3 Life Lessons From A Navy SEAL

Written by Thom Shea

Photo by Stocksy

When faced with my own possible death while on active duty as a Navy SEAL, I decided to write the most important lessons I would have my children and wife learn, if I was not there to teach them.

There are many great lessons that you learn when you achieve balance in mind, strength in body, and connection to your surroundings. However, some lessons you have to survive hell, or climb Mount Everest to truly know. So the question to answer is “what would your life be like if you never quit?”

Now that I have written the lessons, I'd love to share them with you.

Lesson #1: Always keep your “word.”

Not to sound too cliché, but the most important lesson in your life is that you honor the power of keeping your word. In every walk of life, your power, your success is derived simply from the power you give to keeping your “word.”

Keeping a promise is also important, such as promising to clean your room or do your work at your job. Yet, keeping your word, or honoring your word is distinctly different.

When you honor your word, you are stating that you are "honoring that your word is everything," which is far more important than promising to complete a task. The difference, when actually learned, is transformative.

Here's how to do it:

  • Week one: Every morning right after you get out of bed, before you do anything else, do 5 push-ups, 5 situps, and 10 squats. Then, after your day is over, before you go to bed, do the same routine again. Do this for seven days straight. In the first week you will learn quite a bit about how deeply you honor your word. There is no gray area here; either you completed the task or your word has little value to you. (In the past two years of training clients, I have found only 15 percent of them capable of honoring their word.)
  • Week two: Double your numbers each morning and night to 10 situps, 10 push-ups, and 20 squats.
  • Week three: Triple your efforts each morning and night.

Once you have completed this first lesson, that is to say you restarted from the beginning each time you broke your word, you will have learned the most powerful lesson any human being on this planet can learn. Your word is powerful and also terribly hard to keep over time. Remember what happened here for the rest of your life and be patient with others as they fight to honor their word.

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Lesson #2: Face your fear.

As my wife prompted me to teach my children lessons that would guide their lives, it became clear the second most important thing to learn was to face your fear. Fear seems to be the most pervasive and also destructive impulse humans have.

The first key factor to overcome fear is to start training to actually do the thing you are afraid of.

The key to unlearning fear is to stop avoiding the things you are afraid of and face them fully. To let your body feel all those impulses and not stop going.

The first key factor to overcome fear is to start training to actually do the thing you are afraid of. I teach people this lesson by training them in rappelling and climbing. You must learn the real safety limits of the equipment and what is needed to prevent mishaps.

The first task is to rappel outside on a real cliff. I want you to feel your body experience the scared reaction to hooking up and going over the edge. Don’t rush through it, feel it. Then, halfway down, I want you to stop and put on an anchor and take your hands off the rope and lay backward. Open your eyes and try to see the cliff, the rocks, and the ground. Also, try to smell the air and hear the sounds. Then complete the rappel until you are on the ground.

Make a list of the other things in your life you seem afraid of and spend the rest of your life facing those.

The final factor in facing your fear is pushing until exhaustion. To most people this final factor is counterintuitive. I ask you now to climb back up the cliff. During the climb you will feel exhausted. Your hands or legs or something in you will be pushed and you will feel your body avoid the feeling of falling. As that feeling slips past, recall your partner has you secured and you will not completely fall. Yet I ask you to push past your safety level and fall and let the rope catch you.

Now you will have faced a real fear for yourself. After you rappel and climb back up, ask yourself this simple question: Did you face your fear? Then, make a list of the other things in your life you seem afraid of. Then, spend the rest of your life facing those. Your life will expand exponentially.

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Lesson #3: Push beyond your comfort level.

Your body is an incredible machine. Your body will give you exactly what you ask of it. Lesson three is to actually push your body beyond comfort and learn that your limits so often are self-imposed.

The task here is simply to walk for 24 hours only breaking for 10 minutes at a time. You will definitely hit limits and you will understand, maybe for the first time, the power you have inside to talk yourself into continuing or talk yourself out of it. I host quarterly 24-hour walks for trainees, but there are 24-hour walking events worldwide that you could sign up for.

As you complete this task, you will have honored your word, you will have faced numerous fears, and you will have learned the master skill of not talking yourself out of being incredible.

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