each one to choose what path he will follow. It’s also up to our society to allow boys to be boys and men to be men and express themselves in manly ways. Sometimes this involves fighting, which if used for the right reason, is a good thing—like when protecting our freedom.
Too many people think that in times of war we can turn on a magical switch to activate our warriors and protect our way of life, and when the war is over, we can simply turn off the switch and our warriors go back to eating tofu and pissing while sitting down. I’m guessing that most of you reading this would disagree and understand that being a warrior is a full-time job, a way of life, and something that needs to be trained and tested so we can be ready for our enemies’ surprise attacks.
A way of life
I’m not suggesting by following this path that you’ll become a Navy SEAL; I’m simply submitting that you can learn many of the traits we possess and improve the quality of your life. Going to war is not a prerequisite for the title of warrior. ‘Warrior’ is simply a recognized role in society that has played a vital part in every great society from time immemorial, and we must continue to embrace and support them if we are to continue to be the greatest nation on God’s green earth.
The way of the warriors like the elite Navy SEALs is a never-ending road of self-discovery and self-improvement. Although the road may be difficult to travel and the rewards are few, there is currently plenty of room since half of our society is still confused about which bathroom they’re supposed to use. So stand up with me, and while we’re pissing around the fire and eating red meat, let’s talk about the traits you’ll need to join the warrior class and live life like a Navy SEAL.
Traits of a SEAL
Confident: For the guys that I train, I know this is one of the biggest indicators of success in any combat environment. I can see if they’re confident before we even start training. It’s why my Navy SEAL brothers and I can spot one another out in public, even if we’ve never met. A warrior is sure of oneself, having no uncertainty about one’s own abilities or success. Start with the end in mind. You will win. It’s not a question.
Decisive: Displaying no hesitation in battle is vital to survival. Navy SEALs are known for their decisive manner.
Assertive: U.S. Navy SEALs are leaders. To be a good leader you need to be confident and direct in claiming your rights or putting forward your views.
Strong: You don’t need to bench 500 pounds to join the club (although some fictional books claim otherwise), but you do need to make the most of the muscles you have. Even the most skillful swordsman needs to have the strength to pick up the sword. This applies to mental muscle as well. You need to have a determined will in all that you do. A strong mind can make up for a weak body, but not the other way around.
Skillful: Having the right mindset is vital, but you need a skill set to match that big brain of yours. The skills themselves can vary, but the more mad ninja skills you have, the more balanced you’ll become. “Know your sword.”—Musashi
Active: You need to be moving, doing, or functioning at all times. Ideas and theories are great, but action is what gets things done. Once you’ve got a plan, execute. SEALs are always doing something.
Aggressive: When most people think about being aggressive, they think about a pit bull with a bad owner. That aspect can and should be used in combat, but I’m talking about being forceful, bold, and energetic.
Disciplined: You’ve got a plan, you’re confident you can do it, now you need to have the discipline to stick to your plan. Getting up every morning at 0400 so you can hit the gym before work sucks! Being fat and out of shape sucks worse! Not hitting the snooze button takes discipline. Navy SEALs are disciplined.
Adaptable: Navy SEALS have a ‘friend’ we call Max Flex. It means we need to be able to adjust quickly to different conditions. Being adaptable is what allows a species to survive evolution. The way SEALS survive in combat is by adapting to the ever-changing battlefield.
Vigilant: You never know when the balloon will go up, so you have to be ready 24/7. You need to see everything that’s happening around you and be prepared to react appropriately. Navy SEALs are always prepared and ready.
Patient: No, not the kind you find in a hospital bed. Having patience means bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint. Man up. I’ll always remember the whiners in BUD/S complaining about how cold or tired they were. Guess what? We were all cold and tired, and complaining didn’t make them any warmer (although quitting did).
Clever: A warrior needs to be mentally quick and resourceful. When things go to shit, it always happens fast. You need the mental prowess to quickly invent a new way to do what you were just trying to do. Things rarely go exactly as planned and you need to be smart enough to adapt.
Brave: One of the biggest lessons I’ve taught my kids is what it means to be brave. Like most people (and even some dictionaries), they thought being brave meant that you weren’t afraid. This is actually the opposite of what it means. Being brave means that you are afraid, but you do the offending task in spite of your fears. I’m not afraid to ride roller coasters, so me riding one does not make me brave. When my youngest son rode a roller coaster for the first time, he was afraid, but he was brave enough to go anyway.
Loyal: An arrow without a tip is just a stick. A warrior needs direction, and that comes from being faithful to a cause, ideal, or institution. This could be your family, your country, or a religion. Having loyalty will keep you guided along your path; just make sure you keep it in balance with the other traits. SEALs are loyal to our country, loyal to our families, and loyal to our brothers.
Loving: A warrior has confronted death and understands the value of life. Warriors whose lives are in balance are peaceful, unselfish, and have a compassionate concern for the good of others. The love of his family is what gives the warrior his internal energy to constantly train for battle and the strength to survive once he’s there. For true warriors like Navy SEALs, love is why we fight.
