The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to reflect their inner beliefs. —James Allen
Prior to the SEALs, my career as a fledgling accountant at Coopers & Lybrand was driven in the short term by my goals of earning an MBA and CPA (showing a need for significance) and by my long-term goals of financial independence (displaying a need for certainty). I was cruising along toward these common goals but didn’t find the work very interesting or rewarding. Those six letters, “MBA-CPA,” became my focus, and I wasn’t going to quit, no matter what. My family and friends would say that my future looked bright: I was making great money in a prestigious job and had a career path shimmering out in front of me. Shimmering for others; not me. As my Zen training began to reveal my true self to me, a feeling of misery, born from being in a place I was not meant to be, grew in intensity.
The Zen and warrior training ground my outer shell down enough that it allowed my inner voice to be heard, which was telling me, “Mark, you are out of alignment with your purpose. Your passion is to be a leader, a warrior, and to find a grand adventure. Your principles are being compromised by chasing money, and your purpose is bigger than just being in business for the sake of a career.”
The greater the depth of my perceptions, the more disdain I began to feel for the greed and backstabbing behavior I was observing in the office. And I was a full participant in the charade. A collision of my worlds disoriented me—on one hand, the message from the home front was that I was kicking ass in this professional business career (the Divines were a business family, period). Yet on the other hand, I felt that something was disturbingly wrong. All the external indicators were green; I was getting all the right social feedback that I was on track and doing well. But I just had this brooding sensation that I was steaming away in the wrong direction.
After one of our Zen trainings, Kaicho Nakamura gave a lecture titled “One Day, One Life.” He explained that a warrior experiences a lifetime in a single day. You see, the warrior doesn’t take anything for granted. He or she lives on the razor’s edge of experience as if each day were potentially the last. Each moment is lived as if one’s hair is on fire—with a fullness and purpose. He or she avoids getting caught up in the dramas of life, preferring to avoid regrets and desires by keeping things simple and practical. In order to experience one life in one day the warrior trains his body, mind, and spirit to be at the ready.
I was moved by the lecture. For weeks I thought intently about the lecture and why this message resonated with me. It drove me to ask vital questions. What would I be like if life had an all- encompassing purpose beyond just making a bunch of money and ascending the steps of a conventional career? How motivating it would be to wake up every day with that hair-on-fire passion to fulfill a deeply-charged purpose! This awakening allowed me to finally let go of the culturally-sustained archetype about work, the corporate ladder and what defines success, and to accept a whole new philosophy of life. To this day I continue to train daily to uphold the standard set by Kaicho Nakamura’s “One Day, One Life” speech. The discipline this concept represents is called Self-Mastery. It is developed by travelling The Five Mountains.
The Five Mountains
Depending on your level of development and awareness, you will have different definitions of success. To me, success isn’t about gaining control over your environment or dominating externals like making a lot of money or moving up the ranks in your career. I believe that success in life is internal and comes from developing mastery over yourself, and using this mastery so you can serve others in the fulfillment of your purpose. When this path is pursued, an abundant peace of mind is cultivated due to non-attachment to the material things of life. Because you’re in alignment with your purpose and your One Thing, you can always answer the question “why?” Your sense of being settled and balanced is very strong. All your actions and decisions, the quality of your relationships, all flow from this more evolved state of clarity and calm. Attaining certain career milestones of business revenue drivers are more of a by-product of true success. They will happen, but we don’t focus on these as goals.
When I finally found the courage to step out of the corporate game to join the SEALs, I learned that the SEALs embodied a similar approach to life as what I’d learned through practicing karate, albeit it was expressed through their unique cultural lens. Both the Seido and the SEAL culture say that to actualize potential, we must train ourselves in a whole-person, balanced manner. I learned that if you don’t train to grow, or are stuck in a singular dimension in your training—like pursuing improvements strictly within the plane of the physical, or strictly in the realm of the intellectual—then it is likely that important aspects of your intelligence will be undeveloped from an integrated “whole person” perspective. That means you won’t be operating at your full potential. You won’t be living the “one day, one lifetime” maxim, and will miss invaluable opportunities to serve others, meet your mission or fulfill your purpose. The discipline
62 Mark Divine
of the warrior is to train for full-spectrum integration, ready to respond to any challenge with a virtuosity born of a clear heart and mind. In my experience there are five primary domains of intelligence that must be developed for warrior-like focus and genuine success in life (in the way that I have defined success above). As you now know, I call these The Five Mountains:
- The Physical Mountain: methodically developing the ability to control and use your body with all-around functionality. This builds confidence and self-esteem and makes you more useful in life and to your team. This includes the physical skills of strength, stamina, work capacity, endurance, and durability, properly fueling the body, sleep, recovery and learning to regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic aspects of your autonomous nervous system.
- The Mental Mountain: cultivating mental control and concentration, and upgrading the content of your mind to ensure a positive contribution to the world. In addition, we will sharpen the mental toughness to stay in the fight, and the creativity for more potent work. This includes learning to tap into and rewire subconscious programming and to master the skills, knowledge, and expertise necessary to your personal or professional calling.
