Top Menu
Unbeatable™ Podcast

Tap Into Your Mental Toughness

By July 22, 2021 August 6th, 2021 No Comments

Today Mark is responding to listeners’ demand for more insight on developing mental toughness. He breaks down his approach and goes over his top strategies for strengthening the unbeatable mind.

Hear about:

  • How mentally tough people control their emotions
  • PBOODA – Pause, Breath, Observe, Orient, Decide, Act
  • The sniper (content mind) and spotter (contextual mind) and how to actively train them
  • PESLA – Plan, Execute, Stumble, Learn, Adapt

Listen to this episode so you can take the first step to train your mind.

It seems like often it’s assumed that only if you’re diabetic do you have to worry about blood sugar. But blood sugar levels from processed or high carb foods affect all of us.

Blood sugar breakthrough from BiOptimizer is specifically formulated to help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. They went through 5 different formulations before they found the right one. It redirects carbs to your muscles to be burned for energy instead of being stored as fat.

Go to to save 10% on your order.

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. At this point in time, therapy can be a necessity to help you experience all the happiness and fulfilment that you deserve. However, going to a therapist can be uncomfortable and difficult for many people.

That’s where BetterHelp comes in. They offer online therapy from certified, professional therapists. You can start with them in less than 48 hours. Go to to take advantage of 10% off the first month for Unbeatable Mind listeners.

Mark is happy to have Vincero watches as a sponsor of this podcast. These guys know just how important it is to look and feel your best and they are here to help keep you motivated through 2021 and beyond.

Finding a watch that’s stylish, classy, and built to last can cost a pretty penny. Vincero watches is changing that. They believe you deserve to look good no matter your budget. You deserve better than settling for something underwhelming. No matter who you are, what your job is, how old you are, or where you live, there will always be an occasion when you’ll want/need to look your best.

Go to, check out their beautiful timepieces and take advantage of Mark’s special code UNBEATABLE to get a 20% off discount while you shop. You don’t have to pay full price for these beautiful timepieces. Head over to their store, pick out a beautiful watch, and then get it at a great price using Mark’s UNBEATABLE code at checkout.

Ten Thousand is dedicated to producing the best clothes for your workouts. Mark has been using the 7” Tactical Short. Tactical Short was developed and tested with over 50 Special Ops Members who put it to the test by rucking, swimming, lifting and just all around beating it up, producing the holy grail of tough workout shorts. We worked with individuals from special ops teams across all branches of the military: Navy SEALs, Navy EOD, Marine Raiders, Army Green Berets, Army Rangers, and Air Force Special Operations.

Go to and enter the code UNBEATABLE at checkout to receive a 15% discount off your order.

Love the Unbeatable Mind Podcast? Click here to subscribe on iTunes.

We’d love your feedback, please leave a rating and review.


Hi folks. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining me today. Super-stoked to have you here.

Please rate this podcast. It’s very helpful for others to find it. We have over a thousand five star reviews – so, wherever you listen to it, go and rate it, if you would. That’d be awesome…

And like I said it’ll help other people find the podcast who may be interested as well.

Today I have a solocast. My team asked on my Instagram channel – my new Instagram channel @realmarkdivine, by the way, if you want to go check out some of the cool things, we’re posting over there @realmarkdivine.

Help me grow the following, because it’s new… like I said, my social media was all kind of buried in SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind for years, and we’re trying to break it out, and to make it stand alone.

So I only think I have like 35,000 followers – so let’s get that up to a hundred thousand and more, so we can expand the reach of the Unbeatable Mind tribe.

At any rate – those who are following me – and some of you are listening – we recently asked what you would like to hear about. And one theme that came up a few times, in a few different ways actually, was mental toughness. So I thought I’d just riff on some mental toughness today.

And another one was how to build elite teams, so we’ll riff on that next time… and there are a bunch of other things that I’ll probably touch on at some point just as part and parcel of what we’re talking about here.

All right. So, no guest today. Here we go – what is mental toughness? Obviously, I’ve thought a lot about this topic, being an expert in mental toughness – but it’s kind of like saying you’re an expert in leadership, right? It’s a pretty broad topic. So it’s helpful to break it down.

We’re talking about being tough, and we’re talking about mental – the mind… so, we’re talking about toughness of the mind.

To me, what is toughness? Let’s start there. Toughness is the ability to commit to something and see it through. Its mental resilience around the capacity to deal with the inevitable setbacks and to learn from them. And to grow, and to not get frustrated, and not to lose motivation.