I know this is a long list, but the kicker is that it’s far from complete. My original goal was to come up with a nice-sounding number to write about, like, “Seven Traits of a Navy SEAL,” but as I started to compile the list, it grew far beyond seven and I simply stopped at a point that I thought would give you a good overview of the complexities inside these amazing warriors. You’ll become a true renaissance man in your quest for warrior status, but just remember to stay away from the dark side.
The dark side
Like yin and yang, hot and cold, or dark and light, all the above traits have two sides that can manifest. If your life is unbalanced, the dark side will be the stronger force and your actions will demonstrate this fact. There are several ways a warrior can become unbalanced, and it’s important to quickly recognize this and take corrective actions.
Simply not being well-rounded is the quickest way to become unbalanced. We see this with jihadists and other extremists who concentrate so much on loyalty to their religion, they completely neglect things like patience and love.
Suppression of a warrior’s God-given drive will also slowly lead to an imbalance and will manifest itself in negative ways. Telling boys it’s wrong to fight is like telling a bird it’s wrong to fly. Holding back someone from what they are supposed to do will lead to unwanted consequences down the road.
Sometimes warriors are traumatized, which can effectively short-circuit their systems. It doesn’t make them evil; they are the same person displaying the dark side of their traits. We see this with warriors coming home with PTSD, and we need to recognize the problem and put them back on the right path.
Finally, being improperly or inadequately trained can lead to imbalances. This is happening all over the Middle East where jihadists are training their children to be warriors supposedly in the name of Allah. They are loyal to religion, disciplined, and confident—they have all the traits, but they are being trained that God wants them to kill infidels while killing themselves in the process. Bad training of good people.
As you train yourself to become a warrior, be on the lookout for these imbalances and correct them as soon as possible. Like a magnet, all warriors have two sides, and you cannot separate them. No matter how thin you slice a magnet, it will always have a north and south pole. In the same way, no matter how much of the dark side you try to remove, you’ll always be left with both sides.
Live like a Navy SEAL
Because of the new society we live in, many men are, let’s face it, less manly than they should be. ‘Professionals’ are telling us that it’s okay for boys to play with either Barbie dolls or trucks, and that pink is just a color, not an indication of gender. In fact, we’re being told that we need to eliminate all gender indicators in a quest for equality. Obviously that whole thought process is out of balance, so here are a few things you can do to avoid that nonsense and join the warrior class.
- Grow a set of NUTs (non-negotiable, unalterable terms) and live by them. These are anything you’re not willing to compromise on in life, period. The bigger sack of NUTs you have, the more of a warrior you will become.
- Start practicing some form of martial arts. MMA, karate, boxing, jujitsu, pick one you like and go get punched in the face a few times. Find a school near you or start off with a great instructional karate book, like “Fundamentals of Freestyle Goju-Ryu.”
- Meditate. This may be getting too close to the spiritual realm for some of you, but meditation is one of the most important things you can do for your mind and body. Sit in a quiet room with your eyes closed and work on quieting your mind for 20 minutes a day. Concentrate on your breathing or say a word (mantra) over and over. I use “Lam.” At first, you’ll think it’s impossible, then you’ll be able to clear your mind for a few seconds, then minutes. It gets easier as your life becomes more balanced.
- Find something you’re afraid of and go do it. If it’s a roller coaster, ride them until you stop crying like a five-year-old girl. If it’s public speaking, join ToastMasters. Everyone has fears. Warriors overcome them.
- Work out. It doesn’t matter what you do, just work out hard. Breathe heavy, sweat. If you puke, that’s a good indicator that you’re getting closer to being a warrior!
- Embrace competition. Sign up for a race, a fight, or just challenge someone to arm wrestle. Prove that you’re better than someone else at something, or work until you are.
- Next time your spouse asks you where you want to go to dinner, give an answer and get in the car. Be more decisive. The more decisions you make, the easier they are to make.
- Start establishing routines and habits in everything you do. We are what we repeatedly do.
- Write down your goals and core values. Review them once a month. If you don’t have a map for your life, how can you expect to get where you want to go?
- Become a master at everything you do. Everything in life is either worth doing well or it’s not worth doing at all.
- Stop any addictions. If you smoke, do drugs, or drink to excess, your life is not in balance.
- Shoot guns. If you don’t know how, take a course or buy one of the bestselling books on the fundamentals of marksmanship. My personal favorite (I might be a bit biased since I wrote it) is “How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL.”
- Watch warrior movies to see how you’re supposed to be acting if you’re not too busy playing with your Barbie collection. This is my list of inspiring warrior movies. There are plenty of others, but this should help get you started.
- The Eagle
- Red Cliff
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
- Act of Valor
- American Sniper
Chris ‘Snowman’ Sajnog served 20 years as an active United States Navy SEAL. He is the author of “How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL,” master firearms instructor, and founder of Center Mass Group, a service-disabled-veteran-owned small business in San Diego, California. He is currently a DOD- and DHS-certified counterterrorism, law enforcement, and advanced marksmanship and tactics instructor. Chris has trained DOD, DHS, FBI, CIA, law enforcement, and multiple foreign allies in all aspects of combat weapons handling, marksmanship, and tactics.