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.

Assignment

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.

Assignment

 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.

Assignment

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.

Assignment

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.

Assignment

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



   






Good Enough Is Not Good Enough

Good Enough Is Not Good Enough


We all want to succeed at the things that we do in life.  To some, success is measured in accumulation of wealth, time spent with family, prestige earned from a job well done.  

Just like everything else that we do in life, words and labels are of paramount importance when we are defining what we do and what we don’t do.  When you label a job as “good enough,” you are perhaps missing one of the critical elements of performance and the quest for perfection.  Is good enough good enough?  Perhaps for some it is.  But for others, good enough is never good enough.  

Military Perspective

From a military or high risk professional perspective (high risk professionals are those individuals who risk their lives or risk the lives of others in the line of duty), good enough does not cut it.  When lives are on the line, good enough is never good enough.  We always strive for perfection.  We may never attain it, but we make continuous course corrections and seek critical feedback from our trusted agents to come as close as we can to a flawless performance.  This may seem like too much work for some people; however, when lives are on the line and failure could mean certain death or worse, then approaching flawless execution is the only answer.  When high risk professionals settle for the “good enough,” then complacency can raise its ugly head and we all know what happens when we get complacent.

Civilian Perspective

For some civilian professions, good enough is not good enough either.  When your favorite professional team wins their respective title, they immediately study their films to see how they can do better next season.  Even if they have won the game.  Striving for continuous perfection is the mark of any professional organization; it should be a part of what you do as well.  If you are taking out the trash, make it the most perfect trash taking out event that you can accomplish.  Why?  Because good enough becomes a habit that is hard to break.  When you strive for perfection in everything that you do, this also becomes a habit.  A good habit.  

Love to Fail

Most people avoid failure at all costs.  If you learn from your failures, then you should be happy to fail.  In fact, those who fail learn more than those who succeed.  Stories abound of companies and individuals failing countless times before they strike gold in their respective areas or expertise.  Failing should be something that you embrace, as long as you learn from it and you don’t get someone killed in the process.  That is why it is very important to learn from your failures in training and not when you are playing for keeps.  Accepting failure and seeing it as a challenge can be quite a learning experience.  I remember when I was nearly drowned during a phase of SEAL training called Pool Competency, or Pool Comp.  We were attached underwater by and instructor who commenced to tie hoses in your Underwater Breathing Apparatus.  As a student, you were supposed to clear the problem (often without the assistance of air in your lungs) and you had to follow a certain set of procedures.  Failing during Pool Comp assured that you would learn from your mistakes so that you would not drown during a real world underwater emergency.  Good enough did not exist in this situation.  By failing during this phase of training, I learned that one should not be too confident of one’s abilities and always be on the alert.  I eventually passed the event and moved on, but I learned a valuable lesson that day.

Taking out the Trash and Having Fun

Striving for perfection does not have to be a negative event.  We are so programmed to be failure averse and avoid criticism that we have become psychologically soft and too sensitive when it comes to failure.  The way that you can become more accepting of criticism and actually enjoy the process of striving for perfection is to suppress your own ego.  In fact, go ahead and kill it while you are at it.  Our egos take hold of our emotions and other faculties and drive us to avoid failure and criticism at all costs.  Instead, you should focus on the mission at hand.  What can I do to improve my performance so I can support this mission that I am on?  And if the mission is taking out the trash of sweeping the floor, approach it in the same way that you would any other “more important” mission.  You see, everything that we do has an innate importance to it because it builds our ability to perform in any situation.  Just think of how you will perform at something that you are truly passionate about if you can perform flawlessly at something that you don’t like or want to do, like taking out the trash.

Assignment

Push good enough out of your collective lexicon this week.  There is not place for it.  Strive for a flawless performance at everything that you do, from the most mundane to the most important.  Don’t do it for your own ego or self satisfaction.  Do it because it is the right thing to do and part of the mission that you are on.  A mission is always more important than the individual who is one it.  It supports a higher purpose and goal.  Practicing this pursuit of flawless performance at everything you do will pay huge dividends when you are in the arena and when you are doing something for real.

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N

Training to Increase Performance and Limit Injury

Training to Increase Performance and Limit Injury


The concept of training has existed as long as humans have been humans. We can see this in the play that animals conduct when they are little, whether it is the lion cub practicing for the kill or the chimpanzee posturing and practicing for a stand off with a potential competitor.  We train in order to get ready for something that is going to happen in the real world.  Most of us train for our jobs because we want to make money and provide for our families.  Some of us train so that we will survive at the jobs that we do; this is especially the case if you work in a high risk profession, such as an oil rig worker, military operator, or law enforcement officer.  The basic reason that we train is to increase performance and limit the chance of injury.  Let’s go back in time about 2500 years or so.  In battles, Spartans could not afford to be injured.  Their lives depended on it.  If a Spartan was injured during a battle, he probably did not survive to see the end of it.  Even a minor injury such as a twisted ankle or a dislocated shoulder (well those are not that minor) could prove devastating.  Thankfully, we have progressed into a more “civilized” society and we no longer live and die by how in shape or injury free we are.  However, even today, injury prevention is the number one rule for professionals in the realm of fitness. Injuries hinder any advancement toward achievable goals, diminish motivation, and in some extreme cases make the trainer look bad.