So the qualities of mental toughness include consistent ability to find motivation where it’s at when you need it – even if you feel like you’ve lost the bubble a little bit, or lost focus – you can re-find it…

I think motivation is something that needs to be earned every day. It’s not something that is endless or limitless in supply – that’s my experience. And I think a lot of you might agree…

Like sometimes you just don’t feel motivated… like, you’ve been kicked a few too many times, or maybe you’ve lost sight of the original “why,” or the “why” has changed… target has moved.

Your team has all gone negative on you… whatever… it could be a hundred reasons why motivation wanes. And so being mentally tough is the ability to find that motivation right here, right now by resetting. By looking within, and reconnecting to a “why.” By recharging up the original vision or tapping into the new vision by understanding the context as well as the content of the situation.

We’re going to get into that more… and, by becoming very iterative and adaptive with how you approach your decision making. So we’re going to talk about that as well.

Furthermore, individuals who are mentally tough are positive – meaning they’ve curated their mindset to be positive and not to always look for what’s going wrong – or what has gone wrong, or how screwed up the situation is – to always find the silver lining. They’ll always ask what’s right, what’s good about the situation, what did we learn from the situation? What’s good about this person?

Instead of always looking for the wrong, or the pending doom, or the horror – and that really takes skill.

I’ve talked quite a bit about feeding courage and starving fear – eradicating the negativity bias by not plugging in anymore to other people’s negativity – whether it’s coming from social media, mainstream news – or your wife or husband. Or mom or dad, for that matter.

Don’t tap into the negative… don’t ride that train. And you don’t get there by focusing on saying, “I’m not gonna be fearful.” You focus on saying, “I’m going to be more positive.”

So you focus on the opposite. And by focusing on courage and positivity and the goodness of the situation or the positive side of the situation then you end up starving the energy that is given to the negative. And eventually it will dry up and go away.

You can’t fight like with like energy. So a mentally tough person is positive and courageous and not negative and fearful. Seems a pretty safe bet when I say that and you’re like, “yeah, that makes sense.” But of course it’s got to be trained. Because if you’re not training yourself, then someone else is training you.

So, that’s another quality of the mentally tough. Is that they take responsibility for training themselves day in and day out. They understand that the mind is the source of creation of all that’s in your life. And so, if you want to be tough then you foster courage.

And if you want to be adaptive, then you foster adaptability. And if you want to be positive you got to foster positivity. And if you want to have wealth and abundance, then you’ve got to foster a mindset that is wealthy and abundant.

Anything less than those is going to bring that which you think about into being. So if you think that you’re not worth wealth and abundance, then you will not have wealth and abundance… you’ll have the opposite.

And if you’re thinking all the time about how screwed up things are, how screwed up the other people are, then things are going to always seem screwed up to you. That’s how it works. We leave a carbon copy of our thoughts on us – whatever we think about the world or other people or the situation – we leave a carbon copy in and on ourselves.

There is no thought that leaves you permanently. So choose your thoughts wisely.

So the mentally tough curate the quality of their thoughts… they curate when to think and when to not think… that capability. And they curate the capability to know when to take action and when to stop and pause, and not take action.

So these are some of the qualities of mental toughness. We’re working with the mind – when you’re working with the mind you also have to recognize that it’s a two-sided glove – just like all gloves.

One side is cognition. And so we work on the quality of our cognition, and the performance of our brain. And the quality of our thoughts – things that I’ve just been speaking about – our attitude, our positive qualities, our abundance – all that kind of thing. Our ability to persevere in spite of the challenges that we’ll face…

But then the other side of the glove is the emotional side. And that’s still an aspect of your mind, although it can be said to be part of your body… the way that I look at it from the whole mind perspective is that your mind creates the body, so therefore emotions are part of the mind, but they’re experienced in the body.

Thoughts are experienced in your body, too. They’re experienced in your cranial housing group – aka brain – which is part of your body. So thoughts and emotions are just like sister and brother. So the mentally tough also take a hard look at their emotional self, and they become more emotionally aware. And they’re able to control their emotions, so they become less reactionary in a situation where they’re triggered.

And so emotionally or mentally tough people, are also emotionally controlled.

Now I’m not suggesting that someone who’s controlled in a sense, because they’ve had to suppress emotions, because they got brought up in a traumatic situation are emotionally aware, because they’re in control. That’s a different thing altogether.

