Achieving real success means learning the hard lessons

Anyone who even remotely knows me, knows that I love books about our nation’s special operations community. These are the front line personnel who are at the top of their game. Second place doesn’t enter their vocabulary and they are always striving to improve – they strive to improve their gear, their procedures and themselves. Their lives are on the line so corners aren’t cut in any area. They epitomize lifelong learners and I have learned a tremendous amount from them. So can you.


Shortly after starring in the Navy SEAL action movie Act of Valor, SEAL commander Rorke Denver and Ellis Henican authored Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior. There are numerous outstanding SEAL books out there but this one promised a perspective from one of the officers, who also was the head of basic and advanced SEAL training. I was hoping to learn a few things about leadership and I wasn’t disappointed. Denver notes:

  • “Rank is nice, but it isn’t the only gauge of power and importance. In training or at war, the bigger question is who has the influence, the knowledge, and the personal authority – who has the balls – to make things happen,” (Denver, 16).
  • Denver made it through BUD/S (the basic SEAL training course) through positive self-talk and a refusal to consider anything else, like quitting (Denver, 26). As many other SEAL books have said, once you start entertaining the thought of quitting, it tends to take hold.
  • “The lessons are simple, clear and well-defined: they come right out of our basic values. Winning pays. Losing has consequences. Nothing substitutes for preparation. Life isn’t fair and neither is the battlefield. Even the smallest detail matters. We are a brotherhood. Our success depends on our team performance. And we will not fail.” (Denver, 34). Okay, if you just remembered this quote the rest of your life, you’d be better off.

There are a couple of other lessons right out of box in Denver’s book such as don’t screw up and when you do, learn from it (Denver 35), and you have to be willing to do more than the minimum. You have to be willing to sacrifice your rest and your free time to constantly improve.” (Denver 37). This last lesson is one that I’ve tried to reinforce for years with my students. No matter what job you have, whether it is working the sound and photo department at Target, which I once did as a college student, or being one of the nations top military operators, it is important to quickly establish the habit of professionalism, do nothing half-assed, and you will be rewarded.

Denver, Rorke, and Ellis Henican. Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior. New York: Hyperion, 2013. Print.


2 Responses to Achieving real success means learning the hard lessons

  1. What a coincidence! Not more than two minutes ago I passed that book on to my youngest son after having finished it this Easter weekend. It’s a great read, one I’m glad I invested my time and money in reading.

  2. Have enjoyed the first book alot, but this one is really grabbing my attention from the get go. You are to be rewarded for what you are doing here on these pages. Thank you for your time…

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