“I went from ‘How did I get here?’ to ‘What am I going to do about it?’ It was really at that moment that things really started to shift for me.” – Mark Pattison
The SEALFIT Kokoro camp grew out of Mark’s training for SEAL candidates. In 2007, the SEALFIT program was developed, but since then, many people have wanted to experience the Hell Week simulation. The philosophy behind it is that you should bring the challenge to yourself, before the challenge comes to you anyway. You have the choice of the full, 50-hour Kokoro camp, the 24-hour 20XL version, or the 12-hour 20X. No matter what, these programs will show you that you are capable of 20 times more than you thought you were. Find out more at sealfit.com.
Mark Pattison (@MarkPattisonNFL) is the first NFL player to attempt the “Seven Sisters,” summiting the highest mountains on each continent. He is also an author, podcaster and speaker. Today, he talks with the commander about his professional athletic career and his subsequent career in mountain climbing.
- His initial football career was all about talent over work, and that needed to change, so it did.
- Mountaineering became Mark’s “what’s next,” after he was done with football. Though he still had to work at finding it.
- Everest is going to be his crowning achievement, but the process of getting there has been valuable, not just the result.
Hear how Mark was able to transition from one career to another by a clear understanding of himself and what he really wanted to do.
You’ve probably already heard Mark extolling the virtues of the PowerDot to help with recovery. The PowerDot is an electrical stimulation device that allows you to increase performance, speed up recovery and overall achieve a deeper mind/body connection. Many stim devices can be clumsy and hard to use. PowerDot achieves simplicity and is well-designed. They put professional level physical therapy in your hands easily and inexpensively. They now have a version 2.0.
Listeners to the podcast, can save by using the code UNBEATABLE at checkout for 20% off the regular price.
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Hey folks, this is Mark Divine. Welcome back to the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks so much for being here today. Super appreciate your time – I know you’ve got a lot of things vying for your attention – so I won’t waste your time.
Before I introduce my guest – Mark Pattison – we are going to talk a little bit about SEALFIT today many of you have heard about that business or participated in our training. If you haven’t and maybe you don’t know about it, then it’s the training I started in 2007, really to help SEAL another SPECOPS candidates dominate their SPECOPS selection training and also become better warriors in the VUCA environment that they face.
And the program has worked. I mean, anecdotally – although it’s hard to collect the stats -over 90% of the candidates that I train or we train – my coaches and I – make it through their training pipelines. And a lot of the techniques that we’ve developed over the years are now being integrated into SEAL BUD/S training as well as the Para-rescue training. And are being used by other military units. So it’s very gratifying to see that come full circle.
At any rate, the program – like I said – initially was for military spec ops, but I had a lot of civilians come to me and say “hey that looks pretty interesting. 50 hours of non-stop physical, mental training based on hell week. Can I do it?”
And after a little bit of thought, I said “well, if you’re crazy enough to do that, go for it. But I’m not gonna water down the standards. I’m not gonna create a separate program for you.”
And so we started letting civilians in and since then – that was back in 2008, I think or 9 – since then thousands of people have gone through what we now call the Kokoro camp. And that is a reference to this warrior term of whole mind – whole mind integration or merging your heart and mind in your action. Which you certainly need to navigate the grueling Kokoro camp.
Check out the information about Kokoro camp and its shorter cousins the 20x – and 20x is a reference that you are capable of 20 times more. The 20x is a 12-hour version. And then we have a 24 hour version which is fondly called the 20XL – as in extra-large.
So you could do 12, 24 or jump right into the whole chimichanga the 50-hour, but you might want to consider doing them in that progression.
There’s a lot to be learned. A lot of the insights come from the training path itself – the preparation, the mindset, developing the durability and the resiliency to go the distance. And then you end up at the test of the event itself. You have a much better time, and a much more enjoyable time. And you actually can use it as a transformative experience, as opposed to just a gut check or a survival test.
Something we’re going to talk about today by the way with Mark in the context of big mountaineering. But any right, SEALFIT Kokoro camp by the way is a good way to test yourself for other challenges. We say that you want to go to the challenge before the challenge comes to you. So learn how to become resilient. Learn how to get sheep dog strong, so that you can overcome any challenge that life throws at you. So check it out at sealfit.com.
Ok, enough on that.
So my guest today is Mark Pattison – a former NFL player – he played for the Raiders, the Rams, and the Saints. He’s a philanthropist – he started an organization – a nonprofit called summitsprojects.com… Oh actually, I think that’s his for-profit business but his philanthropic organization is called Waterboys.org, where he builds wells for people in Tanzania.
He is also – and this is one of the things we’re going to really get into – interested, or he got interested in mountaineering. And some of you have heard about the Seven Sisters or the summit summits – the seven highest mountains on each continent or the highest mountain on each continent comprises the Seven Sisters.
And so he’s got one left. And that’s Everest. So he’s vying to become the first NFL player to climb all seven.
Any rate that’s pretty cool. And it just happens that Mark and I are going to be joining my friend Brian Dickinson and climbing Mount Rainier in two weeks. So this is a timely call.
Mark, thanks for joining me today.
Mark Pattison: Hey, love to be here. Thanks for the intro. And also, beyond that, when you first started talking about SEALfit – I think I would be a candidate for that 50 hour before I head to Everest.
Mark: You should. Absolutely. Hey, be my guest. You need to come down and do that do that.
When is your target for Everest? Do you have it in mind yet? Or
Mark P: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s not so much my target… What I have learned around literally circling the globe, and going to these variety of continents that I’ve done – climbing the highest mountains within each continent – a lot of them obviously are based around seasonality.
