August 23, 2017

Conquering Kokoro: Focus on the Task at Hand

Photo by Melanie Sliwka

Photo by Melanie Sliwka

Kokoro Camp takes place at SEALFIT headquarters in Encinitas, CA — 25 miles north of San Diego. By car from San Francisco, it takes about 8 hours — plenty of time to think about why the hell I’m doing this.

Sizing Up the Team

I arrived early to find my soon to be teammates hanging out on the corner. Apparently, being early runs in my team’s blood. There was a total of 16 of us from as close as down the street to as far away as Panama. The group was pretty diverse, ranging from 5’2” to 6’3” in height, 18 to 53 years old, and had a variety of backgrounds including military (Navy), Crossfit (including a gym owner), triathlon, and GORUCK.

At this point, it was hard to tell what any of us had in common except that we showed up to see if we could go the distance. It’s funny how people handle nervous energy. Some just walk around, stretch or remain quiet. Others like to talk about what they have done or how they will approach the next 50+ hours. For me, this nervous banter has a calming effect. I love to hear about what people have done, what they have heard about the event and why they showed up.

Keep Calm, Carry On and Know Your Why

As we checked into Kokoro, the nervous energy started to build. You can watch all the videos and hear all the stories about Kokoro, but until you are standing on the SEALFIT grinder, it really does not sink in that your life for the next 50+ hours is not going to be the same.

After check-in, gear stowage, ruck/weapon selection, we got briefed on how things were going to work and what was expected of us. We then set about getting to know our team and the reasons we were about to step off into the crucible of Kokoro. Coach Divine always stresses that your Why needs to be strong or you will not be able to cross the chasm when you hit the point where you want to quit.

You Will Have A Moment. In That Moment, Know Your Why — Coach Divine

Most of the Why’s were pretty straight-forward. Several team members wanted to go into the Special Operations Forces (SOF), some wanted to see if they could actually finish and others wanted to face their demons of not being good enough.

The one that struck me as the most inspiring was from FEER. He wanted to show his son, who was filming the whole thing, what it was like to commit and complete something. Truly inspiring. It just so happens that FEER was also the oldest at 53.

Remember You Paid for This

Most military style fitness programs start off with a welcome party — the first kick in the teeth of what is about to be your life for the next 50+ hours. Kokoro is no exception. Physical Training (PT) in BDU’s, last name stenciled on a t-shirt and boots (the official Kokoro uniform) is what we started out with.

Push-ups, burpees and the ever-present water hose are a constant reminder that you need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. These first few intense hours are where your Why gets put to the test. If you thought this was going to be easy, well, think again. As Coach “Taco” Dan was fond of saying:

Remember, you idiots actually paid for this! — Coach Dan

The Visor of Leadership

It’s a funny thing what people bring to endurance events. Some have their favorite comfort food, some bring lucky socks while others have a special shirt that inspires them. All of these things are usually unnoticeable to most of us but not to Kokoro coaches. They see everything.

The uniform is meant to make all of us look the same. We are one team and being an individual just means you’ll get “special” attention, which is what happened to CORDELL. She decided to wear a visor, which immediately singled her out as a “princess”. I also don’t think the brightly colored nail polish did her any favors. For the rest of the welcome party, the teammate leading us would wear the visor of leadership. The beat down was pretty intense and pushed one of our teammates out quickly.

Double Wet With A Dollop of Sand

No proper welcome party can ever be complete with getting wet and sandy. After getting nice and wet on the grinder, we ran off to the beach to experience some more PT and the Pacific Ocean.

I don’t really have a problem with getting wet and sandy since the cool of the ocean is actually refreshing after doing physical activity. What can get complicated or rather challenging, is when the whole team has to lock arms and stay together against the pounding surf. This is challenging to keep together, especially if you are on the end. Think of it like the tip of a dogs wagging tail — if you’re the tip, you’re getting whipped around pretty good. Unfortunately, this was just too much for one of our teammates and he had to get pulled out for evaluation. One more down.

Forging An Unbeatable Mind

After the beach PT, we made it back to HQ to clean up a bit and change into slick PT gear (t-shirt, shorts and running shoes) for some instruction from Coach Divine on how to build an unbeatable mind. This was a welcomed break from the intensity and a chance to regroup your mind and body.

Coach Divine took us through the basics of his 5 Mountain philosophy and the 4 principles that we will need to practice in order to get through the rest of Kokoro. A lot of what Coach Divine stressed was about controlling your breath and visualizing your end state. This “win in your mind” first is a powerful technique that makes it a lot easier to remain calm and positive when situations get tough.

Another important point was that there will be a moment, which will be the point when you’ll want to give up. When you hit this moment, several things can get you through it.

The first is knowing your why. If your why is strong, it can be enough to get you out of your private pity party and get back into the game.

Pull Yourself Out of the Pity Party — Coach Lance

The second is your mantra. Your mantra needs to be something simple that can snap you out of your negative mindset. My mantra was “Focus on the Task at Hand and Just Don’t Pound Sand.” The third is your team. Your team can really make a difference and every single person at Kokoro 32 needed a team member to pull them through a dark time. More on that later.

Physical Fitness Test

Out of all the events at Kokoro, I feared the PFT most, since if you fail the standards, you’re out. Each of us paired with our swim buddy (mine was MONORE) to start the sequence that went as follows (along with my score):

  • Pull-ups (minimum 10): 10

  • Sit-ups (minimum 50 in 2 minutes): 57

  • Push-ups (minimum 50 in 2 minutes): 51

  • Air Squats (minimum 50 in 2 minutes): 71

  • One Mile Run in Boots and BDU’s (maximum 9:30): 8:25

Overall, I met the minimums and was relieved to have that part over with. I cannot stress enough that it’s important to train to exceed the minimums. There were several points during the camp where having been more prepared would have made my life and the life of my teammates a lot easier. Remember, this is a team event and if you don’t pull your weight or lag behind, your teammates suffer.

Green Highlighter And Aspirin Bottle

After the PT test, we got briefed on what was going to be our night evolution — three separate stations along the beach. We were split into 3 separate teams (I was with Team GOLD) and we set off into the night.

The nights in Encinitas are beautiful. The air temperature is comfortable, the water is still warm and the night allows you to stay focused since you can only really see what’s right in front of you.

Team GOLD’s first evolution was to memorize a series of items and then perform rounds of Cindy. This is harder than it sounds since we only had 30 seconds to memorize everything (there must have been over 20 items) and then 30 minutes to perform as many Cindys as we could. After the Cindy rounds, it was time to reveal each item. Overall, we only missed two — a green highlighter and aspirin bottle.

Broad Jumps Really Suck

Our next evolution was with Coach David. He warmed us up with some stair runs and then it was off to the beach for some ruck throwing broad jumps. I’m really awful at broad jumps and it showed. I ended up finishing dead last and my team had to suffer through with their packs overhead until I was done.

