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Developing Respect to Enhance Leadership

By April 10, 2019 May 7th, 2019 No Comments

“ The best leaders – the ones that have the most respect – and the teams that have the most respect have no masks.” – Mark Divine

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In this solocast, Mark talks about building respect for yourself as a leader so that you can enhance the performance of your team. His prime example of how to earn respect, is Captain O’Connell from his years in Iraq. Captain O’Connell was called out of retirement after 9/11 to help lead the new Special Operations command and Mark was able to see him work first-hand.

Learn the three main aspects of respect:

  • Clarity – it was always clear what was expected and what was needed, and so the team could always knew what it needed to do.
  • Authenticity – you are able to “walk the walk,” and be both transparent and accessible
  • Integrity – know how to communicate, so that what you’re saying is both useful and positive. Consider how what you say is going to land with others.

Listen to this episode for a stronger understanding of how respect plays into leadership skills and how you can work to develop them in your own team.

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Hey folks. Welcome back. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks for joining me today. Today I have another solo cast. Hope you’re prepared for that. We’re gonna be talking about respect.

Before I get into it let me remind you it really helps if you rate the podcast. That’s how other people will find it. People just like you who are searching for something motivating, searching to learn how to master their lives and serve others more powerfully. Searching for how to build an Unbeatable Mind. To be mentally tough and emotionally sound and resilient. Fall down seven times, get up eight. Whatever they’re looking for you were once looking for – and by rating the podcast it really helps others find it. So, podcast is on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Google Play – websites – unbeatablemind and

I don’t think you can rate it there – but you can listen to it there. But you can rate it at those others. So, please do. Thanks very much. Appreciate that.

Enough on that.

So, let’s get into this. I’m doing a series on what I call “commitments” and so, instead of looking at this as a value, you know respect – I did one on trust and one on courage and I’ll be doing others on growth and resiliency. And things like that.

I call them “commitments,” because they require a deep commitment to become the person worthy of owning that aspect or that virtue… I guess virtue would be another cool term for it. But I call them “commitments.” and these are things that I’m considering and toying with for a book that I’ll be writing on teams.

At any rate I wanted the flesh out ideas on the podcast and kind of see what comes up. So, I mentioned in the trust podcast that Trust is the glue that holds a team together. Trust is formed slowly over time largely as the result of team members developing and displaying transparency, rigorous and relentless follow-through on their word, and humility. Largely forged through screw-ups. And they’re willing to admit imperfections. So, in a sense Trust really is the firmament or the structure built around the team. Because of the long-term interaction of the team.

And trust can be destroyed in a heartbeat. One “aw shit,” wipes out a thousand “atta boys,” we used to say. And then it takes time to rebuild trust.

Now today I want to talk about respect. So, whereas Trust is that firm structure or the glue, respect is the grease that inserts into the gears of the human interaction in the team. Respect is what lubricates the team, and lack of respect grinds things down and makes it hard for a team to work. I mean there can still be trust with lack of respect, but eventually that trust will erode. So, respect is also a really important commitment for a team and for the team leader and all the teammates.

Now let me back up and just say that the reason I’m really interested in talking and writing about and thinking about teams and podcasting about it – is that I think that the teams are the new leaders of the future. Like in an age of VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – world, there is no one individual who’s got at all going on. Who’s gonna have the answers, right? There are definitely gonna be visionary leaders – but can you imagine if Elon Musk the visionary leader was out there trying to do what he’s doing with SpaceX and Tesla on his own? Like if he couldn’t attract a team, and he didn’t have respect for a team, they didn’t trust him and he didn’t trust them? And there was no courage?

Then he wouldn’t get anything done. He’d just be a visionary, a futurist right? He could be like an author. But no.

He is actually using… He sees that the team is the new entity – or so, to speak – it’s the new leader. And there are teams where you don’t even know that there’s a visionary leader. It all comes from the collective consciousness of the team.

And I had a spiritual teacher once telling me that the Sangha is the next Buddha. And what he meant by that is there’s no one spiritual leader or one you know all omnipresent world leader that’s gonna solve our problems. And that’s kind of an old Industrial Age mindset… This one individual is so, powerful and intelligent and you know gonna solve our problems.

