This is for the young troops heading to Spec Ops Selection. It doesn’t matter if it is for the Ranger Regiment, Air Force Special Operations, Navy SEAL or SFAS. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Nobody does everything perfectly, well some very rare guys do, but even they started from somewhere.
When preparing for Special Operations, and I’ve seen this countless times, guys tend to stick to things they do well and pay less attention to things they don’t do so well. They’re not ignoring them per se, but like most people, no one likes doing anything where they feel they’ll look foolish.
This speaks to breaking out of our comfort zone. I wrote about this on SpecialOperations.com about a year ago. Falling into this trap can lead to stagnation both personally and professionally. We have to fight that to reach our goals.
Here’s a quick question for everyone, answer it to yourself and be truthful: When you are working out do you have a favorite exercise that you like to work into your routine all the time? Why? No doubt because you are good at it.
No one likes to look foolish when doing anything — especially among our peers. And in Special Operations we can be brutally hard on each other as well as on ourselves. But there comes a time when all of that has to disappear and you have to look at yourself in the mirror dispassionately. The fact of the matter is that very, very few people are good at something the first time they try it. That’s why we have to take a look at ourselves and identify what we’re good, and what we’re not so great, at.
When I was younger, I had a phobia for speaking in public. Truth be told, I still do. It wasn’t until I was in college that I finally got over that. How? I had a professor that broke down what exactly I was uncomfortable with (and those things were truly nothing to be concerned about) and that allowed me to break through that barrier.
While no one will ever confuse me with Winston Churchill as an orator, as anyone who has heard one of my podcasts can attest, now I actually do enjoy public speaking in a slightly less uncomfortable way. I’ve embraced the challenge and, as anyone on the line when we do a writer’s call will tell you, getting me to talk isn’t the problem — now their main problem is when will that guy shut the hell up.
When training for SF, I was a good but not great runner. I could easily run for distance but was never one of the faster guys. I also sucked at climbing ropes, and again, the truth be told, I’m still not great at it. But my training partner was a deer in the running department and, as he used to say, “a rope-climbing MFer.”
He wasn’t a great rucker so we decided to work out together. Because I liked to ruck, he was forced to do that more than he probably would have on his own. And we incorporated much more rope climbing than I would have done otherwise. We pushed each other out of our comfort training zone rut, because we both knew our weaknesses and confronted them head-on. As a result, we both ended up succeeding in the end.
Several years later, I was at a high school track and, while there, I met a football coach. He was running some laps followed by a series of sprints. We spoke and I told him I had tons of endurance but no speed. “Then do something about it,” he said. So I asked for his help, which is the hardest thing for any SF guy to do. He was a great guy and showed me some sprint work that I incorporated into my training regimen, which not only improved my endurance, but my speed as well. He recommended some exercises to do in the gym which really helped too.
So what is your strength, what are you really good at? What’s your weakness? Is it running, rucking, land navigation? Whatever it is, if you’re going to Selection, rest assured that that course will bring your weakness to the forefront. Then will be the absolute wrong time to confront it. The time to do so is now.
If you aren’t a great runner or rucker, find a training partner who is and then go all out with him/her until your weakness becomes a strength.
I frequently hear from young people that aren’t good at, or don’t have a ton of experience with, land navigation. Land navigation is one of these things that you’ll only get really good at with a lot of practice. There is no magic elixir for it.
Get really good at map reading and work on your terrain association. Then go out and do it. In most places there are civilians who run orienteering clubs or events; the vast majority of them will be very willing to help you out. But they’re not mind-readers and you will have to make the first step.
Remember, you won’t be able to truly challenge yourself or reach your optimum peak of development until you reach a stage that is uncomfortable for you. Then you have to push past that and take it on. Don’t let the fear of initial failure or looking foolish stop you from trying. Visualize success and take pleasure in the small victories of progress. Then enjoy the process and push yourself into success.
I read how Bill Belichick in the NFL trained young coaches by giving them more and more responsibility, always adding more to see what and how much they could handle. He didn’t do it all at once, which would overwhelm them, but added more and more as he saw how much and at what speed they were developing. The same thing works for all of us: We need to push past what we think we can accomplish and keep raising the bar.
So isn’t Tuesday Leg Day at the gym? Doesn’t everyone hate Leg Day? Time for that to change. Get some!