Remember, Kokoro is a team event and you are only done when the team is done. After a brief warming at the beach fire, we were off to our next evolution.

Nothing Focusing the Mind Like Log PT

Our next evolution was Log PT. Earlier, we had learned the basics and now it was time to work as a team. Log PT is extremely humbling. Logs are awkward and you can tell right away if someone is not lifting the load.

Coordination is paramount when lifting a 200+ pound log since real injuries can occur if your whole team in not synchronized. Thankfully, Team GOLD worked well together and we quickly got the hang of it. We got to put our new skills to the test by carrying our log down the street to the T in the road. This was challenging but as a team, we formulated a plan of micro-goals that got us through it.

Murph

After the other teams got back and we completed some of our penalty push-ups, it was time to change and get briefed on our next evolution — Murph.

Murph is named after Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL who lost his life during Operation Red Wings on June 28th, 2005. When Coach Dan read the official CITATION, it was hard to hold back the emotions. Lt. Murphy was someone who made the ultimate sacrifice for his team and now we are honoring that sacrifice.

Murph consists of the following exercises (all with a #20 pound ruck):

  • 1 mile run

  • 100 pull-ups

  • 200 push-ups

  • 300 air-squats

  • 1 mile run

This event is another performance drop event, which means that if you don’t get it done within 75 minutes, they can drop you from the class. Murph becomes even more challenging since this is like hour 24 or 30 and we must have done hundreds of push-ups by this point. Thankfully, our whole team made it through and it was off to the next evolution with a renewed determination to never quit.

Let’s Clean Up the Box

Kokoro Camp has a lot of team competition. I think the most fun was when we had to take every single thing out of the Box, carry it up to look out point and then neatly stack it on the grinder. For this evolution, we were split into two teams — Team Coach Dan and Team Coach Lance.

Now, this may sound like an easy thing but this is Kokoro so it gets a little more complex. As we are competing to move as much equipment up to look out point, the coaches around us are pulling us away to perform “special” movements. These special movements, which I’ll keep secret, really make you have to pay attention to who is giving you the orders. At several points, we all failed.

Carrying awkward equipment can be frustrating but it also gives you a change to rest and regroup — something a lot of us needed to get back in the game. We also learned how to eat as we were moving since lunch consisted of peanut butter bagels and sandwiches — a useful skill when you are hurrying from evolution to evolution.

Breaking Your Competitors Will

After we “cleaned” the box, we were briefed on our next evolution —  a mission to recon a house on top of Mount Palomar. We were separated into Team A and Team B and hopped in the Van to drive out. At this point, we’re 35+ hours into Kokoro 32 and all of us were pretty tired. It was so easy to nod off for a brief moment only to catch yourself and wonder did I fall asleep?

Once we arrived, we fell into our groups for the long hike up the mountain. The terrain was steep and heat of the day was still intense. My team, Team B, was determined to beat Team A to the top. Throughout the Kokoro 32 experience, all the coaches stressed that it pays to be a winner — this was no exception.

As we started off on our journey, Coach Derek, Team B’s coach, told us that none of his teams have ever lost the hike to the top and this team will be no exception. With that inspiration, we promptly hatch a plan to break our competitors will.

The plan consists of having several different speeds as we ascend the mountain. Speed 1 is a slow pace, speed 2 is more of a fast shuffle, speed 3 is a brisk pace and speed 4 is to jog. Our strategy to break team A’s will was to fine the right time to pass them at a speed 4 pace. This accomplishes two things. First, it would shoe them are resolve to win and second, it gets us ahead of them so they have to play catch-up. This is important because as Coach James constantly drilled into our heads:

It’s Better to Keep Up Than to Catch Up. — Coach James

When the time came to make our move, Team B had a fire in our guts. Everyone stepped up and we jogged right past Team A like they were standing still. It felt great and we continued to keep a brisk pace going from speed 2 to speed 3 throughout the whole hike. We beat them to the top and then settled into our mission.

The Woods Are Laughing at Me

Sleep deprivation is a curious thing. On the one hand, your body feels the stress and strain of the physical activity, wanting to rest and on the other hand, your mind is trying to sort out various stimuli that only gets harder and harder as you become more sleep deprived. Trying to think rationally during this time is a constant struggle.

Our mission for the night was to recon a house on top of the hill. This entailed two of us, myself and ISRAELITT, sneaking up on the house and recording the intel. This proved harder for me than I thought.

ISRAELITT and I started off together and quickly found that it’s really easy to make noise in the grass and leaves around our hiding place. One of the coaches told us to stick to the road and get the job done. One complication on getting the job done is that there were coaches out hunting us and we promptly found a few.

ISRAELITT was the bolder of us two and he quickly sprinted off into the night — leaving me in the rear trying to figure out how to not make noise and get closer to the house. At this point, was when things started to get weird. I started to freak out a little bit and heard the woods laughing at me.

I could not go more than 2 feet without hearing a snicker and a rustling that freaked me out. It took me 20 minutes to go 10 feet and then I had to go back to camp to recompose myself. Who knows if it was my mind or the coaches laughing at me? I’m sure it was a little of both.

The Team Gels

Once ISRAELITT and I secured the intel, it was time to head back down the mountain, now as one team. We set out on our journey down the hill. Since ISRALEITT and I were doing recon the whole time, we were still pretty warm. The rest of the team, having setup a perimeter, got to rest and got a little cold. Several teammates were starting to shiver and it was a good thing we started moving.

At this point, we are all moving slowly since it’s dark and we don’t want to trip. Unfortunately, one of us did and we then had to carry them down on a stretcher. This task proved to be a pivotal point for our team.

Carrying a stretcher at night, down a grade, creates all sorts of challenges. Couple this with our need to make quick time, led HOFIUS to recommend we rotate as we go. This proved to be a great idea and we proceeded to rotate front to back, left to right as the water van lit the way. This teamwork allowed us to make great time down the mountain and allowed our injured teammate to recover enough so that they could walk down again.

Of Pirate Ships, Snowmen and Jumpy Houses

Going down a mountainside at night, with little light, plays tricks on a tired mind. Most of us saw weird and strange things including a pirate ship, inflatable snowmen and those children’s jumpy houses. These hallucinations started to make some of us have to double check our sanity. Thankfully, CORDEL and others were there to snap us back to reality and keep all of us focused on getting down the mountain.

One of the most fun situations was when ISRALEITT wandered up to the front of the line, glassy eyed with a huge smile on his face. He kept saying, “the colors are so vivid … Is this what acid is like?” I’m not exactly sure what acid is like but I am sure that whatever he was seeing, it must have been spectacular.

At times, our paced slowed since the fatigue and grueling hike were starting to take their toll. This was when DIETRICH stepped up to inspire us to hurry up. The determination in his voice and the look in his eyes gave the whole team a renewed sense of purpose. We promptly picked up the pace.

