Humble Service

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, when I was going through dive training, I was truly humbled by an event that almost changed the course of my career and life for good. I was attempting a phase of training known as “Pool Competency” or “Pool Comp,” one of the more arduous and selective phases of training. Here is how Pool Comp goes. You enter the water with a double hose regulator, twin air tanks on your back, a mask on your face, a weight belt around your waist and fins on your feet. You commence crawling on the bottom in a straight line for 10 yards, breathing from your air tanks; then turn around a crawl back. Back and forth you go, waiting for the attack to come from above. The issue with Pool Comp, just like with anything else in life, is not the actual attack, it’s the waiting that gets you. However, for me, I was already a qualified civilian diver with countless dives, even some in the ocean with little to no visibility off the coast of my home state of Massachusetts, where the water is not so warm. So when I jumped into the water that day, I was confident and far from being humble. I was overconfident. I was cocky. When Jesus said in Luke, “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” he was talking directly to me.

I jumped into the water that day knowing that I was going to pass. Almost laughing about it to myself how easy it would be. How good I was. How I was above all of this. Nothing was further from the truth. The instructor attacked me with such force; he took off my fins, mask and spun me around head over heels on the first attack. On the second attack, he ripped the regulator out of my mouth and tied a knot in it, one that I easily unravelled to regain my air supply. On the third attack, the same thing happened but on the fourth, the instructor tied a knot that could not be unravelled and I started to inhale some water, while my head was turned precariously to the side trying to breath through the knot. Approaching panic, I undid my weight belt, placed it on the back of my knees, and ditched my tanks (the process of taking the tanks over your head to deal with the knotted regulator problem). over my head to better negotiate the knot and in a flurry of bubbles was brought to the surface by the instructor and failed the test. I failed the second attempt as well; a procedural error of not removing my weight belt before ditching my tanks. For those of us who failed that day, and there were many, we were secured for the weekend to the barracks so that we could think about what we had done, help each other with wooden tanks, and see if we could pass the test again on Monday. If we did not pass, our journey would be over. We would be kicked out of training. Mission failure.

When we serve others and humble ourselves, we enter a position of strength and meaning. During the weekend, the individuals that had failed Pool Comp spent the entire time going through procedures, practicing getting attacked (in the classroom), and going through every scenario over and over again. The power of that weekend was not that I helped myself, but that I helped others who were in the same situation that I was in. I served others from a position of humility. Even though I was an officer, I was in the same boat as everyone who had failed that day. We were all equals. Just like we are all equal in the eyes of our Lord. Jesus went on to say in Luke, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” Doing things for others and expecting something in return is not humble service. It is self-service. Examples of self service are everywhere in our lives. When you give a gift and expect a thank you and are mad when you don’t get it. Or when you let someone in front of you in traffic and they don’t even lift a hand to thank you, Can you think of any examples in your life? When you expect something in return of your service, even if it is a thank you, you are not serving the other person. You are serving yourself. God teaches us to invite people to our house that will not be able to invite you back to their house. Perhaps because they don’t have a house at all. This is true humble service. What you get out of it is the satisfaction that you are serving the Lord and doing something for the sake of doing the right thing. Getting anything in return should not even be on your mind.

When I stepped back into the pool on Monday morning, after a long weekend of eating humble pie with my teammates, I was shocked to see the hardest instructor waiting for me in the pool. His nickname was Satan, so I will let you draw your own conclusions as to what I imagined my fate would be that day. I entered the pool with a quiet and humble confidence. I was ready for this. The arrogance had changed to a quiet and humble state of focus that, when it happens from time to time, I welcome it’s presence. It’s the feeling you get when you feel that God is with you. That feeling of comfort, confidence and just “being there.” We have all felt that way from time to time in our lives; it’s up to us to cultivate that feeling and work at it, everyday.

We all want what is best for our children, partly because they are the reflections of our own lives when our lives are gone, and partly because we simply love them and want what is best for them. As you know, we have a child who is on the Autism Spectrum; when first diagnosed we were devastated because we did not know what the future would hold for her. It was a tough pill to swallow; but as with the dive training, humility and service was the antidote to the situation. I remember taking a phone call from someone who I did not know very well who had a child with autism. During the course of my conversation, I said how “lucky” he was to have a child with autism, thinking about our child as I said it. It was a turning point moment for me. I realized that I was no longer angry and feeling sorry for myself and my family. I had humbled myself to the point of feeling truly lucky that I had a child with autism. A child that has taught me more about life than all of the psychology books that I ever read, all of the other life experiences and mentors that I have ever observed.

Being a humble servant to one another and to the Lord takes self knowledge, dedication, discipline, and daily execution. Daily execution. Simply saying that you are going to humbly serve is not enough. You have to get out there and get it. Make a list of people that you should talk to on a periodic basis. Call them even if you don’t need anything from them. Call them BECAUSE you don’t need anything from them. Call them or make contact with them just to see how they are. Serve one another from a position of humility. Take the lowest ranking seat at the table. And always remember to exhale on your way up to the water’s surface.

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N



The Ego Killers

Destroying our Egos

The secret to any resilience program is the ability to destroy one's own ego.  The ego is responsible for a person's self esteem or self importance, according to the dictionary.  However, we all have our own definitions of our sense of ego.  Pride has something to do with it.  So does fear of failure and not looking like an idiot in front of our friends.   Have you ever had a tough time saying you were sorry to someone?  That’s your ego playing with you.   Why is it so hard to say that we are sorry to people?  Perhaps we feel like we are losing and the other party is winning?  Or perhaps we feel like we are weak of we admit that we are wrong?  Whatever the case, saying you are sorry is one of the keys to helping to destroy your ego.  