It’s not happening. It’s now the team and Sangha is essentially another word for team. Or community.

All right, so, let me get back into respect. Respect – every one of these commitments has a number of attributes to it, but I’ve narrowed it down to three key qualities. And the three key qualities of respect are integrity, authenticity, and clarity.

So, let me tell you a story about an individual from my Special Warfare career who had great respect. Both for others and others for him. And it was Captain Jim O’Connell. Now Captain O’Connell was a real war fighter. Like he was an unbelievably talented operator and a very talented officer and leader. He was the former commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare Development Group also known as SEAL Team six. And after that kind of pinnacle his career… After 24 to 26 years of service – I don’t know exactly how many – he promised his wife that he would retire. That he had had enough right? He had been in the seals since he graduated from the Naval Academy and it was a long time away from his family. And so, basically said “okay honey. Uncle. I’m done. And it’s your time now.”

So, he was retired. And then some assholes flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And guess what happens? Captain O’Connell was actually called back to active duty. Very few officers have ever been called back to active duty for war after they’ve retired. We used to have this saying in the seals – it was actually on a t-shirt – and the t-shirt had a picture of a frogman – you know, it’s an actual frog – but it was a frog that had a SEAL trident on it – so, it represented a frogman and it was inside a glass jar. And on the outside of the jar, it said “in case of war – break glass.” and we loved that because what it really represented is that we’re built for war – frogmen, Navy seals are built for war. And in peacetime it’s probably best to keep us locked up, you know?

Well I think that’s kind of cool with Captain O’Connell. He retired, he’s done. But war came and so, they broke the glass and they released the man.

And they brought him out to Naval Special Warfare group one in Coronado which is in charge of all the West Coast SEAL Teams and the reason they did that and they didn’t send him back to DEVGRU is because our job for that war in Afghanistan and then later in Iraq was gonna be led by the West Coast SEAL Teams. Because that was the AO or area of operations for the West Coast.

And we didn’t really understand or appreciate at that time the scope of what was gonna happen. Of course, all SEAL Teams ended up participating in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But initially, they were gonna keep the teams to their AO. Much to the chagrin of the East Coast teams who were focused on northern Europe and South America.

But predominantly SEAL team three was responsible for the Middle East but all the West Coast teams got into the game.

So, anyways, here comes O’Connell. He’s called out of retirement to lead the war effort. He’s leading NSW G1 and that’s where I met him. Because I too was recalled to active duty. And I was recalled in 2004. He was recalled 2002 or so. And so, he had been there for some time.

Now my observation – all these stories I’m telling are things that I directly observed or had a relationship with the individual – so, I got to know captain O’Connell not necessarily by the warfighting that was going on – although inadvertently I did see that – or not inadvertently, but tangentially – but I was recalled to work on a special project because the United States Marine Corps decided after 9/11 that they wanted to be part of the special operations. Many people aren’t aware that the Marine Corps was not part of the Special Operations Command. And when the Spec Ops command was formed back in 1989 I think? ’87 or ’89. They declined to be part of it. They said “all Marines are special. We’ve got our recon guys. And we don’t want to be part of that.”

In fact they thought it would fail. So, they didn’t want to play. At any rate now they watched the SOCOM build and they watched all the money and the sexy jobs go to the seals. And all the equipment. And now they’re thinking – especially after 9/11 – we got to get into this game. And so, they lobbied the Pentagon to become part of Spec Ops.

And of course the Pentagon and Donald Rumsfeld, the Sec. Def at the time, looked at that and said “you know what? I’m not against the idea, but there’s a lot of ramifications. We got to study this and I’m gonna get the Navy to opine on this. Because you’re part of the Navy, by the way.” even though the Marine Corps doesn’t like to be reminded of that – the Marine Corp is part of the Navy. And so, Rumsfeld rightly said “okay, the Navy’s gonna have to help us evaluate whether it’s the right thing to do.

And of course the Navy looked at the Navy seals and said, “Okay, you got it. Tag. Naval Special Warfare you’re going to be the host or the executive agent of this proof of concept to determine whether the Marines can join Spec Ops.”

And the Marines put together a hundred man detachment called Marines SOCOM – special operations command – detachment one. And it was like all of their best operators. Like, the very best that they had out of recon, and out of their special human Intel units, and communicators and whatnot. Like real war fighters. Just awesome dudes.