Emotionally aware people are aware that they’ve suppressed emotions. And they’re able to work with that energy and to be able to feel those emotions. But then they’re able to still control the negative emotions, so they don’t act in a reactionary way when they’re triggered by a negative person or event.

So consider that. The mentally tough person is also emotionally aware and able to control their inner states and to be able to find the optimal energetic, emotional, and psychological patterns that will bring the massive successes they’re looking for.

And that needs to be trained. Back to the point about relentless daily training. Taking responsibility for training the mind, emotions and your body so that you can maintain positivity and an attitude of gratitude and abundance. And seeing the silver lining and being agile.

So having said this – it’s not easy being mentally tough given this criterion. It could take a lot of training. Some people have the great fortune of having grown up with mentally tough parents, or parent, or mentor. Or peers.

And so they learn a lot of this just through pure modeling. That is an ideal situation.

And then when you add on top of this the type of experiences that you gain through challenging things, where you have to confront your fears and confront being uncomfortable. And getting comfortable with that.

And overcoming challenges time and time again. So the arenas that people step into – and myself included, and many of you – where we have cultivated mental toughness and resiliency include athletic endeavors – especially hard sports like endurance athletics. Mine were rowing crew, and competitive swimming, and triathlons.

Or martial arts training jiu-jitsu, aikido – for me that’s been one of the more humbling practices – like it’s hard work to learn aikido – the art of peace… jiu-jitsu is a great one – it’s gut-wrenching work, and you’re always going to lose at least half your fights or more. So it’s humbling and it develops mental toughness.

Military training, or something that is similar for civilians – like SEALFIT or obstacle racing or GoRuck type challenges – they’re very, very good ways to develop resiliency.

Now just choosing a path to learn mastery of something, will do the same thing… it’s a little bit longer process, but if you want to master a language, master a musical instrument… some artistic endeavor – or really anything – and you stay committed over the long term, you’re going to face the same types of challenges and the same types of negative people and circumstances that you would face in a more condensed crucible event, such as SEALFIT’s Kokoro camp.

It’s just going to be spread out over a much longer period of time. There is a lot of benefit in condensing your challenges into a weekend or six or nine months in the case of SEAL training, because you can learn a lifetime in a very short period of time.

So that’s one way to gain these experiences – is to seek them out through your career, through mastery, through a crucible event or through an athletic endeavor.

And I’m sure there’s others. This is off the top of my head, here.

You can develop mental toughness and resiliency through trauma even. Like, through a challenging childhood… I have talked quite openly about the challenges I had with primarily my father, who was yeah… pretty rough, pretty abusive… rager – he used anger and rage to compensate for his feelings of inadequacy.

And so I learned a lot from that. I learned how to deal with pain and suffering – both mental, physical and emotional. And that served me well in the SEALs.

But the flip side of that is I also had to unlearn certain things. I had to get rid of and hand back to him the things that I didn’t need or weren’t serving me. Such as feelings of guilt or shame that the younger child takes on.

So I encourage you – if you’re in the same boat, where you had a difficult childhood – to look for the positive qualities that came out of that. Led to more mental toughness and resiliency.

And embrace those, own those… but go to town to work on the dark side of the shadow, or the limitations that that said childhood also brought you.

And to find the silver lining, and then to release any victimhood or victimization you might feel toward the perpetrator. Whoever that might be or whomever they might be.

Because – like I said earlier – holding on to judgment and holding on to being the victim. And anger or grief at having been a victim of some grievous thing – and I’m not saying that these aren’t good things or it’s easy to do this – but the right path is to eventually you’re going to need to let that go and forgive them. And also forgive yourself for hanging on to that for so long,

So that’s the flip side… if you grow up in one of those families and you can see the benefit and the resiliency and the mental toughness that that gave you on the positive side. And you can eradicate the shadow side – the negative aspects, through self-awareness and forgiveness – then you have an incredibly powerful one-two punch. And it makes you unbeatable, literally. Like there’s nobody who can hurt you. And you’re positive about it.

So that’s another way to consider maybe how you are already mentally tough, but you’re just not aware of it. Or you haven’t given yourself the permission to go that route. And to own that toughness.



Okay, let me talk about a few kinds of tools that we can use to reflect on this a little bit deeper. First is a tool that… it kind of popped up in a podcast once… I call it PBOODA – you’ve heard me talk about perhaps the OODA loop or you heard it somewhere else – and in my book “Staring Down the Wolf” – I introduced the PBTA model – pause, breathe, think and then act.

