“The only easy day was yesterday.”
Motto of the Navy SEALs
When it comes to toughness and being “forged by adversity,” it’s hard to beat the Navy SEALs. Just consider this statement from the “Ethos” description on their Web site:
“I will lead by example. I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my team-mates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
Wow! It’s no wonder that the US sailing team turned to the SEALs for help in toughening up for the Olympics. They got more than they bargained for! The SEALs pushed the team’s members to the limit, physically and mentally. But the benefits of being motivated by the best can be tremendous.
Here’s what a gold medalist swimmer said about his SEALs training experience: “I guess what I took away from that was that the human body can always achieve more than we believe. And that’s controlled purely by our minds.” The US Sailing team’s head coach agrees: The biggest part of this is the mental side of it — that they don’t quit, that they keep on going. That’s the biggest lesson.”
When athletes find the rigorous drills they’re asked to do to be overwhelming, the SEALs tell them to screen out everything around them focus only on their next step — to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.
When I think about writing, this step-by-step approach seems incredibly relevant. So often, we face distractions in our day which threaten our resolve and eat into our time on the page. If we can just focus on the next word — on putting one word in front of the other, then we can screen out everything around us and stay totally attuned to the work at hand.
Among the many things we can learn from the SEALs, there’s another that seems very valuable for us as writers: the importance of making a mental decision not to quit — to keep on going — even when what we’re writing seems lousy or when we feel as if we’re light years away from finishing. My friend and mentor Rob Gilbert quotes a great saying, “Don’t quit, can’t fail.” If we can be as “unquittably” (just coined this word!) committed as the SEALs, then there’s nothing we can’t do — on the page or off it. Write on!