As we reached the end of our hike, all of us were tired but in good sprits. The sun was about to rise and we had all made it to day 2. Who knows how much longer we’ll need to go but at least we conquered Palomar Mountain.

The Will To Live Rock

The next evolution was a mission to rescue a downed pilot. We were split into 2 teams, a security team and an assault team. The assault team (my team) set off on the  “will to live run”, which consisted of running up flights of stairs and climbing up on concrete platforms. We did this until we hit a river where we were briefed on our next challenge: wade across the river to pick a “will to live rock.”

The will to live rock selection process consists of picking an appropriately sized rock that represents your will to live. Of course, we all have a strong will to live but there is a balance to strike when it comes to how big the rock should be. If it’s too big, you will not be able to carry it across the river but if it’s too small, then is it really your will to live.

Most of my team picked great rocks and successfully made it across the river. Myself, on the other hand, I failed miserably twice to get my rock across. Most of my failure stemmed from picking the wrong path across the river and not fully using my brain to “work smarter not harder.”

Finally, with a little help from ISRAELITT, my rock and I made it across the river. The next part of the mission was to carry these rocks back to our security team without dropping them to symbolize our commitment to our team and ourselves. Once we arrived, Coach Divine gave us a quick speech on the spirit of Kokoro and all of us with “will to live rocks” arranged them in a K to symbolize our classes Kokoro spirit.

False Peaks, Plateaus and Resolve

The ride back to SEALFIT HQ was a struggle to stay awake. The rule is that every time a coach caught someone asleep, the entire team had to do 10 burpees. I think they caught all of us sleeping on that trip (except for maybe CORDELL. For whatever reason, she was bouncing off the walls). To be fair to us, I don’t think the heat cranked to high and the classical music helped much either.

Our lull of activity soon ended when we pulled up to the beach and promptly started a bear crawl to a nearby sand berm. If any of us had the slightest thought that this was over, that slow bear crawl to the berm quickly removed that idea. I will say that nothing wakes you up more than a dunk in the Pacific Ocean. After about 10 dunks, we formed up to run back to HQ to figure out what our next evolution would be.

As we ran, my thoughts went to when this might end. These are dangerous thoughts because once you sense that the end is in sight, you get false hope. This false hope is what leads peoples to quit so close to the end because their resolve wavered. The thing that snapped me out of this was my mantra and not wanting to let my teammates down if I quit.

That morning there were several plateaus and false peaks that tested each of our resolves. This also happens in life when you think you’re done and then something happens to delay the completion of a task. These moments are extremely frustrating and the ones that survive these delays are the ones that continue to be in the moment and focus on the mission until it really is done.

Gotta Love Log Burpees

Safe and secure back at HQ, we changed into our slicks for some more fun in the sun. Since we had about 450 burpees to make up, Coach Dan took us through the burpees, while the other coaches sprayed us with water, put ice water over our heads and separated us out for some “special” attention.

During this whole time, I kept thinking there is no way Coach Dan is going to make us to 450 burpees.

To my chagrin, Coach Dan would repeatedly tell us that we will do each and everyone and it was up to us if we wanted to work as a team or be individuals.

Being an individual was a lot harder than being a team since a team burpee (e.g. Log burpee) counted as 5 while a normal burpee only counted as one. Clearly, if we could get our act together, the log burpees would be much easier and quicker to drawn down our count. I would say that we started to gel as a team again after about 200 normal burpees and finished our count with precisely executed log burpees (well, at least it felt that way).

Kokoro 32 Secured!

When Coach Divine finally uttered those three simple words, Kokoro 32 secured, most of us were in disbelief. We had made it 55 hours as a team. The rush of excitement and relief was wonderful. To come so far, in such a short period of time, truly felt remarkable. To think that 55 hours ago all of us started out as individuals and now we were a team.

HOOYAH KOKORO 32!

Photo by Coach Mark James

Photo by Coach Mark James


This post is the third in the series (there are 4 total) about my training and experiences at Kokoro 32 on June 20th – 22nd, 2014. Kokoro Camp is a 48+ hour team endurance event put on by SEALFIT. If you’re interested in taking on the challenge, then you can check it out here.

The first post was Conquering Kokoro: The Courage to Start.

The second post was Conquering Kokoro: Front Sight Focus

Babes in the Woods: GORUCK Custom Lake Tahoe Navigator

Photo by Bryan Calo

Photo by Bryan Calo

If I could list a single thing that I learned from GORUCK Custom Lake Tahoe Navigator it would be this — it’s easier than you think to get lost in the woods.

GORUCK Navigator is a four day land navigation and survival training experience that teaches you the basics of handling yourself in the wilderness including a culex (culmination exercise) to test your skills. It’s vastly different than a normal GORUCK Challenge because it leans more towards skill development and mastery instead of let’s do 1,000 8-count body builders while sitting in your favorite ocean. Now, find a pole!

The venue was picturesque Homewood Ski Resort and Sugar Pine Point Campground in beautiful Lake Tahoe, CA from May 14th-18th, 2014.

Attention to Detail

GORUCK is one company that really listens to its customers. Past Navigators (as best I can tell only three others have been held — see here for an ARR (After Action Review) from Nav 002) had some anecdotal rumblings of being kinda random and not having a real blueprint. This navigator was none of that. It was well planned, wonderfully communicated and precisely executed right down to the excellent meals prepared by Chef Grant, the flow of the program by lead Cadre Joel, rock star photography by Tosh (who got patched for shadowing Team Orange) and the professionalism and deep knowledge of all the Cadre. Thanks for your service and putting on a fantastic event.

Everyone Needs a Den Mother

A special thanks needs to be extended to den mother Laurie who took on the challenge of setting up this event over a year ago. Without her tireless efforts, infinite patience and true care for whose who participated, this event would never have happened. Thanks Laurie for spearheading one of the most fun and well organized events I have ever attended.

Event Schedule

The Custom Lake Tahoe Navigator was a 4-day course (with an optional Firearms Day) that adhered to the following schedule:

  • Day 0 (Optional): Firearms Day.

  • Day 1: Navigation Classes. Map and compass skills plus a ~4km hike

  • Day 2: Skills Classes. First aid, basic survival, finding water and shelter building.

  • Day 3+: Skills Practice + Culex. Time to ask any Cadre questions and practice followed by a practical test of all the skills learned. Lasted well into the morning of day 4, especially if you were Team White. They got “owned” by the night.

  • Day 4: Brunch & Beer: Camp breakdown and After Action Reviews (AARs).

Each day had several lectures followed by the opportunity to practice the taught skills. Overall, the material was fantastic and the lectures were engaging even for those who might have been hungover from the night before and fell asleep during class. You know who you are.

