Last week I reviewed what I called “McRaven’s 10” which are ten principles that Admiral McRaven (Commander of the US Special Operations Command) derived from SEAL indoctrination training (BUD/S) that if followed, will allow you to change the world one person at a time…starting with yourself, of course!
These principles include such classics as “judge a person by the size of their heart and not the size of their flippers,” and “when you are up to your neck in mud, learn how to sing!” To review that BLOG post click here.
In this post I would like to look at a few more principles for leading and living a good life. I will call them “Divine’s 10 Ways to be a Kokoro Leader.” In this post we will cover the first five. Here goes…
Principle #1: Don’t ruin a perfectly good silence
My BUD/S class, number 170, had a class leader who came from the Navy legal corps (JAG). Though well intentioned, he lacked confidence and the guys could smell his fear. In addition, he couldn’t meet the running standards. Every time he failed a run, he would call a 4-star general from another service, who would then call the Commanding Officer of BUD/S, who would then forbid the instructors from removing this guy from training. It was frustrating for the class. However, perhaps his biggest failure as a leader was his constant need to talk things through and obsessively plan each evolution. He never allowed anyone else a word in the hasty planning process that occurred every time the instructors inserted another challenge. I recall thinking to myself “boy if he would just shut the F*#! up someone with a good idea could chime in.”
Silence is golden and allows amazing things to happen: For one, your rational mind settles down, allowing your non-rational, non-linear mind to step into help. Often the best insights bubble up in the silence. Perhaps equally as important, silence allows space for others to provide ideas and leadership. If they are not allowed that space, then they will just clam up and watch the appointed leader fail. So, if you want to be a Kokoro Leader, then don’t ruin a perfectly good silence!
Principle #2: Doubt is eliminated by action
Some of you may recall the move “Blackhawk Down.” It depicted an incident in Mogadishu in 1993 where an Army Black Hawk Helicopter crashed in the city. An entire troop of Rangers got pinned down in a massive firefight with just about everyone in the city – all of whom had weapons and hated the Americans. The Rangers were taking casualties and risked losing many men.
The untold story of this disaster is that the relief force of Pakistani armored infantry disobeyed orders and would not leave the compound on the rescue mission. The risk was so high that they feared for their lives and just sat there. Until, that is, four SEALs led by Captain Olsen (later, Admiral Olsen would lead USSOCOM) walked out of the compound into the firefight in full view of the Pakistani commander and leaders. The action of Olsen and the other three SEALs was so extraordinarily risky and brave that it shocked the Pakistanis into action. How could they cower in shame inside their armored vehicles while the American’s walked, exposed, into the fray? Their doubt was eliminated when the SEALs took action, and so they took action to follow. So, if you want to be a Kokoro Leader, eliminate doubt by taking bold and decisive action!
Principle #3: Don’t be Fooled by the False Peaks
In SEAL training we did a bruising 12-mile soft sand run late in first phase, after Hell Week. The class had been whittled from 180 down to about 40 hardy guys. I knew they all wouldn’t make it, but I thought they all could. The run was fast, requiring every ounce of focus and energy we could muster. Running in soft sand is much harder than on a hard surface. It uses different muscles and each step is unstable. Needless to say, when we were on the last mile, with the BUD/S compound in clear view, we were ready to be DONE! The instructor picked up the pace on the last 100 yards, cajoling the class to sprint to the finish line. We engaged the afterburners and blazed past the imaginary line at the gate to the compound. Many of the gazelles fell to their knees, gasping for air. Phew…it was over.
I noticed something different right away – it was hard to miss – the instructor just kept on running. SHIT! I had slowed to a jog and as soon as I saw this I picked it back up again with a mental slap “it’s not over Divine, get back in the game!” I caught up to the instructor, as did most of the class. The instructor went for about a half mile then turned around to head back. That was when I noticed that not everyone had gotten back up and joined us. There were three guys who just stayed on the ground – and quit.
These guys fell victim to the false peak syndrome. They could not re-engage the willpower to keep going when they were so sure that they were done. This syndrome affects so many people in so many walks of life. The SEALs know it and seek to train the weakness out of the candidate so they are prepared to overcome anything that gets in the way of mission success. Every peak is considered a false peak until the mission is successful. So if you want to be a Kokoro Leader, don’t be fooled by the false peaks!
Principle #4: Sometimes you need to go around, and not over, the obstacle.
The BUD/S Obstacle Course is a timed evolution, done twice a week during BUD/S. In each phase of training you have to meet stricter standards -and by third phase most guys are running it in less than 8 minutes. On one these O-course runs there was a massive bottleneck on the weaver (this obstacle had us weave our way up a series of pipes then down the other side on our stomach and sideways…half the time upside down hanging from the metal structure). A student was struggling near the top and as I stood there waiting impatiently the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just go around. A tinge of doubt crept in because the instructors were watching. I finally decided to just go for it and took off around the obstacle, heading straight for the Burma Bridge.
A couple minutes later I crossed the finish line and the class proctor strolled over to me. Uh oh, he must have seen me, I thought. “Nice move Divine,” he said. “I would have done the same. If you never cheat the system in BUD/S, you aren’t trying hard enough!” I learned two valuable lessons that day: first, some rules need to be broken in the right circumstances to get the job done. And second, that often the path grooved over an obstacle by others may not be right for you. So if you want to be a Kokoro Leader, sometimes you need to go around, and not over, the obstacles in life.
Principle #5: Lock arms to keep from drowning
Surf torture is the name of another recurring evolution in BUD/S. The instructors march the entire class into the raging 60-degree surf, have them turn their backs to the waves, link arms and sit down. Then they just let the ocean instruct for a while. The cold, incessant pounding of the surf over their heads leads to panic, extreme discomfort and fear of drowning.
However, as long as you keep your arms linked with your swim buddies on left and right, you have no problem finding your way back above the waves. Together you can defeat the ocean. Alone and you are toast. Soon, you gain confidence and even a little heat from your linked swim buddies…not to mention a few motivating words. Those who unlink their arms are quickly buffeted by the powerful waves and lose mental control, often leading to a quit moment.
Linking arms is a powerful metaphor for teamwork. Sometimes we simply can’t survive without the help of others. The help of a team can be physical, as in holding your head above water. But the most important help is psychological – providing comfort and an encouraging word. So if you want to be a Kokoro Leader, show your team how to link arms before you are at risk of drowning.
Next time I will present the second of the 5 Principles to be a Kokoro Leader. By the way, in case you did not know, Kokoro means: “to merge your heart and your mind into action.” Kokoro Leadership is the most powerful form of leading, as it yokes the cleverness of your mind with the wisdom of your heart, resulting in more authentic and powerful choices…propelling you forward when you are facing the biggest obstacles of your life, or drowning in an ocean of worry.
Until next time…train hard, stay focused and have fun. Hooyah!
– Commander Mark Divine