Top Menu

Rich Diviney on the Mind Gym and the Attributes of Leadership

By March 25, 2021 April 28th, 2021 No Comments

Rich Diviney (@rich_diviney) is a former SEAL and an expert and consultant on leadership. He is also the author of The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance. Rich talks with Mark about his Mind Gym for performance and the many attributes necessary for leadership in the military and business.

Hear how:

  • There is a difference between peak and optimal performance—and why you should aim for one over the other
  • There is an irony of leadership—“If you work your job correctly, you are out of a job”
  • Skills are great, but attributes are greater—and attributes cannot be taught

Listen to this episode to find out more about optimal performance and how certain attributes are essential to leadership and the hiring process.

LMNT Recharge is a tasty electrolyte drink mix with all the good stuff and none of the bad stuff. We’re talking no sugar, gluten, fillers, artificial ingredients and Paleo and Keto friendly. LMNT is brought to you by Robb Wolf, who is a trusted friend, colleague and health leader.

The are current offering the Unbeatable Mind tribe the LMNT Sample Pack of 8 packets (2 citrus, 2 raspberry, 2 orange, 2 raw and unflavored) This is limited to one per customer. Mark is excited for you to try it, and he knows that once you do, you’ll be hooked. Go to and get your Sample Pack today.

Today’s episode is brought to you by podcast publisher Wondery. Feel the story with their emotionally immersive podcasts.

The first season of Wondery’s new original series Against the Odds takes you inside the incredible events when an adventurous group of teens found themselves fighting to save their lives, and the brave heroes that gave them their only chance at survival.

In July, 2018, 12 youth soccer players and their coach found themselves trapped 6 miles deep in a cave with no food or water and depleting oxygen.  There was no light and no way to communicate with the outside world.

Their only chance of mailing it out alive was in the hands of world class cave diver, Rick Stanton, With the whole world watching, Rick and his dive partner John were immediately faced with the challenge of their lifetime – find the boys and get them out safely.

Against the Odds is available now on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts. Start your free trial of Wondery Plus in the Wondery app to listen ad-free.  With Against the Odds, feel the suspense.

During these extremely VUCA times, it’s even more essential to have a mental and emotional coach to help the inner you. His tribe has often heard Mark talking about the value of therapy and emotional coaching. He is proud to introduce you to Talkspace, your online therapy solution. They have licensed therapists in 40 different fields, and they use bank grade encryption to protect your information and comply with HIPPA.

As a listener of this podcast, you’ll get $100 off your first month with Talkspace. Go to or download the app to match with a licensed therapist today. Use the code UNBEATABLE to get $100 off of your first month and show support for the Unbeatable Mind Podcast.

After a long year, things are looking up for business in 2021. Businesses will need to build a good team to be able to serve and prosper in exciting ways. Mark uses LinkedIn for his hiring needs. He has been a LinkedIn member for many years – right from the start – and he is certain that they offer the easiest and most effective way to hire the best candidates for your team.

When your business is ready to make a new hire, find the right person with LinkedIn Jobs. And now you can post a job for free. Just visit to post a job for free. Terms and Conditions apply.

Mark is a fan of the CBD oil products from Mission Farms. He has started using it on his knees to reduce the pain and swelling that comes from a workout. Their organic products will effectively allow you to manage stress in muscles and joints so that you can go further with your workouts. Go to and use the code “unbeatable” to save $10 on your order.

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

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




Hey folks, welcome back. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Super stoked to have you here today. We’re gonna have a great show with a teammate of mine – Rich Diviney…

Before I get into introducing him a little further, let me just thank you again for being a follower, listening to this podcast, for sharing it with your friends – if you like an episode please share it. And also, please rate it on iTunes – particularly iTunes – or wherever you listen to the podcast actually, but iTunes is a great place to rate it, because it really helps other people find it.

We have over a thousand five-star reviews. I’d like to keep that trend going and we’re consistently in the top 10 in our category. So, congratulations on that, for being a power listener… that’s awesome.

And we’ve got a bunch of new sponsors coming online, so forgive me if you think that’s tacky, but we’ve got to make money with this thing somehow. Has been a labor of love, but we do have sponsors who really want to reach you and talk to you.

And trust me on this point, I don’t promote anything that I haven’t used or currently use. And there’s some really cool stuff coming along that I’m excited to share with you. So just know that the stuff that I promote, and the sponsors I choose for this podcast are legit, and the stuff that I use.

Also, we’re going through some changes at Unbeatable Mind and so you’ll see some really interesting things coming out in the next few months. If you haven’t really learned what we do as a company… I mean, that’s really my hope for the listeners of this podcast is to really get on this path of transformation… you know, to be a self-evolving human being. To tap into your fullest potential.

And that’s what we do – we facilitate that at Unbeatable Mind and we train leaders in and with and through their teams. Which is a real innovation. And something that Rich and I are going to talk a lot about. How real leadership skills are honed and crafted in the team setting, because that’s where the direct feedback comes, that’s where the vulnerability, and the authenticity, and the grit, and the drive – all that is kind of on fire and displayed.

Your leadership doesn’t happen alone. You don’t go to a course or get a PhD, and figure you’re a leader.

In fact, Rich, I’m going to get your take on this, but I was in a doctoral program in leadership. And after I came back from Iraq, I literally bailed on the whole thing, because I wasn’t learning anything about leadership in that doctoral program. And none of my teachers – god bless them all, very smart people – had very little to share about actual leadership.

So, if you want to learn how to lead effectively, authentically, with humility, with deep trust then you have to cultivate those character traits or what Rich calls attributes.

And that’s something that actually we teach. And so, does Rich. (laughing) So, you got two options. Unbeatable mind and Rich Diviney, and he works for an organization called the chapman leadership institute or something like that.

We’ll talk more about that. I just wanted to throw that out there, if you’re not clear on what we did at Unbeatable Mind.

So Rich Diviney – not to be mistaken to be Rich Divine – he’s got an extra letter on his name, but Rich and I have a lot in common – we’re both SEAL team guys, he graduated – (laughing) graduated – as a commander. So, did I.

And now he’s an author, so am I and he’s passionate about developing leaders, and so am I. So, we’re gonna have a really good conversation.

I’ve been working my way through his new book called “the attributes: 25 hidden drivers for optimal performance,” and I can tell you, it is outstanding. It’s very well written.

Rich congratulations – I’m loving your style. The stories, your humor, your authenticity and it’s a great contribution to this discussion on leadership. So, thank you for putting the book out. And thank you for your work in the teams, and your service. And thank you for being on this podcast.

Rich: Well, thanks for having me, Mark. It’s a real pleasure and an honor, and I’m glad we’re finally able to connect. It was a long career of hearing – I know I heard your name a lot – but I think we only connected a few years ago. So yeah, it’s good to be here and finally chat. So, thank you.

Mark: You know, it’s interesting, I think the first time I heard about you was from Bob Schoultz when I was at one of our early summits, and I used the term “mind gym.” Because we use that term in our training to be an internal place of visualization. Like you literally create in your head a mind gym.

And he said, “oh yeah, have you ever heard of Rich Diviney?”

I’m like, “well that name sure sounds familiar.”

