Nothing is Sacred
A powerful lesson from the Marines
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Nothing is Sacred
Marines have a saying.
You may find it impactful.
“NOTHING IS SACRED”
Nothing and nobody.
When you join the Marines, all of it can and will be targeted to get you to crack.
And when you do, you still must perform.
Nothing is sacred.
I heard this saying while recently reading the book “The Killing School”, which is about how the world’s best snipers are trained.
There were two powerful lessons that immediately stood out to me:
Lesson 1: The enemy doesn’t care
The Marines design training to strip you of your individualism.
They will find your emotional breaking points and exploit them.
It’s not to be cruel.
It’s to prepare you for this brutal reality:
The enemy doesn’t care.
You must perform, in any situation, regardless of what’s happening.
The same applies to civilian life.
We face “enemies” every day — some internal, some external — yet we still have responsibilities.
We still need to perform.
Lesson 2: Challenge the status quo
There’s a second important lesson here.
You must always be ready to adapt.
Strategies + tactics
Everything should be continuously assessed.
The status quo should be continually challenged.
Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work in the future.
Adapt, evolve and keep improving.
This is obvious, but it’s worth saying:
Civilian life is not the Marines.
The military must train people mentally, physically and emotionally so they can face the world’s most horrific environments and remain alive.
Civilians don’t need to be — and shouldn’t be — trained in the same manner.
That said, I believe the core principle of “Nothing is Sacred” can apply to all of us, no matter what we do.
At its heart is a spirit of continuous improvement.
So, how do we apply that to our daily lives?
For me, I think about it in three ways.
1. You’re never too good to get better
My friend Justin Su’a — the head of mental performance for the Tampa Bay Rays — often says this.
6 principles of an elite mindset:
1️⃣ You’re never too good to get better.
2️⃣ Do what you do on purpose, with purpose.
3️⃣ Little by little, a little becomes a lot.
4️⃣ Focus on the process, not the results.
5️⃣ Embrace the boredom of consistency.
6️⃣ Learn from failure.
— Justin Su'a (@Justinsua)
May 17, 2022
Human nature is not to continually strive for better.
Human nature is to get “good enough” and then relax.
That’s one reason it’s so hard to sustain success. We get good, think it’s good enough and then settle in. Eventually, our complacency leads to our demise.
When we embody the spirit of “Nothing is Sacred,” we continually look to improve.
2. What got you “here” won’t get you “there”
Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith wrote a great book called, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”
Its premise is simple and powerful: New levels of success requite new mindsets, skills, strategies, behaviors and more.
What got you to your current level won’t get you to the next level.
In some way — or many ways — you must evolve.
A mindset of “Nothing is Sacred” breeds this growth.
3. Strong convictions, loosely held
There’s a famous quote:
“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
It’s important to be strong in your convictions.
Those convictions, however, should not be entirely rigid.
They should be assessed against new information, rigorously tested and upgraded as needed.
The most intellectually impressive people I know have strong convictions while also remaining open to challenging those beliefs.
One last thought before we wrap up:
When I first mentioned this idea on social media, a reader left a thoughtful comment:
What if we explored the inverse idea — that everything is sacred?
I appreciated the question.
There ARE sacred things in life:
Etc. You can add more to that list.
It’s worth the time thinking through what in your life is absolutely sacred — i.e. it should never change, under any circumstance — and distinguish where that line ends.
For the purposes of continuous improvement, though, the “Nothing is Sacred” mindset is a powerful one.
If you want to more deeply understand how elite performers think, I’d highly recommend the book “It Takes What It Takes” by Trevor Moawad.
Trevor was a highly respected mental performance coach who worked with NFL quarterback Russell Wilson and many other elite athletes. Sadly, Trevor passed away from cancer in 2021 at 48 years old.
His book is one of the best I’ve read on “neutral thinking” and what it takes to win (in any domain). It pairs well with the “Nothing is Sacred” mentality.
I’d love to hear from you
What’s your biggest takeaway from this issue?
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Thanks for reading.
See you next Sunday.