One recurring theme that I heard from participants was that there was no handouts of the excellent material (Cadre Big Chris did offer to email it around) or field manual to keep with you (according to Cadre Joel, this is in the works). That might have helped most of us un-fuck ourselves when we got lost. Well, maybe not.

Go Shoot an Azimuth. A What?

The first course was land navigation using a compass and map. Cadre Joel did a stellar job getting us up to speed on reading maps and shooting azimuths. One of the hardest things to figure out is how the contour lines on a map translate to real terrain. This is a critical skill to master since it can really help plan a route that avoids thick brush and steep elevation climbs. Remember this point, it comes up later.

Along with terrain feature recognition, we got to practice looking up grid coordinates and correcting for declination, which is the degree difference between the map and the compass. All of this is important to remember when in the field since it’s these small errors that build up to big errors. nav_map

Let’s Try Not to Kill the Patient

No course on surviving in the wilderness is complete without a class on basic first aid. Cadre Dakotah and Cadre Bert did a masterful job of giving us the basics of how to treat common first aid issues (before attempting any type of first aid, make sure you get the proper training).

Basic wilderness first aid boils down to the handy acronym SMARCH which is used to assess a patient in the field. SMARCH stands for:

  • Situation: Is it safe to help. The only thing worst than one patent is two patients.

  • Massive hemorrhaging: Stop the bleeding quickly since lack of blood leads to all sorts of nasty things.

  • Airway: Check that the patients airway is clear before trying to see if they are breathing.

  • Respiration: Check the patients breathing rate and depth.

  • Circulation: Check the patients pulse.

  • Hypothermia: Check the patient for hypothermia by looking for shivering and blue lips. Blood loss can make you hypothermic even if it’s 100 degrees outside.

Each part of SMARCH has specific treatment techniques that are applied to stabilize the patient. A recurring theme was prevention since it’s 1,000 times better to prevent an injury than it is to treat one in the field. Being prepared was also stressed since it’s what you have with you and your training that takes over during a stressful situation.

What the Heck is a Swiss Seat?

Cadre Chris and Danny taught probably the most challenging and fun part of the whole weekend — knot tying and rope bridge construction. For the culex, we had to learn three basic knots (figure 8, alpine butterfly and bowline) along with two others (square and half-hitch) to construct a rope bridge across an obstacle.

These particular skills are critical to get right since it’s a major safety issue if your rope bridge falls apart as you traverse a 100 ft crevasse or you fall out of your Swiss Seat (which looks dam sexy if cinched with the proper force and determination as Dan and Amy can attest too).

Photo By Chris Way

Photo By Chris Way

The rope bridge crossing was an absolute blast and probably the single coolest thing we did during the whole weekend except for maybe seeing bears and Lake Tahoe at night.

Cadre Manzanita

Out of all the Cadre at Navigator, no single one inflicted as much pain, suffering and learning than Cadre Manzanita pictured below. This stuff is nasty and can really ruin your whole day. Manzanita is the reason why you need to fully understand your sectional maps and what the lines and shading means. This knowledge can help you work smarter not harder. Climbing up through dense brush is not working smart at all, it’s the ultimate in working harder and costs time and energy, which Team Yellow learned the hard way. ManzanitaShrubBranches_wb

Making it Home to Fort Living Room

Cadre Hawke and Cadre Big Chris took us through the basics of survival with death by a thousand Power Point slides. Honestly, it was not that bad since both Cadre Hawke and Cadre Big Chris were engaging, funny and told awesome stories based on real world experiences.

Cadre Hawke’s approach to survival is a mix of common sense, be prepared and do what the locals do. Everything he taught us just made sense. He even debunked some common myths such as you can’t drink seawater (you can if it’s diluted) and you can drink urine to a point (urine is sterile but you need to worry about the ureic acid concentration). We also learned that it’s best to always carry a mini-lighter in your pocket, have a fixed blade survival knife, the meat left after you shake a carcass is good and anything over 12-inches is just a waste. The field part of the survival class had us look at different kinds of shelters and how to build a solar still. Everyone enjoyed this part because we got to get out of the classroom and into the field.

Shelter construction techniques vary widely but the principle message was that a shelter needs to protect you from the elements you are in. If it’s windy, you would build it one way as opposed to if it was raining. A shelter also needs to be close enough to your fire so that you can reach over and stoke it but not too close that you set your shelter on fire. All common sense but good to have reinforced.

Construction of our solar still was a lot of fun. The basic idea is that you dig a hole, throw in a bunch of green vegetation in, place a cup in the center, put a plastic bag over it and wait for the sun to evaporate the water from the vegetation. This evaporated water then collects on the plastic bag and drips into your cup. We never did confirm that it collected any water but I’m sure we got some.

Photo by Alvin Louie

Photo by Alvin Louie

Aha. Look what I’ve created. I have made FIRE

Primitive man must have felt the same joy that my fire team felt when our magnesium shaving drenched pathetic attempt at a birds nest engulfed in flames. And I’m also sure that during their version of a touchdown dance they promptly blew the fire out just like we did.

Starting fire by means other than a match or lighter is thrilling. It’s also an extremely valuable survival skill since fire can warm you up, signal your location and generally improve your morale. Cadre Joel gave us some great advice about always looking for materials to start a fire. He told us to always try to gather up dry moss, birds nests, small sticks and anything that can easily be set ablaze. Another important thing was to over do it on the magnesium shavings — you can never have too much of that. During our culex, our team found a functional lighter that we got to use to start our end of culex fire. It pays to have your head on a swivel and to be always looking at your surroundings.

Photo by Capt. Paige Bowie

Photo by Capt. Paige Bowie

Babes In the Woods

The range of skill sets and experiences of the participates (60 total) ranged from “I hike in my city park” to “I volunteer for mountain search and rescue.” Of course, all were GRT’s which meant we were used to rucking 12+ hours while hungover.

Even though everyone came from different backgrounds, we all felt like babes in the woods when it came to the culex. Human nature is fascinating especially when you have a bunch of GRT’s who are used to action. When a person or group is under stress, a lot of strange things happen. Logic and reason fly out the window and the “gotta get there” mentality takes over. Out of all the potential hazards in the wilderness, the one that posses the most risk to you is you! The reason for this is simple. We tend to over inflate our abilities, rely on “this feels like the right way” and get fixated on easy to do tasks. If you can control that, you’re a lot better off.

Learning by Failing Safe

The method of teaching at navigator was to fill our head with a lot of information and skills and then send us out in the wilderness to fail safe. This may seem cruel or even counterintuitive to most people but as Team Yellow’s Cadre Chris Way put it, “you have to experience getting lost in the woods before you appreciate how easy it is and how hard it is to get un-lost.” This is spot on. I could tell you a 1,000 times what to do when you are lost in the woods but until you are tired, hungry, stressed, second-guessing yourself, melting down, bickering with teammates and in the dark, it will never fully register.