And it was meant to be like a no-fail situation for the Marines. Now you can imagine all the consternation and the political bickering that went on amongst the Navy and the Marine Corps about this proof of concept and about the whole idea. Many seals – senior seals were abjectly against this idea. They thought the Marines would just bleed off missions and money from the seals, and that there was too much overlap. And what are the Marines gonna do that the seals don’t already do?

And they were being parochial, to be fair. Not all seals, but some of the senior ones and a lot of people in DOD and whatnot. And so, it became a political hot potato. And it fell right into Captain O’Connell’s lap. And what I loved about this – so, I was brought in to basically lead the study – I was getting my doctorate at University of San Diego at the time. I had to pause the doctorate to go do this, but they said “hey, what seals do we have that we respect who have a head on their shoulders and know how to do some research?” and they’re like “well, Divine’s getting his PhD right now and he’s a lieutenant commander Reserve. Maybe he’d be someone we could tap.”

So, they called me up and I said yes. At any rate, there you have that. So, I go into naval special warfare, group 1. That’s when I meet O’Connell and I’m just observing. I’d become a great observer at the time. And I’m watching just how he’s navigating the politics of both the Marines, and the Pentagon, and the SEAL hierarchy.

And like this guy is one cool cucumber, right? What I saw was he put the country’s needs first. Now you might think that’s a no-brainer, but we’re talking about human beings here who have invested a lot in their careers and have got a lot of you know political capital in what happens for the seals, or what happens to the Marines. And to be fair, not a lot of people put country above their own career or their own unit, so, to speak. I mean they say they do, but behind closed doors a lot of times they’re gonna do what’s right for them or for their unit, or their organization, oftentimes. And that’s really leading with ego.

And you didn’t see that at all from captain O’Connell. He really didn’t… He stayed clear of politics. He looked at the facts. He looked at what the country needed and what we needed to win this war. He looked at what was good for the Marine Corps. He looked at what was good for the seals. And what was good for his men.

He really didn’t have a personal agenda whatsoever. And so, he displayed total integrity. He was very, very clear. He had a lot of authenticity in his interactions with everyone. And he had integrity. It’s very impressive.

So, ultimately what happened is the Marines deployed. And one of the first instances that I saw that he really, really cared about this unit and that they got a fair shake – we got overseas and it was right around April or May of 2004 when the shit started to hit the fan over there. We had declared victory. George Bush landed on the aircraft carrier with a big sign that said “victory.” we had kicked Saddam out of power and everything was good.

And all of a sudden everything wasn’t so, good. The number of roadside bombs and terrorists… Insurgent attacks started to tick up. And the country just started to devolve into chaos.

And that’s when we were there. And the Marines… This hundred man marine det. Had ordered these brand-new, fast attack vehicles – which were these Mercedes. And they were – like you think about like Rommel’s Desert Rats. They were perfect for a big desert environment more like – probably would have done well in Afghanistan. Where you’re not in urban areas where people are trying to blow you up every corner you turn around.

And so, it quickly became apparent that these vehicles were going to be useless over there. And they couldn’t use them. And it was gonna take over six months for the Marine Corps to get them armored Humvees. In this deployment of theirs under SEAL team one… I forgot to mention that the Marines were attached to SEAL team one and SEAL team one became their executive agent in the field. In Baghdad.

At any rate so, SEAL Team one’s over there. They’re starting to do their work, and they’re up-armoring their vehicles, because even the seals vehicles weren’t armored. That was early in the war.

And the Marines had these IFAVs and they couldn’t do anything. So, they’re sitting on their butts going like “holy cow. What are we gonna do?” and so, captain O’Connell… Everyone else is kind of clucking in the seals like “ha-ha. Sucks for you. Bad decision.”

And O’Connell said “not on my watch.” said “these guys need to operate. They need to fight the war.” and so, he turned to SEAL Team One and he said “you know, guys – figure this out. I don’t care how you do it. It’s wartime,” basically. You know there’s a lot hidden in that… Or implied in that in that statement.

