United States Navy SEALS know better than most that the human body can endure an incredible amount of stress under the harshest conditions.
For SEALS, this lesson is hammered in during “Hell Week,” also known as The Suck.
The Suck is 5 days of constant motion, no sleep with physical, emotional and mental stress designed to literally break a person.
One of the difficulties that trainees must acclimate themselves to during Hell Week is the constant condition of being wet. They’re sprayed with high-pressure hoses and are constantly commanded to get into and out of the “surf” (the Pacific Ocean) in frigid temperatures. Instructors know how long the human body can withstand submersion in cold temperatures and they push recruits to the biological breaking point.
As quickly as the numb, disoriented and tired bodies of the recruits begin to dry, they are either ordered right back in or are sprayed down once again.
They’re ordered to crawl around on all fours, do hundreds of pushups in the sand, carry boats into the surf in order to capsize and then right them, and they run hundreds of miles.
In a show of solidarity and encouragement, recruits continually remind each other to embrace the suck. They condition their minds to accept that the coming days are going to be miserable and that trying to dry off or find rest is futile- it’s just better to accept that it’s going to suck, but in the end they’ll be better for it.
The opportunity, convenience and temptation to quit could not be greater. Recruits need simply ring a bell that is ever-present to end their misery. It also means the end of their dream to be a SEAL.
In the midst of the verbal assault, physical anguish and mental stress of The Suck, it is not the body that breaks first, but the mind.
Dr. Mark Russell, a former Navy Psychologist and US Marine said, “Hell Week requires 90% mental and only 10% physical strength and capability.”
Former Navy Seal, Marcus Luttrell describes in his book Lone Survivor, “When a man quits and is given another chance and takes it, he never makes it through. If the thought of DOR [drop on request] enters a man’s head, he is not a Navy SEAL… that element of doubt forever pollutes his mind.”
As soon as the smallest degree of doubt is allowed in, a cascading effect begins to take place from the dark recesses of the mind that breaks the mind, body and spirit.
Leaders must understand how to “embrace the suck.” They must also be intentional about identifying those in their organization who are struggling in the surf in order to help them gain perspective. Perseverance is only developed in the surf.
Here are 5 ways I’ve identified to embrace the suck:
Surround Yourself with the Right People
One of the biggest predictors of success is not a physical or emotional characteristic; it’s those few people you allow to speak encouragement or discouragement in your life.
You must surround yourself with people who cause you to grow. If you’ve chosen to align yourself with people who quit, hate or deflate under pressure, they’ll take you down with them.
Change Your Mindset
Silence the destructive and cancerous voice of doubt. Failure is not an option. Excuses are unacceptable. Guard your mind and resolve not to take the easy way out. And never quit.
Take ownership of your physical, mental and emotional faculties. If you don’t, others will. Develop a strong self-confidence. Own your attitude, your drive, your performance and the results. Don’t blame others.
Obstacles are difficult in large bites but are manageable in increments. Develop incremental objectives and find encouragement in the small victories.
Make a Definitive Decision
Often, the greatest mistake that people make in the middle of the surf is having not made a definitive decision to succeed. They marginalize their performance through excuses or rationalization. Be clear with yourself and accept that both failure and success are a result of decisions you’ve made along the way. Decide to persevere, decide to win.