This Six-Letter Word Is the Secret to Surviving SEAL Training

SEAL candidates participate in a rock portage evolution during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
SEAL candidates participate in a rock portage evolution during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training at Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Center in Coronado, California, May 13, 2020. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker/U.S. Navy photo)

When most people find out that I spent more than seven years as a Navy SEAL, one of the first things they say is: "Oh, I could never do that." I ask them why and their responses are always about the same: "I can't run;" "I can't swim;" "I can't handle the cold." The phrase "I can't" is used repeatedly.

I usually smile and try to change the subject before the dreaded Hollywood question comes regarding killing someone with a spoon. But every time, I nod my head to someone telling me their reasons for not trying out for SEAL training, I feel like I'm cheating them if I don't share what I call the number one secret of SEAL training.

SEAL training isn't for everyone, but the lessons learned in training are. Truth be told, anyone can make it through SEAL training, but the fact is, very few do. Strip away unfortunate training and liberty-related injuries, and you're left with one reason and one reason alone for those who graduate, versus those who ring out: desire. Those who make it through want it a lot more than those who don't -- period.

At the end of the day, SEAL training is not about how many pull-ups you can do or how fast you can swim or run the obstacle course. It's about the fire that burns in your gut. SEAL training is designed to test your resolve. It doesn't matter if you're the best runner or swimmer; the instructors are experts at finding and exploiting the smallest chink in your armor. I don't know a single SEAL who prefers cold, wet and sandy to warm, dry and clean. Making you uncomfortable is just another tool in the SEAL instructor's torture kit.

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It sounds simple, and it's something you've heard many an athlete or entrepreneur preach, but your desire to succeed is secret number one. It's the first attribute put to the test in SEAL training. Day in and day out, instructors remind you that SEAL training is voluntary. You can walk out the door at any time (of course, you'll need to ring the bell three times before you do). It's up to you to build that internal inferno to conquer any obstacle thrown in your path. The pain of failure must be greater than the pain of succeeding; otherwise you're destined to be defeated by your goal.

SEAL training fueled the fire in my gut to such a fevered pitch that I found myself saying I'd rather die than quit. Everyone has their own demons to deal with during training; mine were asthma and running. At 6'3" and 225 pounds, I was the Clydesdale of the class. Every day was a struggle. I suffered through every stride in the soft sand, but in my mind, that pain paled in comparison to quitting.

This burning desire wasn't built in a day, but rather stoked through a series of seemingly insignificant decisions, such as leaving a warm bed to be cold, wet and miserable; or spending weekend liberty hours spit-shining my combat boots, only to have them thrashed in seconds on Monday mornings.

Every action you make is the result of a decision you've chosen. The intensity of your desire is directly proportional to the number of decisions you make toward attaining your goal; you're either committed or you're not. There is no middle ground. You either go for it with all your heart and soul or don't bother trying.

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The decision is yours. So before you take one step toward your next goal, ask yourself: "How badly do I want it, and what am I willing to sacrifice to get it?" Once you've established these ground rules, you're already halfway to mission success. And while you're on your journey, remember nothing is ever accomplished by those who say, "I can't."

CHARLIE MIKE (Continue Mission)

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