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A Navy SEAL's guide to peak performance

Learn and apply this powerful framework

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Now, onto Issue 27.

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The Pentagon of Peak Performance

It’s September 13, 2007 — Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

Jason Redman is conducting a nighttime operation with his team of Navy SEALs.

He has no idea how his life is about to change.

They’re walking through a pitch-black field in pursuit of enemy fighters.

The field is thick with tall vegetation, similar to a corn field, making it difficult to see and easy to hide.

Suddenly, a machine gun 10 yards away opens fire.

The SEALS have been sucked into an ambush.

Jason takes two machine gun rounds to his left arm, nearly shearing it in half.

He then takes a round to the face.

It blows off his nose and blows out his cheekbone. You can see inside his face.

Jason survived.

It took 40 reconstructive surgeries to put him back together, and his mouth was wired shut for 12 weeks.

His story became nationally recognized when he posted a sign on his hospital room door that went viral.

Jason’s experience left him with a question:

How do you overcome extreme adversity in life?

He defines these moments of adversity as “life ambushes” — extreme events that alter your reality.

A family death. A bad health diagnosis. A financial crisis. Losing a business. Etc.

Jason spent 12 years studying this question and found there are three ways people tend to respond:

  • You can be destroyed by it

  • You can survive but forever struggle

  • You can decide to overcome and excel

The third group is extremely rare.

How do those people do it?

They forge themselves through the Pentagon of Peak Performance, as Jason calls it.

It’s a framework for becoming your strongest self.

Let’s briefly go through it.

The Pentagon of Peak Performance has five key areas:

  • Physical

  • Mental

  • Emotional

  • Social

  • Spiritual

In his study, Jason found highly resilient people are strong in most (if not all) of these areas.

Here’s a brief description and how to apply each:

(1) Physical

Physical health is the foundation of your life.

You need strength and stamina to navigate adversity.

Yet so many eat terribly, sleep horribly and rarely exercise.

It’s a recipe for disaster when challenge comes.

Nobody can excel while ignoring their health.

Those who do excel prepare their bodies.

How to apply this:

Start with a self-assessment.

  • Blood pressure

  • Resting heart rate

  • General strength

Then focus on simple habits.

  • Eat real foods

  • Move daily

  • Sleep well

Take care of those basics and you’ll be on the right path.

(2) Mental

Mental strength is as essential as physical.

Think of your mind as a platform to build on.

You build it by:

  • increasing your knowledge

  • broadening your perspective

  • getting out of your comfort zone

Like any muscle, your mind atrophies.

Those who overcome adversity regularly train it.

How to apply this:

The best way to train your mind is to constantly learn.

  • Read books

  • Take courses

  • Develop skills

  • Play games

Anything to develop mental agility.

Sports requiring balance (eg. cycling) are great, as they challenge both hemispheres of the brain.

(3) Emotional

How we manage our emotions will dictate how well we handle adversity.

Most people let their emotions manage them.

The truth is we are ultimately in control.

We may not always control how we feel.

But we always control how we respond.

How to apply this:

Start by taking ownership.

An average mindset says, “This is just the way I am.”

A strong mindset says, “I want to be better.”

Next, pay attention to your peaks and valleys.

What triggers them?

Fatigue? Hunger? Overwhelm?

Awareness is the first step to taking control.

(4) Social

Relationships are critical when adversity strikes.

Our friends and family will helps us most, but everyone in our environment matters.

Those who overcome tend to have strong social circles.

They spend years developing these before they need them.

How to apply this:

Prioritize relationships in your life.

Take stock of who’s around you.

Are these relationships positive?

Will they help when life gets hard?

Relationships take time and effort.

There’s no shortcut, but it’s worth it.

(5) Spiritual

A spiritual life can mean different things to different people.

The common thread is realizing there’s a world much larger than ourselves.

This takes perspective.

Get outside of your own head.

Learn about people and cultures.

Explore what connects human beings.

How to apply this:

This is highly personal.

For me, it’s faith in God.

For you, it may be mindfulness.

For others, it could be meditation.

Even simple things like gratitude and generosity can enrich you spiritually.

Take time to develop your spiritual life.


What can we learn from Jason’s story and apply to our lives?

A few critical takeaways:

  • We’ll all face adversity in life — our form of a “life ambush”

  • To overcome these moments, we must diligently prepare

  • We can prepare using the Pentagon of Peak Performance

  • Forging ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually will give us the tools to respond to whatever life throws at us

I encourage you to do a self-assessment using the Pentagon of Peak Performance.

  • Where are you currently strong?

  • Where could you improve a little?

  • Where are you completely neglecting?

Then make a simple plan to start building yourself in these areas.

Don’t wait for adversity to come before you start.

The time to train is before you need to be trained.

P.S. Check out Jason’s book “Overcome” — it’s inspiring and loaded with lessons.

Also, I’d highly suggest watching this podcast interview clip.

You’ll hear Jason’s perspective on the ambush that changed his life, then you’ll hear the story from DJ Shipley, who was on that mission with Jason.

Teddy’s Recommendations

  • B2B Marketing Course: My friend and former colleague Vero is running a course on Maven for B2B tech leaders. Vero is a 2x startup CMO and ex-Google leader. If you want to learn how to elevate your company messaging for growth, sign up for this course. March 19 (TODAY!) is the last day to enroll.

  • Interview w/ former NBA star: I enjoyed this Daily Stoic podcast interview with former NBA star Chris Bosh. Chris is one of the most thoughtful and well-rounded professional athletes I’ve come across. In this interview, he talks about Stoicism, writing, embracing “the process” and more.

  • Become a better writer: If you want to improve your writing skills, you’ll enjoy my newsletter, The Daily Creator. Get simple tips to make you a better writer, every week. Join 2,700+ here (FREE):

The Daily CreatorSimple tips to make you a better writer.

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Thanks for reading.

See you next Sunday.

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