So, for example, I was down in Antarctica this last January. And that’s considered their summer or South America – Argentina, a mountain called Aconcagua – and so for Everest season the climb is really to head towards Kathmandu and there’s really a two-month ramp-up starting in April. And then there’s a two-week window that opens right around May 15th when the monsoons, the Jetstream rise – it allows climbers to get up.
And that’s where you saw a lot of a mess this year. The Jetstream just never rose and people got you know “summit fever,” so to speak and rushed to the summit when the skies opened. And they all happened to do it on the same day, and that’s what caused that traffic jam.
Mark: Wow. Yeah I was gonna ask you about that. Are you worried about that for next year? Have they taken any steps – either Tibet or Nepal – to mitigate that?
Mark P: Yeah. So there’s two sides you can go. You can go from the south which is the direction I want to go. And that’s going through Nepal.
And you can go from the north. And that goes through China. And there’s pros and cons to doing either. Most people go through the South. I want to do that – I want to experience the Khumbu ice field – you’ve probably seen those.
There’s been a lot of chatter in terms of people qualifying, so you can’t just have any Joe going up there and climbing the mountain.
I feel like I’m going with one of the top Mountaineers that is up on Everest today. They actually are that the group that set the lines and then communicate when it’s safe to go up top. And I’m crossing my fingers that that was a one-off. And again it takes summit patience, and that will happen with me this next year.
But every year, every season, every month, every day is a new experience and you just hope that the gods bless you with the right weather. So that you can have safe passage to get up and down.
Mark: Right. You want to eliminate your human factors as much as possible, through discipline, through patience, through training – but you can’t do anything about the gods, right? Like you said. And it’s gonna be there to test you.
Mark P: Well, you know, the one thing I love about what you do. And I have been a subscriber of your podcast, and I’ve listened to a lot of your episodes. And I do know a number of different SEALs and they’ve taught me various exercises.
And there’s a crossover I think between what NFL, college football at the highest level, taught me in terms of mental strength and mindset, and the same things that you guys are taught, really applies in the mountains.
And the one thing that has been really frustrating I think is that there’s just people up there that shouldn’t be up there. The first American this year that died on top of Everest was a guy by the name of Don Cash, he was my tent-mate in Antarctica. Spent two-and-a-half weeks, three weeks with him in a hotel and on the ice.
And it was just a place he shouldn’t have been in the first place. And a lot of that, when you start rolling those things back, have to do with capacity, have to do with self-care, have to do with mindset.
And when you don’t have those things in play and you know you have been on the frontlines. And you get this. You understand this. You know, people quit – they ring the bell. And it really sucks when I’ve trained like a like a flippin’ grizzly bear and then I get paired with somebody like that and he’s a great guy – or he was a great guy – but just didn’t have the strength that you can rely on as a teammate. And that was just the realities of the mountains.
Mark: It’s kind of similar in a sense of someone wanting the glory of being a Navy SEAL, without really paying much attention to what it’s all about. As a warrior. And what it means to be a good teammate, and to serve others, and to be selfless. And to put in the dirt time to really train the body, and the mind, and the spirit to endure.
And so that’s why there’s such a huge attrition rate in the SEALs. Because a lot of people are going for the glory. And you know, just to get Everest onto your resume is a big deal for a lot of people. It’s stoking their ego, you know?
Mark P: Yeah, that’s… I really want to like peel back the onion for a second, because you bring up a really good point. People going for the glory.
And I felt like in Don’s case, it was more about the impressive feat for his friends versus truly understanding the process and going through that.
John Wooden – top of his pyramid of success is this thing called “competitive greatness,” right? And when you start talking about competitive greatness and you go one level back you know, you can’t get there overnight. You have to go through all the different steps. And I’m sure – well, I know – for a fact, you’ve gone through all these steps and so you totally get that.
But I think what it really gets down to for me at least, and I know that you’re probably in this same category, is that the summit is great, and catching the winning touchdown is amazing, but I truly loved the process. The process of going and this morning working out, doing my CrossFit – a thousand sit-ups and pull-ups and all this other stuff. And it’s just I love that part of it – that 364 days of the year that you get to prepare. And then the one day that you get to go for it.
And the people that have that equation upside down, are the ones that just ultimately can pay the ultimate price.
Mark: Right. I agree. So let’s talk about a little bit about your early life. What were some of the formative experiences that made you who you are? And how did you get involved in the NFL?
And give us some of the insights that you learned. And the cool things about that experience or part of your life.
Mark P: Yeah, it turns out to have played a huge part of my life. And it still does today. I would have never imagined how all this is kind of come back full-circle.
But I grew up in Seattle, Washington, right in the city, went to the biggest high school and then was recruited by a number of different colleges around the country – in those days the PAC-10.
The University of Washington was really cresting at that particular time. And so we had a coach up there who would later become a Hall of Fame coach, Don James. And I got the call to go play for him and u-dub.
And out of that, I got to play in a couple Rose Bowls, an Orange Bowl, couple of Aloha Bowls… But I think a really defining moment for me in my life, and it comes full-circle was I was in a position where I pretty much could do anything that I wanted to do on the football field in high school and growing up. And I really didn’t put in any extra effort. I really didn’t understand that work ethic that somebody needs to have.
Mark: You had raw talent.
Mark P: I just had raw talent, right? And I hadn’t put the other part with that.
And when I got to u-dub, I remember that first day I was standing on the sidelines – and this is the first day of camp, in fall camp – so you’re out there like in mid-august. And I’m looking at all these other guys. And all these other guys had been a high school all-American at one point in their time. But now they’re 19, 20, 21. They’re gunned up. They’re confident.