Even though you must experience this for yourself to appreciate it (I highly recommend you sign up for one if you are interested), here are some of the lessons Team Yellow (and most other teams) learned by failing safe:

  • Trust your equipment over yourself: Your equipment will not lie but you will lie to yourself.

  • Humans make mistakes: Never assume that something is correct on a map. Double and triple confirm.

  • Verify your assumptions and be data driven: Don’t just assume something is correct. Look at the data you have collected and adjust your thinking if that’s what the data says.

  • Altitude is your friend: Get as high as you can so you can see the terrain.

  • Remain calm: Being calm will allow you to make better decisions and will reduce the anxiety level of the people around you.

  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team: Give tasks to people that cater to their skills especially during stressful situations.

  • Have a plan and a backup plan: Always have a plan when you enter the woods as well as a backup plan if things go wrong.

  • Follow the terrain contour not just the straight line path: Don’t hard charge up a hill because it’s a straight line path. That will just tire you out.

  • Map bearing and compass bearing are different: Your map is what you are walking on. Your compass is wrong and needs to be adjusted.

  • At night, constantly check your location: The night makes navigation extremely hard. You can drift a lot easier with no frames of reference.

This may seem like common sense to most of you (frankly it is) but when you are in a survival situation, common sense is not so common and our experiences and training (or lack thereof) take over quickly.

Team “Just Go South”

My team, Team Yellow, learned the above lessons the hard way. We were doing great right until it got dark. Once the sun dipped down below the horizon, our pace slowed, we got disoriented and we started to make simple mistakes. One mistake was not properly correcting for declination (e.g. The different between the map and the compass). Our mantra was to “just go south” when we really need to subtract the declination and go more south-east.

Another simple mistake was that we never picked a close by landmark to navigate too. This meant that as we zigged and zagged around obstacles, we just kept a southerly bearing, which is kinda like walking while drunk. We may have been going “south” but we more like drifting south-west, then south, then south-east and back again.

All of this added up to Team Yellow getting lost and hacking our way through Manzanita grove after Manzanita grove. At one point, we crested a hill with a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe, which as Cadre Chris put it,“”Well, you can still see the lake so you aren’t THAT hopelessly fucked.” Yes, it’s always good to know that it can always get worse.

Photo by Chris Way

Photo by Chris Way

A Deep Sense of Camaraderie and Respect for Nature

For me and a lot of my fellow participates, the whole navigator experience boiled down to being in nature with a bunch of great people that are as weird as you are. From the pre-nav birthday BBQ (hosted by Dan and Amy) for Amy and Cynthia, seeing bears above Quail Lake, Rebecca “One Pole” trying to set up her tent, the tragic news of fellow GRT Jeff Proietti’s passing, Rocco’s insistence on hydrating, the funny and touching moment when John helped Laurie wash her hair and rockstar photographer Tosh barking out “I need 4 people to move this table in 10 seconds. Hurry up!”

Everyone I talked to about their navigator experience felt it was wonderful and they learned a lot about themselves and others. The lessons learned go far beyond how to survive in the wilderness because anytime you get a bunch of good people together, you share priceless moments that no social media feed, picture, tweet or blog post can reproduce. As Cadre Bert says, GORUCK makes Facebook friends real friends. It’s these bonding experiences that allows us to grow towards being the best people we can be. For that, we should all be eternally grateful.

The Two Simple Rules For Acheiving Goals

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We talked about the importance of setting specific and achievable goals in this post The Two Simple Rules For Setting Goals. Now, let’s talk about the two most important factors in achieving those goals — accountability and encouragement.

Tell The World Your Goals

Accountability is a power motivator to achieve your goals because it gives you a reason beyond yourself to do well. It also keeps you honest as to what you said you would do and gives you that “gut check” that you are making progress towards your goals.

Specific and actionable goals with accountability will almost always get achieved.

When you tell the world, or just your family and friends, your goals, the goal then becomes bigger than you. Other people are now part of the goal and they now have a vested interested in its achievement. This vested interests leads to the 2nd factor in achieving a goal — encouragement.

You Can Do It

Encouragement to complete your goals can come in many forms. From the cheer of the crowd, a random forum post, a text message or email, all forms of encouragement is needed to give you that little nudge to keep going.

Encouragement also shows that your support network is strong and will not let you falter until your goal is achieved. This support will get you through those tough times when all seems lost.

Go On, Set and Achieve Some Goals

Ultimately it’s up to each and every one of us to set and achieve our own goals. If we make our goals specific and achievable as well as hold ourselves accountable and seek out encouragement, there is nothing we can’t do. Go ahead. Give it a try and see what happens.

P.S.

One other thing to remember. Just because we finish a goal, does not mean our journey ends. We must constantly be setting and achieving goals. Don’t let short term success breed compliance behavior or you will be stuck in a rut forever.


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The Two Simple Rules For Setting Goals

goals

Setting goals is a big part of success. Without specific and achievable goals, your success will be left up to faith and random luck — which is no way to live.

Goal setting is a simple yet powerful way to achieve what you want to achieve. The most powerful types of goals (e.g. The ones that are most achieved) have two things in common. They are specific and achievable.

Be Specific

It’s great to want to be successful but you will never achieve success unless you define what success is to you. That’s why if you have a goal of being successful, you must make it as specific as possible.

Poorly Worded Goal: I want to lose weight

Better Worded Goal: I want to lose 30 pounds

Still Better Goal: I want to lose 30 pounds in 6 months by cooking my own food and running.

The more specific, the more actionable the goal is and the easier the goal will be to achieve.

Break Big Goals Into Smaller Goals

Now that you have your big goal, it’s essential that you break down your big goal into smaller goals.

Breaking down your goals into quanta size chunks makes monitoring your progress much easier. It also allows you to celebrate the small wins on your way to achieving your bigger goals. These small wins will get you in the mindset to think more positively about your circumstances and reinforce a can do attitude.

Be Achievable

Another aspect of goals is that they must be achievable. Goals that are not achievable will just frustrate you to no end. This does not mean you don’t set grand goals. This just means that the probability of achieving your goals needs to be better than 50/50 or it may just be a futile effort.

Let’s say you want to run a marathon but your are 30 pounds overweight. The big goal is run a marathon which is achievable but would be even more achievable if you lost 30 pounds first. The incremental goal of losing 30 pounds (which could be it’s own big goal) paves the way to the bigger goal of finishing a marathon.

The best types of goals build on themselves because they are achievable. This cycle of goal achievement is what fuels more and more accomplishment.

What Goals Do You Have?

It’s important to set goals for yourself simply because it gives you something to focus on. Without focus, it can be hard to get done what you want to get done.

One other aspect of achieving your goals is to let others know. This not only gives you the accountability that will keep you honest but also give you a support group that can give you that little nudge when you need it.


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Make it Happen Quickly, or Your Ideas will Soon be Irrelevant

endurance_tweet_aha_17

In the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Jiro Ono explains his passion for making the best sushi in the world and the secret to his success.