He says, “he actually created a mind gym – an actual gym, a physical structure – at DEVGRU.

Rich: Yeah.

Mark: And I was like “wow, that’s fascinating.” I’m really interested in learning about that, so why don’t we start there.

But tell us a little bit about your SEAL career – let’s kind of unpack that and talk about the mind gym concept before we get into the book and some of these other things.

Rich: Yeah absolutely. So, I graduated – I went to Purdue and graduated from ROTC there as an officer. And went straight to SEAL training in ‘96 – so bud’s class 210 – and from there went to sdv1, which is in Hawaii and did our mini subs. I always loved the idea of diving – that was one of the primary reasons I wanted to be a Navy SEAL was that…

Mark: Rare to go to sdv1 right out of BUD/S.

Rich: You know, it’s interesting you say that. It is now. Back then it was not. They were kind of distributing evenly across the teams.

Now there’s actually some selection that goes on there, which is good. Because it’s a fairly advanced capability…

Mark: I was at sdv1 as well – right before you showed up. I think I rolled out of there in ‘96.

Rich: Okay, yeah. So, we just missed each other.

So was there and then early 2000s migrated to the east coast – which was good for me, because I’m from the east coast – I’m from Connecticut. And always wanted to go to SEAL team 2 which is what I did. And was at team 2 for a few years and then selected and went to DEVGRU.

And was basically there for the rest of my career, other than a short stint out to 10 as the XO and then did my co tour at DEVGRU… and eventually retired out of there.

The most fun work I had actually was there, was when I was a training officer. I was running the assessment and selection and training department there and that’s when I we kind of came up with the mind gym. And that’s when I began to think about attributes versus skills.

A lot of this stuff kind of began to marinate in my head back then. And the mind gym really was a concept that we were exploring, because we were at a phase… this was 2010-ish… and we were at a phase where we were kind of deep into the war.

And so, we had people obviously active in it, but we also had folks who were starting to get out and retire. And we were noticing that there was some “brokenness,” I guess is the best way to term it… guys were just having some issues.

And of course, they were subtle, because I think team guys and I think special operators holistically they don’t… you know, PTSD doesn’t show up as overtly sometimes in them, because we’re so good at compartmentalization. And so, you have to be really careful…

Mark: We hide it pretty well.

Rich: Yeah, exactly right. And so, we were thinking about resiliency and I kind of had this ulterior motive to go beyond resiliency into this idea of anti-fragility. So “yes, bounce back. But can you bounce back and grow stronger?”

And we kind of said, “well let’s think about it. If we’re doing pretty well on the human system physically… which we were – team guys are in pretty darn good shape – so benching more weight in the gym and running faster miles wasn’t necessarily what we needed.

It was my opinion – luckily, my commanding officers agreed, and my team agreed – it was my opinion that the mind was the next frontier. And so, could we create a space where we started in essence kind of creating a working relationship with our brains? And therefore, understanding our physiology in ways that could deal with stress, anxiety and performance?

And specifically, I think our first initial – this was all very new – I think our first initial goal was to kind of start studying recovery. But more than just sleep – obviously sleep’s important – but start thinking about things that I started calling “micro-recovery moments.”

So, could we start to understand the relationship between our brain, our nervous system, and our overall physiology – which you know so much about. Because breathing is a direct line into that.

So that we could start shifting from sympathetic to parasympathetic more on demand. We could start initiating micro-recovery moments and what I call “recovering in-between gun fights.” And understand our battery levels in ways that we otherwise didn’t at the time.

And so, we just started throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall in terms of experimentation – float tanks, and HRV breathing and mental acuity drills, and things like that… and mental performance coaches.

So that’s where it all started.

Mark: I love that. It’s so interesting how that parallels my experience. And I wish I had known about this effort way back in 2006 when I was starting SEALFIT – which is the predecessor to Unbeatable Mind -because here’s an example – and I’m sure you had this experience – when I was in Iraq, I had a lot of these coping tools, because as you’re aware, and most of my listeners are as well – I started studying Zen meditation when I was 21, four years before I came into the seals.

I came in at 25… turned 26 at BUD/S. Class 170. And so, I had a deep breathing, concentration, mindfulness and imagery practice for four years before I came to the seals. And it had a profound effect on me. I tell that story in “the way of the SEAL.”

And it had a profound effect on my ability to lead, I was much calmer than a lot of my teammates… my entire boat crew made it through training with me, which is pretty unheard of.

Rich: Yeah.

Mark: Because we were less reactive and I was teaching them these skills. So anyways, then fast forward – I don’t have your experiences – I went to war once in 2004 as a reservist. I kind of missed it all. I got off active duty well before 9/11 – and so I was really honored to be able to go to Iraq, even as a reservist…

And every day that I was there, I would go do my mind gym practice. I would go do my movement, which was asana – I would do a little CrossFit workout, and then I would sit and meditate and visualize… and you know, my little practice.

And what I saw the operators doing – now granted, I wish I was out kicking doors down and whatnot – but I was in the jock and doing that kind of lieutenant commander stuff – but the operators were just running hard, coming back across the wire at two or three in the morning, and then they would play video games to unwind. (laughing) first-person shooter video games…

I’m thinking, “dude, that’s… how about we do some box breathing?” You know what I mean? Or do some movement, or let’s sit in pigeon pose or something like that. No interest.

And there was no discussion or work in the vanilla teams about that. But it sounds like you were already starting to do that work at DEVGRU with the tier one operators.

Rich: It was certainly a start. The stigma still followed regardless of what team you were, because there’s a machismo and a tough guy-ness. And I would say just to give everybody a little bit of benefit of the doubt… in these high performing environments, it’s very easy to get addicted to the performance part of it. You know, the breaking through, the succeeding…

Because it feels so good. It feels so good to do something, and be successful. And then once you’re done, you’re like, “okay, what’s next?”

And of course, BUD/S almost bakes that into you. Because BUD/S is kind of never, never stop and how far can you go?

And so, recovery is often forgotten. It’s actually a classic omission from a lot of high performers. Because they fall into entropy, without understanding why. They’re going “wait a sec. I’m kicking ass everywhere.”

It’s like, “yeah, but you’re not…” it’s like you’re benching three times a day, you know?

Mark: Right. (laughing) You’re not kicking ass in balance.

Rich: That’s right. And then we all know that recovery oftentimes takes twice, sometimes three times as long as the actual event. Especially when you’re talking about mental recovery and mental trauma.

So yeah, it was an introduction. The idea was to start introducing this in a way that spoke to a higher level of performance, so that it had the label of “performance” over it, versus the label of “I need help.”

Mark: Right.

Rich: Because we all know – I used to joke – if you put a sign above a door that says, “get help” team guys, marines… I don’t care what your flavor of military… everybody’s going to run away, right?

If you put a sign over the door that says “sexy new gear,” (laughing) you’re gonna have a line around the corner.

So, the idea was to populate the facility with some sexy new gear, and talk about it in terms of performance and if you develop this relationship with your brain…

It’s almost like… and you were around… well, you saw the evolution from the archaic thousand flutter kick type working out to the functional fitness type.

