Over Thanksgiving I was looking with friends and family at the webpage of GoRuck. One of my friends was looking for a challenge to push himself for this upcoming spring, so I recommended that he check out GoRuck’s events. 

“Why in the world would someone do this for fun? And why would you ever sign up for this stuff in the military? Do people actually volunteer for this?”  

Someone else asked.

Trying to be as diplomatic as possible, I tried to explain that if you ask such questions, then those events — and life in any Special Operations unit — probably isn’t for you. And it isn’t for everybody.

But you reader, you are here because these thoughts don’t enter your mind. That’s why you visit this website. Chances are that if you’re not already a Special Operations member, you aspire to be one soon. And if the second part of that describes your situation, then the following advice is for you. 

In this website we’ve already covered certain tasks like rucking and land navigation. But this piece will address the mindset.

Why you should (and shouldn't) join SOF

Read Next: Why you should (and shouldn't) join SOF

The person at my Thanksgiving dinner persisted and wanted to understand the thought process that goes behind how we do what we do. While I can’t speak for everyone, the answer for me is that we do these things because we can’t envision ourselves doing anything else — and because we also feel compelled to. We also exist for the challenge: pushing the envelope to see how far we can go; how good we can be. 

Whether you are a competitive athlete or a tactical one, the ultimate goal may be different, but the manner in which we arrive there is very similar. And that is through thorough preparation. In getting ready to go to Special Operations Selection, regardless of the branch of service or the unit, the onus is on the individual to be ready to go and meet the selection criteria established by the cadre. The only obstacle that can hold you back is yourself.

General George S. Patton said the following, which is as true today as it was back then: “A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood.” We’ll take it even a step up from that for our purposes: “two pints of sweat will save a candidate a lifetime of tears.” 

We have to push ourselves to achieve what we never dreamed possible — and then push ourselves even further. And it isn’t just the physical dimension that we should be pushing: A few years ago, I did an interview with Brian Decker, who revamped the SFAS Course and changed the way SF was evaluating candidates for the Regiment. His system worked so well, that he now has taken it to the NFL and has changed the way the Indianapolis Colts draft players now. His words are clear:

“The physical talent of an individual will only take them so far, but what ultimately makes an operator successful is their character, their makeup, their approach. So, what would stop an SF soldier from reaching his full potential comes down to the way they approach their craft.” 

“A good SF operator, as with other professions, approaches their craft in the same way. Very much with a growth mindset, they’re more intrinsically motivated by internal factors and view success as a process.”

We have to push ourselves so that risk, vulnerability and the possibility of failure are not optional but essential. Only then will the candidate realize his true potential. We’re not competing per se against anyone else, but against ourselves. 

The process is to set goals that are above our current level of expertise or ability, and then keep adding to them. Soon what was thought impossible before will be laid in front of you as an accomplishment. Keep pushing and striving harder in your preparation.

The best Special Operations candidates don’t look for external solutions to problems. They look internally. The physical portion is just a small part of the equation. Most of it is mental: The mental strength you’ll find in successful candidates is much higher than their physical.

Having such a mindset and dedication, will better prepared you for the rigors of selection and make you be among those who move on to the next challenge.