Someone once asked a Navy SEAL “what is it that makes you guys so good?” Smiling, he replied, “It’s not that we’re that good, it’s that everyone else sucks.” It’s a common phrase, and I began reflecting on what it meant to me…
As a baseball player, my standard was often based in comparison to the competition. I wanted to be better than the next guy to get playing time, better than the other teams in our conference, and “as good as” top 25-ranked teams. However, in special operations we never compared ourselves to other units, at least in terms of who was the best. Our question was not, “Are we better than the rest?” Rather, our question was, “How good can we get?”
Maximization of our potential was best and best was the standard we pursued every day. We pursued it without moderation. We unapologetically had no interest for anyone who was interested in just being good. We were there to be elite and win every single mission.
In my opinion, we were able to maximize our potential by learning to execute fundamentals under extreme stress. No matter the parachute malfunction or combat situation, we would focus on what we could affect and execute our process.
In competitive environments in combat or on a baseball field, we can’t control the outcome. If we could, we would have won every game we’ve ever played and so would everyone else. Competition would not exist.
We don’t force outcomes, we influence them. We influence them to the greatest degree possible by demanding perfection of everything within our control. We master our process and eliminate the variables.
The pieces of the process are fundamentals. Fundamentals are controllable actions of value. Controllable actions of value exist in mechanics (how we do what we do), mindset (how we think) and culture (how we treat each other). All three working together maximize potential.
When skill is matched, it can no longer be the separating factor. Mindset and culture fundamentals allow us to create separation as they have a direct impact on our performance.
For instance, I can teach anyone how to jump, dive, and shoot but that doesn’t make them a special operator. For the skills to be useful, they need to be able to calmly execute process under extreme pressure, have valuable responses in adversity, and be team-first when situations are difficult rather than retreat to self-preservation.
Ability to execute fundamentals under stress are learned behaviors that must become habit. Our instructors taught us “You don’t rise to the occasion; you default to your standard of training.” Nothing was proven more true to me.
Every day, we create habits in all three fundamental types. The habits we create today make us who we are when it matters most. We win gunfights well before the first shot is fired.
A relentless pursuit of the standard creates pride and a desire to fight for each other. The pursuit starts today. Although we can’t force results, we fight for results without moderation, because "moderation is for cowards.”
A teammate once said, “If you knew you would have to fight for your life tomorrow, would you change how you train today?” That elimination game is coming…if it were tomorrow, would you change what you’re doing today?
What is it that makes us so good? Technology changes, tactics change, but the standard remains. The standard passed to us from those who came before us. Living it is a lifelong battle. No matter what happens, stay in the fight. It’s how winning is done...and it pays to be a winner. IP
Jason Kuhn is a former NCAA Div. I baseball player and Navy SEAL.