Well, thinking and acting really take a special kind of skill – when you’re mentally tough, you do it a little bit different way. You don’t just go out and act, and your thinking has a certain quality to it.

You learn how to think. You focus more on how to think than what to think, because the “what” is always going to change, it’s going to be based upon the context and the input of others. And so you focus more on how to think than what to think.

And the PBOODA model is a great way to do that. And so this is more of a situational decision model. And when you think of mental toughness, there’s long-term mental toughness like staying in the fight, being resilient over the long term, and meeting your commitments. Being responsible for your own learning from your screw-ups. And staying the course until your vision is accomplished – is fulfilled. Or your mission is accomplished or fulfilled for your team.

Then there’s the kind of more situational mental toughness – like, “man, that mortar just landed. And I’ve got to do something. Like, now.”

Like my friend Jason Redmond says, “I got to get off the x. I got to move.” But what if I move to the wrong place? What if I move into another ambush? Or run off the proverbial cliff? There’s got to be something that happens before just acting in a crisis.

And that’s the PBOODA, right? The pause, breathe, observe, orient, and then make a decision… to decide -all of that, precedes action.

The pause is just – when the proverbial ambush happens, you don’t move immediately – like, in the instant it happens – unless you’re extraordinarily highly trained – like, master martial artist – you’re going to just pause.

Because your first reaction could be deadly. Your first reaction is often the wrong reaction. And a lot of times we think it’s the right action… but more often it’s the wrong reaction, because it’s a patterned reaction. It’s a knee-jerk reaction.

And it could be leading you closer to danger. So we want to at least pause for one or two breath cycles. And that’s… the “P,B” is pause and breathe.

Now, what this does biologically or physiologically – the pause interrupts the reactionary mind. So right there, you’ve done a pattern interrupt which is going to stop your limbic system temporarily in its tracks. Your limbic system is immediately going into fight or flight, and it wants to take action – extreme action – and like I said, sometimes that might not be the right action.

So what you do is you say “stop” – take a breath, and then that deep inhale and exhale through your nose activates – temporarily anyways – your parasympathetic nervous system. Which then gives you a little bit of space to ask, “is this the right thing to do? What I was just about to do, or just about to say – is that the right action? Is there a better or more powerful action that I can take?”

And that might be just to take another breath, and then another. And just to listen – to look, listen and feel. What’s going on? Where’s this ambush coming from? Where’s the high ground?

So you develop your skills of situational awareness which leads it to the first o in the OODA is observe – pause breathe look around – observe. What’s happening around you? Who’s involved? Where are my teammates? Is there any damage – if this is a crisis situation like a natural disaster or obviously you can see how this plays out in a combat situation. But it could be an office situation.

What’s going on? And I’m going to talk in a bit about understanding how to gain context before content, but that’s what I mean. What’s the context of this, right? Is this really as bad a disaster as I was about to make it out to be? Or is it something that’s easily handled?

What’s the situation? Ask good questions, and you can train yourself to do this very quickly.

As you begin to get situational awareness and clarity from the data that’s coming in. And the data is turned to information – that information is starting to look like knowledge – then you can orient yourself to it. Which is the second o in PBOODA.

So now you’ve paused, you breathe – it’s gotten you into the into the right physiological state, and mental state to be able to ask better questions. You haven’t reacted negatively. You haven’t gone further toward danger. And you’ve taken some time to understand the context and gain some situational awareness to move from data to knowledge.

And now you can orient yourself to this new knowledge that you have. Now that might mean that you make a hasty plan, or you make some adjustments to your plan or your execution model. Whatever you were doing, you make some changes… you iterate.

You decide what you’re going to do as the next step – so you orient yourself and then you make a decision. And you chunk that decision down into micro-goals into the smallest arc that you can take to move yourself towards success.

Now you might have a series of these already in your mind – like, “I’m going to go to here, and then I’m going to go to there, then I’m going to there…”

But what you’re going to do is just move one step at a time. And you’re going to reactivate the OODA loop. So the OODA part then becomes an iterative process, so you take that step, observe how did it go, reorient if you need to, make the next decision, and then act on it. Take that next action.

This is an incredibly powerful tool that takes us from reactionary mode, flail state leadership – into a very deliberative mentally and emotionally tough and controlled process where we can relentlessly move toward success in spite of the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that is all around us. When we get ambushed in life.