Present Moment Thinking


When we worry about things that are in the future, or regret events that happened in the past (both circumstances are beyond our control and a waste of time), we are feeding our egos with the fuel that egos need to survive, the power of thinking.  So how do we successfully suppress our egos?  By being grateful for what we have in the present and bathing in every moment that we have around us in the now.  If you feel like this is a waste of time, you are listening to your ego.  By definition, the ego cannot exist in the present moment.  That is why it wants you to worry about the future or regret the past.  Starve your ego of this and you will be more happy and successful.  


Cherish Boredom


This is not as easy as it may seem.  We have been trained for years not to be “bored” or not waste your time by “day dreaming”.  Unfortunately, that is exactly what we need to do in order to successfully destroy our egos.  We are also constantly bombarded with requirements and stimulus that force us out of the non-thinking (ego killing) blocks into the worry and anticipation blocks.  That is not to say that we should simply sit down, put on our diapers, and not do anything.  What is means is that our “set points” should be that of awareness and gratitude.  We should tune into the feelings of others and serve others.  That does not mean that we are push overs or weak.  We draw our strength from our missions and execute those missions in a systematic and objective fashion.  However, when we are not actively executing, we should strive to be in a set point of relaxation, fascination, and most importantly, happiness.  


Resilience is the art of learning from the past in order to improve our performance in the present by not over anticipating the future.  This takes work and deliberate thinking tempered with large doses of not thinking and just “being”.  Successful resilience programs teach individuals how to function together as a team and to take one difficult moment at a time by developing personal missions that lead individuals down difficult roads that help them navigate through hardships. Eat the elephant one bite at a time and don’t think of the entire elephant.  We can accomplish great things when we don’t think too much about ourselves and truly tune into other people’s needs and the environment around us.  Our egos shut down when we associate ourselves as part of a larger system and our association with our ego dissolves.  This is difficult to accomplish but worth it. 



Weekly Assignment


This week, practice this line of existence.  See how it feels.  Try and document when your mind starts to race into the future or the past.  Try to identify what caused this line of thinking to happen.  Focus on others and helping them.  Do not overthink things and definitely do not dwell in the past or future for too long.  Whenever possible, admit that you are wrong and say you are sorry.  Do not let pride take control of your life 



For true resilience to occur, we must control our ego and suppress it, even kill it.  That is the only way to true resilience, and, to a certain degree, true happiness.  


“Lean into it!”


Dr. N

Road Map

Road Map


Remember the saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there?”  Practicing true resilience means that you should have some idea about where you are going in the future, balanced with what you are doing in the present, and formed by the lessons that you learned from the past.  


Ideally, we spend the majority of our time in the present, enjoying the journey with our loved ones because life is short, very short.  


Being organized should be part of our daily ritual.  Disorganization leads to wasted time and energy and, of all things, stress.  Stay organized and you reduce your exposure to stress.  But that’s not enough.  We also need to have a plan of attack in everything that we do.  We need a road map.  


Our work schedules are fairly detailed.  Daily meetings, agendas, program plans, etc.  We tend to be super organized at work, and don’t even think about showing up not prepared to a sales call or a business meeting.  We also know about promotions and jobs that will help us to get promoted.  However, our organization and plans seldom spill over into our personal lives.  


Develop personal goals for yourself.  Perhaps you already have done this with a bucket list?  Now it’s time to take a couple of the elements from your bucket list and develop a road map to accomplish those items.  What are the specific actions that you need to accomplish in order to work up to the elements that you picked out?  Perhaps you need to save some money for a trip to some location that you have not been yet?  Write down all the steps that lead up to the item on your list.  Now assign dates to those steps.  Having a time line is an important part of the road map.  Assigning a date creates a sense of temporal accountability.  If you don’t have a date, then chances are you will never get started on the item from your list because something will always get in the way.  We all lead busy lives.  


Road Maps Give You Something to Look Forward To.


Sometimes life throws us some curve balls.  We all have had (and will have) bad things that happen to us.  These may or may not be catastrophic events.  They can be as simple as having a bad day at work or getting into an argument because you said something you should not have said to someone close to you.  We all have those days.  Having a quantifiable road map with executable intermediary tasks helps us to look forward to something in the future, while executing present tasks to support that future goal. Remember that dwelling too much in the future takes us away from the precious moments that we have in the present, so be careful to only spend the minimum amount of time planning and thinking about the future.  Having an organized road map can minimize your dwell time thinking about your mission/goal and the tasks that will support it.  




This week, take one of your items on your bucket list and write out all the steps that you need to accomplish in order to achieve that item.  Let’s say that your item has 10 steps needed to get you to execute that goal.  Create a road map where you have the 10 steps, along with completion date goals, written down so you can monitor your progress.  The entire process should not only make you feel more organized, but a renewed sense of purpose should wash over you as soon as you see your road map written down.  


Dr. N

Don't Let The Tiger In



When you live in constant fear or indecisiveness or have negative thoughts enter your head, you are letting the proverbial tiger in.  Whenever you feel negative energy enter your mind, you allow a wild animal to run in your mind and ruin an otherwise peaceful and pleasant experience.  Your resilience and the lives of others take a hit, as do other aspects of your life.   




About ten years ago, I helped feed tigers at the local zoo here in Panama City.  It was an experience that I will never forget.  I entered the room where the feeding would begin; the tigers were behind a chain linked enclosure so they could not get through.  There was a heavy steel door with a small window where the meat would be thrown in to the hungry tigers.  I had never done this before, but I was helping the owner of the zoo; I guess I should have realized the danger since he had just been released from the hospital after being attacked by one of his own lion's months before!  When it was time to feed the hungry tigers (a little fact that he failed to let me know was that the tigers had not been fed In a long time, making them really violent) he handed me a huge piece of raw meat and told me to put it through the window.  I can’t even describe to you the deafening roars that I was hearing and, to my surprise, the incredible visceral fear that I was feeling.  When I finally mustered enough courage to put the meat through the window, one of the tigers stood on his rear legs, stared at me right in the eyes, roared, and stuck one of his front legs through the window and nearly got a hold of me.  Needless to say, I felt a raw fear at that moment that I will never forget.  Ever since that day, I use the expression, ‘don’t let the tiger in” to explain the fears and doubts that we all get at various points in our lives.  




