Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.
— Earl Nightingale, American motivational speaker and author (1921-1989)
When I first started integrated training (as described in my new book The Way of the SEAL), I thought I could accelerate my development just by working harder. I tried to force-feed myself Zen meditation, karate classes, dozens of books, seminars, and more physical training than I’d already been doing. More would get me there faster, I assumed. Wrong. This approach led to frustration and burnout, and a break from the training. Turns out you can’t force your own development; you can only facilitate it. Understanding this now, I encourage you to take a “slow is smooth” approach. When we slow things down and seek perfect effort, our body and mind absorb the concepts and techniques more completely. This ensures they are available for us in “smooth is fast” form when we need to act.
In the SEALs, we used a similar concept, approaching each training period with a “crawl, walk, run” rhythm. Like a child, you must crawl before you walk and walk before you run. The crawl stage of training is where you learn the fundamental theory and basic skills—that’s what The Way of the SEAL provides you. Training the fundamentals will allow you to build a foundation to move faster and go deeper into the training. Without the foundation, you could veer off track and get unbalanced, or fall off altogether out of frustration. This stage can take as long as you need and will depend upon your level of skill and time restraints when you start—some of my students spend just a few weeks getting up to speed on the basics while others take up to a year. Embrace your process and enjoy learning the new skills.
Typically, after a month or two of regular training, you will want to step things up. Welcome to the “walk” stage, where you are now comfortable with the practices, are seeing progress, but haven’t yet fully integrated and habituated the training. You start to develop physical and mental control and emotional resilience to life’s challenges. You feel the lightness of a simplified life and see the results of front-sight focus applied to your missions. You begin to show up as different—uncommonly confident and successful—to others. But the walk phase is fraught with challenge: Some end their training at this point, typically sliding back to their old ways after all the excitement and newness has worn off. It is Important to have a strategy in place that will help you stay the course.
The final (or “run”) stage of development is about performing at your peak in a flow of unconscious competence. Remember, mastery in The Way of the SEAL is not about working hard until you arrive at some mystical destination where you get knighted and sit at the round table. The reason I call it “the Way” is because it points the way for your journey and provides a strategy, tactics, tools, and motivation. In The Way of the SEAL, we are striving to navigate that journey with increasing awareness and power. Once you set foot onto this path, you begin to find extraordinary results through doing ordinary things extraordinarily well—and it eventually comes naturally. That is mastery.