9781427222817_p0_v2_s260x420As any reader of my blog knows I love books about the US special operations. Special operations personnel never settle for second-best. They strive to be the best of the best and to accept nothing less. They are an example of the right way to do things.

While I have read numerous books about Navy SEALs I had not yet read one from an officer who is also a medical professional. Here’s what I learned from Mark Donald’s Battle Ready: Memoir of a SEAL Warrior Medic.

For anyone going through a difficult time, one of the best things that you can do is to start writing down what is happening (Donald 1). I have been journaling since high school and I was grateful to see that journaling not only turned into a way for Donald to help his post dramatic stress disorder but also eventually resulted in his book – which may also help others dealing with their own stress in life.

Maybe your trials and tribulations could one day help someone else – even if your journal is never published commercially do it as a favor to your kids so that they may continue to learn from your life long after you are gone.

And speaking of being a parent Donald had a true parent in every sense of the word. His mother made sure that he and his siblings were loved, but also that everyone was fed and had clothes to wear to school – even if that meant collecting and hoarding clothes, food, housewares and anything else she thought they may  someday need. But you will not see her on any future episode of Hoarders – she carefully classified her collection so that any time any of her children needed something she knew exactly where to go to find it (Donald 8).

She threw nothing away, even Donald’s father when his alcoholism put a wedge between his marriage and his kids. Refusing to abandon him with divorce Donald’s mom rented a small apartment for her husband across town so that she could still care for him without putting her children at risk (Donald 11). Now that is a person dedicated to their marriage.

Donald’s mother also educated he and his siblings by passing the time in storytelling, rather than video games and DVDs. The stories morphed into life lessons all with a common theme that said live for others not for yourself.

Including his mom (and our moms and dads), the importance of good mentors early in our lives cannot be stressed and Donald had many.

  • While his brothers and sisters had their share of troubles the key lesson is that you still take care of your family, no matter what they are going through.
  • Donald credits his wrestling coach for being a main reason he made it through SEAL training. Be competitive and everything you do. If you’re on a conditioning run be the first one. Get the best grades in the class. If you sharpen a pencil make it the sharpest in the room. You will never be the best of everything, but that does not mean you can’t be the best at something. Just don’t quit trying to get there! (Donald 15). If it’s one thing the SEALs are known for, it’s for NOT quitting.
  • However, being competitive doesn’t necessarily mean being stupid. Before joining the Navy Donald joined the Marine Corps. One day in boot camp, he foolishly jumped in the line of good swimmers during the pool fitness test, rather than those needing help (yes, for a future Navy SEAL, he originally was not a good swimmer). After nearly drowning that day he learned to never again let his ego convince him of something that demonstrated by an expert, was actually easy (Donald 21).

I find there are some important distinctions here. As I’ve said before do not let your ego write checks that your butt can’t cash. But then again you should always push yourself and be competitive because that’s what leads to excellence.

So how do you separate these two? Let’s take pilot training for example. While you may want to go fly F-18s into combat you’re certainly not going to do that on day one of flight school. When you start out in flight training you will be flying a trainer. But this is where you set the standard of excellence. Your goal should be to be the best pilot in that trainer at your experience level. Focusing on the small details and excelling at them leads to excellence at the highest levels.

Donald sums it up best: never assume expertise in anything and perseverance pays. He calls it the perseverance paradigm: your success is based purely on your initiative and refusal to give up regardless of out of the task.

Donald, Mark L., and Scott Mactavish. Battle Ready: Memoir of a SEAL Warrior Medic. New York: St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.

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