Letting the tiger in can happen at any time, in any place.  Your mind is constantly thinking of past and future events to make sense of the what to do next in the present.  Even in the most glorious moments of our lives, we may have negative thoughts creep in.  But don’t worry if you get more of these moments than you feel you should, because your mind is wired to be that way.  Think of it this way: when you are walking alone at night in the woods (not that you ever do this, but just imagine for a second) is it better for your mind to fear things or to be happy and blissful?  The answer is obvious; for self-preservation purposes, we are more likely to have a negative mindset, anticipating bad things in order to protect ourselves against danger.  The issue is that most of us do not walk in the woods at night, and are perfectly safe.  If you find yourself in that situation, flush all negativity out of your system and enjoy the present moment.  Feeding the negative tiger only makes her grow and take control of your mind.



Even as I write this article, I wrestle in my mind at my performance in my SUP 31 mile river race that I finished yesterday.  The race was a grueling, 38 degree, raining, 5 hour and 40 minute grind through the Tennessee River.  I use it each year to keep myself physically challenged and working towards a quantifiable goal, one that I have done for 5 years straight. There is a saying in the SEAL Teams. If you are going to be stupid, you have to be tough…

My point in all of this is, even though I finished the race, my finish percentage went from top 13% to top 22%.  Objectively speaking, my performance went down (enter the Tiger).  When I think of my accomplishment of even finishing this race five years in a row, the tiger disappears.  Focusing on the positive aspects of your life is not a way to trick yourself into a feeling of “everyone is a winner” mentality, it’s the truth about where you stand in the overall scheme of things.  Remember that you are not walking in the woods at night and you are not in mortal danger where letting the tiger in would save your life.  So just like anything in life, what you can learn from failure is entirely dependent on your point of view and your attitude, and depends on you turning a seemingly negative event into a positive one.  Hey, at least I finished the race, right?  I am sure you have similar experiences.    




Remember our negative set points from the woods.  Not letting the tiger in takes quite a bit of energy.  Many days, I find it easier to slip into cynicism, sarcasm and negativity instead of being more positive, both with myself and others.  However, fighting this set point not only helps those around you to lead a better life, it actually makes you healthier.  From a metabolic standpoint, always being on the alert and letting the tiger in brings a hormone called cortisol into your system; this hormone, at chronic high levels, is damaging to your immune system, nervous system, and your metabolism.  Not letting the tiger in takes energy, but that energy is well spent in the long run.




When it came time for me to feed the tiger, and after I felt the “swish” of the tiger’s paw in front of my face, I did something that I had never done before in my life, I quit.  I handed the meat to the zoo owner and said in a loud voice, “Here, you do it.”  He looked at me with a strange expression (the encounter with the lion had left him unable to lift his arms over his head from the damage that the lion’s teeth had inflicted into his brain), took the meat, and threw it through the window by slinging it from his waist.  It looked like a bizarre cross between an ultimate Frisbee throw and a volley from Roger Federer.  I refused to feed the tiger that day.  That is what each of us needs to do in our daily lives.  If you simply refuse to feed the tiger, spiraling negative thoughts will stop cascading into your mind and you will feel better about yourself.  You can start this process by being grateful for everything that you have in your life, starting with your next breath.  If you focus on that, the tiger can’t be fed and he will not enter your life, period.  When I think about my decline in paddling performance over my 5 year career of doing the same race, I am grateful for the fact that I can even finish the race to begin with, and grateful for the fact that I am blessed with coordination, balance, and determination to train year after year. The tiger cannot exist with grateful thoughts, because he needs negativity in order to feed.  What specific situations did you experience when you let the tiger in?  What steps could you have immediately taken not to let this happen?  Gratitude, even for the tiniest of things, cannot coexist with negativity.  You cannot be grateful and negative at the same time.  Try it and see.


Dr. N

Shoot Your Shot

Shoot Your Shot

All in.  That’s the way you should roll.  Not trying.  Not almost.  Not maybe or someday.  All in.  Period.  If you don’t shoot your shot, you definitely will miss.  Someone said a quote similar to this, but I can’t remember who.  The point is that if you don’t get up off the couch and put yourself in an uncomfortable situation-the cold, the tired, the dark, the wet, the hungry, the sad, the unknown-you will never know what it’s truly like to feel warm, rested, enlightened, dry, satiated, happy, and comfortable.  We learn nothing when we do nothing and don’t take any risks and make any mistakes.  It’s where the mistakes are made-when we feel discomfort-where learning takes place.  The uncomfortable zone is where growth takes place.  Where resilience takes place. 

we learn nothing when we do nothing

Happiness is the sum of our biological set point plus our conditions plus the voluntary actions that we do.  Voluntary actions are the things that we do without being forced to do them.  When we perform any kind of action, we learn something.  If you repeat the action in the form of practice, then our brains start wrapping myeline and we become better and better the more we practice.  This applies to any kind of action.  It makes sense that any action makes us happier and more satisfied.  And if you make a mistake or even fail, who cares.  When we fail, we should take it as an opportunity to find out what we did wrong and learn from the mistake.  Don’t look at a mistake as a direct attack on your ego.  If you have successfully killed your ego (this should be the ultimate  goal) then the mistake or failure will not sting as much.  You will objectively look at the failure as a learning experience, figuring out what needs to be done next time in order to do better and not fail again. But the biggest mistake that you can do is not acting at all.  Not acting at all is even worse than failing.  At least if you act and fail you can rest assured that you gave a shot at whatever it is that you wanted to try.  You shot your shot and missed.  No big deal.  Learn from it with and After Action Review and move on.  Don’t worry because this happens to everyone that acts.  