And I was just not that guy at all. And there’s a really defining moment that would come a few months later where I essentially just like broke down in my dorm. And it was just like the moment of truth, I either had to put in the work – the thing that we talked about a few minutes ago – or go home and quit. And I knew what I was doing was not sustainable, and whatever had gotten me to that point in life, would not carry me forward in a successful way and so I had to make a huge choice.
An interesting thing about that and in life I think is that I made that conscious choice – that mindset that I know you preach – but there’s no certainty, but by doing the daily things I got bigger, I got stronger, I got more confident. I learned the plays. I was out there running the stairs when nobody else was.
You know, it rained a lot in Seattle and I was doing things that weren’t necessarily on schedule time. But I just knew I needed to put myself in the best position to be there.
And then I guess it was my junior year – my sophomore year, I started to play a little bit. My junior year, I started and there’s a game against Michigan – second game of the year – they’re ranked number one in the country and we were down by 14 points going into the fourth quarter.
And we came back and scored a touchdown and with about 20 seconds to go, I got the call. They threw me a touchdown on the back of the endzone. And pulled it down and scored the winning touchdown.
And you know it was a big game, and a big moment, and kind of put me in full motion. And the coaches saw me in a different light. And it really kind of set the stage for you know more success at u-dub, and then ultimately the NFL.
Mark: Mm-hmm. Was there a specific moment that you remember where you made the choice to change? Or did it just happen over a period of time?
Mark P: No, it was a moment. It was a moment where I was living in a fraternity and I was… So in the fraternity… Rock star, on the football field… Sucked in the classroom… Not doing well, right? And so it just was a serious case of…
Mark: Priorities were upside down.
Mark P: They were completely upside-down, yeah. And so I knew what I had to do is complete checkout. And go a whole new, different direction. And it was just literally the moment of truth.
And those other things… School, my grades went up. I had moved home. My house wasn’t too far. I moved home with mom and dad. And my football thing started to pick up and getting more confidence. And my school grades went up and my fraternity life I could pick and choose when I went to those parties and then leave at a certain time. And not be up till 2:00 a.m. In the morning.
But it was hard, because you’re a college kid. You’re 20 and 19 and you want to do what all your buddies are doing, but you can’t. It’s sacrifice.
Mark: Yeah. And you tend to think you’re invincible too. And I remember having that same experience. Living in the fraternity and thinking I can just rock it, swimming competitively and get good grades and stay up every night. Drink god knows how much beer.
It doesn’t work so well. For very long, anyways.
Mark P: Yeah, I mean gosh all those things are just short-term too. And the irony of all that is all the kids that are sitting in the stands, that were watching us play on the field, would have paid a zillion dollars to be us, in those positions, playing against Michigan… Playing against the USCS, the Stanfords… Being out there.
And so it’s a hard choice, but that’s where you know, it’s just what do you want your life to look like? And architect that in the right way.
So the NFL… Did you start with the Raiders? Or who recruited you out of u-dub?
Mark P: Yeah, so you know it’s an interesting process when you go through. I was fortunate to also have a whole lot of NFL players come before me. Or college players that were NFL prospects… They went through the same process. We had a lot of NFL scouts coming around the University of Washington, so I was prepared for that.
Versus if I would have been from a smaller school, that maybe didn’t have that same attraction.
But essentially if you were part of the 350 top kids in the country, you get invited to the combines. And the combines is kind of like this “audition” for showcasing your talent beyond what they’ve seen on film. Or maybe a scout has sat in a stadium watching you play against somebody. And so I went down to… Just to date you a little bit, or maybe it’s dating me really… Back in the day – it was 1985 – I got invited to go to the combines. All expenses paid. Just like out of Jerry Maguire.
It was crazy. All these agents and then everybody else coming around and making deals. And this and that. But I was in the same class…
Mark: Were you a junior? In between junior and senior?
Mark P: No, this is fall in my senior year. We had just beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Ranked number two in the country.
So I went down to Phoenix, to the University of Arizona or actually every Arizona State and they had the combine down there. And Jerry Rice… It was the year of the wide receiver – so from there you get kind of a draft analysis – and I was chosen to go somewhere between the fifth and the seventh round. I got picked in the seventh by the Raiders.
So immediately you go into like all these different camps. And after the draft in April, I was pretty much off to LA – in those days where the Raiders were based. And it was just…
Mark: Hang on. Before we go into the Raiders – I’ve actually never heard a description personally of what the combine is like. And even though my listeners probably know this, I don’t watch TV at all, and I haven’t in 15 years. And people always ask me what sports teams I follow and whatnot and I don’t. Because I have other things to do with my time.
So I’ve never actually seen it. What is it like? Tell me, what do they do?
Mark P: Yeah, well so you fly in and day one is going through a physical. So think of if you went to the doctor, and at this doctor you went in, and its one doctor. And he checks you out from head to toe, and it takes an hour. And then you leave. Pay your bill and that’s that.
In this particular – there’s 32 different NFL teams and so there’s essentially 32 different doctors, with 32 different stations. And so you get in a conveyor belt. Starts with the wide receivers, the quarterbacks, the running backs… And you go by position and you start at doctor number one and you just rotate in the circle.
And they go from your toes, to your ankles, to your knees…
Mark: Every single one of them does a check? I mean, they don’t like just share notes?
Mark P: They do share notes, but like say it’s the Packers, the Raiders, the Redskins and the Dolphins. Well they’ll put their three doctors, and they will do the feet.
And then the Seahawks and the 49ers and whatever other teams will do the knees, right? So and then they share those notes as they go around.
Mark: Interesting. Okay, I see.
Mark P: And I gotta tell you, that like the most like humiliating thing is when you’re walking around in just a pair of shorts, and when you get to like the midsection you gotta drop your drawers. And they like check underneath the hood and doing all this stuff.