Jiro’s restaurant was the first sushi restaurant to receive 3 Michelin Stars. Jiro’s attitude about his work is a fanatical pursuit of perfection that he knows he can’t achieve but must always strive for. He says he will always reach for the top but no one knows where the top is.

His career advice is simple. Do what you love since you will be doing it your whole life. If you don’t love what you do, do something else.

The Safe Comfortable Life is Neither Safe Nor Comfortable

Most of us want a safe and comfortable life. We don’t want to struggle too much or face constant adversity. To achieve this, most of us conform to what reasonable and rational people would do — get an education then get a job.

This seems safe but it’s not.

It’s a shame that what’s perceived as safe and comfortable is neither. In fact, if we don’t pursue what we were born to do, our safe and comfortable existence gets tempered by sorrow and regret.

This sorrow and regret makes us miserable and less able to bounce back from adversity when it eventually strikes.

If we pursue what we truly want to do, then our lives become full of meaning and joy. We don’t think of work as work — rather an extension of our being. This provides the needed inspiration and drive to continue on. Without such inspiration and drive, we become a fraction of our true selves.

Most Decisions Are Reversible

Life and career decisions can be reversed if we truly get in touch with our passions and desires. Once passion and desire is aligned, we can build the courage to start. It’s never to late for that to happen.

Ways to Take Action

  1. Define your happiness: Only you know what makes you happy. Define your happiness and everything will fall into place.

  2. Cast away social norms: Social norms can sometimes be a challenge to overcome but they must be cast aside so that we can truly be who we want to be.

  3. Find your passion: A passion is something that consumes us, engages us and nurtures us. If you find your true passion, then enduring becomes easier.

  4. Don’t look back: Too often, we look back at past decisions and worry if they were right or wrong. Stop doing that. Never look back. Only learn from past mistakes and move on.


This aha is from my book, #ENDURANCE tweet Book 01— A Little Nudge to Keep You Going. The book is chalked full of mantras, sayings, words of wisdom and encouragements to help you get past your challenges so you can achieve your goals. If you found this aha inspiring or helpful, then I would appreciate your support by sharing it with a friend and/or purchasing a copy of the book. If you missed any past amplified posts, check out the #ENDURANCE tweet Amplified! page. Thanks for reading and keep enduring!

Nurturing Your Leadership Soul

Leaders Should be the Symbolic Soul of a Community — Deepak Chopra

You don’t have to be religious to think you have a soul. Scientists are starting to understand more and more about how are brains functions via imaging the functioning brain during activities. These studies have shown that emotions may explain inconsistencies in human behavior that are deemed to be irrational. Irrational responses are those that deviate from what would be optimal for survival. These emotional responses are unique to each and every one of us and evolve over time.

Sure, it may just be a bunch of random neurons firing that makes us, well us, but for simplicity, we will name these emotional overrides our soul and explore how it influences our leadership style.

Your Different Personas

Sometimes people have different personas depending on their environment. In one situation, they may be a supporter or a dad or a mom or or a leader or a boss or even just a bystander.

Even though your personas may change, all of them rely on your underlying soul. Your soul is always at the ready to guide you beyond your primal instincts and into the realm of compassion, justice, commitment, morality and sense of purpose.

This is an important concept to understand. It’s the underlying soul that every leader wants to develop and nurture to serve them and their supporters well.

Developing and Nurturing Your Soul

A soulful leader understands that it’s about the cause, supporters, mission or task and not about themselves. From a survival perspective, this is completely counterintuitive but does have some grounding in our tribal nature where we had to cooperate to survive.

Developing and nurturing the leaders soul requires a tremendous amount of patience, practice and an understanding of the true nature of leadership. Without such an understanding, you end up being a mediocre leader.

The True Nature of Leadership

Leadership is first and foremost about collecting supporters and resources to accomplish a common goal that could not be accomplished individually. The leaders main objective is to marshal enough supporters and other resources to achieve the groups objectives in a timely manner.

These objectives are beyond the leader. They are even beyond the group of supporters that choose to follow the leader. In reality, the leader is the focal point for the effort — nothing more, nothing less.

This may seem simplistic but it’s not. The focal point of any effort is the point of maximum intensity. It’s the point that moves the collective in the direction it needs to go. It’s this focal point that the leader needs to be comfortable with and also guide by digging deep in their soul for guidance and inspiration.

Ways to Be a More Soulful Leader

Great leaders are constantly trying to develop their skills — be it organizational, oral or operational. These skills give the leader the means to achievement but never the meaning behind achievement. That’s where the soul comes in.

Our souls are what guide our actions. It’s the soul that makes those emotional decisions that deflect our behavior away from the primitive into the cognitive. It’s our soul that catches us when we are about to make decisions that have far reaching consequences.

To help you develop and strengthen your leadership soul, ponder these simple techniques:

  • Be mindful of your impact: Leaders have a tremendous amount of power. Even the most mundane comment or action has repercussions. Tread lightly on off-handed comments and always be optimistic.

  • Think like a novice: The curse of knowledge makes it sometimes hard to connect. Thinking like a novice gives you the perspective that not everyone can or will understand the effort as well as you do. Keep it simple but don’t make it stupid.

  • Work in the trenches: There is nothing like seeing an operation from the ground level. Always embrace the chance to get out there and be with the people doing the work. It will give you perspectives that you can can’t get anywhere else.

  • Embrace the mundane: The leader who endures, is the leader who will ultimately be successful. The ultimate test of a leaders endurance is the mundane tasks that no one likes or wants to do. Embrace those tasks by actually doing those tasks. It will demonstrate that you are not above any job.

  • Think beyond yourself: Don’t confuse your ego with your soul — they are linked but are usually in conflict. Instead, think about how your role amplifies your supporters not how your supporters amplify you. By doing this, you will always make the proper priority calls.

  • Listen to detractors, challenge supporters: All detractors speak some truth. Listen to them but don’t be consumed by them. Supporters will give you the benefit of the doubt and will also not question you as much. Make sure you challenge them and be the internal detractor. By doing this, you strengthen your ability to understand and rise above the conflicts that will naturally arise.

  • Stay focused yet broaden your horizon: A leader who is distracted on too many things will dilute their influence and the influence of their group. Focus is the key to maintaining that drive to accomplishment but it can’t be all about the end result. A soulful leader looks beyond the current goals and sees what’s next be it the next conflict, opportunity, movement, project or obstacle.

The central theme behind a soulful leader is that they have an inner calm and strength that transcends the situation they find themselves in. By developing this inner calm and strength, the leaders soul guides them down the right path.

Soulful Leadership is Not Wimpy Leadership

Most of the time, the soul is thought of as the softer side of our personalities. Kinda the “touchy/feely” part of our personalities.

That’s not all true.