Surf 101  

A couple of weeks ago, a couple of friends of mine, my daughter and I all went surfing.  The swell was not that big, perhaps 2-3 feet which for Panama City is a good day.  The waves were a bit blown out by the wind but we managed to surf for a couple of hours and I was in heaven.  Hooting and riding waves with my friends and family is what I love to do more than anything.   After riding the waves for a couple of hours, I was going back out through the surf on a Stand Up Paddle Surf Board.  As a wave approached me head on, I made the fatal mistake of trying to jump over it.  The standard operating procedure for any wave coming at you is to duck underneath, but I was having too much fun to do that and I wanted to try something new.  The wave caught me full force in the chest, stretched me to the point of shoulder dislocation, and my board spun underwater and hit me full force broadside on my thigh.  After fixing my shoulder and assessing my thigh damage underwater, I returned to my board to surf a few more waves.  At that point, the pain in my leg finally caught up with me and I called it a day.  Surfing can be exhilarating and deadly in the same breath.  Shooting your shot during surfing means getting right back into the mix even after a bad wipeout or stupid decision to jump over a wave.  Learning from your mistakes is what it’s all about, and I have been learning from my mistake by not having full function of both my leg and my shoulder for about 2 weeks now.  The further respect that I learned from the ocean that day will serve me well into my future days and may even help others who are new to the sport to respect the ocean even more than they do.  I definitely shot my shot that day; I have surfed on much bigger days with less consequences.  NEVER underestimate the power of even the smallest wave and never deviate from standard safety practices.  Even seasoned surfers like me can still learn.

Shooting Your Shot and Learning

Shooting your shot involves a life-long learning approach, even if you are going to take hits along the way.  Don’t be scared of the hits; that is an integral part of learning.  In fact, if you don’t get hit every so often, perhaps you are not pushing the learning envelope enough?  People that never fall in when they learn how to Stand Up Paddle are not pushing themselves to the edge of their limits.  They “play it safe” and don’t reach their full potential.  People that never make mistakes don’t try hard enough.  They play it safe and fear failing so they stay in a bubble of complacency and safety.  Shooting your shot involves making mistake AND learning.  Develop a lifestyle of learning and humility so that you always crave to improve yourself and don’t fear mistakes or failure.  My daughter did this last semester when she challenged herself with AP classes that were well out of her comfort zone.  In fact, the school was resistant about letting her in.  It was a difficult semester, but she managed to letter in academics.  Even though she did not get a perfect score, she did earn a letter (3.0 and above) and proved that the struggle, and falling in every once in a while, builds character and forces us to learn things we would not learn if we sailed through things easily.                               

Being Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations

If you get used to shooting your shot and not worrying about failure, something fascinating eventually happens to you.  You end up not being afraid of doing anything.  ANYTHING. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that whatever comes your way, you will not be afraid to handle it.  Being comfortable in uncomfortable situations ends up being the result of years of shooting your shot and not worrying about failure.  Taking failure in stride and not personally builds your confidence level to handle any situation.  In fact, you find yourself craving uncomfortable and unknown situations just to practice ways of adapting to them and feeling the return to the comfort level, or what scientists call homeostasis.  Homeostasis is the condition where everything is in balance.  However, when you are comfortable in uncomfortable situations, your mind is always in balance, even in the midst of chaos.  Just like with anything else in life, training for these types of situations builds your abilities and feeds back into the loop of shooting your shot-making mistakes- adjusting and learning-shooting your shot-success-shooting your shot-etc…You learn that discomfort is just another building block to your own success, and not something to be avoided.


This week, seek out the unknown and challenge yourself to shoot your shot.  Go in with full commitment, not half way.  If you say you are doing to do something, then shoot your shot and do it.  Talk is cheap unless it is backed up with the collateral of action.  Try to do something new everyday.  Do something implies an action, so this cannot be a passive activity like reading.  I am not saying that reading is bad, but for the purposes of shooting your shot, you should get up off the couch and dance, for example.  See how you feel at the end of the week and remember that you miss every shot that you don’t take.

Dr. N aka CDR Chaos

The Edge of Chaos

The Edge of Chaos

I learned how to surf in college (yes it was an actual course) in San Diego when I was 18.  In Hawaii, I had the fortune of not getting killed at Pipeline during the winter and I surfed just about every break in San Diego when I was in the Navy there.  I have surfed early in the morning and even at night in the dark with bonfires on the beach to light the waves up (which didn’t work too well).  Waves have a life of their own and can be both majestic and deadly at the same time.  Being held down in the impact zone during a set of waves on a double red flag day has the ability to humble even the most diehard surfer.  The chaotic nature of waves breaking cannot be overstated. Furthermore, we can learn a life lesson from these fascinating beasts.  

If I had to sum up the action of waves on any given day in one word it would be chaos.   

Chaos is a term that naturally we tend to avoid at all costs.  We frantically clean our houses (well, some of us) and organize your lives.  We try and avoid disorder and stress at every turn.  We have air conditioning, heating, comfortable seats, time zones, eating utensils, cars, schedules, organizational systems-the list goes on and on of the tactics and tools that we use to avoid chaos.  However, the irony is that we need chaos.  We thrive in it.  We need to be on what psychologists call, the edge of chaos.  

In order to catch a wave and not get pitched and pounded (what surfers call a wipeout), a surfer must time their take off, angle their board at a 45 degree angle,  and propel themselves into the sweet spot of the wave.  The sweet spot is right in between the white water and the  shoulder off the wave; it is the spot where the most energy and speed is generated.  When you are in this spot, you are riding the wave exactly where you should be.  If the wave is large enough (overhead), then this sweet spot is the “barrel” of the wave.  Getting barreled is like nothing you have ever experienced because if you mess up, you are literally consumed by the white water and the rest of the wave.  It is in this place where you are on the edge of chaos.  You are always a split second away from disaster and that is what makes surfing so fun.  Being in the zone and experiencing flow is what surfing is all about.  The place where, to quote one of my favorite surf movies (the old Point Break), “where you lose yourself and find yourself.”  