I mean, it’s awful. I mean, you’re in front of everybody, and they’re like lifting and poking and prodding. And it’s just not a fun thing to do, but you know it was what it was in those days. And that’s why it played.
So you go through that for a full day. And then the second day is your physical attributes. I mean, literally going on the field.
You’re paired with the quarterbacks, of course. I was a wide receiver. And you go through cone drills and 40-yard dash time – and I don’t know why, and I still haven’t figured out why 40-yard dash is the magic number. Why 40? Why not 10? Why not 100? You know, I haven’t figured that out yet.
But you know running a great 40-yard dash time means everything in the world of the scout’s eyes. And I had an extremely good time on grass. 4.50. So that put me in a good spot.
And then you’re running, you’re catching different kinds of routes and they’re looking at the quarterbacks, they’re looking at receivers. And it’s just a full day. And on that day you’ve got every single big owner – Al Davis and everybody else that are there watching you.
And it’s pretty intimidating. And a lot of guys that ran in my group were dropping balls, and I just happen to have a good day all around. And for me personally I couldn’t have done any better than what I did on that particular day.
Mark: That’s cool. Is that it?
Mark P: Well that’s it for the combines. And then the teams go back, and then when they get into the draft it’s just whoever did the worst gets the first pick. And that goes in descending order.
So like, this next year the Patriots will probably have the last pick. Or they just did, I should say. Because we just had the draft.
But you know if somebody takes Johnny number one. And then the second pick, they were gonna take Johnny, but that just changed. Now they’re picking…
So everybody’s got their first pick, second pick, you know their alternates… All this kind of stuff. So the board is you know completely changing in real time based on what the previous team or other teams have already done. And who’s still on the draft board and who’s come off.
So it’s literally like Russian roulette, because you can end up in… 32 teams represent 32 different cities. So there’s teams like LA which, at the time I’d much rather been at than say a place like Buffalo. Which gets very cold. And as a receiver hard to catch that ball.
So you know of all places that I could have gone, I end up getting picked by the LA Raiders, Al Davis, very famous kind of maverick owner. And when I went down there it was amazing because all these guys that you know I’d seen when I was growing up, idolized, many of them were still on the team.
Howie Long, Matt Millen, Lester Hayes, Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen, Todd Christensen and just a slew of these all-world players. And just they had a different way of approaching the game. And it wasn’t bad because two years before they’d been in the Super bowl. A year before they’ve been in the Super bowl.
But it was just a different way of playing the game and really uniting with the team to create that bond. And they did that pretty much through taking everybody out to the bars and having a heck of a time. Throwing down beers.
Mark: Cool. So then how long did you play with the Raiders? And what was – like what did you learn from them?
Mark P: Well, I was always… I was never the star. I was always the guy – like I said – there were other players that had come to the University of Washington that had played right away. And when they drafted me – I mean, they drafted a wide receiver in the first round. They drafted another wide receiver in the third round. They had guys from the year before and they brought in some free agents that had big names.
And so I knew this was going to be an uphill battle. And again it just goes back to that mindset that I know you teach, which is just no matter what… As I was looking around this room, I said “you know, half this room will be cut. And I don’t know how this is all going to play. But I’m not going to be one of them.”
And I was just relentless in terms of never giving up, catching everything that came my way. Going over the middle, getting just smashed, whacked-up… Whatever. And to really prove my position.
And ultimately it did work out. It wasn’t a smooth ride my entire time in the NFL – five years – but I did make it. But you know I was cut, I was traded… I think it was in year three I made the team, and then two days before the first game I was traded to New Orleans.
And that hurt because you have all these friendships and bonds that you have. I thought I was there forever. And it just didn’t play out that way.
Mark: It’s such a random thing. “Thanks very much. Bye.”
Mark P: Yeah. And that’s the big business of sports. And it was hard to swallow, but it’s just like it’s just the realities of the sport.
Mark: What type of things are the routines or do they teach you in the NFL to maintain your focus? And your internal dialogue?
And I mean there’s got to be some mental training. So what are like the highlights that you learned? That your coaches passed down, or your fellow players? That really worked for you?
Mark P: Yeah, you know, I’d really take that back to the University of Washington and that’s I think really more where my foundation – I’ll explain that here in a second. But what that was to me is our coach Don James taught us John Wooden’s pyramid of success. So for those who those listening out there, that are not familiar with that – essentially it’s 25 different building blocks of individual and team goals. That help you get to the pinnacle of anything you’re trying to get to.
And as I had mentioned early in the podcast – the competitive greatness is at the very top. But you can’t get there without bettering yourself individually and then coming together as a team to get to that top rung. And that takes years to get to that particular point.
And when I got into the NFL – because it’s such a business, and because people are being cut, and traded, and moved and this and that – it’s really more dependent on you to bring whatever you need to bring to the table, beyond just showing up for practice.
And you start making money and many of the guys I – not all – but there was certainly a chunk were, I think, irresponsible about what they did because now you have more free time, because you’re not going to class. And you have more money, because you never had some in college. And so some of the choices of drinking and doing drugs and other things – staying out late – just did not really hone well or match well with having a disciplined mindset and lifestyle around trying to become, and stay, and maintain as a professional athlete.
And so again when I was back at Washington – being there for five years and you know you’re not going to get cut – unless I guess you flunk out – but you know those coaches really take more time to invest into you, into the program.
Because ultimately at the end of the day it reflects back on them – whether or not their win-loss record and how that goes. And so it was really through that I think that Pyramid of Success, and also having that that underdog mentality of trying to find my way. And so a lot of guys would take a bunch of time off, and I just never did.
