RESILIENCE is what carries us through life to reach our goals. Pain will always be with us, but if we can learn to lean into it and get comfortable with being uncomfortable, we can live a more fulfilling life.
Resilience is what Brent Gleeson’s book, Embrace the Suck: The Navy SEAL Way to an Extraordinary Life is all about. He writes, “To avoid pain is to basically deny our potential. We can’t develop psychological resilience without experiencing emotional pain and suffering.” Resilience is about perspective and embracing reality.
The most mentally and physically tough people I know constantly practice the fine art of building resilience—deliberately pounding away at the boundaries of their comfort zone in pursuit of their passions and causes greater than themselves. Simply put, they choose adversity over mediocrity and continue pushing forward despite the odds stacked against them.
By strengthening our minds, we can overcome obstacles and pave the way to an intentional life. Gleeson provides us with several mental models to help us navigate misfortune, pain, and uncertainty. One simple but effective model Gleeson offers for this is the Five-Step Root Cause Analysis. When we understand cause and effect—the consequences of our behavior—we can grow and move forward. Observe, learn, and grow.
Gleeson uses the example of being laid off—the bad thing that happened to you. The High-Level Cause is at they had to downsize, keeping only the top performers. But as you dig deeper, focusing only on those issues you can control, like your actual or perceived underperformance, you can discover something actionable. Then ask what you did well and what you could work on and list them in step four. Then in step five, make specific goals that are concise, realistic, and time-bound, starting with an objective statement like “I will never lose another job for underperformance.”
A useful tool for learning to identify and then control what you can control. This personal feedback loop will “place you in a constant state of course correction and improvement.”
Of course, we need to be clear about our values. Your values help you know what winning looks like. “Essentially, any action or choice should clearly fit within your value lane markers. Deviation outside those markers typically ends in tragedy. You need to ask yourself what you are willing to do to live by those values and, even more importantly, what you are unwilling to do to avoid deviation.” Like removing temptations.
When working towards our new goal, we have to remove anything that stands in the way of it. “Remove every opportunity for temptation and distraction—any obstacle or competing priority. Maintain total mission focus.” Develop self-control.
Temptation is just a reality of life. Without it, there would be no such thing as willpower. Life will test you on a regular basis. So be prepared to ace the test!”
Only focus on what’s in your immediate control. Ignore everything else.
Maintaining focus on what is in our control and ignoring (or at least deprioritizing) everything else is a core tenant of the growth mindset and applies equally in achieving goals and overcoming obstacles in our personal and professional lives.
And as Gleeson points out in chapter 7, chose wisely what you suffer for. “Life is a series of choices.” Successful Seals training students make it through because they “accept it as a means to a better end.”
And he encourages, “If you stumble, find the root cause and move on. Don’t let yourself get wrapped up in guilt, anger, or frustration, because these emotions will only drag you further down and impede future progress.”
Throughout the book, you will find many mental models with practical steps to move you forward. Models like Eight Failure Realities, Five Steps for Taming Temptation, Practicing the Things That Suck, Mastering Self-Discipline, and a model for Violent Execution, among others.
How willing are you to embrace the suck? Go to war with yourself