And so, within just like 48 hours, a Warrant Officer who worked for SEAL team one had figured it out. And I think like twelve Humvees driven by Navy seals came into the compound. And they got their torches on – it looked like Mad Max town. All the seals started to up-armor these Humvees. And the word got out quickly to the Marines that these were for them. And so, they came and they got their torches and they started helping the seals up-armor.

And it was just a really cool thing to see is these two units who you know had a lot of professional rivalry working together so, the Marines could get in the fight.

And that was O’Connell who made that happen. And his SEAL team one commanding officer, Wilson.

What a really cool thing to watch. At any rate you know that authenticity of like “these guys got to get in the fight, and we’ll do everything we can to put them in the fight.” it was really powerful to watch.

Three Elements to Respect – Clarity


So, let’s take a closer look at those three elements. Integrity, authenticity, and clarity. We’ll kind of penetrate them backwards.

So, let’s start with clarity. So, clarity leads to respect, because it’s hard to respect someone who’s not clear about their mission, and can’t clearly articulate their intent. Because you’re going to end up with a lot of confusion. And you’re gonna end up with people acting on what they think is intended, when actually something else is intended.

So, we talk about intent being both explicit and implicit. Clarity requires both understanding of what your explicit expectations are for your team as well as the implicit. And that requires you to have great self-awareness, because sometimes you’re not even aware of your own implicit expectations.

So, clarity comes from great self-awareness. Which means as a leader or as a great teammate, you need to be developing self-awareness. It’s the type of thing we teach at Unbeatable Mind. So, clarity leads to clarity of mission, intent both explicit and implicit. Clarity around where to focus your energy and where the team should focus their energy. Clarity around the exact objectives you’re hoping to achieve. Also the acceptable limits of a mission.

So, let’s take this situation with Captain O’Connell and these Humvees. Now there it was clear the mission was to get these Marines into the fight. The intent was that we’re going to get these Humvees in a way that may be unconventional, because that’s what Special Operations do.

But at the same time there were acceptable limits. So, we’re not going to do anything illegal, right? Now keep in mind that during war acceptable limits sometimes tend to be… The boundaries are pushed out a little bit, right? You think about some of the movies you’ve seen about Vietnam and Iraq.

It’s true. Nobody’s intending to break the law, but you know, sometimes it’s just too unwieldy to go through the traditional bureaucratic procurement system that takes six months. And so, you might do a back hand… A back office or handshake deal with an Army National Guard unit that doesn’t happen to use or need those Humvees as much as you do.

And guess what? You got yourself your Humvees. Stuff like that.

Clarity requires a great perspective. The ability to take perspectives on other people. Other people’s perspectives. And that is a really rich skill. One that develops through growth… Through vertical development like we talk about.

And then clarity also on where the power structures are and how to influence individuals and others through those power structures. I loved watching how O’Connell operated and he had great clarity about the power structures, and how to navigate those without stepping on any landmines.

And that that clarity led to respect up and down in the chain of command. I mean, everybody respected this guy, because he was just so, clear. And he telegraphed that clarity through his speech, and through his actions. And also through what he didn’t say and didn’t do.

Three Elements to Respect – Authenticity


So, the second attribute of respect that really leads to that greasing the groove or greasing the gears of a team is authenticity. And authenticity requires self-control and emotional depth. Essentially, you don’t want to see anyone on an elite team wear a mask or pretend to be something that they’re not. Because ultimately you are able to see through it. They reveal it sooner or later, right? And so, a lot of people lack that authenticity and they’ll put a mask on. They’ll be one way at work and then a different way at home. They’ll be one way with one group of people, and another way with another group of people. They’ll be one way in a public setting, and another in a private. And they’re wearing these masks.

But the best leaders… The ones that have the most respect, and the teams that have the most respect, have no masks, right? Except for the mask that they give to the enemy, but that’s a different thing, right? So, they’re very authentic and they’re able to marshal their emotions… And I’m not saying they won’t use their emotions for influence. They will. But they’re not trying to be inauthentic or misleading or deceptive.

Second, authenticity requires great respect for oneself. And this is a big aspect of respect… I’ve often said it’s hard to respect others if you don’t respect yourself. The seals don’t really have that problem, you know. You develop a lot of great self-respect through the training and just the accomplishment and then you know the idea of earning that trident every day.