And it still… Today I really haven’t… I’ve never stopped, right? I’m 57 and I’ve just kind of kept that same mindset, even though I’m not training like I did in the NFL. But I’m still doing two-a-days, and it’s just a better lifestyle choice for me to get to where I want to go to. And just part of the happiness factor and everything else that comes with it.
Mark: Mm-hmm. Alright, so you played for the Raiders, then you got traded to the Rams, and then the New Orleans Saints came in towards the end. That’s where you finish your career out?
Mark P: I did. I actually went… There was a free-agency, it was the first year of free-agency and there was an opportunity to go to the Seattle Seahawks. I thought that would be a great move. They gave me a bunch of money, bigger contracts.
Went to Seattle and it was a complete disaster. And after this point in time – this is my fifth year in the league – and after this point in time. And after five years of college, you know – really I’d been at this pace now for 10 years. And I was 29, something like that.
And I just wanted to go see the world. I was just burned at trying to chase this and being the underdog and everything else. And it was just my time. And I look back on it now I never should have taken that deal to Seattle, but it was what it was in those days. You make decisions, you have to live with them. That’s one I’ve lived with the rest of my life, but it was just my time to move on and start something different.
Mark: Mm-hmm. So you left the NFL on your own volition then? Or was it… Did something happen?
I guess. Well, yeah, you get cut them and then… Do you want to come back again and try this? And I would like to position it like “hey, I retired,” and all this stuff. But really I got thrown out. And that’s the truth of it.
Mark: (laughing) I love the honesty. Yeah, so you’re out. And that’s got to be a little jarring. This has been a big part of your life through college, and now five plus years in the NFL. And you weren’t planning for what’s next.
So how was that transition? I imagine that was a little challenging period of your life.
Mark P: Yeah and maybe I you can identify with this a little bit, cause I hear quite a bit of it guy named Nate Boyer’s become a friend and he’s talked to me about the hard transition of a lot of these guys from the military into “what next?”
Mark: In particular SPECOPS. Yeah.
Mark P: I’m sure it is. And I would say… I want to give credit and kudos to the NFL today. They’ve got a program called “The Trust.” and they’ve developed all these tools, classes, organizations where they help you transition from the game just because they know that was a huge problem for many guys. Just really go off that cliff. And then what do you do after that?
And I always knew I wanted to do something great. I just didn’t know what that was and it was just trying to transition that energy that I had and passion for football into something new and into something in business. And that all ultimately happened, but it took probably two years for me to get to that point.
Making the Transition
Mark: So what was it that turned you on to climbing and to your philanthropic work? Like yeah tell us about the “a-ha” moment or what it was? The person or the thing that happened that gave you the new focus and a new mission in life.
I’m just gonna say, a lot of people listening have this this issue. I know that because a lot of our clients have that issue. They’re pretty successful, or they’ve had a successful career and sometimes maybe they’re not in it anymore because of downsizing or you know whatever… It’s happening a lot more to a lot of people these days, because of the pace of change.
And yet they really don’t know what’s next, because they’ve never really thought about it. They haven’t learned to think of their life in a larger context of why you do what you do. And regardless of what you’re doing, there’s always a clear thread of why behind it.
So that if you lose one job it’s not like the end of the world. You just go back to your “why,” and figure out the next “what.” The next way you’re gonna express yourself.
That’s kind of a new thing and something we’ve been teaching for years, but not a lot of people really give it that thought. And back to your… The reason a lot of SEALs and SPECOPS guys have trouble transitioning is their mission and their why is really clear. And then, all of a sudden, it’s not.
Because they’re out. Either they got injured, or they retired, or they got thrown out because of some screw-up. Or they just decided it was time. And they don’t know what’s next, because they don’t know themselves enough.
So sorry to go out in that little rabbit hole.
Mark P: No I love that.
Mark: I’m sure that’s a big issue with the NFL.
Mark P: Yeah, that is. And for me it was really no different. And it probably took me two years. And before I answer your question directly I think there’s a gap in there that I just want to fill. Which then led me to your question.
And so I did start three different businesses. They were all successful – was venture backed and sold. I had an amazing… Called my learning as you go MBA and businesses.
But I don’t think it was ever necessarily my passion. I was doing it I discovered that I was fairly good at certain things, but wasn’t like that one thing that really drove me to the things that – for example – that I’m doing today.
And I’ve got this little playbook that I’ve written that kind of on the cover… And I think some of the things that you were just talking about are parallel… Unleash your potential, achieve your goals, and live your purpose. And that’s an easy thing to say, but hard to do.
And where the rubber met the road was about eight years ago. And the gal that I married was a gal from the University of Washington. We met there. We ultimately got married had two kids.
And there were just things that were going on, for probably ten years that we were struggling with as a couple. And at the end of the day, I knew this thing was being unwound. Meaning the marriage – I’d been married for 24 years – and it’s just something that I didn’t want, but she was pretty determined that she wanted to break off and go in her own direction.
And she’s a great person and everything. But it just broke my heart.
About the same time my dad died of a massive stroke. He was a great guy. Great communicator. And it all happened pretty soon.
One day I was talking to him, the next day this. You know essentially just broke his whole communication grid. And a few months later he passed.
And so it was just this very low time for me in my life. And I didn’t know what to do about that. And I was employed, and that was that, but just in terms of on the personal front of joy and happiness, and loving life to the fullest – it was just not there for me.
And so I kept walking my dog around the block and just asking that same question like “how did I get here? How did I get here?” and I couldn’t get out of that.
And then this is like now two years later, and I finally just changed the question. Really got back to that mindset and I went from how did I get here, to what am I gonna do about it. It was really at that moment where things really started to shift for me.