Well, that was an evolution too. Because that required a change of state, and a change of mentality… and you know, back then to a screw with the seals workout was sacrosanct. So, it required some early adopters to kind of start working out this way, and show guys who are in there, “hey, this is working.”

And then also define it and show it in terms of, “hey, this can enhance your performance.” So now someone would be working out with a trainer, and the trainer would be like, “hey, I’m noticing there’s a dip in your strength on your left shoulder. You may want to go get that looked at by the rehab guy or gal.”

And that guy would go running – instead of running away – they’d go running to get help for their shoulder, because it would be in the vein of enhanced performance.

So, our idea was “let’s develop a relationship with our brain, so we could start seeing those deficits or those roadblocks mentally.” Guys would be more willing to go running to the psych, and maybe work it out, and then come back stronger.

And again, everything in the teams – you start something – and I’m not sure where it stands now, in terms of the mind portion. There was always a little bit of a juggle in terms of who was in charge – who thought the physical part was more important, who thought the mental part was more important.

Mark: They’re both important. That’s the point.

Rich: Yeah, and they’re balanced right? But, as you know, we always joke – it’s like being on a roller coaster with your hair on fire, and when you get off – like three seconds later, it’s gone, right? So, it just goes so fast, it’s hard to keep track.

But that was the idea, and some guys really started to get into it. And it certainly taught me a lot about just a deeper understanding of total performance.

Mark: My experience with the teams – probably any organization that gets pretty rigid structures over time – is that these types of changes – you call them early adopters, yes, they start to happen with early adopters, and then followers are the next bunch who are like “that works.” Or “I want to do what he’s doing.”

And it’s never top down or systematized, because there’s always that rigid resistance. And to this day, right? Even at BUD/S…

Like my program called Unbeatable Mind… they’re doing now at BUD/S pretty much everything that I’ve been teaching seals, but it’s because I’ve got about probably six or seven hundred seals who have trained in Unbeatable Mind. Who’ve gone through BUD/S.

And now they’ve come back as instructors. And then you have Mike Magarochi – my friend Mags there – and Captain Bob Schoultz, who are all talking the talk. And mags referring my book, your book now, jocko’s book…

And they’re doing this stuff at a deck plate level – and so you’ll have a whole generation of seals pretty soon who are doing it. And then when those guys get into leadership roles, they’ll institutionalize it.

Rich: That’s right.

Mark: That’s probably what’s happened to DEVGRU, you got to jump on the rest of the community. Because what I’m seeing is the… well, my experience – and I want to talk to you about this – when we talk about these optimal… I want to talk about optimal versus peak performance… but optimal performance skills are really pre-resiliency and you call it “anti-fragility.”

How do you bounce back stronger? Well, it’s because you do this stuff in advance of the challenge. In advance of the deployment, right? So, you’re already pre-resilient, you’re already able to immediately calm yourself when the first bullet starts flying through the nostril breathing and deep diaphragmatic breathing, and the mantra – or what we call mantra – or positive self-talk.

The cognitive performance skills are there for you already. So, you train these things in advance, you don’t wait until you’re broken.

Rich: Yeah. And it sets you up for a shorter delta in terms of in terms of the deficit, right? Because there’s gonna be stuff that happens – it certainly happened to me – that is just hard. I mean, it knocks you off baseline for sure.

Whether it’s something that happens in combat, something you see, something you experience or even something physical – the preparation part helps you absorb that blow a little bit better. And maybe instead of getting knocked from zero to negative ten, maybe you get knocked to negative eight or negative five.

But then there’s that that critical understanding, that recovery is so necessary. Because you have to really understand… and here’s the other thing… the problem some guys have with understanding how important recovery is – is sometimes there’s no time for recovery in the moment.

And I always joke, you know, you watch the movies and it’s like in the movies, the guy’s buddy dies and he spends the next two or three minutes crying and mourning while the combat’s going on.

That doesn’t happen, right? There’s no time. You have to continue the fight, you have to win the fight, finish the mission. There’s no time to recover, there’s no time to mourn – you must act and get through it.

However, that also comes with a curse, because if you’re not understanding enough, then what happens is you get through it and you never stop and pause and take time to figure out the recovery piece. To process it.

And part of the recovery process is processing the emotions to the extent that you can actively and proactively reflect on the experience. And then figure out what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown.

Mark: Right.

Optimal and Peak


Mark: I’d like to talk about the difference between optimal performance and peak performance. I’m pretty sure I know what that is, but I’d like to hear it in your language.

And then when it comes to optimal performance, what worked for you at DEVGRU in terms of the pre cognitive performance skills, the during the event – whether that’s a combat mission, or a four-month deployment – and then, the post event recovery.

Because similar skills are used in different ways, and then there’s some unique skills for each one of them. Let’s see if we can unpack that in the terms of how to maintain optimal performance.

Rich: Absolutely. So optimal and peak – it’s funny, because I was always asked about peak performance especially getting out – as I’m sure you were. And the request was always framed in a way that says something like “hey, we want to learn how to peak as much as possible. We want kind of peak performance all the time. And you seals, you must be the ultimate peak performers.”

And it didn’t sit right with me, and I said, “that doesn’t make sense to me.” Because I can certainly think of many times in combat, but certainly just take myself back to the surf torture in BUD/S. There was nothing peak about my performance when I was sitting in the surf zone freezing, right? I was doing the very best I could.

Peak is an apex from which you can only come down. And it often has to be prepared for and planned for and scheduled. And the pro football player can and does spend his entire week preparing and planning to peak for three hours on Sunday.

And there’s nothing wrong with it, right? The business person can do the same thing when preparing for a sales pitch or presentation.

However, optimal is more realistic, because optimal is “how can I do the very best I can in the moment with what I’ve got? Whatever the best might look like,” okay? Sometimes that looks like peak, it looks like flow states and everything’s clicking and beautiful.

Other times it’s like “hey, I am head down, gutting it out, step-by-step. It’s dirty, ugly, painful and gritty and I just have to focus on minute by minute, moment by moment…”

This is hell week. That’s optimal. And what optimal performance allows us to do I think in a more healthy and realistic way is understand the modulation.

You don’t have to be peaking all the time. When I’m driving to the grocery store, I don’t have to be peak performance, right? I just don’t.

Mark: (laughing) the human body isn’t meant to be peaking all the time. It’s impossible.

Rich: It’s not. And sometimes that’s the expectation, though. And I think that’s unrealistic and often unhealthy. So optimal allows that modulation, and then also gives human’s some flexibility, some space and some forgiveness… and not even just forgiveness, some pride in gutting it out.

Even though we sometimes said this in the teams, right? “boy, that mission was way too ugly. I mean everything was ugly, dirty – that did not go the way we wanted it to go.”

But we got the mission accomplished, right? We did the best we could. We were performing optimally. So that’s the difference, I think.

Nothing wrong with peak. Peak – definitely do it if you can. Just understand, it’s an unrealistic expectation to do it all the time.

Mark: It might even be – like you said – an unhealthy expectation. Because if you set up that expectation that we’re supposed to be peaking all the time, eventually you’re going to be pushing yourself when you’re supposed to be recovering.

Rich: Right, right. Or more importantly, and more detrimentally, pushing yourself before you’re supposed to be peaking.

