Of all the books I’ve read in this series it’s author Jason Redman and John R. Bruning’s, The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL leader, that I identified with the most.
I’m not saying that I would ever be able to do what he did. I know that I would not have made it through the Navy SEAL training – heck, I used to bitch about the pool water being too cold in Coast Guard Officer’s Candidate School much less go through what those guys go through. I would have pulled up to BUD/s, parked the car and walked right over to the damn ring-out bell! I’m outta here, where’s the bar?
But, I definitely identified with his crucible of leadership and the trials and tribulations he suffered at the hands of a personality that does well 95% of the time, then flies off the handle and does something stupid the other 5%.
What I learned most from Jason Redman’s book is that Navy SEALs are also human and they often, particularly in leadership positions, go through a forming, or a reforging. I also learned that one of the most important decisions you can make in your life is in selecting your mate, and that when your blueprint to life doesn’t work out the way you planned, it’s time to draft a new blueprint.
Anyone who has been reading this series with me (no you can’t get those hours of your life back) knows that I love books about top performers, SEALs in particular because they are part of our nation’s special operations community and often represent the highest levels of what we can become. How was I going to find new information in yet another book about the SEALs? If you’re looking for graphic descriptions of how hard BUD/s is, and how difficult Hell Week was, then go get another of the several good books out there on the SEALs. In fact, go get Marcus Luttrel’s book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 or go see the excellent movie which I just caught last week – yes, everyone in the theater was crying at the end.
But, if you want a book on a SEAL officer, who handled major leadership challenges, many of which he caused (been there, done that!), and how he not only overcame them but also overcame major medical challenges after being severely wounded in combat, then buy this book.
Redman was a successful enlisted Navy SEAL, but it was after he became an officer that the real leadership challenges started and where the learning begins.
I think its part of every man that he wants to be challenged. In fact, this topic is VERY WELL covered in Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge (oddly enough I was just searching for this reference and in several lists I found online of books mothers should read about raising boys, this one wasn’t on any of them! It should be at the top of nearly every list if you want to know why a boy does what he does).
Back to my point – boys want to be challenged. They want to see if they are worthy of recognition from other boys (and from girls). Many men are drawn to the SEALs because everyone thinks they live life at full throttle. Many of them do and so did Jason Redman.
“I’d joined a warrior fraternity filled with men I admired, whose skill and professionalism were unsurpassed in the field of arms. So was their ability to party during our downtime. Life at full speed in the service of our nation – I embraced every second of it,” Jason Redman (3).
One thing that can happen when you learn how to do things other people can’t do is that you can become arrogant and cocky (Redman 11). The causes you to overlook opportunities to grow. The dangerous feeling of being indispensable because of your new found skill can cause you to do childish and immature things (Redman 11). Redmand experienced this as a neophyte Navy SEAL operator, and I experienced that when I got my pilots’ certificate. Suddenly I felt special because not everyone can fly a plane – so I did reckless and stupid things that could have gotten me and others killed. I also had a hard time learning lessons because I started to feel like I knew it all.
Hint: when you think you know it all and have nothing else to learn, you’re about to die.
This could be true in a business sense – such as those businesses that feel they’ve “got it down to a science,” and it can be true in a real sense, like doing stupid things in an airplane. Remember, while you’re being arrogant and foolish, your competition is learning, adapting and gaining ground on you.
This arrogance can also be group-based or even institutional as it was when NASA asked a Navy SEAL team that Redman was a part of, to attempt to get past their security at Cape Canaveral, NASAs most secure facility. The SEALs were successful, but one of them broke the rules of engagement thus embarrassing NASA (even further), and they were not asked back to play again.
“While the mission was a success, one man doing his own thing compromised all of us,” says Redman (16). That’s part of what leadership is all about – working well with others, recognizing when and, more important, what not to do things.” (16).
Navy SEALs are not supposed to be undisciplined cowboys and rambos doing whatever they want. They are supposed to be a well-disciplined unit that can think and act independently when called for.
I frequently have gone against the conventional wisdom and I have a bad habit of when I see something that needs to be done, and no one is listening to me, I just do it and let the results speak for themselves. As a leader, you have to learn not just when, but how to do that effectively without throwing everyone else under the bus. No one ever said leadership was easy.
But, Redman did learn a valuable lesson when he was selected for the Seaman to Admiral officer commissioning program which first sent him to college to get a degree – he decided from day one that going to school that was his new job and his goal was to do as well as he possibly could. Unfortunately, this would be a lesson that Redman (and myself and many of us) have to be taught over and over again. Too bad we just couldn’t remember all of these life lessons the first time around. So let’s review it again – whatever you’re doing make that the most important thing in the world right now.
Another important lesson many of us fail to learn the first time, is to recognize when the world has changed, but we haven’t. In tomorrow’s entry, Redman graduates from college, but re-enters the post 9/11 military.
Redman, Jason, and John R. Bruning. The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. Print.