If you find yourself avoiding chaos at all times, remember that you cannot taste the sweet spot of a wave unless you go near the chaos.  You must let yourself get vulnerable and take the risks that you need to feel the edge of the chaos.  Now that doesn’t mean paddling out in 30 foot Pipeline Swell the first time out.  You must ease your way into the chaos but don’t fear it.  Embrace the energy that you get from it and know that, whenever you go out and paddle into a wave, the chaos will always be there waiting for you.

When you set goals for yourself, remember to challenge yourself.  Being intrigued and feeling the risks of potential chaos is what drives us and motivates us.  Without chaos, the wave would not be ridable.  Life without chaos is like trying to ride a surfboard on a flat lake.  It’s boring and not worth the paddle.  Setting goals should follow some basic principles, but the key is to set your own goals just beyond the reach of your capabilities.  That will motivate you to reach the new threshold without getting discouraged and frustrated.  If you can run a mile in 12 minutes, set a new goal to run a mile in 11 minutes or run 2 miles 24 minutes.  Don’t set a goal that will break the world record for the mile.  That’s too much chaos and a recipe for frustration and disaster.  

I like to tall my clients to have one foot in chaos and one foot in order.  Knowing that the chaos is there is exciting and challenging, it should feel that way anyway.  If it does not feel challenging and exciting, you may not have enough order to apply to the chaos to make a difference.  You need to work on order.  If you don’t feel the chaos at all, you have too much order in your life and need to push the envelope and challenge yourself more.  That is a good rule of thumb test that I use in just about everything that I do.


 Self awareness test.  How much chaos do you have in your life? Remember that you want to be on the edge of it, not bogged down in it.  How much order do you have in your life?  Once you begin to understand the various degrees of order and chaos, you can now adjust accordingly to maximize your interest in various activities.  This applies to both your work and your home life.  In fact, some people have chaos at work and order at home or vice versa.  Finding the edge of chaos on both is the goal.  Remember that chaos is needed to keep things interesting, but not too much.  Finding that perfect wave that is at your appropriate ability level is what it’s all about.

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N

Leading With Resilience Part Three (of Three)

Leading with Resilience Part Three

This week, we complete our Leading with Resilience series with four of our higher level leading truths. Leading with resilience approaches leadership from a stress/control perspective, using emotional control, critical thinking, and living in the present moment to become a better leader. The two previous weeks dealt with lower level functions, such as taking care of your people and making sure you do the little things before talking bigger things. This week, we examine higher level functions and briefly explore in more detail the “why” of leadership. Defining purpose in leadership is very important, because followers need to know why they are doing what they are doing in order to execute with more passion and less chances for errors. By leading with resilience, you not only become a more mindful leader, but you effectively pass on this mindfulness to your followers by more clearly defining what it is that you are trying to accomplish.

Defining Context

Context is an important aspect to leadership. The context is the “what” of the task or mission that you are trying to accomplish. This needs to be clearly defined for both you as the leader and for your followers. The reason is that everyone needs to know exactly what to do before they set out on a task or mission. You can see context at work before a shift on an oil rig. Meticulous explanation of what has gone on for the past 12 hours and what is planned for the next 12 hours always takes place during a pre-tower briefing. Millions of dollars and lives are at stake. Defining context here is paramount. And so it must be for your own business. Clearly defining what you need to do, along with the definitions of what success looks like, should be the goal of every leader. When you define success and visualize it, both your followers and you are more likely to achieve it. Leading with resilience requires defining context.

Defining Purpose

Defining purpose, or what we call in the military “commander’s intent” is letting everyone know why you are doing what you are doing. Defining the why of a mission brings a deeper understanding and helps to justify the inevitable sacrifices of time and energy that every mission or task brings with it. Linked to a workers motivation, defining the why of any project helps workers to better understand the reasons behind what it is that they are doing. Defining purpose is an inclusive way to earn the trust of your people and help them to see what you are seeing as the leader. Defining the purpose of any task also helps to define what are the critical, enhancing, and supporting factors that will contribute to mission success. Clearly defining the why of any project will help you to organize and prioritize the resources that you need to accomplish the mission more effectively. The next time you go to work, write down why you are there in a clear and concise statement. Try and transcend the monetary reasoning and expand your thought process into higher level reasoning. Read this purpose statement periodically throughout the day and take a mental note of how you feel at the end of your workday. To lead with resilience, you must define purpose.

Leading Your Way Out of a Job

Nobody is indispensable. People may want to think that they are, but they are not. Leading with resilience requires you to pass on what you have learned as a leader to your subordinates so that, one day, they can take over your job. It is your duty as a leader to lead yourself out of a job. This may sound like career suicide, but it is the opposite. A leader must always remember and understand that the overall success of the company or organization depends on the leader training individuals that will someday step up and replace the leader. It is the inevitable cycle that we all must live by. Some leaders refuse to accept this and actually may even stifle the progress of their subordinates, either consciously or subconsciously. If you want to lead with resilience, you need to lead your way out of your job.

Leading with Empathy

A key component in leading with resilience it empathy. Empathy simply means a deeper level of understanding of another person by stepping into their shoes. Often confused with sympathy, empathy works both for you as the leader and for your subordinates. They key to becoming a superior leader is self knowledge. Self Empathy is a key component in understanding your own inner feelings and emotions. When you understand yourself better, you can make more informed decisions that are free of emotion and are backed up by critical thinking. The same holds true for others. When you understand what others are going through and empathize with them, you are more likely to make a decision that will be tailored to achieve the highest degree of acceptance by that person. When you take the time to understand your followers individually, your decisions will have a greater chance of being accepted and executed willingly instead of by force. If you want to lead with resilience, you need to lead with empathy.