So, this gets into the second part of your question. How did we do it – how did any guys do it when they go into combat? But certainly, how do we do it in our space, and the key was you focus on what you need to focus on at the moment. In the preparation plan.

And you don’t worry about that which you can’t control. And you keep yourself in a very calm, almost meditative state… I wish I had some of the nuances of thought and even details of intelligence and wisdom I have now, when I was back then. But I remember – you know, I was the OIC, so I’d have to be sitting in a helicopter, and I’d have to always have the headsets on listening to all the helicopter chatter.

But I took that time to kind of sit – the ride in, I took that time to sit and relax. And even though I had to be thinking about stuff – I kept as much dialed down as I possibly could.

And then when you get in there – when you start walking depending on where you’re coming in from, there’s a slow physiological and mental ramp up that you can kind of almost walk yourself through. So that you are you’re literally walking yourself up to peak for when you know you need to.

And what’s interesting is that every guy had their own rituals – like, there were guys in the helicopter who would who would fall asleep on the way to you know missions. That always blew my mind. Because I was never that calm.

But there were guys who fell asleep, there were guys who listen to music, there were guys who just threw in a dip and were dipping…

I mean, whatever – certainly not healthy – whatever floats your boat, right? But then you’re getting to that point where you know maybe my peak as the ground force commander is going to be as I’m hitting the ground and I have to start organizing everything. And kind of moving in.

And then the guys who are kicking doors – they’re peak is kind of at that moment. Sometimes my peak would kind of ebb and flow during a mission, depending on what was going on.

And I think it’s that understanding of where those peaks are required that allows you to calmly prep or reserve energy, peak, and then when you can recover. And then peak again and then recover.

So that when you’re coming off the back end there’s not as much charge that’s needed as there typically may have been.

Mark: Right. Great description.

So, let’s talk about – back to the mind gym or as you understand maybe the way things are done today. What are the key cognitive tools, mental/emotional tools, whatever you want to call them to prep for optimal performance? And then to maintain it during a high-risk evolution? And then to recover from it faster?

Rich: Well, I wish we got that far down the road when I was there. I don’t think we did. We just started experimenting stuff.

HRV breathing was a huge one we began to experiment with. Because that was a very deliberate recognition and understanding of our ability to proactively control our sympathetic/parasympathetic relationship. And then how breathing…

Mark: Describe what that would look like for you guys…

Rich: Well, so HRV breathing for those who don’t know, it’s the variation between heartbeats. So, the distance… the space between each heartbeat indicates how taxed your nervous system is. And again, all of this comes down to our nervous system, really – because everything comes into our nervous system even before going into our brain.

And so, if you have high HRV – which means the wavelengths are shorter – then you are it indicates your nervous system is more ready. You’re in a more ready, rested state.

Whereas if you have longer, more spaced out HRV it typically indicates you’re stressed, your body’s stressed.

Mark: So lower HRV score – let’s say 20…

Rich: Is worse.

Mark: Longer wavelengths, but it’s worse…

Rich: It’s worse.

Mark: Shorter wavelength is better…

Rich: It’s better, yeah…

Mark: I’ve read a good average is around 50 or so for…

Rich: I would agree with that, although they say definitely every human has their own. Just like every human has their own resting heartbeat, you just have to figure out your own modulation.

But you can breathe in a way – in a deliberate way – that helps synthesize and synergize, and bring into coherence those wavelengths so that the relationship between your heart and nervous system is more synergized. And you’re actually in a very balanced kind of back and forth between your sympathetic and your parasympathetic.

Mark: Did you work with heart math or use any kind of biometric for that?

Rich: Yeah, we were working on heart math. And in fact, I’ve done even more work with heart mass since. I like heart math.

And of course, I’ve studied different levels of HRV. There’s some real advanced HRV that that you can do while in action. I love the heart math stuff because it speaks to a lot of recovery. And how can we kind of do some charging in between.

And then there’s some other HRV techniques, if you really get into it. And admittedly, I have not put enough time and effort into it, but you can get into it where you can actually breathe in waves while you’re in the act. While you’re kind of surfing the big waves and kind of in the action.

Now, I’m not sure if that… I don’t know if any guys got to the point where they can do it while they’re actually in a gunfight, because that’s like high, high, high sympathetic. (laughing) and you probably want to be.

But HRV breathing was the first one. We started working with float tanks, which is kind of “okay, can you dial back all the senses and just start understanding your head a little bit more?” That was helping guys who were having trouble sleeping. Helping guys sleep better.

And visualization was another thing we explored, which I know you’re really into. Because that’s so important too. And your audience probably knows – because you preach it – you can literally create the same neural chemistry and neurobiology through an active visualization as you can in the real act.

So, I would often… for example, my kids are teenagers now, but when they were babies, they used to take naps on my chest… and that was such a beautiful, wonderful feeling and I just had gratitude and love and happiness.

And so, I remember having that happen and just really feeling everything about that moment. And even to this day, when I visualize that, I can generate the same biochemistry. Which is immediately shifting me into things like DHEA production and kind of bringing down those cortisol levels and generating some good positive stuff. Just through visualization.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. It’s a powerful practice.

That’s really interesting. So, I can see all that would be effective both for prep and kind of… all those skills, all those tools – like I said earlier – have an impact whether you’re prepping, you’re in, or your post kind of an event.

Was there anything in specific skill that you introduced? Or that you found to be really effective for the recovery phase? To help people recover quicker?

I mean, getting back to HRV training after the mission would be important. Getting back in a float tank would help with a recovery. And all those would be useful, but is there anything else or specific…?

Rich: Well, there’s the physical part of recovery, which all those things are very helpful for. Float tanks and things like that. And we have to pay attention to that.

The mental side of recovery is a little bit more difficult and nuanced, because now you’re dealing with emotion.

Mark: Yeah, that’s almost like grief therapy…

Rich: That’s right.

Mark: And you know how guys love the word “therapist.” Go see a therapist, right?

Rich: Yeah, that’s one of those run away things, right. But again, sometimes it doesn’t take – well, sometimes it does take therapy – but often if someone can understand that to effectively recover one must…

So true recovery is going to involve – at least towards the end of it – well, I should say recovery plus growth from the event – is going to take at least towards the end of it – some type of proactive reflection on the event. In other words, you look back and say “okay,” and you ask proactive powerful questions.

And I always talk about this idea of better questions. Whatever question you put into your frontal lobe, your brain is going to start answering. That’s neurologically how it works.

Often times we do this the wrong way. We say “why do I suck at this?” Or “why am I so bad at this?” Or “why are these people out to get me?” Your brain will come up with those answers.

So, we have to ask better questions. So, to reflect back and say “okay, how did I grow? What can I do better?”

Okay, now if one engages in that activity too soon – I.e., they haven’t effectively processed the emotions of that event, so they’re asking those questions in an emotional state, they’re not going to get the right answers. So, when it comes to mental recovery, the key is to see if you can work through those emotions, to get to the point where you can actually look at it and reflect on it somewhat subjectively.

Now that takes work. It sometimes takes help, you know? But what I used to do is I tried first physical activity for me helps calm me, and helps me calm my emotions.

So, for example, I’ll go for a run in the woods here in Virginia. I don’t time myself; I don’t have music… I just enjoy nature, I just jog. That calms my brain.