So that’s the PBOODA.

The big four skills that I’ve talked about in the past and that we teach in Unbeatable Mind, all play into being able to do this well. Especially in terms of gaining contextual awareness.

So we want to make sure that we’re constantly breathing nostrilly and controlling our physiology so we’re not reacting with that body/mind in a negative way. So that’s the first skill – is to practice the breathing every day. We use box breathing.

The second skill is to feed the courage wolf. Make sure that when the crisis hits that we don’t suddenly get sucked into negative behavior, negative thought patterns and think all is lost.

We do the opposite. We look for the positive lessons. We learn and we remember that this too shall pass. Remember that fortune favors the brave and the bold. And we remember that challenge and crisis are just part and parcel of being human, and that we’ll get through this if we stay focused and we do it together. And we take one step at a time.

And so we feed courage, in that regard.

And then the third skill is tapping back into the vision. Recommitting to the original intention or “why” behind your actions. Talked about that in the introduction to this.

Why were we here anyways? Sometimes when you get ambushed, it’s easy to forget why you’re here and then you lose your motivation, or you lose your vision. So if you reconnect your “why,” and then charge up your vision. What I mean by that is just look into the future and say, “where am I going in this mission, or in this life?”

And remember that, so you don’t get frustrated or head into despair. I think that’s the problem with a lot of people who get really depressed and even suicidal – they lost their vision for their life. They don’t understand, they can’t commit to… they can’t see anything bigger in service or any rationale for why or where they’re going – the trajectory of their life.

And so they get slapped down within yet another challenge or a trifecta of challenges – like what happened to a lot of people last year with the covid and then economic shutdown. Loss of jobs and someone in their family they love is sick or passes away. And they get hit with not one, but two or three major life blows. And they don’t know how to deal with it.

One way to deal is to look for the silver lining, and the learning but also checking back in with your “why.” And recommitting to a future vision. So you have some a little bit more clarity and motivation to get through these challenges.

The last skill is micro-goals, which I talked about in the PBOODA – with acting – so you chunk it down into the smallest part. So that you don’t get overwhelmed by having this massively beautiful plan that has 100 moving parts, or 100 steps – and you can’t see your way to the end, because it’s too overwhelming.

So you just chunk it down, and it’s the smallest thing that you can do that’s going to move you forward.

Then you do the OODA loop, and then you move forward. Then you do the OODA loop you move forward and pretty soon – a quarter of the way there, you’ve racked up so many wins that you’ve just got tremendous momentum.

Okay, so the second thing I want to talk about is… I already alluded to… is mentally tough people focus on context before content. And these are different the way the brain works… let me back up… this has to do with how your brain actually works. And so it’s something that can be trained. Contextual awareness can be trained.

Contextual awareness is right brain thinking. Content awareness is left brain thinking. Content is our constructed thoughts that have some linearity to them, right? There’s a past. Some memory of how things were done in the past.

And then there’s a future – some intention for where you want to go and how things should go in the future. And then you set that into a plan or a series of arguments for why things should be the way they are.

And it’s all content, right? It’s thoughts that are formed into words or sentences, that either are put on paper, or spoken… that’s content awareness. It’s a very valuable skill to develop. The ability to ask the right questions, and to pause and think clearly. To listen…

These are all skills that we teach in Unbeatable Mind, so that your content is more spot-on, right? You’re able to make better decisions and to think more clearly and to see the wheat from the chaff.

But context is really right brain thinking. And this is really the space between the thoughts. The space before and after the thoughts.

And in those spaces is everything that is not the thoughts. And you can see how problematic it is when someone is fully identified with their thoughts and they haven’t learned contextual awareness, which comes through things like mindfulness meditation, and learning to still your thoughts completely…

Which can happen by spending time in nature, or in long endurance training, or… there’s many ways that you can still your thoughts or learn to still your thoughts… meditation is another one. Mindfulness is one form of awareness training that allows you to separate from your thoughts, but to be able to observe them from your contextual mind.

But then that still can keep you closed off or shut off from the broader context of everything else that’s going on. So it’s not enough. It’s one step, it’s one tool.

And then we want to go into more what I call the silence practices where you we drop into the formless state of just pure witnessing. And in that state of pure witnessing, that is devoid of thought – or completely removed from it, even though it might be something you’re aware of rippling in the distance – you’re able to really take in all that space. All the stuff that’s not that.