Being a leader is not easy. It takes constant introspection and situational awareness or people and events. Leaders are made not born. Following the leading with resilience principles will make you a better leader, but only if you practice these principles in real life, leadership situations. You can practice these principles with anyone, even by yourself. Whether you are taking care of yourself physically, organizing your house during the day, or helping someone in the store that needs your help, you are putting the principles of leading with resilience into action. All too often, we read an interesting book or article and never put the principles that we learn into action. This week, I want you to review all of the leading with resilience principles that you have learned over the past three weeks and put one of them into practice for the next 12 days. Write down each one as you progress through the days. Here is the summary of the 12 Leading with Resilience principles:

  1. The Little Things Are The Big Things

  2. Take Care of Your People, and they will Take Care of You

  3. Take Care of Yourself, But Only To Improve Your Ability to Take Care of Your People

  4. Lead By Example

  5. Get Creative

  6. Never Quit/Know When to Quit

  7. Leading with Self Awareness

  8. Leading with Attitude

  9. Defining Context

  10. Defining Purpose

  11. Leading Your Way Out of a Job

  12. Leading with Empathy

Finally, if you want to Lead with Resilience, remember to “Lean into it!”

Dr. N

Leading With Resilience Part Two (of Three)

Leading with Resilience Part Two (of Three)

A crucible is an instrument that chemists use to heat up certain elements and change their composition.  It is a device that can take a huge amount of heat, and is responsible for new compounds if you get the recipe right.  Crucibles can be a metaphor for individuals going through a tough time in their lives.  We all go through crucibles at certain points in our lives, and the way we transform ourselves is similar to the new elements that are created in the chemical crucible.  In resilience, the crucible is the place where you are physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually challenged in order for you to grow into a better person.  Resilient individuals use the heat of the crucible to improve their positions; leaders who use leading with resilience as a mantra do the same.  This week, we will look at part 2 of leading with resilience and explore some psychological factors that will help you to become a better leader by challenging the people that you lead. 

Get Creative

When you get creative in your leadership, you not only foster a creative environment but you place yourself and your team in situations where they will be forced to adapt and improvise.  Nobody wants to do the same old, unchallenging thing everyday.  Whatever your job is, the leader is responsible to keep things fresh and challenging.  Set high standards and hold individuals accountable to them.  Give impromptu training classes that push the envelope of your work, elevating your standards to a new level.  By getting creative, your people will be challenged and may even look forward to coming to work to see what’s going to be next.  When I worked on oil rigs as a consultant, I would always look forward to going to work because I never knew what was going to happen.  It was exciting, and sometimes dangerous work.  The goal of getting creative is to have your people eventually become comfortable in uncertainty.  That is one of the cornerstones of leading with resilience.  To lead with resilience, you must be creative.  

Never Quit/Know When to Quit

Quitting is one of those taboo words that nobody wants to think about, let alone say out loud.  Why is quitting such a bad word?  Because we exist in a competitive society that shuns individuals that give up when the going gets tough.  Believe me, I don’t like to quit.  However, as a leader, you have to know when not to quit and you have to know when to quit.  When a project is tough but you can see that it can be accomplished with the resources that you have available, then you should follow through, rally the troops, and drive on to the end.  However, if you are engaged in a project that has lost a substantial amount of money, or is simply impossible to accomplish with the resources that you have on hand or readily available, then you should decide to stop with the project and move on.  The consequences of not quitting can be as harsh and dangerous as the consequences of quitting.  When you drive your people into the ground simply because you don’t want to quit something, they not only get burned out but you may jeopardize future projects simply because you want to satisfy your ego.  Quitting a project because you are tired or want to do something else or another lame reason breeds complacency and your followers will lose respect for you and the company.  Taking an honest assessment of what is going on and gathering the powers to be to see exactly what is going on is a good way to give a “sanity check” to you project so that you can move in the right direction.     If you want to lead with resilience, never quit and know when to quit.  

Leading with Self Awareness

Leading with resilience starts with an understanding of yourself as a leader.  When you have an accurate assessment of what you can and cannot do, then you can improve on the “can nots" and maintain the “can”s.  There are many psychological instruments that leaders use for self assessment.  One such assessment is 360 feedback, where supervisors, peers, and subordinates give criticism of the leader.  As you can probably surmise, this feedback only works if the leader keeps his ego in check.  Furthermore, the criticism only works if it is genuine and constructive.  As a young SEAL, I remember the 360 feedback that I received from my main subordinate, the chief of our platoon.  Even though I outranked him, I welcomed the valuable operational feedback that he gave me because he had much more experience than I did.  Because of my openness to receive the feedback (a new guy in the SEAL Teams has a level of humility that you would not believe, whether an officer or not) and the open feedback loop that was present in the SEAL Teams at the time, I was able to keep my ego in check and improve my performance and leadership abilities.  Self awareness has a large empathy component as well, since you become in tune with how your actions and words affect others on your team.  Knowing yourself is a critical leadership element.  If you want to lead with resilience, you must be self aware.  

Leading with Attitude

Attitude is everything. Leading with a positive attitude can yield incredible results.  Attitude is one of those infectious conditions that other members of your team pick up on and respond to.  Negative attitudes and positive attitudes will permeate throughout a team.  We have all experienced this.  Have you ever been part of a team that was infected by the leader in both a positive or a negative way.  As a leader, it is your duty to maintain a positive attitude, even when bad things happen to you and your team.  When individuals make mistakes on your team, conduct a process improvement check or after action review and keep driving on.  Do this without emotion to maintain a positive attitude.  At times, attitude can make a huge difference in you and your team’s performance.  That is because your attitude and self confidence will actually affect the relationships that you have both with yourself and with other people.  Remember that the little things are the big things in leading with resilience and attitude, although something so simple, can have huge effects on performance.   Leading with attitude is an integral part of leading with resilience.