- The Emotional Mountain: understanding, harnessing, and controlling your vast emotional power, developing self-esteem, confidence and forging a positive resiliency in the face of great challenges.
- The Intuition Mountain: becoming an aware and intuitive leader by learning to look within and develop your sixth sense, to listen with your belly, and get Sheepdog Strong (we’ll talk more about what it means to be “Sheepdog Strong” in Chapter 7).
- The Kokoro Mountain: the word Kokoro has Japanese origins and means to merge one’s heart and mind into action. This mountain is about developing a connection with your spirit, learning to lead and act with your heart, authentically connecting with others, and striving for an integrated consciousness that benefits all mankind. Kokoro can also be described as positive willpower, a non-quitting spirit, and is associated with your spiritual development.
The physical mountain is covered in detail in my book 8 Weeks to SEALFIT so it is beyond the scope of this work, which focuses on the other four mountains. The key concept I want to leave you with is to look at training your “whole person” in an integrated manner from now on. This will set you on the path to mastering yourself at all levels and accelerate you toward higher plateaus of consciousness…where you will experience life at its fullest.
The Disciplines of the Warrior
No maritime journey of importance is ever achieved without disciplined shipbuilding and a disciplined captain, crew, and navigation system. As you set out to tackle your Five Mountains, you will need disciplines with this magnitude of value to guide your journey. To use a different metaphor, disciplines are like railroad tracks for your life: they keep you on track while directing the way forward.
The word discipline should be defined before we go further. Common definitions include:
1. Training to ensure proper behavior: the practice or
methods of teaching and learning behavior patterns
2. Order and control: a controlled, orderly state as in a classroom setting or a military unit
- Calm, controlled behavior: the ability to behave in a controlled and calm way even during a difficult or stressful situation
- Conscious control over lifestyle: mental self-control used in directing or changing behavior, learning how to execute a new task or idea, or training for an event
The first definition, “training to ensure proper behavior,” is closest to my meaning here. To be disciplined is literally to be a “disciple” to something larger than you. In this context you must be a disciple to mastering yourself and your Five Mountains. The first discipline of self-mastery is simplicity.
When I was in the corporate world navigating the political and social scene, life seemed complicated, a cacophony of discordant and emotionally-charged egos and ambitions colliding with one another I note that many people gravitate toward the complex because it makes them feel important and distracts them from more genuine pursuits and responsibilities. In this zone of distraction there’s no time or need to focus on the more difficult work of improving themselves or serving others. When I jettisoned that world and landed in the SEAL Teams, life suddenly got very simple. My mission was clear: hunt and kill the bad guys, and protect the life we had back home. Personal possessions often got in the way. In this new light of simplicity, they were discarded. Communications between teammates were kept Spartan and authentic. Lives were on the line; the BS of social politics was eradicated. My life collapsed into training and conducting missions around the world. The straightforward life of the warrior was liberating. I try to live by the same standard to this day.
Let’s break this down to the practical level. In the context of everyday life choices, simplicity can mean being content with your present situation. I’m suggesting that you conduct an overhaul of your definition of contentment. You can have a peace of mind that everything’s good the way it is—that you are who you are and where you’re at for a reason—and still have the desire for a better future. It’s when we become weighed down with dissatisfaction, a negative emotion, that we tend to complicate things. It doesn’t help to beat yourself up if you aren’t happy with the current state of affairs. Obsessing about what you don’t have accomplishes nothing. Besides, it’s distracting. Where you are now is a necessary step in your evolution, so remain content with where you are while executing a strategy for getting to where you want to go. This will immediately simplify your life.
An embrace of simplicity offers another potent and liberating opportunity. It allows you to reduce the number of commitments, material possessions, and unsupportive relationships we burden ourselves with. These tend to clutter the mind and weigh you down. Lightening the load lightens the spirit as well. This principle extends to moderation in speech, food, drink, and other habits. Too much of a good thing turns it into a bad thing. The Greeks understood this discipline – one of two statements inscribed on the Temple of Appolo in Delphi is: “Everything in moderation.”
Sometimes I allow things to clutter up in some areas of my life. My closet, office, and car trunk, to be specific. Maybe you do the same in other areas. I have found that a periodic decluttering of these spaces is an excellent way to experience simplicity and contentment. Begin with your most cluttered space. Clean it and then keep it clean quarterly. Decluttering will help you avoid accumulating unnecessary possessions and commitments. You keep things simple. Always be asking yourself these two questions:
- Do I really need this now? Can’t I do without it?
- What can I get rid of or let go of now?
This simplicity practice leads to less attachment to material things. Detachment is a powerful attitude closely related to contentment. It is extremely liberating to know that though you can’t take your possessions with you…but you can die trying!
