If you don’t hold an unreasonably high standard, then violence of action will just create a mess. If you aren’t holding yourself to the highest standard, then your attempts to build total situational awareness will just become diffused attention and create a scattered focus. And without uncompromising excellence, front sight focus is just putting on the blinders. Because, how do you know you’re focusing on the right things?
When we were approaching the end of our work on The Red Circle, my writing partner, John Mann, and I started asking ourselves, why were we writing this book. Yes, I wanted to tell my story. But bottom line, what was the point? We decided to see if we could capture the essential message of the whole 400-page book in the last page or two.
Here’s what we wrote:
“I’ve thought long and hard about why I am writing this book and what I want it to say. I think the message I want my story to get across boils down to two words: Excellence matters.
Throughout my time with the Navy and within the SEAL community, I’ve seen poor leadership and exceptional leadership. I’ve seen training that was simply good, training that was great, and training so transcendingly amazing it blew my mind. And I’ve seen the difference it makes.
In political matters, I have always been a down-the-middle- line person. When it comes to leaders, I care less about their party affiliation and more about their character and competence. I don’t care how they would vote on school prayer, or abortion, or gay marriage, or gun laws. I want to know that they know what the hell they’re doing, and that they are made of that kind of unswerving steel that will not be rattled in moments that count, no matter what is coming at them. I want to know that they won’t flinch in the face of debate, danger, or death.
I want to know that they excel at what they do.
A free society looks as if it rests on big principles and lofty ideals, and maybe it does for much of the time. But in the dark times, those times that count most, what it comes down to is not reason or rhetoric but pure commitment, honed over time into the fabric of excellence.
Why am I telling you this? Because it matters.
You may never shoot a sniper rifle. You may never serve as part of an assault team, or stand security in combat, or board a hostile ship at midnight on the high seas. You may never wear a uniform; hell, you may never even throw a punch in the name of freedom. I’ll tell you what, though. Whatever it is that you do, you are making a stand, either for excellence or for mediocrity.
This is what I learned about being a Navy SEAL: it is all about excellence, and about never giving up on yourself. And that is the red circle I will continue to hold, no matter what.”
That took 367 words, but really, you can compress it down to just two: “Excellence matters.”
After the book came out, we got plenty of great reader comments on Amazon and on social media. But far and away the thing we heard about most was those last two pages, and especially those two words. Ponder that for a moment: In order to tell my story of growing up and going through a decade of the SEAL experience, we used close to 135,000 words. And what people took away from it, more than anything else, was two words.
I share this because I want you to ask the same question about the business you’re in as we did about our book: What is the point? Why are you in business?
I’m sure you’ll have your own answer, and it will have to do with your own situation, your own interests and values and life experiences. You know your own why. But let me offer a few general observations about that question and its answer.
My belief is that the purpose of any outstandingly successful business is not to make money. The money’s great, but that’s not the point. The point is to do something great, something that blows people’s minds, something that, yes, changes the world. Admit it. Nothing less will satisfy you. Am I right?
I thought so.
So we’re not here to talk about “getting by” or “making ends meet.” If that’s your goal, put this book down right now and walk away. Because we’re here to look at the ingredients of outstanding, world-changing success. We’re here to talk about excellence.