Check out this exclusive book excerpt from Brandon Webb’s latest book, “Total Focus- Navy SEAL’s guide to making decisions under pressure.” In this book, Brandon Webb takes you though his decision-making process which he used as a Navy SEAL sniper and now as the CEO of Hurricane Group, Inc.
Over his four deployments as a Navy SEAL sniper, Brandon Webb learned all about performing while experiencing heart-pounding stress. After returning to civilian life, he started his first business venture—and failed miserably. He realized that his big mistake was neglecting to apply what he already knew about focus under pressure. By drawing on the lessons of his SEAL training and early business struggles, Webb went on to build a second business, a media network called Hurricane, which today has an audience of millions and a valuation over $100 million.
Now Webb deconstructs the decision-making DNA of the most effective snipers, and shows you how to develop the same mental acuity in civilian life. Drawing on stories from his own experiences to those of other Special Operations warriors and great entrepreneurs, like Solomon Choi of 16 Handles, Matt Meeker of BarkBox, and Betsy Morgan of The Huffington Post and TheBlaze, he teaches you how to have total situational awareness to stay out of danger and adapt to changing circumstances; to avoid the trap of over-analysis; and to understand that pain is temporary and learning is priceless.
By following in the path of a generation of legendary snipers, you’ll find the clarity of mind you need to make key decisions and accomplish your mission, whatever it takes.” – Penguin Random House Publishing
You can read an excerpt of the introduction here
Chapter 1: FRONT SIGHT FOCUS
“Hi, Todd Dakarmen here—is this Brandon Webb, the SEAL sniper instructor dude? Look, I want to hire you to teach me how to shoot. How soon can you get up to L.A.?”
This guy didn’t waste any time getting down to business. Before I’d even had a chance to say hello, or “Yeah, Webb, that’s me,” he’d laid out his agenda. The man wasn’t shy about saying what he wanted, and he expected to get it.
I never did find out exactly how he got my name, let alone my phone number. Not that I was hard to find. This was mid-2011; two years earlier, when the Captain Phillips rescue mission happened and suddenly everyone was talking about Navy SEAL snipers, I’d been invited onto CNN to talk about the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) sniper training program my friend Eric Davis and I had helped develop and run for a few years. Ever since, I’d been in the public eye as an expert in sniper instruction. It would have been no challenge at all for a resourceful guy like Todd to track me down.
Those years teaching the sniper course were incredibly satisfying, and I still loved going out shooting with friends now and then. But private instruction was just not something I did. Besides, I was too busy.
“I’ve been working on my long-gun form,” Todd was saying. “I’m not terrible, but I could be a lot better. I’d just as soon learn from the best.”
It didn’t feel right to just say no outright, but I figured that if I threw out a ridiculously high number, he would go away.
“I charge $500 an hour,” I said. “Also, I charge half that rate, two fifty an hour, for my travel time to and from.” From San Diego to L.A., that would’ve meant at least another fifteen hundred tacked onto my fee. Add that to the three or four hours I’d probably spend with him, at five hundred a whack, and his private shooting lesson was looking like close to five grand. I figured he’d tell me to go screw myself.
“No problem,” he said.
“Oh, shit,” I thought.
What could I say? The man called my bluff. That weekend I threw some guns in the car and made the drive up to L.A. to take Todd Dakarmen shooting.
We spent the whole day at the range. He could shoot, but he hadn’t been trained in how to set up his scope properly. I see this all the time, guys who get into shooting but don’t realize how important the initial setup of the rifle is. It’s like getting a good business suit to the individual. You don’t buy an expensive suit off the rack, throw it on, and go walk into your meeting. Everyone’s unique: different inseam, different chest size, and so forth. If you want to look the part, the thing needs to be tailored; that’s the only way it becomes your suit. The same thing applies to a good rifle. You could just throw on a scope and go shoot, but you’re not going to get the best results. Ideally, you need to get down there, put your shoulder into the buttstock, gauge your reach forward, see exactly where your cheek comes to rest, adjust the distance from your eye to the scope, and so on. Everything matters. To do it right, to fine-tune a rifle so it fits you like a fine Hugo Boss, typically takes about an hour.
Todd had brought five rifles with him. We took the time to dial in two of them. Then we started shooting, working on his fundamentals. We took a break for lunch and then went back to shoot some more. I ended up staying the weekend.
While I was there, Todd took me out to his plant, a huge facility in a big industrial park in East L.A. There were smashed-up vehicles on the floor and racks and racks of auto parts stacked up everywhere, all carefully inventoried—all taken from wrecked Porsches. Todd and his wife run a business called Los Angeles Dismantler. They’ll find a wrecked Porsche Turbo, worth maybe a few hundred thousand brand new, pay ten grand or so to the insurance company that’s written it off, then dismantle it and resell the parts to specialty stores and individuals for ten or fifteen times what they paid for the wreck. Talk about a business model.