This week, seek out your own crucibles and challenge your leadership.  Keep your attitude, your self awareness, and your creativity in the forefront of your leadership activities.   Examine your projects and double your efforts on some and look at the ones that you want to cut away.  If you can cut them away, don’t be scared to do so, knowing fully well that sometimes you have to quit and not always drive forward with things that are dragging you, and your team, down.  Balancing all the leadership principles that you learned this week is not an easy task.  Remember that leading with resilience is a fairly easy concept to understand but very difficult to implement.  This is largely the result of the fact that we are constantly living in a state of stress and performance and it is sometimes very difficult to stop and refine your techniques.  With proper application of the leading with resilience principles, you will be able to operate more readily when the heat is on, and you and your team are placed in a crucible like situation.

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N

Leading with Resilience Part One (of Three)

Leading with Resilience Part One (of Three)

The SEAL Trident is the coveted symbol of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Sea Air and Land Commandos. The trident is hard to get; almost 80-90% of those who even attempt to qualify never wear one on their chest. If you are one of the resilient and tenacious individuals that get to wear it, the sense of accomplishment is second to none. One important point of trivia about the trident, or SEAL pin. It is the only insignia in the Navy that only comes in gold. Traditionally, enlisted personnel in the U.S. Navy wear insignias that are silver and officers wear gold insignias. Not so for the trident. The fact that enlisted SEALs wear the exact same symbol as their officer counterparts epitomizes what it means to be a leader in the SEAL Teams. I will attempt over the next three weeks to share with you 12 of the best practices that I have learned from my experience in the SEAL Teams and coupled with my extensive studies in the art of being resilient.

The Little Things Are The Big Things

As a leader, you will be remembered for the little things that you did, not the big ones. How did you make your subordinates feel? Did they want to follow you? Or did they simply follow you because of your position. Natural leaders do the little things so well that the little things become the big things. I remember Admiral Olson, the 1st SEAL 4 star admiral to command United States Special Operaitons Command, coming up to me in the hallway and ask me by name how I was doing. He took time out of his busy schedule to talk to one of his subordinates. Admiral Olson was the most inspirational leader that I have known, not because he asked me how I was doing that day, but because he paid attention to the little things. When you come to work in the morning, know that everything that you do and everything that you say, even everything that you think, is important. It may not seem like it is, but it is. Make sure that you do the little things correctly and with as much enthusiasm and tenacity as the big things. Keeping an organized life and making sure that you don’t put crap into your body may sound petty, but when the big mission comes around, you want to have the little things under control. Leading with Resilience begins with the little things.

Take Care of Your People, and they will Take Care of You

Leading with resilience begins with taking care of your people. When you take care of your people first, you show them that they matter and that they are important. People are the most important aspect to any business or organization, military or otherwise. Taking care of your people often means placing your interests at the end of your people’s interest. At Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training, where officers go through the exact same training as enlisted personnel, officers eat last. Period. I remember sometimes not being able to eat and having to eat scraps off of my enlisted personnel’s plates as I left the chow hall. Taking care of your people means that you will make sacrifices. That is what it means to be a leader. Taking care of your people also means that when the chips are down, they will be there for you. Taken from the Golden Rule, taking care of your people pays off huge dividends when you need them the most. Leading with resilience begins with taking care of your people.

Take Care of Yourself, But Only To Improve Your Ability to Take Care of Your People

Leading with resilience begins with taking care of yourself. You can’t be an effective leader if you are sick, broken or your mental faculties are not all there. Getting the adequate amount of sleep, eating the right foods, exercising, mentally challenging yourself daily, being in touch with your own emotions and the emotions of others, and understanding intimately your purpose in both your home and work life are all essential elements of taking care of yourself. Remember that taking care of yourself is not a selfish act; you do it only to be able help take care of your people in order to maximize mission effectiveness. Having a written plan in how you will take care of yourself and following a strict schedule is a great way to maximize this leadership trait. Individuals that only take care of others without taking care of themselves are doing a disservice to those who are under their care/leadership. Only by taking care of yourself, will you be able to maximize the benefits that you give to others. Being selfish in this paradigm is not selfish at all. Leading with resilience begins with taking care of yourself, so that you improve your ability to take care of your people.

Lead By Example

Leading with resilience begins by leading by example. Not asking your followers to do anything that you would not do yourself is leading by example. Followers want to follow someone who is operationally competent. This does not mean that you have to be the best in your company at what you do. It only means that you are a professional and you are striving to be the best at what you do. If you are the head of a manufacturing company, you should know something about manufacturing or at least have a passion to learn everything you need to know about the craft. When you lead by example, others will naturally want to follow you. Admiral Olson was not the strongest SEAL or the fastest or the most knowledgable at SEAL tactics, but he was always out there bettering himself and improving his performance at everything that he did. I remember during a demolition shot, he halted the entire operation because he wanted to know the intimate purpose behind what we were about to do on the range instead of simply “going through the training motions” that we all do from time to time. He showed me that day that even the simplest training has value if you take the time to assimilate the concept of the training. Leading with resilience begins with leading by example.


This week, examine the 4 concepts (8 more to come in the following weeks) of leading with resilience in your own life and see how they apply. Are you taking care of yourself? Are you leading by example? Are you taking care of your people? Are you glancing over the little things and saving yourself for the big things? Remember that Leading with Resilience takes knowledge, time, and effort to accomplish. Tune in next week for Part 2!

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N

Love Your Enemies

Love Your Enemies

Sometimes we learn from the ludicrous.  We see a ridiculous movie or hear about something that is so far fetched that it sparks something inside of us.  We see a phrase that pushes our cognitive faculties so much that we think that it can’t be possible.  The radical sometimes helps us take a look at our lives and see that, perhaps, what we have thought was a certain way for so long is, in fact, the opposite of what we should be doing or thinking.  If you have ever been in a situation where you were angry at someone or were hurt by what someone said about you, then loving your enemies may be the solution that you have been looking for.   