And this helps your right brain – your right hemisphere – kind of open up to take in more information, as well as to put patterns together. We call that pattern recognition.

And then out of that comes insight and spontaneous knowingness – those “aha moments.” Those moments of synchronicity, as well as paradigm shifts. And so all that comes from contextual awareness and not content awareness.

So you want to learn to be mentally tough and resilient, want to learn how to do both. And to pair them. So that they’re working simultaneously – they’re online simultaneously. You’re able to have deep contextual awareness, while simultaneously formulating a very clear, concise and powerful argument for action. In your content awareness.

I like to use the metaphor of the sniper and his spotter. Sniper is always… it’s not like a one-person job, but sometimes you see that in the movie where one guy is out there and he’s the sniper – well, in the military, it’s not that way…

We have the guy who’s on the gun and the guy who’s on the spotter scope. So the spotter is like the right brain, and he is responsible for the context. He’s making sure that we’re shooting at the right person – they understand that how the weather is going to impact the mission. He’s keeping his eye on the terrain to make sure enemy doesn’t sneak up from behind.

Whereas the sniper is just radically focused on just the act of getting ready to pull the trigger, and then pulling the trigger. So, the sniper is just the content – he’s akin to shooting a thought out of your head.

And the spotter is the context, which is akin to taking in and absorbing information and looking for patterns.

And the ideal here is to train your mind so that these are online and working together in harmony. And one of the ways to do that is through bilateral training such as alternate nostril breathing, or martial arts, or swimming.

And also through just the awareness of how these two aspects of your mind work, and then actively training them. And training your content mind through a better use of thinking models. And clarifying your thinking through self-awareness drills.

But also then training your contextual mind through mindful awareness, and the silence practices that I described earlier.



So, one thing that’s also important and one way to train the contextual mind is to ask better questions. And ask questions such as what’s not being asked. To look for the dead space, so look for what everyone else – including you – are missing.

So just putting that out there. What questions are we not asking? What are we missing? What else can we see here? Whose perspective have we not heard? Those are going to be ways that you as a team or your team can develop more contextual awareness.

Another thing to consider is using data to inform our decision-making, which is going to help more with the context than it will with the content. And so now that we have the ability to gather data, then we should gather a lot of data.

And then data is only as good as your ability to parse it into information, and then coordinate it into knowledge.

So that’s another thing to consider is like – how are you using the data? Because data can torch your efforts or support your efforts depending upon how you use it. And gain greater understanding.

And then – I think I’ve kind of covered this – but when it comes to your team gaining other perspectives, you’ll be better served if it’s an all-in situation. If you create the culture where everyone’s perspective is heard all the time – I call that an all-in culture, and I think it’s really important – because a team that’s all-in will make better decisions than any individual leader will.

And if the team isn’t all-in – meaning only one or two feels safe to share – and the rest of the people don’t feel safe, or they don’t feel heard… then you’re going to get sub-optimal results as well. Oftentimes the leader is the limiting factor here, because he or she won’t allow or even subconsciously isn’t listening to… going through the motions in collecting input. When they believe their own opinion is fact. Or their own opinion is gospel, or better information or the best plan.

Whereas the most effective leaders that I’ve ever worked with, have come in to assume that their plan is just a plan. Their idea is just an idea. It’s not the best idea necessarily.

It may end up being the best idea, but it’s probably gonna be made better by the input of the team. By gaining their perspectives. So if you come with some input, but not thinking it’s the end-all, be-all then set up the conditions in the culture for everyone to have their input in a safe way. Where they’re giving you their honest input.

Then you’re going to end up with a much better solution set than if you try to do it alone, or if you only have partial buy-in. All that will help develop great contextual awareness, leading to much better decisions… that are then formulated through your refined content left brain for powerful options.

All right, the last thing is just a fun way to think about how do we really execute well as mentally tough leaders and teams? And I came up with an acronym that sounds like tesla – but it’s PESLA – p-e-s-l-a – plan, execute, stumble, learn, adapt.

Let’s talk about planning – first off, we know that no plan survives contact with the opposition and so it makes our plan somewhat irrelevant. We need to have a straw plan, but if we spend all of our energy on the plan, then we’re wasting our energy… that we could be spending on execution and learning and adaptation.

So, it’s better to spend your time training how to meta-plan… and what I mean by meta-plan – that’s the tools of planning well fast. And on the fly.

