There are people in business, just as in any field, who have an uncanny skill set that seems gifted to them by birth. Like Mozart, who played violin and piano like a virtuoso at the age of six and as an adult composed multiple pieces in his head simultaneously, these business virtuosos possess incredible innate abilities.

That’s not me. Probably not you, either.

If you’re not a born-brilliant dealmaker, if you don’t come from a family dynasty of business success stories, if you didn’t enter this world with a native instinct for the boardroom and the marketplace, then how do you raise your game to the level of genuine excellence? The answer is actually pretty simple: you decide to. Excellence, more than anything else, is a decision, a choice, a commitment.

A state of mind.

When I started out in BUD/S, there was a guy I’d known from an earlier BUD/S-preparation course. Let’s call him Lars. This guy might have been a perfect and the most athletically built physical specimen I’ve ever met. The dude could crush the most excruciating routine of calisthenics as if he were swatting flies. Lars was a god.

In our first week of First Phase, he quit.

I saw this happen over and over. Guys who could physically outperform me and my teammates without breaking a sweat; men who had qualified for Olympic trials and been at the top of their game in pro sports. Yet, they would throw in the towel, ring that brass bell, quit, and go home defeated, while we went on to become SEALs. It shocked and baffled me then, but I understand it now. Excellence is not about inborn talent or natural skills. Excellence is purely a state of mind. A decision.

During BUD/S, I also saw guys like my friend Chris Campbell. Chris was one of the smallest guys in our class, easygoing and unprepossessing, about as “ordinary” and as far from Lars on the spectrum of likely to excel as you could imagine. Yet while Lars quit, Chris not only sailed through BUD/S but ended up becoming an exceptional operator for a top-tier unit. (You know the one I mean.)

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