But I’m talking about a deep, deep level. So, that emotional depth where you’ve done the work, and you’ve looked at some of the patterns that maybe have caused you to feel less than whole during your life. And you’ve dealt with them and you have forgiven yourself from your screw-ups, and you have great self-respect.

And then from that you’re able to really be much more forgiving of other people’s weaknesses and shortcomings. And to be respectful of them.

And then the third – and this sounds kind of obvious – but authenticity comes from having respectable behavior. Habits and disciplines. So, for instance if Captain O’Connell, when he retired had let himself become you know a fat slob, you know, he woulda lost respect. But he didn’t. He respected himself and so, his behavior was respectable behavior. So, he maintained his serious fitness regimen like he had in the seals.

He was the first in and the last out at work, right? And that’s really interesting, you know? It’s hard to do that. But just think about the commitment of respect to say “guess what? What would it take me for…? Just to come in a half hour early, and to stay a half hour, an hour later, just to go the extra mile, to do the extra work, to be there for people who might need me – that might be your open door time.

So, O’Connell was always first into the office, and last out. And also he was willing to sacrifice. So, sacrifice for his family, and for his personal needs… Not always putting himself first, but putting others before himself. So, that was really respectable behavior. And people noticed that. Because people watch your actions instead of listening to your words. They’ll listen to your words, if your actions are matching your words. But if your actions don’t match your words, they just stop listening to your words and respect is lost. It’s like you suck the grease out of the system and the gears start grinding together.

And the last part about authenticity that I’ll mention is just a genuineness. It’s almost like a synonym? Is that the right word? (laughing) cinnamon. Tastes good.

It’s a synonym for authenticity, but genuineness means you’re direct, you’re not twitchy eyed when you talk to someone. And you’re gonna be really upfront with people. You’re caring and that caring is a felt sense of “this individual cares for me. He’s not just blowing smoke up your six point of contact.”

Also accessible, right? So, O’Connell was always accessible. It wasn’t always these closed doors, hush meetings… The door was wide open and you know if he was super busy you wouldn’t walk in… But if you needed something from him you could knock on the door. And he would put down whatever he was doing and deal with you. So, he’s accessible.

And he absolutely treated everyone with fairness and equality. Didn’t matter your rank or what role you had. He treated everyone with fairness and equality. So, he truly was a human being serving his country, in this role. And others could look at him as this advanced SEAL operator, or a navy captain oh-six. Senior. He could easily have been an admiral if his wife hadn’t asked him to retire. But he didn’t look that way. He was just another human, who had an important role. He had certain skills – had a lot of training and he took his ego out of the equation. And served his country.

Three Elements to Respect – Integrity


The last one is integrity. To me integrity means whole or integrated. We talked about our five mountains at Unbeatable Mind. We say to be integrated, you integrate physically, mentally, emotionally, intuitionally, and Kokoro or heart/mind. And that leads to a whole – being whole or having a whole mind. To me that’s integrity.

But you know the more common way to think of integrity is that you think, and what you say, and what you do are all the same or in alignment. You’re in alignment. So, it takes discipline to have integrity, because discipline means to be a disciple to something higher and that means you have to basically have a very disciplined mind. And to be we’re operating out of your higher moral compass mind. Your higher mind is not going to be driven by your passions, and your desires, and your emotions. But it’s going to be aloof above that. And it’s your higher mind that leads us to be disciplined so, that we’re clear about thinking the right thoughts. And saying the right words. And then following through and doing the right actions. This is certainly not easy. at all.

Even just the saying part, we can start to look at that and parse that down. How do we speak as a leader with integrity so, that it reflects our clear thinking? That clarity? And it reflects our authenticity?

And then from there comes our actions. So, whether we say it out loud, or say it to ourselves, how we say things is really important. And people of integrity will take a lot of time and think about that. Using their disciplined, higher mind.

So, there’s three attributes around communication. The way that people with integrity communicate.

The first is that they take time to make sure that what they’re going to communicate is true and accurate, right? It’s accurate. And so, they’re not going to just spout off on something that is just a belief or an opinion. They’re gonna try to ascertain the most true and accurate. So, they’re gonna ground their words in truth and accuracy to provide as best context as possible.