So, all of us… some people can use music, some people use meditation or prayer… any activity that you can engage in that physically helps you kind of start to decrease those emotions will actually help accelerate that process so you can actively and proactively reflect.

And then you can start asking yourself some questions, “okay, why do I feel the way I do about this?” I mean, if you can start asking yourself some questions about your feelings, you’re on your way to some subjective answers. If you can begin to ask some proactive questions about whatever the antagonist is in that event – and of course “antagonist” doesn’t have to be a person. It can be an event or thing or weather. (laughing) or global pandemic.

You can ask proactive questions about that those antagonists. What about this particular antagonist was good, you know? And begin to start to neutralize some of those emotions.

It takes work, it takes some productivity. It’s why some folks really needed help. It’s also why a lot of people ignored and just skipped over it, because it’s not necessarily a fun process…

Mark: Hard work. It takes courage to do that kind of work. And especially – like you said – if you haven’t fully gone through the mental processing of the grief, then going back and reviewing the event – and visualizing it will trigger the trauma, right? And so that’s probably worse and I think that’s why a lot of get a lot of people get stuck in that that pts kind of loop – because they haven’t processed and bled off the energy. And learn to reframe it, right?

Because the process you’re talking about is really a reframing, recontextualization – you know, re-energizing of that event. So, you really seize the good and you’re able to let go of, or diminish the energy of the negative aspects…

Rich: Yeah, yeah. And that takes time, sometimes. Depending on the severity of the event. There is no accelerated process. So that that has to be recognized by the individual as well. This might take several months. It might take several years…

But if you work at it, it’s going to take faster than if you don’t work at it, because it’s going to linger. And if you think about it still triggered, there’s still work to be done.

Mark: That’s awesome. We could talk about that forever, because it’s so important – but I want to shift focus and talk about the difference between the most successful teams that you’ve been on or that you trained. And then the ones that were total bombs.

All staffed with great guys, highly trained – been through multiple levels of training – you don’t get through BUD/S and then green team without being a freaking stellar skill-based operator. So, what is the difference between those really successful ones and the duds?

Rich: Well in a word attributes.

Mark: (laughing) hey, imagine that.

Rich: (laughing) yeah, imagine that.

Mark: I bet you could write a book about it.

Rich: (laughing) yeah, you can. I think you can.

It’s because skills don’t tell us… I mean skills are not inherent, right? We’re not born knowing how to ride a bike, or throw a ball – we’re taught those things. They direct behavior in known situations. Here’s how and when to do it – when to throw a ball or ride a bike or whatever.

And they’re very easily seen, assessed and measured, which is why we’re seduced by this stuff so easily. I can see how well someone shoots their gun or skydives or whatever…

The problem with skills is that they don’t tell us how we’re going to behave when the situation goes south. When environment becomes challenging and uncertain and unknown. Because it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to apply a known skill to an unknown environment.

So, in those environments, we start leaning on our attributes. Our attributes are innate. Every one of us is born with levels of adaptability and resilience and self-efficacy and things like that. Certainly, they develop over time. And environment helps develop them.

However, you can see stuff like that in small kids, right? They also inform our behavior. My son’s levels of perseverance and resilience informed the way he showed up when he was learning how to ride a bike and he fell off a dozen times doing so.

Because they’re in the background and they’re hidden, they’re very difficult to assess, measure and test. You can’t sit across a table from someone in an interview process and assess how patient they are. Or assess how adaptable they are. It just doesn’t work that way.

The most visible and visceral environments that you can see these things… that they’re teased out… are environments of stress, challenge and uncertainty. And we know this and you’ve done this now for years.

I always joke in BUD/S, you spend hundreds of hours running around with boats on your head, and hundreds more hours running around with 300-pound telephone poles on your shoulder, right?

Mark: Not a lot of skills being developed…

Rich: Well, I tell you… and I always joke… in my career, I did hundreds of combat missions and I did thousands of training evolutions… not one did I carry a log or a boat on my head, right?

So, they weren’t training us in the skills to be Navy seals. What they were doing was they were putting us environments not to teach us how to do the job, to see if we could do the job.

Because to be able to can do the job, implies that you’re able to be thrown into what the special operations environment is inherently, and that’s uncertain.

It’s the VUCA, right? The volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous environment. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s your job.

And so, these attributes tell us. And so, the selection processes – whether it be BUD/S or green team – really were meant to tease out the attributes that we were looking for in these specific genres. And teams of people – I mean people are inherently complex, right? The dynamics between people is inherently complex. Unpredictable, right?

There’s a lot of sports that I would define as more skills-based, right? And those are like football, basketball, baseball… they’re bounded by rules and regulations and behaviors. You go on to a football field you pretty much know what’s going to go on. I mean it’s all bounded.

However, there are some sports that are highly unpredictable. I think most combat fighting sports require some really deep sense of adaptability attributes. Because yeah, you can think you have a plan when you’re going to fight someone else, but as soon as… it’s like mike Tyson says – as soon as you get hit in the face the first time, the plan changes.

So, when you’re dealing with people, you need a preponderance of attributes to deal with people. The best teams I ever saw are the teams that had a preponderance of attributes, and a mesh of the attributes that weaved together. So that they were able to operate in stress, challenge and uncertainty.

Versus the Rockstar teams. And I think you could probably back me up on this – there was always a joke in the teams, because sometimes you go to a SEAL team and you have the Rockstar platoon of all the talented guys who’ve been around for a while – and then their sister platoon would be the new guy platoon. It was like 90% new guys.

And so often what would happen – so often the new guy platoon would outperform the Rockstar platoon. Because you had a bunch of guys in the new guy platoon who were approaching the whole thing as “hey, I’m here to learn. I’m here to feed and work off everybody else.”

And you have what’s really critical – and it’s a term that’s I think somewhat of a military term, I’m not sure – I mean, I know we started talk about it when I was running CQC, because it kind of hit me – but it’s this term called “dynamic subordination.” And this takes the task organization – the pyramid and just throws it on its head.

Well, it doesn’t even throw it on it’s head, because it doesn’t turn it over and doesn’t flatten it. It basically turns it into a blob. Because dynamic subordination says that “hey, any high performing team understands that problems stress and issues can hit from any angle at any moment. And when it does, the person who is closest to the problem and the most capable immediately steps up and takes charge. And then everybody follows.”

So, it’s a swap…

Mark: Ready to lead, ready to follow…

Rich: That’s right. And I was a GFC – ground force commander – for almost all of my operations. And the guys weren’t in support of me the whole time – in fact, most of the time I was in support of them. But it really changed on the environment. The environment basically dictated it.

Leadership and Authority


Mark: A couple of stories that I love, that I want to talk about – one was along this point. You were working with the Rangers and on a mission. And the Ranger Captain or Major was like communicating and almost directing point by point movement of his ground force – or his ground commander.

And you were just sitting there kind of like paying attention – listening quietly. And at one point he turned to you and said like “aren’t you going to lead your troops?” Or something like that. Or “why are you so quiet?”

And your response – probably later – was “my guys know what to do. And they’re communicating to each other and I would just get in the way.”