Preventing Injuries


An injury is simply physical damage to an area of the body. Most do not take into consideration is the negative psychological effect injuries spawn in a once highly excited and motivated participant. Injury prevention is a continuing progression for all individuals. Understanding the commonality and root of injuries are a large part in developing plans that implement injury prevention strategies. Many of these strategies include fixing weak areas, correcting musculature imbalances, implementing proper movement mechanics, and constant engagement of correct posture. Application of each of these during a strength training session can greatly enhance injury prevention.


Posture and movement mechanics are the two most noticeable in the gym. Of course, taking into consideration that bad movement mechanics is usually do to imbalances, weak and tight areas that do nothing but win over poor mobility. It is important the focus on the chronic injuries versus the acute. With that said, acute injuries again, can usually be prevented with the above strategies and if an injury were to occur absolute attention should be observed toward the healing process. Most feel a small pain and push through the workout, WRONG!  Chronic injuries usually entail that the above strategies are a constant, successive issue. Without correction, degeneration of motor sequencing and muscular tissue are certain to transpire.  Many common injuries happen out of ego and ignorance. Both of these can and should be avoided. Proper technique requires correct knowledge. Then the individual must have the mobility to execute the movement. If the mobility is limited, the individual must make corrections before continuing with an improper movement. This is usually skipped, creating poor movement patterns, which lead to imbalances. Use progression in every aspect of training!


Finding the Why of Your Training

The most important question that you should ask yourself when coming up with any training program (physical or other) is to answer the why question.  Why are you doing this type of training?  Is this the best use of your time?  What is the purpose of the training and what is the end state or when do I declare that the training is accomplished?  These are important questions to ask yourself before you start the training or even plan for it.  Whatever the answer to the why question, at a minimum you should have a training plan to execute the training properly.  If you don’t, then you will be haphazardly going through motions and never seeing measurable progress.  You are more likely to stop the training or train improperly and get injured or burned out.  

Assignment


This week, renew your training program.  If you don't have a training program, it is time to develop one.  Make sure you have a quantifiable goal and write it down. Find the why in your training.  Make sure that you have a date set when you will accomplish the goal.  Develop a training plan that incorporates strength training (if you are developing a physical training plan) at least twice a week.  The rest of the week, you should be practicing events that are leading up to your goal.  If you don't have a goal, then find one that supports your passions and satisfies a higher purpose.  Doing "whatever you feel like doing" for the day leads to doing what you like and often times, this leads to overuse injuries or underdevelopment of your weak points.  


Take care of yourself so you don't become a liability to your fellow Spartan!


“Lean into it!”


Travis Williams and Dr. N

Feeling Your Present Presence

Feeling  Your Present Presence

 

Autism is an interesting condition.  Research suggests that the condition is the result of an overabundance of dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine stimulates your brain into action and helps you to focus on certain stimuli.  The problem is, when you have too much of it, you become overwhelmed with confusing inputs and you don’t know what to do.  Individuals with autism, depending on the severity of the condition, retract into themselves to block out all the confusion.  Speech becomes very difficult, perhaps because one’s own voice creates even more stimulation.  Your sense of smell and other senses become heightened and overloaded.  However, there is a silver lining to all of this.  A lesson that we can all learn and adapt to our own lives.  After living with my own autistic children for 20 plus years, I can make this observation and would like to share this theory with you.

 

The Future and the Past

 

Neurologically typical individuals have a sense of the past and the future.  Both situations cause us to produce cortisol, the stress hormone.  The interesting thing about this is that the future and past don’t matter because they are pure fantasy.  In reality, both don’t exist.  They are abstract concepts made up in our minds.  For example, last week perhaps you opened presents with your family.  Did you anticipate what the scene would look like before it happened?  Were you stressed in any way when you thought about guests coming over?  This is normal in the course of your day and helps you to action.  The problem is, when individuals dwell too long in the future or the past, they sacrifice their present presence.  Future events rarely turn out just the way we anticipate them; they are abstract concepts that, at times, plague us with stress and indecision.  Past events are OK if we don’t regret them but perhaps great event in the past, when compared to your present situation, can bring your grief and stress as well.  Living in the moment is the key to a happy and stress free life  

 

“…when individuals dwell too long in the future or the past, they sacrifice their present presence…”

 

Autism and the Present Moment

 

In my experience, my daughter does not understand about the past and the future.  The realization manifested itself to me when were at the Toy Store one day.  Playing with toys happens in the store.  When you ask her if you want her to take the toy home to play with it later, the concept is not understood at all.  Her brain seems to be only wired for present tense thinking.  The past does not exist, neither does the future.  A situation of no stress, which is both a blessing and a curse.  The blessing is that you are fully present in the moment, taking everything in and enjoying and being amazed by everything.  No stress.  The curse is that, if you stay in that state for too long, you get nothing done and you become self absorbed and tend to not interact with others, the main symptoms of Autism. 

