24 hours with a Navy SEAL
Lessons from a day (and night) in the wilderness
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Now, onto Issue 48.
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24 hours with a Navy SEAL
My friend is a retired Navy SEAL.
He now runs a training company with a mission of helping people develop into stronger and better versions of themselves.
He and his team take small groups of people out into wilderness environments and train them on skills such as:
basic trauma care
And a bunch of other useful things.
I’ve been blessed to go on several of these training missions the last couple years.
This past August, I spent a day (and night) in the wilderness with my buddy, his team and a handful of inspiring human beings.
Here’s a bit more context:
What we we did
Eat, drink and move for 24 consecutive hours
The only rules:
No phones or watches (so you didn’t know what time it was)
No sitting down — you must be on your feet for 24 hours
We ended up covering 51.9 miles on foot in 24 hours through the beautiful Georgia woods.
Why I did it
I love to train.
I love the process of improving (at anything), and I love the lessons training reveals.
Specifically, what I wanted to get out of this mission:
Learning how to persevere when something is no longer “fun” and yet you still have a long way to go
Learning how to control my mind and emotions in times of extreme fatigue
Memories and stories with good people
Now, I want to share 9 lessons I learned from the experience.
The beautiful Georgia wilderness.
1. The fullness of one day
I never appreciated how long a single day is until I spent 24 straight hours on my feet.
It taught me three things:
How much we can accomplish in one day
How much time we waste every day
How much each new day is a blessing
A single day can be so rich if we spend it doing meaningful things with good people.
2. Don’t complicate the simple
To be successful on this mission, all we had to do was: eat, drink, move.
We didn’t have to move fast. We didn’t have to do anything technical. We didn’t even have to think.
It was simple … and yet so hard to stay focused on for 24 hours.
I realized how easily our minds get bored, and how we start complicating simple things.
But more often than not, success requires doing the “simple” things consistently well over a long period of time.
Don’t complicate the simple.
3. Take good steps
Around 16 hours in, our team came up with a mantra:
It was dark, we were tired and we still had ~8 hours — a full workday for most people — to go.
As we went deeper into the night, we covered some technical and tough terrain.
One good step at a time became our singular focus.
“Good steps today” has become a common morning text message our team now sends each other.
How do you make today great?
Take good steps.
Me and my buddy Mark.
4. Patience wins
Walking / hiking for 24 hours requires extreme patience.
Especially with no phones or watches, and therefore no way to know how long you’ve been going or how long is left.
About halfway in, the entire exercise became a mental battle of staying patient and present.
It reminded me how impatient I am on a daily basis — with myself, my wife, my kids.
Slow down. Let go. Let things unfold.
5. Confront the copperheads
Being summer in the woods, we expected to run into snakes.
We weren’t disappointed.
In the middle of the night, we ran into a nest of copperheads. They come out at night to warm themselves on the trail before feasting.
We came across 5 copperheads in a few hundred yards.
They’re venomous, they bite and they’re out looking for food. They will not just scatter back into the woods. You have to confront them and thoughtfully maneuver around them.
Everyday, we face “copperheads” of different kinds.
Confront them courageously.
6. Two types of people
There are two types of people when things get hard:
people who turn inward
people who turn outward
Those who turn inward focus on themselves.
They think about how hard it is. They agonize over how they feel. They can’t get out of their own heads.
Those who turn outward focus on others.
They think about how to help the team. They serve and encourage those who are suffering. They’re deliberate in how they think, talk and move.
Be someone who turns outward in tough times.
Me when it started getting hard :)
7. Own the night
The hardest part was the wee hours of the night.
We were all tired, hurting and ready to be done.
That’s when Brandon stepped up.
Brandon is a powerful and wonderful man. His voice is his gift. He has a way of infusing energy into situations and speaking life into people.
His voice was loudest in the darkest hours of the night. He pushed us all through.
Brandon owned the night.
It was a beautiful lesson on how we should respond during life’s darkest moments.
8. Win the mental war
Throughout the entire training mission, my SEAL buddy tried to mentally break us.
He’d constantly say things like:
Don’t worry guys, you only have 20 more hours to go.
Hey guys, that’s the last hill we’ll climb the rest of the time.
Your friends are climbing into bed for 9 hours of sleep right now. Wouldn’t that be nice?
We could fly to Europe in the time we have left … and back.
He acted like a turd, but that was part of his role as an instructor.
His goal was to distract us.
To get us to focus on the future, knowing the more we did that the harder the entire experience would become.
Our minds do this to us all day, every day.
You win the mental war by staying patient, present and deliberate in your thoughts and speech.
Nothing matters except what you control right now.
The team probably ~8 hours in.
9. The only way is through
Before we set off on our training mission, my buddy shared a parting word:
“We’ll be going to places in the woods where there’s no easy way out. Nobody can come get you. And if you quit, you’ll still need to hike 5 miles out of there to a ride back. So, the only way is through.”
We’ll all have moments in life where there’s no turning back.
The only way is through.
A quick recap of the 9 lessons:
Appreciate the fullness of one day
Don’t complicate the simple
Turn outward in tough times
Confront the copperheads
Take good steps
Own the night
Win the mental war
The only way is through
I hope some of these resonate with you and impact your life like they have mine.
The feeling after 24 continuous hours of movement :)
Idea for the Week
We’re entitled to nothing.
Listen to the below clip of Nick Saban talking about this.
"When you get up every day you're entitled to nothing so you need to understand what you have to do to continue to be the best that you can be..
That's the only thing that's gonna help you because talent without discipline isn't worth anything" ~ Nick Saban #PMSLive
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow)
Oct 12, 2023
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Thanks for reading.
See you next Sunday.