The following weekend, I went up to L.A. to give Todd some more private classes. This time, as we were having lunch, he asked me what I was up to these days, and I told him about all the different things I had going.
I’d been out of the SEALs for five years at this point. My first year out, I’d done some contract security work over in a country I won’t name (it rhymes with “Barack”) for a government agency, but other than that I’d been a strictly private-sector entrepreneur. For most of those five years, I’d been working on a multimillion-dollar land development deal, a massive training facility and race car track out in the Southern California desert, called Wind Zero. I was also an active investor in Neptunic, the company that created the Sharksuit (metal mesh protective diving gear). I was doing a bunch of consulting. I was writing for a few military Web sites. I was also working on my memoir, The Red Circle.
I had a lot going on.
Todd didn’t say a word as I ran down my list, just ate and listened. Finally, when I’d gotten to the end of a paragraph and paused to take a bite, he sat back and looked at me.
“You know, when I look at you, I see a lot of myself in you.” I took that as a hell of a nice compliment and was about to say so, but he kept going. “You’re kind of a mess, you think?”
Not what I was expecting him to say.
“I was doing like you’re doing, not too long ago,” he went on, “going in every direction at once. One day, a mentor sat me down and said, ‘Todd, you need to collect yourself and focus on one thing. You’re all over the map. As soon as you focus, things will start coming together. And you’ll be successful.’ I took his advice. He was dead right. Once I focused on this one opportunity, on Porsche parts, big things started happening.”
He pushed back from the table.
“Anyway,” he said as we got up to go shoot some more, “think about it.”
I did. He was right; I was all over the place. I had twenty different irons in the fire. I wasn’t focused. It was a recipe for disaster.
And disaster was exactly what I’d cooked up.
That land development project had blown up in my face. The county had approved it, and it had a lot of local support, but at the eleventh hour the thing had been nailed shut and screwed to the floor by a nuisance lawsuit by the Sierra Club. We’d spent millions our investors had put up to get this far. Fighting the suit would have cost millions more. I was trying everything I could think of to salvage it, in talks with another developer to take it over, but it was crushing me. My marriage was in trouble, too.
Todd was dead on target. I wasn’t focused. And because I wasn’t focused, nothing was really coming to fruition.
The thing was, I already knew this. Learning how to focus was a critical part of my training as a SEAL sniper, and SEAL training isn’t like a weekend seminar. The things they teach you in the SEAL teams, they go bone deep, and they never leave you.
In the teams, we called it “front sight focus,” and it was as critical to survival as breathing.
“Brandon!” Cassidy hisses in my ear. “You’re gonna have to Kentucky windage this thing!”
Lieutenant Cassidy and I and two other teammates are pinned like bugs to the scrubby Afghan mountainside; a knot of armed Tal- iban ghters is walking in our direction. They haven’t found us yet, but they will any moment. If we leap to our feet and try to shoot it out, we’re dead. Our only option is to call in an air strike and take these guys out with a bomb. Preferably without taking ourselves out at the same time. To call a strike with that degree of accuracy, someone needs to give the guys in the B-52 somewhere a mile or so above our heads the precise drop coordinates. That someone is me.
But because we weren’t supposed to be out here in the first place, in this mission that was supposed to take eighteen hours but is lasting for days, I don’t have my usual equipment with me: laser range finder, GPS, sniper scope, and the rest. All I have is my eyes, ears, brain, and gut.
As a sniper, I’ve been taught to estimate distances on the fly, but normally we’re talking about shooting a bullet roughly the size of my forefinger from the muzzle of a rifle. Here I have to shoot a thousand- pound “bullet” out of a 125-ton aircraft, flying unseen somewhere over our heads at near the speed of sound, at a target less than five hundred yards away from where we are crouched. Without any range-finding equipment to help me aim the shot. In other words, I have to wing it, which is exactly what Cassidy means by “when you’re in a lea windage.” I have to get this right, and I have only seconds to do it. Sighting upward on an irregular rocky incline. In the deceptively vague light of daybreak.
Talk about an impossible decision under insane pressure.
Oh, great. Now the shooting starts. They’ve seen us. We’re returning fire.
All right, class, let’s review.
There are a bunch of guys shooting at us with intent to kill. We’re in weird, crappy light, sighting uphill, with no sighting or range- finding equipment. I need to figure out exactly how far away these guys are so a plane somewhere up in the sky can drop a bomb on them and not hit us. And the guy in that B-52 is waiting for my numbers, now.
This is a situation that requires focus.
Focus. Yeah, I knew what Todd Dakarmen was talking about. Not only did I already know this; I had taught this. As a sniper, I had lived it. I just hadn’t been applying it to my life in business.
I would never make that mistake again.
“Total Focus” by Brandon Webb is available for pre-order now on Amazon.