How do you plan well fast and on the fly? What are the actual drivers of a good enough plan that’s done fast and on the fly? So you learn how to plan well, which is a meta-plan – a plan to plan. Because you know that your final actual operational plan – that’s not gonna work, right?

So, you actually just have to get out there and iterate your way to success. We used to call that “fast twitch iteration.”

So, let’s consider what are the things – elements – of a good plan to plan tool, that is fast and good enough and on the fly?

Well, let’s talk about fast. Should be able to do it quickly – on the back of a napkin. So what elements do you need in a good quick plan? Well, you need to remember what the mission is, and state that. You need to do a quick situational analysis – a quick OODA loop – observe and orient can get you information, right? So just either task someone to come up with that, or just ask questions… what do we know and what do we need to know?

And you need to know who’s going to do what. Why. When, and how. And you need to then ask what resources do we have right here, right now that we can deploy? And what do we need to go recruit or beg, borrow or steal.

And then you need to know how are we going to communicate our progress? So it sounds a lot like the military SMEAC, but you could do this really quickly. What’s my situation, what’s my mission, what’s my execution plan? What’s my communication plan? Who’s in charge of what and why and how?

So, that’s the plan part. And you want to be able to do that fast, you want to be able to iterate, you want it to be just good enough – we say 80% good enough. Don’t worry about perfection, because perfection leads to analysis/paralysis.

And then you go try it out, expecting that you’re going to change it. So the plan then needs to be adaptable – it can’t be set in stone. Most important parts are the vision and the acceptable boundaries for success or failure.

And then the operational guidelines for autonomous behavior or mostly autonomous behavior amongst the team that’s doing it.

That leads to the execution phase. If that plan has those elements, then execution is really about just going out and making good decisions, one after another. Micro-goals, one after another.

And the team is operating very spontaneously and autonomously, because they’re very clear about what the mission is and what the vision for victory looks like. They’re clear about their boundaries for decision making – what they need to ask permission for and what they don’t.

And the majority of the decisions they make on a really elite team are ones they don’t need to ask permission for. Because they’ve been training that way as standard operating procedure. Or they’re trusted – because they’re closest to the action – to make the right decision. And so they can move fast. They’re adaptable.

Now a good plan also recognizes that you will stumble. That no plan survives contact with the opposition, right? Or like Mike Tyson said, “it’s all good, until someone gets punched in the face.”

So, you will stumble. There will be obstacles and you’ve pre-thought as much as you could what those obstacles would be and what you’re going to do about it.

But you also know that there’s going to be unseen obstacles – there’s going to be the unknown unknowns. And you have a mindset for dealing with those. So that you deal with the unknown and those through your mindset, through your attitude of adaptation and learning.

Which leads me to learning so from the stumbling comes not failure, but learning… failure is not an option here. There’s only winning and learning.

And so we want to learn how to learn. And to learn fast. And part of learning is to put into practice what you learn, which leads to adaptation. It’s no good to learn and then not do what you learn, because that’s really not learning. That’s just a concept – you might do your after action and say, “that’s really interesting. We could have done it that way, and it would have led to a better result.” Or “when this thing broke or failed, we learned a valuable lesson that maybe we needed a backup plan or two… two is as one, one is none…

But then if you make the same mistake the next time you didn’t really learn. You just had a concept in your head.

So learning is truly putting into practice and doing what you think you learned, which leads to the actual learning. And we call that adaptation – you become adaptable. You’re always evolving, always changing. You’re a different person, your team is a different team after every mission. Or after everything that they do. Because of this model, this PESLA model…

So I hope you found that interesting and useful. Some ideas and rumblings and ramblings on mental toughness and resiliency from Mark Divine here at Unbeatable Mind. And if you like these solo casts and want to hear more, then just drop me a note @realmarkdivine – my Instagram or [email protected] email and if it’s a meaty topic like this then send me some thoughts what you’re interested in, what your challenges are.

And I’d be thrilled to see what comes out, because it’s fun for me to riff like this.

All right. So that’s it for today. Thanks for your support of Unbeatable Mind. If you want to learn about our new coaching program, come to our website or send an email to [email protected]. We have a phenomenal coaching program. We’ve got over 400 coaches in process already, and our goal is big. We need unbeatable coaches to help us serve our boat crews and our growing community. So that we can impact the world.

And if you want to – if you haven’t checked out our new 30 day course which is amazing go to

Thanks for your support. Really appreciate you. This is Mark Divine and the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Till next time stay focused and be unbeatable.


Divine out.

Leave a Reply