And that that’s kind of… I had that attitude, we all do all – well, the good leaders do – they get out of the way. The bad leaders in the seals – sometimes they still get promoted – but they’re trying to micromanage.

Rich: Well and this is a problem we get with the word “leader,” right? Because I think there’s a connotation there – people conflate leadership and being in charge. And they’re not the same.

Mark: Leadership and authority…

Rich: Yeah. I mean, one’s a noun and one’s a verb, okay? Leadership is a behavior and it’s not a position. And I always say – because it’s been my experience – is that you don’t get to self-designate. You don’t get to call yourself a leader, okay?

That’s like calling yourself good looking or funny. Other people decide whether or not they deem you as a leader.

You can certainly be in charge, all day long – especially in the military. But whether or not people say or decide whether or not you’re a leader, depends on how you behave.

And then, of course, the word “leader” implies in front, right – leader of the pack, leader of the marathon… whatever…

But we all know the best leaders, most of the time they’re in the back – because they’re pushing, they’re empowering their people. And I used to tell my junior officers, I said, “you have to understand the irony of leadership. And the irony of leadership is this – if you do your job correctly, you work yourself out of a job. Because you create a team…”

Mark: That’s right. Everybody else gets all the credit.

Rich: Yeah. And they and they don’t need you, right? They can operate without you. Concede your own obsolescence.

And then, of course, in the combat environment, that’s even more poignant – because you could get killed at any moment. And everybody has to be able to step up.

Mark: It’s like an organism that can immediately regrow its head…

Rich: That’s right. Yeah, that’s a great team.

So, I didn’t see a lot of bad teams in the SEAL teams, of course, because the selection process is so refined. And I think that you have the predominance of people who operate that way. It was occasional – but most of the time I saw this was when I got out and people would… organizations and businesses would come up to me and ask me about their dream teams.

They’d say “listen, we’re putting together these dream teams. And it’s the best this, best that, best whatever… and when stuff happens, they just start falling apart… they go toxic.”

And I said, “well, it’s because you’re selecting them based on skills. You need to select them based on attributes.”

Mark: Right. A collection of one person’s attributes, would you say that is their character? Is character and attributes similar?

Rich: I would – the only reason… I’m really interested in going as atomic as I can in some of these things. And I think “character” probably embodies more than just attributes.

I think virtues are actually pretty similar to attributes, but character embodies virtues, beliefs… some feelings… things like that. It’s a personality, you know?

And I think character gets developed over time. I know you’re interested in this too, because you’ve been doing it for so many years – I’m really vastly interested in how human beings are at their most elemental moments. Who is that? Who is that person?

Mark: Who shows up in that moment?

Rich: Who shows up? And those I think are mostly attributes.

Mark: Yeah, that’s interesting. Can attributes be trained? Let’s talk about the green team and your work there. And I remember the story about the… basically what you just talked about, but the really skilled operator… and he just wasn’t making it in CQC. And he was falling further and further behind, getting more and more frustrated. And you had to have “the talk” with him.

Why couldn’t – or I should phrase it this way – could you have trained the attributes for success? Or are those just things that you have?

Rich: Yeah, so a quick back of the envelope test on whether or not it’s a skill or an attribute – because they get conflated all the time – is to ask yourself can it be taught or can I teach it? If the answer is yes, it’s probably a skill. If the answer is no, it’s probably an attribute, okay?

And the example is this – I can teach anybody how to shoot. Give me three hours on a range, I can teach someone how to shoot. That’s a skill.

If someone wants to learn patience or develop patience, I can’t sit down and give someone a class on patience or adaptability. Attributes can be developed, however it takes self-motivation, self-direction and it takes a very deliberate step into discomfort. So that that person experiences and tests that.

So, someone – for example – wants to develop their patience must deliberately place themselves into discomfort where they are testing their patience…

So, the answer is yes it can be developed, the problem with the selection course I was running was there was no time to do it. And so that’s why it was a selection course.

But that’s why BUD/S is a selection course. The guys trying out for seals – certainly, over time, they can probably develop more of the grit attributes and things like that. However, that’s not the point.

The point is you need the guys who have enough that they can get through the program, so that you can then hyper-develop it for the actual job.

Mark: Right, yeah. I love that. That’s really interesting.

So, you decided… or you helped nudge DEVGRU and of course now BUD/S is working in this direction – to select for attributes and then train the skill on top of that.

Rich: Right. Well, BUD/S has always been doing it. You saw in the book – I go back all the way back to Draper Kaufman, and Draper Kaufman had that unconscious genius and said, “hey, I’m going to start with hell week. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

I mean, that guy ran a demolition school before that. He had a huge body pool of guys he could have picked right away, who had the skills to do the job he was being asked to do.

But he knew it was more than just the skills… he knew he needed the attributes and that’s why he started with hell week.

So, I think BUD/S has always done it. And I think in some ways we were doing it from the get-go even in green team, but just because we weren’t articulating it – we were coming up with lousy excuses as to why guys are failing.

Of course, if you come up with lousy excuses, what happens? Usually the senior leadership – whether it be Navy leadership or higher – says, “hey, what are you doing? We need more people to get through and you need to change your program.”

And we’re all like, “well the program is actually great. There’s nothing wrong with the program.”

Mark: (laughing) you just can’t explain why it’s great.

Rich: You can’t explain why it’s great. I think attributes begins to help explain why it’s great. That’s what I endeavored to do.

Mark: That’s fascinating, because there have been many attempts over the years to change Navy SEAL training by some admiral here or there, who just thought we could print more seals. I was involved a little bit early on – actually probably the biggest impact I’ve had on the community is training and informing the training of the recruit.

And then, of course, bringing these Unbeatable Mind principles – kind of through guerrilla warfare – into BUD/S. And that’s having an impact on the quality of the force. So, I’m really proud of that.

But early on – I got started down this whole path – you’re familiar with the mentor program?

Rich: Yes.

Mark: In my company I put together the mentor program. I ran it and we knocked the ball out of the park for exactly one year. (laughing) before blackwater stole the whole damn thing from me.

I kid you not – it’s a story I’ll tell over a beer someday – they ripped the thing right out from me – and that’s when I started SEALFIT. I said “screw you. I’m going to do this mano a mano for those who really want to learn.

And anyways the whole mentor program came about because after 9/11 – now it’s like 2004 or so – and congress is like, “we need 500 more seals.”

Rich: Yeah, I remember…

Mark: The year they said that, we grew by like one SEAL, between the guys getting through BUD/S and those who are getting injured and retiring and whatnot. One SEAL.

And the saying at SOCOM was seals or special ops can’t be mass produced. And so fortunately we didn’t kowtow to them like special forces did.

Special forces went the other direction. They changed their standards and they just flooded SOF for a few years or green berets until they realized “whoa, that’s not good. Throttle back.”

Rich: Oh interesting…

Mark: The seals said, “no, give us some time. And what we’ll do is we’ll grow your SEAL base, but we’re going to do it through a multi-pronged approach. One of which is to try to increase the quality of the candidate coming in the front door.”

These mentors, without knowing they were choosing for attributes and the recruiting process, they were choosing for better skills and attributes by making sure that the people who showed up at the front door were the right candidates. They were recruiting from the right place – places that developed grit like wrestling and water polo.