And not just shift, but really give me clarity in terms of what I wanted to do. And when the kind of like the skies parted, and the Sun came through and there I was thinking about this. And this weight seemed to be starting to get off my shoulders.
I was just like “I want to go back and do something athletically great. And I know obviously I can’t go back and play in the NFL. So what can I do?”
Growing up in Seattle, very mountainous community. I used to climb with my dad. I’d been up Rainier, I’d been up Whitney, and I’ve been up other, smaller mountains… And so I ran back to my computer. I typed it in to see if any NFL player had ever climbed the Seven Summits.
And what I discovered is that nobody had. I think there’s one guy that had maybe done four of them, and then quit. And that was it.
And so I said “I’m gonna become that guy.” and kind of from that moment on it helped propel me through my father’s passing, through the divorce I had to go through. It gave me a goal to shoot for.
I talked to a professional mountain guide and he helped me kind of lay out the plan. And the first place I was going to go to is Africa, to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. And then slowly, I’ve gone around the globe and knocked these things off one by one. They have not been all smooth in terms of just you run up and you run down and that’s it. They all take time, they all take money. People have died. Kind of all the things that you might experience in mountaineering have happened.
Mark: It’s like a 10-year endeavor, isn’t it? I mean, or longer to get all 7 in.
Mark P: Well, yeah. I mean it can be. I mean, it’s been possible to do in a year, but it gets down to your time, your motivation, your money… All those types of things.
And what I didn’t factor in – and you brought this up earlier in the podcast – is when you’re not factoring in Mother Nature.
And I was on Denali two years ago I think it was, and this is in 2017…
Mark: Denali’s in Alaska, right? Denali is in Alaska, yeah. Used to be called Mount McKinley and they changed it back to the name Denali.
And it is a mother of a mountain. And part of that is because you have to pull and carry a hundred and thirty seven pounds up the mountain. Up the steepest slopes and deep snow and crevasses…
Mark: You don’t have any Sherpas to haul your gear for you up there.
Mark P: There’s no Sherpas to haul anything. And so it’s all on you. And then there’s severe weather coming up the Bering Sea. And it was minus 80. And we were anchored in for a week in a tent at 14,000 feet, and ultimately… The top was minus 80, and where we were was like minus 40. And ultimately we made the choice – and the safe choice – to go back down. And had to redo it.
So successfully I took the top last June 7, 2018. But you just don’t factor – at least I didn’t factor in that Mother Nature may just have other plans besides you touching the top. So that plays into a factor.
Mark: So let’s talk about the seven summits – so there’s Denali, you already mentioned Kilimanjaro – that one’s fairly pedestrian so to speak, right? I mean Wim Hof can go up in his shorts. Probably most people can make it up Kilimanjaro.
Mark P: Yeah I mean… Well all that said. That’s all true, but I just want to wave the white flag, that I haven’t had any problems. But I was there with a bunch of NFL guys two years ago – Chris Long – Howie Long’s son who just retired from the NFL. And along with Chris and other NFL guys every single one of them had problems. And so you get to over 1400 Mark: Altitude, right?
Mark P: Yeah. So it’s really about the altitude, whether your body can handle it or not.
Mark: Right, right. And then Machu Picchu is down in Peru or Argentina…?
Mark P: Yeah – well Peru, you’re right – but the highest mountain in South America is in Argentina called Aconcagua…
Mark: Oh, Aconcagua it’s not Machu Picchu…
Mark P: So that’s just under 22 thousand feet.
Mark: So that’s a pretty high, okay. And how was that?
Mark P: That was a great experience. It was a great experience for me. We started with 12 people in our climbing party, only six made it. We had people falling over left and right – flying out on rescue helicopters.
Mark: Hmm. Is that a glacial Mountain?
Mark P: It is. Depends on where you attack it. I went at the very end of the season. I went in February the end of the summer season for them. And it proved to be the right weather all the way up, all the way down. Gets quite windy, but all the climbing parties prior to that had been snowed in – heavy snow and like all mountains they can be right and calm on the right day. And they can get pretty nasty and kill people on the wrong day. So weather plays such a big factor.
Mark: Okay, so from there now we have Antarctica, you mentioned? What’s the tallest mountain down there?
Mark P: It’s a mountain called Mount Vinson – Vinson Massif – and it’s 16,000 and change. And it’s really not as much about the altitude – it’s really about the cold. And it’s Antarctica Mark: Logistics.
Mark P: Logistics. It’s crazy. You charter in. Land on the ice.
Mark: And so is it a long trek just to get to the base of the mountain through the icy cold? Or do you kind of start the summiting right away?
Mark P: No, you fly into a place called… Well first of all you land in… It’s called Punta Arenas. And so you fly from Punta Arenas, over to a place called Union glacier which it’s not a city. It’s not like there’s… You know, Alaska Airlines has scheduled flights every 50 minutes.
It’s a charter that you land. I was down there with a bunch of drunk Russians. Which is pretty fun in the morning. And we landed this big bird and then you get out, and then we flew in this small plane 65 miles to land on the glacier of Vinson. Very similar to the way that you do it Denali. So that’s how you get there.
And then the next mountain – which you haven’t mentioned – is the tallest mountain and this really surprised me until I learned about it tallest Mountain in Europe is a mountain in Russia called Mount Elbrus.
And that was a crazy time, because Russia had just shot down a plane and the borders were very heightened. They had people with machine-gun all kinds of crazy stuff. And it’s down the Caucasus Mountains, down by where they had the Olympics in Sochi. Kind of in that area.