Assignment for the Week:  Feeling Your Present Presence

Your present presence is very important.  It’s the way your mind, body and spirit interacts with the outside world.  Go to a quiet place and feel your body reaching out to everything around you.  The chair that you are sitting in.  The air around you.  The wind on your face.  The sound of the traffic in the distance.  Become in tune with all of those sounds and finally focus on your own breathing and see how your breathing interacts with all of the sensory input that you are feeling around you.  This is a deliberate exercise to get into the present moment.  As you can see, no stress is present in that moment.  It’s physiologically impossible for cortisol to be secreted when you are in your present presence.  However, staying in that moment will help you accomplish nothing for the day.  Know when to activate your present presence and when to turn it off.  You don’t need to be constantly doing something.  That should be your battle cry for the new year.  Take it from my daughter, it works.

Dr. N 

Change

Change is a word and concept that has been used throughout the ages.  Many songs have been written about it; it has been used in science with the greek symbol “delta,” and even has been the recent center piece for campaign slogans.  Unfortunately, recent economic shifts and in certain cases climactic conditions have caused us to use the word even more than before.  But what exactly is change?  Do we resist it and loathe it or do we use it to our advantage? 

Characteristics of Change

The word change actually means to make or become different (in verb form) or the instance of becoming different in noun form.  Change can take many forms, such as the change in the seasons or the change of water from  solid to a liquid.  Change can be physical or psychological. Change can be internal or external, and can be both positive and negative. However, change is very dependent on one’s point of view, perspective, or even coping mechanism.  If we view the world in a negative light, then all change is for the most part bad.  If, however, we see the world through the eyes of the “glass is half full” lens or the even better "I am just happy to have a glass at all," then change becomes a challenge that we take on with hunger and drive.  We accept change for what it is and even embrace it, thriving in the adventure of it all.  Once again, gratitude rears its head, yet again, in the kernel that makes all change a good thing.     

Accepting Change is a choice that we make

We really have not choice in the matter.  Change will come.  And when it does, it’s our choice whether to accept it and look at the bright side, or wallow in self pity and remember the “glory days.”  The choice is predominantly yours to make.  Having the will to see change in a positive way is what differentiates us from animals that are predominantly driven by instinct.  Your prefrontal cortex helps you to adapt to changes and reprogram yourself to see change in a positive light.  However, as you probably suspect, this takes work on our part. 

Grow through change

My wife always says, “change is inevitable, growth is optional.”  That is so true.  The option to grow lies deep within our own souls.  In the place where FEAR (False Events Appearing Real) resides.  We may be able to put on a facade for most people, but the person in the mirror never lies to you.  To be able to truly embrace change is very, very difficult, but it can be done.  Viewing change as a challenge is the first step.  We all like or even love competition.  Don’t let change get the best of you.  Plan for it and be organized and ready to embrace it when it happens.  Visualize what it will be like after the change.  For example, if you are switching jobs soon actually attempt to put yourself in the shoes of the new job; anticipate what it will feel like.  This will moderate any negative effects that may come your way.  Finally, get out and exercise both your mind and your body.  A strong immune system is fairly resilient to change. a weak immune system will succumb to it.  

One final note on change.  Most of the time, change is a good thing.  When change does not take place in our lives, we become complacent and stagnant.  Complacency and stagnation can degrade your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states.  That is why it is always good to “change things up a bit” in everything that you do; your diet, your workouts, your relationship with your spouse, the trips that you take with your kids, the route that you take when you go for a walk with your dog. 

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Speaking of your dog, the old saying is not true.  Aging people can learn new things and should.  Adapting a “child like” fascination when you get older will keep you young.  The term neuroplasticity is a fairly recent descriptor to our capacity of the human brain to adapt and learn new things, even as we age.  The fact is that our neurons NEVER stop changing and adapting.  This is both a good and a bad thing, and we need to understand why.  Our brain’s capacity to quickly learn new things also makes us vulnerable to traumatic events, bad habits, or mindless activities such as channel surfing or Facebook surfing.  Limiting these mindless activities will retain our capacities to learn new things and engage in meaningful activities with other people.  When you teach an old dog new tricks, make sure that the tricks are beneficial and stimulating and not destructive.  


Assignment

Look at the routines in your life.  Look at ways that you can change things up a bit.  This will help you to deal with real change when it happens.  Think of it as training for the real thing.  When you learn to adapt to change on a weekly/daily basis, your brain becomes more pliable and when real change happens, you are conditioned for it and it does not affect you as much.  Do something completely different this week with your spouse or with your friends.  Don’t do the same old thing.  That same old thing is contributing to your complacency and neurological calcification.  


I hope that reading this article has brought you more in tune with change and how to deal with it.  Sometimes just thinking about things and communicating with someone alleviates some of the anxiety that we feel with change. 

Just remember that change is the one constant in our lives!

Dr. N