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Outlier’s Path

The Extra Gear

Over six months of Navy SEALs training, each trainee runs 1,627 miles, swims 134.2 miles, runs the obstacle course 39 times, conducts 42 dives, spends 61 hours underwater, hikes or patrols 150 miles, and completes a combat conditioning course which is a 12-mile run wearing 70 pounds of gear in 3 hours or less. The training is equivalent to swimming from Cuba to the southern tip of Florida and then running to New York City while conducting combat training and survival exercises with very little sleep. While this amounts to a stunning display of physical and mental stamina, the most surprising fact is that most trainees who do not complete the program quit voluntarily.

Connecting this to the business world and fireside chats with legendary founders at our recent Base Camp, is the fundamental lesson to work hard and never quit? It may be a crucial lesson; however, relentless perseverance is necessary but not sufficient.

Across all disciplines, hard work pays off. Perseverance enables us to overcome obstacles that would typically deter us—the constant application of force on the problem before us is how a solution reveals itself. That’s simple enough, but survivors also work hard and never give up. Survivors withstand difficult situations, bounce back from setbacks, and push onwards.

So, what separates a survivor from a success? My theory is that success requires the overcoming of obstacles and then flourishing from that experience. The survivor’s mindset is how I can get through it, while the success mindset is how I can grow from it. The difference in mindsets appears small and subtle, but compounding differences over time further separate survivors and successes. Additionally, the success mindset enables you to find a previously undiscovered extra gear in your engine with a reserve of untapped capabilities when you most need it.

In sports, we see tired and downtrodden athletes who reach inside themselves to find the extra gear to take control of a bad situation and come back to score the winning point seconds before the end of the game. In business, we see those who had already been working tirelessly hustle further to find the extra gear to take three red-eyes in a week because face-to-face meetings were preferred by our business partners or getting up at 2:30 am to coordinate the kickoff of a major project across teams in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The extra gear is the necessary ingredient that we need to outperform our competition, surmount the most punishing obstacles, and achieve the impossible.

In his 2014 University of Texas at Austin commencement speech, Admiral William H. McRaven retold his Navy SEAL experience and said, “If you want to change the world, you have to be your very best in the darkest moments.” In other words, if you want to dent the universe, work hard, never quit, and find the extra gear. Then, find others like you to join you.