And then we got on our summit day – very sunny in the morning this is like four or five o’clock – you could tell it was a clear night, clear day. We got going and midday we were probably into… By hour 10 and this awful storm came in. And this electrical lightning you could literally feel on the back of your neck.
Mark: no kidding
Mark P: Yeah and usually you’re on the ground you’re looking up with “oh hey mom! There’s the lightning.” it comes down to earth and bounces back up.
We were in the source. And it was very terrifying, because we were above the tree line, so there’s no place to hide. One of the guys got zapped, and I didn’t. It was tragic.
Mark: Really. Shit.
Mark P: Yeah.
Mark: I mean, shucks.
Mark P: I mean, what you just said was pretty much what everybody was like. You know, run. And we’re you know we’re just tearing down the mountain, to just try to get to a safe spot.
Mark: Holy cow.
Mark P: It’s been great and then there’s a
Mark: (laughing) it’s been great. You went back up and summited.
Mark P: I was coming back down. So yeah, we got up there and they were coming back down when this tragic incident happened. But the experience of being in Russia was great, is what I meant.
Mark: How tall is that one by the way?
Mark P: That’s eighteen thousand. 18066.
Mark: So we got four of them. So far. Or have we hit five? I think five actually. Denali, Aconcagua, Antarctica, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus. There’s five. So we’re missing two.
Mark P: Yeah so the one that we’re missing is a mountain in Australia called Mount Kosciuszko. That was the original seven that they did. It’s eight thousand feet. It’s a day hike. Probably takes eight hours, nine hours to do it.
There’s no snow – there is snow during their summer… I’m sorry their winter… But it’s a fun thing to go down and mix with the Aussies and find your way in the snowy mountains and then fly back out.
And then you know the seventh one, of course, is the big boy in the Block. Mount Everest… And that’s coming up on this next April. Jacked up about it.
Mark: Mm-hmm. All of those except for Everest sound really interesting to me. Like I would actually love to do them if I could ever get the green light from COMNAVHOMEPAC – that’s my wife.
But Everest, whoof. Man, that’s a whole ‘nother level isn’t it?
Mark P: Yeah, but you know I tell you one thing… And again now I want to reference back to… You mentioned something around this in the opening and that is that trying to take out the variables right. And I’m sure that… When you as a SEAL and all the things that you’ve done in your past and you’re going into a hostile area, you’re thinking about let’s take out all the variables to give ourselves the best chance. I’m assuming that.
And so same thing the way I look at this. 3% of all the people that go up there every year die. My experience that has been on every single mountain… Every single one I’ve been on with the exception of the mountain in Australia… There have been people on the mountain that should not be there.
And so you start asking yourself, “why is that? What can you do about it?” and I can control only the things that I can control. And so I talked to you before about what I can do.
One is not start with Everest, end with Everest. So I’ve been climbing all these mountains around the world. And honing my game on crevasse rescue, rope, using my assets, all that kind of stuff. A lot of things that you and I will deal with on Rainier.
Number two is I am going to be the fittest guy on the mountain. I’m not saying that there’s not somebody else who’s as fit, but nobody would be more fit.
Three, I’ve moved my entire life to Sun Valley, Idaho last year in preparation for all this stuff. And so this last year in prepping for Vinson, I literally would… they call it “skin,” but you put these like sandpaper type materials under your skis. And every morning at 6 a.m. With a headlamp on I would ski to the top of the mountain. I go up the mountain, not down the mountain.
Yeah and all the conditioning and then I also go back and I condition again in the afternoon. It’s not about like “look at me.” it’s like “what does Mark have to do to put himself in the best position to succeed?”
Because on that summit day in particular – whatever day that’s gonna be for me – next May 20, 21, 22, 23 – I’m gonna have to commit probably 14 to 15 hours of non-stop grind going in the Death Zone above 26,000 feet. Trying to make it to the top and if I don’t have like and if I haven’t built like this war chest of stamina, and eating the right thing, drinking the right stuff.
And eliminated those variables that we were talking about before… The things that I can control… Then you know I’m not going to be putting myself in the best position of success.
And so you know if the weather, there’s an avalanche, this and that… I can’t control that but I just want to make sure that I’m when I go there I’m a hundred percent confident they’ve done everything possible that I can in the world to make this thing and take the top. Mark: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I get that. So it’s definitely doable. And if you belong there then the mountain will treat you well, probably. Or better.
Mark P: Yeah. You know, fingers crossed.
Mark: What is your training? I mean, I love the description of skiing to the top of the mountain, and all that you know altitude acclimatization effect and just the endurance training.
What else do you do to train? Like, what’s your routine look like every day?
Mark P: Well I get up early in the morning, I hit the gym. And I do that because I want to focus on my weights. There’s another SEAL that had taught me about… I trained with him years ago, and we did a lot of Tabata.
So Tabata if somebody doesn’t know – that is picking three different types of exercises and you have these like 30 or 40 second integrals, max effort and then you’re off for 10 seconds, and then you’re back on.
And so just one of the multiple of the hour within the hour that I did. The first one is for 40 seconds – I’m doing pull-ups, then I’m running over and taking a big heavy ball and throwing it against the wall, wall balls as many times as I can within that. And then I’ve got a big platform that I jump up on to three or four feet. So I’m jumping, I’m pulling and then pushing.
And then I get through that and then move on the next one. So that’s a full hour which I love doing.
And in the afternoon, I either run up the mountain – and again I’m at 6,000 feet so I’ll go to around 10,000 feet, and this is 4:30 5 o’clock in the afternoon – or I’ll do some kind of mountain bike. But just getting that heart rate really cranked up and doing things with pushing myself in altitude.