The next discipline is dedication. If you are committed to self-mastery, then you must be dedicated to your training. After I endured two years of continuous training to become a Navy SEAL, I was somewhat surprised to learn that my number one focus as a “Team guy” was to train more and harder. It never ended, and it has transformed my life in several ways. First, training was not optional; rather, it was as essential as eating and sleeping. Second, training was too critical for it to be random or haphazard. Most people have a random approach to physical training and wonder why they don’t get very far. Random training would be a disaster for any elite team, as it is for individuals. Training must be planned and purposeful and approached with a “crawl, walk, run” methodology. Dedication is required to show up and put out every day.
One of many unreal experiences from my SEAL days stands out to me when I think about the dedication it takes to master any skill. It was my first predawn free-fall jump, in the thick blackness of a moonless night, and the roar of the chopper’s rotor blades seared the sky’s stillness. As I flew off the ramp into the darkness, the wind buffeted me like a rag doll for a few moments, and then I felt my body accelerating away from the bird. I arched my back and leveled out, shooting to 120 miles per hour. I took a look at the horizon and saw a streak of sunlight penetrating the night. I also saw my SEAL instructor, Mike Loo, watching me closely as he swooped in nearly parallel to my position. I did a 360-degree turn and then looked over at Loo for his next set of instructions. If I hadn’t been hurtling through the air at 120 miles per hour, you could have seen my jaw drop. Loo was standing feet to earth, dropping like a bullet, smiling calmly at me. Then he flicked his fingers and did a 360-degree flip, landing feet to earth again. Loo tapped his altimeter, causing me to look at mine. Four thousand feet above ground level…time to pull. Looking at my rip cord, I reached and pulled forcefully, deploying my parachute. It waffled up and caught air with a pop. I drifted to a safe landing The moment was indelibly burned in my brain as a display of total control of body and mind. I had witnessed mastery, and of course Mike was just doing his job. His control over the air was astounding, but it hadn’t come naturally. Mike had mastered his emotions and physical reactions, as well as skills specific to high altitude jumps—during his training through more than 2,000 free-falls.
A note of caution: dedication must be offset with humor and reality checks. Be serious and dedicated to your training, but counterbalance it with humor and let “real life” flow. I often see those who embark on a path of dedication immerse themselves in seriousness, as if being serious would move them along faster. It won’t, trust me. Having a sense of humor and balance is more effective for the long haul, and more fun. Based on what you have seen in pop culture and the movies, you may expect that Kaicho Nakamura and my SEAL brothers were a stern lot. Nothing is further from the truth. Though they are all dedicated and intensely serious about mastery, they are also hilarious and lighthearted. I have no doubt that Mike Loo was laughing inside as he stood on air while plummeting like a meteorite, nodding to me like as if we were hanging on a street corner.
Try not to take yourself too seriously, and keep in mind that the journey is more important than the destination—so you should relax and enjoy the walk.
The third discipline to explore is authenticity. Your authenticity as a leader will evolve naturally as you focus on self- mastery, but it is also important to discipline it into your being. As discussed already, living authentically begins with connecting at a heart level and discovering what drives you—your 3 Ps and your One Thing—so you can serve others in alignment with your internal compass. And developing mental control allows you to direct your thoughts toward positive, powerful intentions for integrating your higher values into every aspect of your life. It is in this mind, body, and spirit alignment—this total integration of the self—that heart-mind connection is cultivated and your character radiates greater authenticity.
I probably don’t need to stress how challenging this is in our busy lives, which are built on an economic model that separates and pits us against each other in subtle ways. However, the quality of your relationships going forward will largely be defined by the level of authenticity you bring to them. A lack of authenticity leads to diminished trust, creating a less-evolved transactional relationship between individuals not connected in any real understanding. These agreements are built on legal details and often break down into conflict – whether between individuals, corporations or nations. An abundance of authenticity will lead to enhanced trust, thereby fostering a transformational relationship between interconnected individuals seeking common ground and a win for all. These agreements are built on an integrated worldview and are upheld with a handshake. No doubt we are a ways from that ideal, but what would you prefer? I prefer dealing at an authentic, trust level, whereby we each write our own script from a place of abundance and honor.
Writing Your Own Script
Do you write your own scripts or are you, like I was in my “pre-Seido” youth, reacting to a script written by someone else? A reporter was writing a story about the achievements of one twin who clawed his way out of the poverty and depression to achieve great success. The reporter asked the man, “To what do you attribute your accomplishments?” He responded, “I had no choice, you see. I had to find a way up and out because my father was a horrible alcoholic and abused me and my brother—I knew that if I didn’t work hard and seek a better life, I’d become just like him.” Curious about the fate of the other twin, the reporter tracked him down. He found him destitute, living on the streets. The reporter asked the same question. The response was, “I had no choice, you see; I was doomed because my father was a horrible alcoholic who abused me and my brother. I didn’t stand a chance.” You have a choice to be in control of your life and to be authentic. How you use your mind, body, emotions, and intuition and connect with your spirit is a choice. Do you leave it to chance, letting the preconditioning of life write your script, or do you take control and write your own bestseller? The answer is clear.