When we look at our enemies, we almost never associate love with them or even think about being kind to them.  However, if we can embrace this difficult concept, and actually follow through with it, we unlock something inside of us that is priceless.  The enemies that I am referring to are not the enemies of combat or lawlessness, they are the individuals or self inflicted thoughts that bring us anxiety and stress.  These are the enemies that may cause us to derail from what we want to accomplish in our lives or change the way we perceive the goodness in the world.  These are the enemies of self doubt, negativity, and self worth that plague every one of us at some point in our lives.  How can we even begin to think that we will love the thoughts or individuals that bring these types of feelings into our lives?  You see by loving our enemies, we accept them for who they are and we disarm them with positive energy.  An enemy that is hated is fueled by that hatred.  An enemy that is loved becomes powerless.  

Loving External Enemies

We begin with enemies that we can see or others can see. These enemies can take the form of an oppressive supervisor, individuals that criticize you, acquaintances that put you down, social media comments that are hurtful, an individual that cuts you off in traffic, or even a bad storm.  We can see the damage that a natural disaster brings as either a depressing situation that will never get better, or an opportunity to grow and help others.  I personally witnessed incredible acts of kindness and compassion in the wake of our most recent natural disaster, Hurricane Michael.  Individuals that would never have helped each other did so, with true compassion and love of a neighbor helping another neighbor.  That would never have happened without the storm.  External enemies can fuel our compassion and kindness towards others; something to cherish and never let go.

If we look at these external enemies as an attack on us, we almost immediately take a defensive stance and get angry.  If, however, we look at all of these enemies as opportunities to grow and learn, we start down the path with a grateful and empathetic heart, then everything changes.  Perhaps our boss is angry with us because we actually did something wrong?  Maybe we are not living up to our full potential with our critics?  Perhaps it’s time to cut away from all of those acquaintances and focus on a smaller group of true friends?  Sometimes enemies can trigger us to change or rise up out of our complacency?  We should be very thankful and grateful for that.  Wake up calls can be a priceless thing, and you can either be angry for that wake up call or cherish and love it.  Which position is the better one for your growth?  

There have been many individuals that have tried to get in my way in my life.  Individuals that said that I would never make it through SEAL training.  Individuals that said that I would never be successful at my business.  Individuals that said that I would never be able to have a happy marriage.  I thank all of these individuals for coming into my life everyday because they all motivated me to accomplish everything that they said that I could not accomplish.  They were my wakeup calls.  They drove me to get out of bed and accomplish my missions.  Love the wake up calls; if they help you get out of bed, then you can accomplish anything.  

Loving Internal Enemies

We have all heard the terms “the enemy within” or “we are our own worst enemies” at some point in our lives.  What does this mean and how can we love this situation?  I believe that these terms refer to our fear or failure or our insecurities of who we are as individuals.  These situations are biological set points that keep us alive and are 100% normal to feel.  Understanding that these feelings are normal and letting them wash over us is the first step in embracing them and turning them into the field that drives us to succeed.  What steps can you take to mitigate your fears of whatever it is that you are about to attempt?  Perhaps you are fearful of a new job or journey that you are about to embark upon?  That is normal.  The anxiety that you feel inside of you is designed to keep you alive.  Cherish it.  Love it.  Embrace it.  Use that fear and anxiety to help you to plan accordingly and prepare better so that you succeed at whatever it is that you are about to do.  The second feeling may be that of an insecurity that creeps in about who you are as a person.  Am I good enough to do this?  What if I fail?  Then what?  Again, this insecurity is there to help you to become a better person.  Have you left every stone unturned and have you done everything in your power to become the person that you were meant to become?  Have you exercised your God Given ability to help others and truly be the person that you were designed to be?  If you address these questions and start a task list that will help you to achieve your mission your insecurities will melt away.  That’s just how it works.  Embrace the insecurities and don’t ignore them.  They are there to help you to achieve new heights.  By looking at fear and insecurity in that way, we become more confident and better individuals.  When I was a child in school, I wrote a paper once that talked about all of the hobbies that I had started and then quit.  I actually used the word “quit” so many times in the paper that my teacher left me a comment on top of my paper saying that she hoped that I would “stop quitting” in the future.  This hit me like a ton of bricks and it’s something that I have taken with me throughout life.  Why was I quitting and quitting?  I believe that somewhere inside of me, I feared failure and so I would quit before I would have the chance of failing.  Failing became the enemy that I avoided.  Now, I love to fail.  Failure means that you have the opportunity to grow and get better.  Putting yourself in a position where you can fail is the first step to a long road of successes and, more important, personal satisfaction. 

Overcoming Adversity and Loving It

Whether your enemy comes in the form of a person who criticizes you or in the form of your own insecurity or even both, it’s up to you to change the way you perceive the enemy and turn a negative into a positive.  Once you do this a few times, you start to see adversity as a challenge and even a game to be overcome and beaten.  Once this happens you not only overcome the adversity, but you start to enjoy the process of doing it.  Just like water off a duck’s back, the adversity that you feel immediately changes into a challenge and you start to figure out how you will overcome that adversity.  In time, your entire paradigm of life events changes and nothing can affect you anymore.  It’s one thing to overcome adversity.  It’s totally another thing to overcome adversity and truly love the process of doing it.  This is the cornerstone of resilience and what differentiates those that simply “tough things out” and those who practice the art of resilience and truly love overcoming adversity in its tracks.  So it’s no wonder that loving your enemies becomes something that becomes part of you.  Welcome your enemies; they make you stronger and help you to achieve new heights in your life.  

Call to Action

When you see your “enemies” this week, whether they are external or internal, appreciate the fact that they are there.  Take them in and accept the fact that they will always be there.  Begin to see them as a challenge that drives you to greater performance levels.  What are the steps that I need to take in order to go around these challenges?  How do I keep my ego in check to maintain a positive attitude in the face of this adversity?  How do I deconstruct the situation, take my emotions out, and proceed in a logical way that will guarantee a positive outcome?  If you answer these questions, and I know that you can, you will be on the road to loving your enemies, conquering your fears, and improving your performance.

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N