When you lower standards, you lower quality


With the stellar success of the special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan it stands to reason that the politicians will decide that the solution to all problems is to simply make more of them. However, politicians rarely believe in the law of the harvest. It takes time to grow something of quality and value. You cannot sacrifice standards or take shortcuts and still expect the same result. Rorke Denver discusses this in his book Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior. 

“More isn’t always better,”  says Denver. ” We can’t expand in ways that lower our standards or let the wrong people in. But at the same time, we shouldn’t be driving potentially great SEALs away in some misguided attempt to prove how tough we are.” (Denver 245). While the folks at the head-shed pushed to lower the standards to become a Navy SEAL, the SEALs agreed that the solution was not to ease the entry requirements, not to change BUD/S, not to lower the training demands, not to reduce the talent pool in any way that could result in consequences on the battlefield, but to attract an even higher quality of candidate.

An important point that struck me throughout the book was when Denver would revisit the notion that being in combat changes your perspective. He notes that when you have been through the things they have been through everything that follows is a gift. (Denver 283). Daily inconveniences, such as the Barista getting too much mile in your latte, and other minor issues, suddenly become incredibly trivial. Here are some other short lessons that you can apply to your life:

  • Be excellent (Denver 283)
  • It pays to be a winner (Denver 283)
  • Don’t ever let your teammates down (Denver, 284)
  • Carry your full load (Denver 284)
  • Be present, always (Denver 284) particularly remember this when you’re with your kids!

We will end this segment with the great quote from Tecumseh, part of which Denver used in the movie Act of Valor. Here is the full quote:

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

~ Chief Tecumseh (Poem from Act of Valor the Movie)

Thank you for an excellent book Commander.

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


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