And from this they’re gonna make an assertion or some declaration. An assertion is “this is the way things are.” where a declaration is “this is how things are gonna be. This is my stand and these are our values in an organization,” would be like a declaration.

The second aspect of communicating with integrity is to make sure that what you say is useful. That you’ve put a lot of thought into it and you’re not going to waste people’s time. You’re gonna you’re going to be very specific and useful with your words. And that usually means economy of words. And the usefulness is delivered in the form of a request which can be like an order in the military or request. It can be come in the form of an offer which is going to be like advice or maybe even a reprimand. Like “I’m gonna offer you advice on how to improve.” or “I’m gonna offer you an opportunity to change your behavior,” which would be like a reprimand. Or it’s gonna come in the form of a promise, right? That’s pretty cool.

And so, a leader with integrity first sets the context grounded in truth and accuracy. And then, is gonna provide some useful or specific actionable words that are either request or offer or a promise.

And then the third aspect of communicating with integrity, is that what is said is positive and coming from an open heart. And that’s really that authenticity. So, we got clarity, we got authenticity and all those wrapped up are in integrity. Integris communications. You could have a whole course on that. That’s pretty cool.

So, ultimately respect is about showing up every day and essentially injecting new grease into the cogs of your team machine with these three ideas of clarity – or these three character traits of clarity, authenticity, and integrity. We used to say in the seals “earn your trident every day.”

Guess what? That’s how we do it. That’s one way we do it. We also do it through the other commitments like developing trust and being trustworthy and showing courageous behavior. So, you’ve got to do the work of self-awareness, self-control, social/emotional awareness, and influence. Like captain O’Connell and other great leaders do.

There’s so, much more to say about this but I’ve been going for a while. But let me just talk about a few more things.

This is kind of interesting. I mentioned perspective as being a really important part of clarity. So, one thing to consider as a leader is that you see the world from the inside-out. Meaning you really… It starts first as an emotion or thought. Or a combination of the two whatever it is you’re going to do or say. And then that leads to a speech action. That speech action is an internal dialogue that then is thought carefully about from your higher mind. And then it becomes an external speak action.

And of course I just talked about that. It’s going to be accurate, useful, and positive. And then you take action, right? So, you have the speech action and then you have the do action, right? Which is going to be some sort of request, some sort of deliberate thing that you put into the world.

And then from there that creates a feedback loop based upon how it lands with the team or whoever is the recipient.

So, that’s how the leader sees the world. It goes from that direction inside to out. But the team or the recipient – the teammate – sees the leader from the outside in. And so, they’re gonna observe the action, and then they’re gonna hear the speech. And then they’re gonna experience the interaction or the resonance of the emotional, energetic body of the leader. As they’re taking the action or having that speech. So, I mentioned earlier, one of the important things as a leader when you’re committed to respect is to earn that respect by not just being… Not separating yourself from your team or your teammate and looking at them like an object. And just delivering some order or some request.

But to actually be able to put yourself in their eyes, and to be able to take their perspective of you delivering the speech act, or the do act. And from that perspective you’ll be able to say “oh, if I say this, they’re gonna think and feel that. Or if I do this they’re gonna think and feel that. And they might do that in a reaction to it.”

And that perspective of taking the perspective of your team listening, watching and responding to your actions, gives you great insight and also leads to great respect. Because you’re going to make different decisions. Better decisions. More authentic decisions. You can have more integrity and more clarity.

So, there you have it. One quick story to kind of wrap this up – about another individual not military – this is a friend of mine and an individual a lot of you know about my friend Joe DeSena of Spartan Race. The founder of Spartan.

Joe and I became friends when he invited me up about five or six years ago to Vermont and he was having the very first Spartan coach certification. And it was invite-only and I think he had like 12 or so, hardcore athletes and coaches and very qualified individuals who wanted to become Spartan certified coaches.

And so, I met Joe and we became fast friends. We shared a lot in common. Our love for fitness, our love for the outdoors, our love for hiking, climbing, endurance sports. And most importantly our love for using challenging crucible style events to forge character.