Soulful leadership is more about being in tune with yourself so you can be in turn with your supporters. Without this alignment, the effort will soon drift off course. The reason for this is simple — if the leader does not know where to go and is not guided by solid principles, then they will drift aimlessly. Once adrift, the effort will soon lose focus, momentum and quickly disband.

The soulful leader has no such problems since they are driven by an internal calm that guides them even through the most turbulent circumstances. This calm is derived from the knowledge that the leaders actions and intent are purely for the good of the cause and their supporters.

Listen to Your Soul

Some leaders call their soul their gut. Others call it their experience or intuition. Still others call it their consensus. Whatever you call it, it’s the most important tool in your leadership arsenal since it defines you, strengthens you, frustrates you and inspires you to lead.

Without listening to your soul, a leader cannot fully realize their potential nor the potential of their organization or supporters.

It’s the soulful leader that truly understands it’s always about the movement and supporters and never about themselves.

Building Your Leadership Small Counsel

Source: http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/File:Small-council.png

Every man, however wise, needs the advice of some sagacious friend in the affairs of life. — Plautus

Good advice is one of those things that every leader needs. The world is just too complex to figure everything out for yourself.

When a leader asks for advice, they are opening themselves up to different perspectives and paths that their group may want to take. All advice is not created equal and must be weighted carefully with the facts as you know them and your experience.

Leaders who develop a small counsel of advisors create a valuable and lasting resource for themselves and their organizations. This counsel can be the difference between good leaders and great leaders.

Choosing your small counsel can be a daunting task. It’s vital to get the right mix or the counsel could be skewed towards making bad decisions or infighting.

Choosing Your Small Counsel

Your small counsel needs to be a dedicated group of people who have your best interest at heart. Conversely, the members of your small counsel also need to have a diverse set of skills and knowledge so that they can be effective in giving you advice.

For most small counsels, there are five people that you should consider:

Chief of Staff

Every leader needs a right hand. This is typically the chief of staff who serves as the surrogate leader. The chief of staff is the most critical position on the small counsel since they really are looking out for the best interest of the leader and the organization always.

A strong chief will know who is telling the truth, who has an alternative motive, who wants more power and who can be trusted. A chief serve their leader and organization well when they put the leader and organization interest above their own.

Intelligence

Every leader needs someone who can get the G2 on situations of interest to the small counsel.

This intelligence gathering takes on many forms but centers around getting the most up to date intelligence so that the leader and counsel can make informed decisions.

A data driven counsel will make better decisions and when that data is relevant, up to date and accurate, decisions will be made.

Elder Statesman

History and tradition are important elements of any organization. The Elder Statesman (or woman) is the keeper of the history of the organization and it’s traditions. They keep the leader grounded in the fundamentals of why the organization exists and the unique roles people play in it.

The Elder Statesmen does not have to be the oldest person in the room but they need to have the deepest knowledge of the organization and the environment in which it acts. They also need to be well respected so that when controversial issues come up, they are dealt with in the correct manner.

Treasurer

No organization can function without some form of funds.

The treasurer is the one who raises and keeps track of those funds. They are also the ones that typically inject a solid dose of reality into the group, especially when it comes to grandiose plans and extravagant expenditures.

A good treasure is trustworthy since they deal with sensitive financial matters and understands that the war chest needs to be maintained in perfect order.

Sargent at Arms

At some point, an organization will need to pick a fight. They may not want to, nor even know the fight is upon them but every single organization will have to take a stand on something. That’s where the Sargent at Arms or Strategist comes in.

The Sargent at Arms is not afraid of a fight and knows when to take up the charge and when to retreat to a more defensible position. They are usually aggressive in wanting to protect the organization and leader. This is usually a source of productive tension between them and the rest of the group.

Organization Are All Different Yet The Same

Almost all small counsels will have these five types of people on them — even if you only run a local neighborhood board, PTA, non-profit, political campaign or major corporation. The only type of organization that does not have a small counsel are ones with mediocre leadership or leaders who think they don’t need any help.

The reason the mix stays roughly the same is that all leaders face the same issues and challenges. All worry about finances, what their competitors are doing, not repeating the mistakes of the past and wonder when to flee or fight.

A leader may never need all of their counsels advice but it’s always good to have them around to bounce ideas off. It’s this dynamic of debate that strengthens the leaders decision making and ultimately leads to a better leader and organization.

Embracing the Leadership Zig and Zag

Change.

Some say that change is the only constant.

For the leader, change is not only a constant but the reason leaders are needed in the first place. It’s change that tests our leadership mental and pushes us to look for better ways to achieve our objectives and the objectives of our organizations.

Why Change is Scary

Change almost always catches us off guard. It’s not that we don’t expect change — it’s just that it never comes about how we envisioned it. For some, this is extremely uncomfortable. For most, it’s the reason they don’t push through their struggles to achieve their goals.

Change should not be scary. It’s a natural part of our life and if embraced, can lead to more opportunities.

Embracing change means that you are open to changing your direction when required. Embracing change means that when change zigs, you zag and vice versa.

The Risky Part of Zigging and Zagging

One of the major drives of being change adverse is the risk involved with zigging and zagging around an issue, obstacle or setback. This risk is real but not as scary as most people think.

Risks can be mitigated and the leader who understands risk, assesses the options and then takes calculated risks will be more successful and more resilient than the leader who stays on an unproductive path.

When to Zig, When to Zag and When to Completely Change Course

Most leaders wait too long to zig and zag. They usually fall into this trap because they have made a huge investment in their present course and don’t want to look foolish or rethink their brilliant plan.

That’s absurd.

The leader who does not change course when they need to, will look more foolish when the entire effort careens into the side of the mountain. Changing course or direction too often is also a bad idea but don’t let that stop you from truly assessing the situation by following these guidelines:

  • Three steps ahead: As much as you can, think ahead of your present course. By doing this, you can anticipate course corrections you might have to make.

  • Down the rabbit hole: It’s fine to explore new opportunities but don’t get distracted down a course that going to only be marginally fruitful or downright distracting. Remain focused on your goals.

  • Natural forks in the road: There will always be decision points that come along in every effort. These decision points need to be vetted and contemplated so that the right decisions are made.

  • Beyond the finish line: Looking beyond the end makes it much easier to anticipate how decisions will impact not just finishing but what happens after the finish. All projects or efforts have long lasting impacts so look a little farther and anticipate them.

  • Multiple data points don’t lie: Too often, a leader will stay on a given course simply because they don’t want to change. If you are hearing from multiple people, in multiple ways that things are just not working, that’s a pretty strong indication to change course.

Embrace Change by Learning to Zig and Zag

Change is a scary thing. Anytime something changes, we are put in a vulnerable position simply because change creates an opportunity for both success and failure. Being able to zig and zag when change occurs will allow you to become resilient to change. This resiliency will make it possible to adapt and overcome the challenges you and your effort will face.