And right now, it’s really hot over here too. So doing that… And of course when the winter comes you got to adjust. And now you’re on skis, and you’re on cross-country skis, and you’re on snowshoes, and things like that. So you’re just adjusting that way.
Mark: That’s awesome. Do you have a morning routine? Like some way you prepare your mind for the day?
Mark P: You know, it’s a great question and I think everybody does things a little bit differently. And I think the first thing is for me, this thing called FoF – so that’s feet on floor. So no matter what I’ve done the night before, it really starts with trying to get to bed from me around ten o’clock. So I’m always disciplined about that no matter where I am.
So that allows me to get up early the next morning, to then put my feet on the floor no matter what. Because that’s the hardest part for so many people. And then get out the door, walking towards the gym and then going through that.
And usually when I’m going through this – and again people do yoga or they have other kind of meditation that they do – and for me what has really worked is putting a podcast on – or an audio tape – but mostly podcast of something positive. So I’m not listening to the Adventures of Mickey Mouse I’m listening to the you know the Unbeatable Mindset right people
Mark: Feed your mind.
Mark P: Feed your mind in a positive way, right? And now, when I’m done, I’ve come back I feel energized. My brain is like energized, ready to go.
And now comes the best part. I mix together my Seven Summits smoothie. And I’ve trained with Laird Hamilton.
Mark: Uh-huh. I’m gonna see him next week as a matter of fact.
Mark P: He’s awesome. I don’t know if you know him.
Mark: I’ve met him. I’m gonna do a podcast with his wife. But we’re gonna go up to his place in Malibu and do some of their water work – you know, underwater work and whatnot. And then do a podcast.
Mark P: Yeah, so I’ve done all those things you’re talking about. Interviewed Gaby and interviewed Blair and we’ve been at the pool multiple times. And make sure you say “hi” for me.
But we work together in terms of broadcasting his Laird super-food and so a lot of what I do is put their super-food, their creamers, their beets, their matcha… These other things that are really healthy. Non-GMO. All these things into my almond based protein shake in the morning. And that’s really what helps me fuel through the afternoon.
You got to be physically fit but you also have to feed the body with the right kind of stuff to make sure that you’re maximizing the effort that you’re putting in, in the morning and in the afternoon working out.
Mark: Absolutely I’m with you there.
Mark P: By the way, good luck. I mean, I had a heck of a time in Laird’s pool with all the weights and everything else. But the one thing…
Mark: What can I expect? What are we gonna do? By the way, we shouldn’t go too far… Give me a snap shot so I’m prepared.
Mark P: Well, the great thing is – we used to do this in the NFL and in college football – but he’s got this great ice tub that you jump in. It is cold nice and they’ve got an ice machine and they’ve got as much ice and it’s as cold as I’ve ever flippin’ been in.
And then, right next to it then you jump in there little sauna.
But the hardest thing that I had a hard time doing – I couldn’t do it. I’ve tried it multiple times now and Jim Mora – coach of UCLA and the NFL with me as well – and you get you take about a 25 pound weight in either hand and you start on the shallow end so you’re in 4 feet and you go down the deep end it’s maybe 12 feet. And you’re doing this whole thing under water. You turn around and you have to come back. And so you’re trying to go length to length underwater with weights in your hand.
And I got to about 10 feet and that’s as close as I’ve gotten. And Gabby of course can do it easily and Laird easy. But it’s a hard thing to do.
So I challenge you, hopefully you can do better than what I did.
Mark: All right. I’ll take you up on that challenge. But like anything else, it’s something you got to train for, so if you’ve been doing it then it’s probably easy. You take Laird up and have them ski to the top of that mountain with you and see how he does the first time.
Mark P: Yeah, get him into my arena.
Mark: Exactly this is awesome.
Well good luck on Everest. And I can’t wait to see you on Rainier.
Is there a way that people are gonna be able to track your prep and your climb up Everest?
Mark P: Yeah, absolutely. So thanks for asking.
People can go to my website markpattisonnfl.com. Also happens to be my Instagram channels and other places.
But yeah markpattisonnfl.com. And I will have a tracker on Garmin. You’ll be able to follow, track me all the way up the mountain. So it should be very fun to do. I look forward to being there.
Mark: Yeah, well good luck and we’ll be tracking you too. And if there’s anything that we can do here to support you. Reach out and if you want to come to the Kokoro camp, we have one in October… We actually have one next weekend… this weekend. I don’t know what I’m talking about. This weekend. But you’d have to get your ass in gear to come down here and do that.
Or we have one in October. And then we’ll do three times next year, but only once before your trip.
And March. That might be a little too close to your trip. So October would be your date.
Mark P: Nothing is too close. Love it all. And I’m hoping that the Navy SEAL BUD/S cutoff is not 57 years old, so…
Mark: (laughing) they have given waivers. I think the oldest guy I know is 40 and he went through BUD/S and he crushed it. You’d probably crush it.
Alright Mark: Great talking to you. I look forward to seeing you on Rainier. And we’ll have much more time to chat and good luck with everything. Right on.
Mark P: Thank you so much for having me on the pod. Really appreciate it.
Mark: Yeah, it’s been a pleasure.
All right folks. Check out markpattisonnfl.com. Let’s support him on his journey up Everest and on his philanthropic initiatives. And help him raise money and get awareness out for getting people fresh water in Africa. It’s a huge need and such important work.
And I’ll report back on how our Rainier expedition goes. As well as you’ll hear all about our little underwater expertise with Gabrielle and Laird. I’m kind of interested to see how I do it at that. I’m kind of a Waterman, I should do okay. We’ll see.
At any rate, appreciate you and I appreciate your support. Thanks for listening to the Unbeatable Mind podcast. And we’ll catch you next time.