They weren’t doing that before. Some of those guys naturally came in, but they weren’t going out and recruiting. And then we would have former seals out you know doing hard stuff with these people – and those were my guys…

And then they created the BUD/S prep program, which is like a pre-selection. And so, all those things ended up increasing the throughput by 3 to 5%.

Rich: It’s a huge number, and the most important part of that is we never had to change the training. Because BUD/S is the process, right? And so, people are like “well, we need to change the process or look at the process…”

Whatever. BUD/S is the process. So, the best you can do is prep folks on the intake, so that when they actually go through the process, there’s a little bit more output. But you don’t change the process.

Because changing the process, misses the whole point altogether. The best example I have in terms of a specific evolution is pool comp – and I you know some of your listeners might know – pool comp is second phase. It’s an evolution where you’re learning how to dive, but basically you have scuba tanks – the instructor comes and attacks you underwater, rips all of your gear off, ties your regulator into knots.

You’re there – you’re kind of beat-up laying on the bottom of the pool – they don’t physically punch you really – but you have to basically untie your knots on a breath hold, untie your regulator, get everything all settled and get everything all taken care of, right?

It’s very stressful for those people who are not comfortable underwater. And I remember having the conversation – I loved it, by the way, because I love being underwater…

Mark: Me too. One and done for me…

Rich: (laughing) yeah, one and done for me too.

However, I remember having the conversation – when I was running green team, I went to BUD/S and having a conversation – because at the time they were considering how many chances they should they should give a guy to get through pool comp.

Give them maybe three chances, and if he doesn’t do it, he rolls back and then he gets three more chances.

And I didn’t necessarily disagree with that, but what I wanted to express… because one of the ideas that was being expressed to me was like “listen, we just have to make sure that they know how to get through it.”

And I said, “wait, I don’t think that’s the point.” I was SVDs, I drove around the mini subs. I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours underwater – hundreds of hours underwater. Never once did I ever get attacked by some sea creature, where my regulator was tied in knots and I had to undo things – it just didn’t happen.

So, what are you actually training? You’re not training much in pool comp. What you’re doing is you’re assessing for attributes – you’re seeing if someone has the wherewithal to – under stress, underwater, on a breath hold – stop, calm themselves, figure stuff out, and then fix things and make things right.

And can they make decisions in that environment? Well, the more chances you give someone to do that in the same environment, the more you inoculate that person to that environment. So, you’re starting to degrade the attribute selection process, right?

So, you have to be real careful in distinguishing what you’re actually looking for, okay? Log PT is designed to express attributes… that’s what it is, right? Pool comp is designed to express attributes. Hell week is designed to express attributes.

Just because you can go through pool comp six times doesn’t necessarily mean, you know… you may have just gotten used to “okay, well I know I’m going to get knocked over this way and that…”

You just have to be real careful. They did a good job kind of trying to vet that out, and I think they’re doing an excellent job now, balancing this idea between skills and attributes in a great way.

But admittedly BUD/S is largely an attribute selection course. You learn some skills, but you learn most skills after BUD/S.

Mark: I agree with that. So, you came up with these five meta categories for the attributes that that you study, and you’re very clear that there could be many, many more, but these kind of the main ones – from your perspective – that were important for leadership and teaming. Grit, mental acuity, drive, leadership and team ability.

How did you cover down on those five? And then let me ask the follow-up to that – which I’ll probably have to ask again, because this will spark some conversation – but is there kind of like a dominant attribute in each one of these that others kind of trail? Or is it pretty even across the sub-attributes that you defined?

Rich: Yeah, well let me ask the second part first. And that is there’s no judgment on any of the attributes – we all actually have all the attributes…

Mark: We all have all of them…

Rich: Yeah, the difference in every one of us are the levels to which we have each, right? So, take something like adaptability, you and I might be a level 8 on adaptability out of 10, which means that when the environment changes around us, without our control we pretty much go with the flow. It’s easy for us. We can do it fairly seamlessly.

Someone else might have a level 3 of adaptability, which means when the environment changes outside their control it’s very difficult for them to adapt. It’s tough, right?

So, no judgments on where we stand, because that’d be like judging our hair color. It’s just ridiculous.

Where the judgment comes in is when you start placing and making the list of which attributes are required for what teams. So, for example, the list of attributes required to be a Navy SEAL is going to be different than the list of attributes required to be a great sales person. Than the list of attributes required to be a nurse, or a teacher, etc.

So that’s when you can start placing a little bit of value on these things in terms of how you fit inside of teams and certain specific tasks. So that’s kind of how I’d value them out.

The categories were cool for me, because when I started the book, I didn’t have the categories. I just had the attributes.

And then I realized as I was writing that these were binning pretty evenly into these categories. And I said “well, that’s really cool,” because it just put the book together, and it sectioned the book off in a really cool way.

But the caveat is those attributes can cross they can cross over, right? I mean courage can be used in drive and open-mindedness can be used in leadership, and all that stuff. Mental acuity is used in all of them.

But ultimately, I think the binning helped kind of um uh clump these things in a way that’s understandable. And a way that made sense.

Grit, if you think about the attributes that make up grit, the fact that there’s courage, adaptability, perseverance and resiliency makes sense. I mean, if you have a predominance of those four, you’re probably pretty gritty. Same thing with the mental acuity one. Same thing with the drive ones.

And then leadership and team ability both came down to “okay, what are the behaviors?”

And I’m still doing a little bit of work with the chapman group, I’m pretty much on my own now. Chapman co. And then Simon Sinek – I did a lot of leadership stuff with both of those organizations. And going around and talking to people and crowds around the world, we would ask the same question, and say “what do great leaders do?”

And we’d just have them throw words at us, okay? “they’re humble. They’re accountable. They take risk with me. They trust me. They’re honest.”

And no matter who we talked to – didn’t matter what the country was, didn’t matter what generation we were asking – we’d always get the same list. It’d always be the same things.

And these five things, these five behaviors always came up. And those are empathy, selflessness, accountability, decisiveness and authenticity. Those always came up.

And then team ability, same thing – you don’t get to call yourself a great teammate – your teammates call you a great teammate – and those are behaviors. And those are integrity, humility, conscientiousness and humor.

And if you have those then you’re likely fitting in well. And so that’s kind of how they binned and it really worked out well. And it certainly helped me dive in deeper to every one of them, which was great…

Mark: Is there anything about these five grit – metal acuity, drive, leadership and team ability that is unique from the sub-attributes that make them an attribute in and of themselves? Or are they really a descriptor of a grouping of attributes?

Rich: Yeah, as I really try to dive in, I would certainly be open for a discussion on that. But it seemed like they were descriptors, because when I looked at those categories none of them seem to be just one thing…

Mark: You just went way more granular… you remember back in the day, they did a study at BUD/S – they commissioned a study, it cost like a quarter million or a half million dollars – and the psychology group involved came back and said, “yeah, the people who succeed at BUD/S have grit.” Thanks.

Rich: Right. Yeah. What the heck does that mean?

Mark: (laughing) all we got to do is train for grit.

