Mike Hayes’s life experiences read like an adventure novel, but rest assured he is the real deal. He has been threatened with execution while held at gunpoint in South America. He’s helped amputate a teammate’s leg and made countless split-second life-and-death decisions. Rising through the officer ranks to Command SEAL Team 2, he served in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Navy SEALs and with a combined joint Special Operations Task Force. Later he ran meetings in the White House Situation Room, negotiated international arms treaties, and developed high-impact corporate strategies in the civilian workplace.

Mike graciously shared a copy of his book, Never Enough: A Navy Seal Commander on Living a Life of Excellence, Agility, and Meaning with us at SOFREP and we recorded a podcast with him just this past week. (Look out for that one coming soon!) 

Mike Hayes writes his book on leadership and life with an easy writing style but with the clarity of life’s lessons. It is a very enjoyable book as he fills it with anecdotes that perfectly make the points he’s striving for in each chapter.

The book starts in Fallujah, Iraq in 2007. In the midst of an operation to find a high-value target, he is outside of a building, which his SEALs are searching, providing command and control. At that point, an Iraqi man wearing a long-flowing robe appears and reaches inside it. The question for Hayes wasn’t whether he could shoot, but whether he should shoot the man. He decides he has the reaction time to wait and assess the potential threat. And it turned out the man was only reaching for an I.D. card. As a reader, you are immediately hooked.

The rest of the book is filled with similar anecdotes that illustrate his decision-making process. 

Hayes has taken his life experiences from the Navy SEAL Teams to the White House and the boardrooms of civilian corporations.

According to Hayes, his book’s title Never Enough isn’t about a search for perfection or about downplaying the accomplishments one has already achieved. Rather, it is about always growing your capacity for learning and excellence by constantly moving the goalposts forward and challenging yourself.

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He writes about acting life with intention every step of the way, rather than letting it carry you along on a trajectory where you are not in control. He hits the point home by describing how every day he tells his daughter not to “have a great day,” which is a passive activity, but instead, “make it a great day.” 

It is all about being honest and truthful with oneself and taking the hard path. As Hayes points out, if a person is always taking the easy path in life, they will be staying in a comfort zone and never improve. His message is to step out of that comfort zone to build better opportunities, better relationships, and improve oneself.

Navy SEAL Mike Hayes with George Bush
An autographed photo of Mike Hayes, author of ‘Never Enough,’ with President W. George Bush in the Oval office.

One of his key points is that we are who we are at our worst. This means that anyone can show their best side when placed in situations in which they’re proficient and comfortable. But when we’re pushed beyond our own perceived limits then our character is really measured. Hayes said it isn’t about that 99.9 percent of life, but the 0.1 percent when our comfort zone is gone. He calls it the need of being comfortable when we are not. That is a common characteristic of not only the SEALs but all of the Special Operations Community. 

Humor and laughter are much-needed for any profession as there are plenty of times when it is appropriate to lighten the mood. They can release tension and build camaraderie. During our podcast, we both were able to relay some humorous stories that had helped us at different times. Leaders at all levels need to do that and get to know everyone on their team. Learn their goals, motivations, and learn what makes them tick. 

Mike Hayes’s personal bushido is to live with incredible confidence and extreme humility. He writes that every time he walks into a room, he always assumes that there are people in the room smarter than he is. That way, he can never be wrong. He may not have “the idea” but he will certainly have “an idea.” 

In Never Enough, Hayes talks at length about his philosophy of leadership that is easily adaptable to any situation. One of the best ways to learn leadership is to teach it by developing great leaders under oneself and to learn “how to think, not what to think,” which is great advice in today’s world. 

In the end, Hayes’s book isn’t just about leadership but living your life to the fullest extent possible while serving others. 

We highly recommend Never Enough: A Navy Seal Commander on Living a Life of Excellence, Agility, and Meaning to our readers. An audio version, narrated by Mike himself, is available for download. Please check out our podcast with Mike Hayes once it releases.