Brandon Webb, the former Navy SEAL and sniper, knows a thing or two about succeeding under pressure — and not all of it involves fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan after the World Trade Center towers came down. Since he left the Navy, Webb has published best-selling books and built a media empire as CEO of Force 12 Media. In his just-released book, The Power of Thought, Webb credits his success to the “mind over matter” mentality that he learned training as a SEAL and offers up to the rest of us — no Hell Week necessary.
1) Train in Positivity …
While in SEAL training, a few days before Hell Week, Webb was taken aside by four instructors on the beach. They had him do a brutal circuit of exercises, all the while kicking sand in his face and telling him to quit. This would be a turning point in his training.
“We are our best and worst enemies,” says Webb. “It’s a self-worth thing. I showed up to SEAL training right off of the aircraft carrier. I was not in the kind of shape I needed to be in. At that moment [during Hell Week], I started talking to myself, ‘No, you can do this, you do belong here.’ As much as the instructors are telling me I’m the biggest piece of shit they’ve ever seen and that I don’t belong there, in my mind I just started talking to myself differently.
Having that positive self–talk really makes a huge difference because you’re talking to yourself every day and you start believing it. ‘I do belong here.’ And I think what happened was when they took me out on the beach that day, they saw that I had the internal fortitude and that they weren’t gonna crack me. ‘We tried to break this guy and didn’t, so as long as he meets the standard we’ll stop messing with him.’ So from that point forward I never got messed with.”
Webb carried this positivity through his training and credits it with moving him from the worst shot in his class too, years later, a sniper instructor. As Webb explains in his book, there are two styles to teaching and learning. The “negative style: ‘Hey Adam! You suck! What are you doing?! You’re flinching every time you pull the trigger on that rifle!’ Positive style: ‘Hey Adam, relax a bit. Remember your fundamentals, nice and smooth on your trigger pull. Ok?’ Two very different approaches. Which one do you think is the most powerful? What approach do you think produces powerful, positive internal ‘self’ conversations?”
2) … While Being Fully Prepared for the Worst
Only when you have that positivity on lock-down can you explore everything that could — and might well — go wrong. “We would teach our students, ‘Look, we’ve been physically practicing this shooting test for a week now. Every night you go to bed, I want you to close your eyes and take that test and imagine yourself shooting it perfectly.’ Then I said, ‘Imagine if something goes terribly wrong and that you can deal with the contingency.’ Because we can kind of figure whenever we’re shooting a gun or driving a car, what are some of the things that can go wrong, and practice dealing with the contingency in our head as well and overcoming it. That way, if something does happen — say your gun malfunctions — you’ve already rehearsed it and you’re prepared to deal with it. It’s not like, ‘I’m in the middle of this test and my gun went down!’ No, it’s, ‘I’ve already practiced this in my head and I know what to do in this situation.’ So we teach these students to do that, and when we started teaching them to practice perfect, for the first time in the entire history of the course we started having perfect scores on the shooting tests because we just told them to practice perfect and we told them that was possible.”
Featured photo courtesy Brandon Webb