Rich: Yeah, I’m really interested in semantics and I’m really interested in going to atomic – like I said – atomic levels of depth. Because the smaller more granular you can get, I believe, the more relatable it can be. You can certainly say, “well Navy seals have grit.”

Great. Okay, but so do the kids at St Jude’s fighting cancer. And so, do the people fighting covid, and so does the mom or the parent who’s single and just trying to do great things for the kids and work every day… there’s grit there too.

So, if grit is translatable across these domains, then you have to be able to deconstruct it. What is it that makes it up?

And then of course Angela Duckworth wrote a great book called “grit” where she said kind of the same stuff. She said, “it’s not just one thing. It’s a combination of things baked in.”

And I would say the same thing about drive. Drive is a great example – there are people who have maybe one or two of the drive attributes, but they’re not very driven. So, you need to start adding.

I kind of say you need a predominance of two or more of the drive attributes to actually be driven. Because if you have just one – or maybe a little bit of two – then you’re actually not driven. So, it’s a combo.

Mark: That’s fascinating. So, I’m a leader listening to this – I’m like “wow, this is fascinating.” And I’ve learned that the composition of my team needs to be built of people with different attributes – a variety of attributes. And I’m not going to select them by skill, but by attributes.

But each team is going to be different based upon what it needs to do and kind of the culture that it needs to kind of evolve or to create to dominate.

So, I get that. And then the question is, now what? How do I test for attributes? How do I assess people for attributes? How do I know what attributes are going to be important for which team? Where do we go…?

Rich: Well, what I always recommend people do – and I still do – is you do what we did at the dev group and when we kind of first started coming up with the concept…

I basically put together committees of people and I just said “hey, what attributes are we looking for? Let’s make a list.” And we just start writing stuff down.

Now you’re gonna get some skills thrown in there, because again they get conflated. You have to call out the skills.

There’s gonna be some synonyms in there too, so you can kind of break it down. We came up with ultimately what was 36 attributes that we were looking for. Which is a lot probably – too many, as I recall.

But every team has to do that. They have to take that, because again, you’re going to prioritize those things differently.

You and I can agree that to be a Navy SEAL you don’t need a lot of empathy. Okay, you definitely need some. You don’t want seals with no empathy, right?

But you don’t need a lot. It’s not predominant on your list.

Whereas if you’re picking a team of nurses, you may want empathy high on the list. Or even, I would say, police officers – this is where the police officer community and the military community don’t necessarily fit – is to be a good cop you need a lot of empathy. To be a military person, maybe not so much.

So, you’re gonna have to prioritize those for your team and say what are the ones we’re looking for? That has to be done as a team. It can’t be done just by the leaders… has to be done from every level of a team so that you get that list.

And then you start creating some environments that start teasing that out. Those environments are going to require some uncertainty and some discomfort – it doesn’t have to be malicious and you and I certainly don’t recommend taking your taking your team down to the surf zone and freezing them for a half hour. Don’t do that.

Because you may figure out which folks can be Navy seals, but you’re not going to figure out which folks can be great accountants…

Mark: (laughing) and they won’t be working for you anymore, either…

Rich: And they won’t be working for you and you probably won’t be working there anymore.

So, it has to be contextual. So, if someone if you wanted to hire someone, and we’re looking for someone who was great at sales – could give good sales presentations. You and I could very easily say “hey, we’re gonna hire someone – the interview process is come in and you’re gonna pitch this product. That’ll be the interview. You’re gonna give us a sales pitch.”

Well, we all know that someone will rehearse their ass off before they show up. And they’ll plan to peak during that process and just kick ass at the sales presentation.

All right, that’s not telling you and I much. It’s telling us that they’re good at preparing, right?

What we could do though is before they’re supposed to start, we could say “okay, stop for a second. Things have changed. You’re not going to be presenting on the topic we gave you… you’re presenting on… I don’t know, this coffee cup. Or this pencil. And see how they adapt. Or you throw an av issue, you know?

But the key is throw some uncertainty that that serves to tease out the specific attribute you’re looking for and see what shows up. And then try to do it over a little bit of time and context. Now, this is why I really very much support hiring processes that allow for a kind of a probation period.

And I don’t like the word “probation,” because it’s a little pejorative… but it shows the person – shows the candidate across a bunch of different contexts in different environments…

And it not only does that – I always say the hiring process is a two-way street – the company is trying to find the person they want to hire, but that hiree should also be interviewing the company to see if the company has the attributes, they wanna work with…

Mark: I love the idea of an assessment process – like three or six months even – where you’re not hired, you’re not done. And then you get a call if the company wants you back.

But yeah, it’s such a great experience that. And if you’re such a great company to work for, you should develop that kind of culture that you got plenty of people knocking at the door.

Rich: And it gives you plenty of opportunity to throw in some unique situations.

Mark: We try to work with organizations over a 12-month period and we actually put executive teams into boat crews. And they’re coached and we curate the challenges. And we have the heuristics or the attributes – we don’t call them attributes obviously – but the behaviors that we’re seeking to have them emulate, and model, and build and you know…

So, we got a lot to learn, but I think this is really a next frontier in leadership development. And your work is definitely a great contribution to that. Again, thank you.

Where can people learn more – you have a website for the book and some other follow on. You mentioned an assessment earlier.

Rich: Yeah at That’s the best place to go. And you can you can get the book there, but we also we created an assessment tool for the grit attributes, the drive attributes and the mental acuity attributes.

You can take that you’ll get a score to see where you stand on each. Now the caveat is we got about a thousand or more people globally, and got some data back. So, when you get that score, that’s a comparison to a thousand-person test group. So, what it’s meant to do is be a snapshot and say okay if I’m landing at level three on adaptability – oh man, that’s kind of low.

Okay, wait a second it’s just a snapshot. How does that feel for me? There’s an introspection that’s involved and that should be conducted when you get those scores back. To say “okay, let me think about times when I was under stress and challenge… am I adaptable? Am I honestly someone who deals with things? Do I go with the flow or is change a little harder for me?

Now we all have a very, very perfect experience that we could all draw back from – it’s called 2020. In 2020 we all got a deep dive into our attributes, whether conscious or unconscious – but we were all thrown almost overnight into challenge, uncertainty and stress…

Mark: Right yeah. No kidding. Hooyah. All right, so the Do you work on social media at all?

Rich: Yeah, yeah. Instagram – Rich Diviney on Instagram. And then LinkedIn and attributes has a Facebook page as well.

So yeah, any one of those places would be happy to have you.

Mark: Awesome. Rich, we’re gonna have to do some follow-up. I look forward to talking to you further… so next time you get on a plane and come out to san Diego, let’s hook up and I’ll do the same thing, if I get back to VB – which I don’t very often, but yeah, if I do…

Rich: Absolutely. I look forward to when we can sit down face to face. That’ll be fun.

Mark: Yeah, awesome.

All right folks, that was Rich Diviney. “The Attributes” is the book – fantastic book – please go check it out and reach out to Rich if you need some help.

So, the or you can follow them at the social media handles, and we’ll put all that in the show notes.

Thanks again, Rich. Thank you for listening and supporting the Unbeatable Mind podcast. This is Mark Divine and until next time stay focused and let’s build those attributes and your skills


Divine out.

Leave a Reply