My version of course was the SEALFIT Kokoro camp and our 20x events and that’s why he invited me out. Because my passion and expertise for that – I had already published “Eight Weeks to SEALFIT” and I think “The Way of The SEAL” at that time. And his passion, of course, was obstacle racing and using obstacle racing. But he started Spartan with something called the “Death Race.” and you know back in the old days – I don’t know if they do it now – but basically their website says “you will not finish this race. And you may die. So, be careful when you apply.” it reminds me when I when I first started publishing the SEALFIT operator workouts I said “do not do this workout. You might hurt yourself.” or “do not do this workout unless you’re extremely fit.” I can’t remember what I posted. But that was back when I posted all the workouts and ran a blog at SEALFIT. A long time ago.

Anyways, so, this story is about respect – so, right at the very beginning of this weekend and we’re sitting in the lodge at his Vermont compound, so, to speak. And he put out the standards for what he was looking for from these individuals. And he told them that how we were gonna challenge them and how all these other coaches… There were like three of us. There was a guy who ran a Spartan wrestling program out in Arizona, who was just a total stud. Great guy. There was myself and there were one or two others – a PhD in exercise physiology and then this other guy Joe DiStefano, who runs the program today and so, we were there…

Oh another guy who was into something called “animal fitness.” which was just awesome, right? And so, we were all like sharing notes and providing ideas to Joe on how we were to construct a program. And we were all very clear that it’s going to be really challenging, they’re gonna expect to have deep knowledge of functional fitness, to be able to demonstrate their capacity to teach that knowledge, and most important they were gonna have to have the character of a Spartan warrior.

So, that was clear, right? Joe really set the standards and was very clear in his communications. So, that was cool. And everyone respected that.

The second piece was the authenticity. One of the reasons I really love Joe is like he’s… “What you sees, is what you gets.” and I like to think I’m that way too. Joe was a blast to work with. We were out splitting wood for hours and we were just taking hikes and he was up the whole time. With everyone else.

And he was there doing hot yoga with… We were all doing this together. Like, we were all right there side by side with these students. And we all bonded immediately. Just because of that authenticity there were no masks, right? And we weren’t there for some return on our time invested. You know, I paid for my own trip out there… I think there was some conversation about him reimbursing, but you know it never happened. And I never really considered asking him maybe Joe will listen to this and send me a check. Who knows? I don’t give a shit.

It was just fun. There was no expectation of anything in return. It’s very authentic. So, Joe developed a lot of respect in that category too.

And then lastly the integrity. And so, the integrity was shown at the end. So, here we are. We spent 48 hours – these twelve poor suckers – not suckers, I shouldn’t say that – these 12 candidates were up for 48 hours. Hiking mountains, carrying rocks, chopping wood… Doing all crazy exercises that we could throw at them. Navy SEAL exercises, animal fitness exercises, these ridiculous wrestling two-person exercises like crawling around another human being without touching your feet to the ground. And two people doing cartwheels together. That’s just wicked. Wickedly fun.

At any rate, at the end of all that we all met the coaches all met with Joe, and he asked us our opinion. And my opinion to Joe was that none of these people were worthy of being Spartan coaches. And Joe looked me straight in the face and he says “I agree.”

And he basically got up and he went in to everyone. He said, “Thank you all. It’s been an incredible weekend. I hope you learned a lot. I hope you learned something about yourself and it was worth your time, but we’re not gonna certify anyone. And we’re gonna go back to the drawing board to retool this program.”

Unbelievable. I was blown away. And I love that, right? It just spoke volumes in my respect for Joe and my respect for a Spartan brand just you know was formulated in that weekend.

I thought that was kind of a fun story. Captain O’Connell, Joe DeSena… There’s so, many other people who have you know exemplified this discipline and this commitment of respect. It is such an important aspect of building an elite team and is such an important aspect of being a great leader. So, consider it well.

As I get into writing the stories I’m going to tell more about my failures throughout my career in the seals and elsewhere. About how I didn’t uphold this and then I’ll also be highlighting stories of other ways that I’ve experienced respect and trust and courage and etc.

All right. Well that’s it. Thanks so, much for your time. I hope that was interesting to you and worthwhile and you consider it and begin to think deeply about these things. And care for them as much as I do, okay? So, till next time stay focused, train hard, cultivate that authenticity, clarity and integrity so, that you can be respected and respectful.


Divine out.

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