By learning to zig and zag, you create more opportunities for success because opportunities are everywhere and it’s the leader that understands and grasps those opportunities that will be successful.

 

Leadership and the Crucible of Struggle

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. — Frederick Douglass

A leaders mental is forged in the crucible of struggle.

Without struggle, a leader is not a true leader.

Without struggle, there is no need for leadership

Without struggle, our leadership muscles become weak and atrophied.

Most of us see struggle as something to be avoided, side stepped, delayed for another day, pawned off on others or simply the point at which to give up.

That’s the wrong way to thing about it.

Every leader, at every level of an organization, should embrace struggle since that’s the reason why leaders are needed in the first place.

Struggle Is The Path to Wisdom and Growth

Our struggles are gifts. They teach us a tremendous amount about ourselves, others and the world we live in. Struggle makes victory that much sweeter, that much better and that much more fulfilling.

Wisdom is the ultimate result of the struggles we face. There really is no book, class or lecture one can attend to learn the true wisdom that struggling through challenges imparts upon us.

Growth only occurs when we push our frontiers and struggle against our urges to stay in our comfort zone. Comfort is the enemy of growth because it puts us in the mindset that this is it, I have arrived and I don’t want to change.

Struggle upsets that comfort zone and makes us stretch farther than we think we can.

Don’t Give Up. Don’t Give In

Wisdom and growth come through struggling past our limits. By pushing that extra little bit, you push past your comfort zone and start to expand into the unknown. This is the place where you can’t give up or give in to your primal urge to revert back to a safe and comfortable place.

As I have talked about before, endurance athletes struggle both physically and mentally to finish a race when their bodies and minds are telling them to quit. They constantly fear a Did Not Finish (DNF) and will struggle through a tremendous amount of pain to make it past the finish line.

All leaders need to continue their struggle to cross their own finish lines. That’s how your mental is forged. That’s how you get the confidence to push the envelope. That’s how you motivate your supporters to continue to support you even when they don’t want to move another step.

As a leader, you job is to out endure the struggles you and your supporters face.

Methods to Overcome Your Struggles

Leaders at all levels and in all organizations will struggle to find their way. Most with breakdown under the stress and pressure to perform when all seems futile.

You need to act different.

Breaking through your struggles is about accepting the fact that struggle is going to be a constant — just like change. Overcoming struggle is more about your attitude than your aptitude.

Consider these simple ways to embrace, conquer and grow from your leadership struggles.

 

  • Look for the opportunity: There is opportunity in every setback, stumble or failure. Seize these opportunities by being open to them and not being negative.

  • Make it about the situation: Lots of leaders take things personal. Don’t. Always make it about the situation and never think about it as a personal attack — even when people are attacking you.

  • Chop the wood in front of you: Too often, leaders want to work or think about longer term, sexy projects that are exciting instead of getting the tasks that need to get done now. Focus on the now while still thinking about the future.

  • Recruit others to help: There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it’s one of the signs of a confident leader.

  • Be a solver not a complainer: We can all complain about a situation but it’s the rare person that solves the problem instead of complaining about it.

  • Embrace the uncertainty: Life is full of uncertainty. Nothing is guaranteed. Embrace that. When something zigs, you zag. When a situation changes, adapt and overcome — don’t get stuck.

  • Fear inaction not failure: The worst thing a leader can do is not act. Even if the action is not perfect, you have to do something. By doing something, you get the momentum going. You also create opportunities that would not be available if you sat around and did nothing.

Embrace Your Struggles

Struggle is good for a leader. It’s the crucible of struggle that forms a leaders mental. Without struggle, leaders would have nothing to champion or lead.

When dealing with your struggles, be it internal or external, you should always remember that what you are going through is an opportunity to grow and thrive as a leader. Realize that and every struggle will be an opportunity for growth.

The Simple Reason to Become a Present Leader

Presence is not just about showing up and being “present.” It’s about being in the moment with your supporters and fulling engaging the issues, joys, sadness, sorrows or triumphs that confront every leader.

Lots of leaders show up but are not in the moment. They find themselves distracted by whatever other crisis, issue or meeting they have to jump to. This makes them ineffective at gathering the needed intelligence they need to make good decisions.

Why Be Present

A lot of things can happen when you interact with your supporters. From the mundane chit chat about the weather to the insightful words of someone who truly understands the issues at hand. These moments of both seemly meaningless interactions and profound realizations are lost when the leader is not fully and completely in the moment.

Being present, both mind and body, makes your supporters appreciate that you care enough to take the time to understand the challenges they face.

The Benefits of Being Present

Being present for the leader goes beyond how it makes your supporters feel. For the leader, it allows them to fully and completely process the situations they are dealing with. By fully engaging with the event or situation, a present leader can sift through the noise and get to the meat of a challenge. This allows the leader to make better and better decisions as well as instill a confidence within their supporters.

Training Yourself to Be Present

Presence is all about experience and detail. Too often, leaders are distracted on their smart phones or wondering when they have to leave. This creates a situation where you miss the little things.

These little things are what make the richness and depth of the experience meaningful.

These little things are what give you the insight into what matters.

These little things are the difference between good leaders and great leaders.

So What’s the Trick

The simple fact about being present is that you have to consume the details without being consumed by them. This means clearing your mind of everything that’s not right in front of you.

By doing this, you will start to notice the little details that before, were hidden. These details can be as simple as the color of the room, the pictures on the wall or the number of people seated before you.

While this may seem mundane, this ability to see the detail makes you present in the room. You start to pay more attention to what is being said, the mood of the room, how people react to your words, how they react to others and what brings the room down.

This also applies to personal interactions. Listening and absorbing what someone is saying not only gives you vital information but it also shows that you care enough to listen — which is half the battle in gaining support for your cause.

Ways to Practice and Reinforce Being Present

Presence sounds simple but like anything needs to be practiced and reinforced. Consider some of the techniques below to be and stay present:

  • Notice the details: Details are important. Absorbing even the most minor one opens up your perspective. These seemly minor details are subtle clues to the mood of the group.

  • Follow up on a specific detail: Nothing helps the leaders cause like a personal connection. Connecting with others requires making the connection personal and specific to them.

  • Approach someone on the fringe: The fringe is where the real action is. These are the people and spaces that push the limits and setup future events. Seek out those on the fringe — they usually have the most insights into the future.

  • Browse the room: Make it a point to take in the entire room or space. Walk around. Sit. Stare. Notice the details and where people stand and mingle.

  • Jot down a few notes: Keep a notebook or piece of paper to jot down some notes. Don’t take a lot of notes but enough to jog your memory on specific details.

The Moment is Now

Leaders who are present can read a situation and adjust accordingly. This ability to adapt will allow you to gain the most impact from your actions and words. Without such presence, most of your supporters will wonder if you are really in tune with their needs.