Why do teams succeed and fail? The answer is simple. A team succeeds and fails because of its people and the clarity of their collective purpose. Since the age of 4, I’ve been actively engaged in living a team-oriented lifestyle. And for the past 25 years, I’ve been exploring and researching the human condition in my quest to discover what enables individuals and teams to succeed and fail in every environment imaginable. My epic journey has taken me around the world as an artist, poet, Navy SEAL Medic, training expert, protections specialist, motivational speaker, author for kids and adults, performance coach, radio show host, YouTube personality and social media presence. What I’ve learned are some undeniable truths about how and why teams succeed and fail. Here they are:
1. Truth. Fear inhibits success and produces failure.
After years and years of battling fear at the highest possible levels, I finally made the decision to explore the most powerful emotion we’re issued at birth. In the SEAL Teams as a Combat Paramedic and as a Private Military Contractor, I’ve experienced fear in ways most people can’t even dream of. I’ve also been researching fear, trying to understand why it plays such an important role in our ability to live and die. After years and years of research, my definition of fear is as follows:
“Fear is a physiological reality and learned Comfort Zone Behavioral Pattern induced by perceived and real threats which cause most human beings to respond in a variety of deliberately negative physical, mental and spiritual ways. It causes people to distort reality, inhibit action, manipulate logic and stall progress. If left unchecked, fear can cause different forms of paralysis and disrupt critical aspects of your life that you need to succeed.”
The crazy thing about fear is that we are literally wired for it. That’s right, fear is hardwired in your brain. You were blessed with this tiny piece of flesh, pulsing and emitting fear called the Amygdala. Where do you think the “Flight or Fight” response comes from? Now the kicker to this fortunate physiology is that it’s enhanced though other, higher functioning parts of your gray matter that allow us to learn fear from the first moments of life. That’s right, you’ve been taught fear on a physical, mental and emotional level since your brain could begin processing this essential component of our survival. So regardless of what you might have heard, nobody is fearless. Unfortunately, we also learn to effectively compartmentalize fear better than any other emotion. And we allow ourselves to hide from the very thing we need to understand most in order to understand the truth behind our success and failure.
Fear affects individuals differently. Although we are very similar genetically, thank God we all process information in a unique way. Because of this fact, teams will forever struggle with trying to manage fear in a collective fashion. Essentially, each member of a team is at a different spot in their processing of fear. However, in the SEAL Teams we’ve discovered some incredible training methods that enhance the individual’s ability to Embrace Fear as a meaningful way to support the overall mission of the team. How else do you get a small group of people to want to run into gunfire? We teach new members of our community to accept a very real and present emotional stress and active pain, address it, and then use it as a motivational tool to enhance performance and support their teammates. It’s only by learning to Embrace Fear can teams begin to move forward with achieving a larger, more complex collective mindset.
2. Truth. Without Self-Confidence, the Negative Insurgency will destroy you and your team.
We are under attack every day by the Negative Insurgency. Negativity has permeated into every aspect of our lives. It roams the halls at our places of work, breaking down the foundation of positivity that propels all great teams. It seeps from society’s vernacular as our respect for one another disintegrates. It flows freely from all sources of media and entertainment, tragically distorting the reality that happiness is much more common than many would have you believe. And it ravages our Self-Confidence with a defining howl as we often allow negative speak to enter our minds and overwhelm our ability to think and feel positivity. For these damaging reasons, it’s critical for individuals to develop a specific set of skills to perpetually forge Self-Confidence in the face of the Negative Insurgency.
Imagine running wildly out of control into battle with a group of people who are counting on your focus and composure to keep them alive. Or picture yourself without a plan, riveted with doubt, starting an incredibly challenging project with other people who are counting on your clarity and commitment. So why is it that so many teams around the world lack a plan to wage war against negativity? It’s because we take for granted just how fragile Self-Confidence can be after getting hammered day in and day out. We spend too much time trying to look at the negative issues instead of expanding and developing the positive attributes of the individual and team.
If a team wants to succeed, it must accept failure as an active part of improving the team’s self-confidence. Wait, what did I just say? Yes, we need to fail more to build stronger self-confidence. In the SEAL Teams we integrate failure in every aspect of developing the Operator and the Team. Unless you fail as a team and see how the individual reacts as it relates to his or her self-confidence, you can’t begin to recognize the weaknesses that will affect long-term success. It’s up to every member to work diligently on improving self-confidence so that the person working next to them feels the perpetual building of Sacrificial Trust.
3. Truth. Nobody does it alone. Teams succeed and fail together; everybody is accountable to the Team Life.
From the moment you willingly join a team, it’s imperative that you embrace the necessity to sacrifice the self and submit to the needs of the Team. The Team Life is more than just theoretical concept; it’s a cultural identity. Culture has been defined in thousands of ways for centuries. Here is a definition that seems to be widely accepted:
a: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations;
b: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time;
c: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution or organization; and
d: the set of values, conventions or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic.
The SEAL Teams adhere to these basic definitions but also push past the general norms with precision, redefining organizational culture in an entirely unique physical, mental and emotional state. The Team Life is something we are willing to die for. What was the last team you were a part of that generated such a high degree of commitment? The real question is, why haven’t you searched out a team that lives by this code?
The reason for our incredible success for the past 72 years in the Underwater Demolition Teams and the Navy SEAL Teams is our unprecedented willingness to submit to the perpetual pain of waging unconventional war at the highest level and the resulting unconditional Love generated by the sacrificial trust driving us to give everything we are or potentially everything we will ever be to the man that’s next to us. This elite Culture of Team can only be achieved if the individual is ready to transform himself or herself behaviorally, cognitively and emotionally. This process is not for the fainthearted but instead for the resolute. Just like any mental forging process, it requires intense pressure. A huge part of how we apply pressure is the use of pain. Unfortunately, in much of society the process of pain is being removed because of the collective fear that somehow pain doesn’t actually produce good results. When applied in the appropriate context and training environments, this incredibly effective tool opens the gates for a wide range of positive affirmations and ideas to become deeply seated in the DNA of a team.
All too often the Team Life is diluted by external and internal influences in the hope of reducing the level of pain and sacrifice, mostly by those who are afraid of its effects on the individuals who are part of the team. This is a big part of the human condition. We fear what we don’t understand and attack what we perceive to be detrimental to the collective. When any larger culture becomes driven to diffuse more powerful subcultures, it destroys the ability for the successful team to play a more positive role in influencing the greater good. The SEAL Teams are by no means perfect. We suffer from tremendous struggles as a result of our intense focus. However, there are some key defining characteristics that translate to any team hoping to elevate their performance. The question is, are you ready to submit to them?
4. Truth. Without Purpose, we have no way to generate momentum and cause change.
The greatest truth I’ve ever learned is that by having a clearly defined purpose in my life, I am able to accomplish almost anything I put my body, mind and soul to. Granted, I’m not going to throw a football in the NFL, but I did play Division 1 Lacrosse. I never made it to the Tier 1 unit, but I was able to become a part of one of the most elite military groups on the planet, the SEAL Teams. And I haven’t become bigger than Tony Robbins, but I am motivating millions of people with my motivational training program called Froglogic. How is this possible? Simple, because of my Purpose in life.
“My purpose in life is to serve the greater good. I choose to serve one person at a time, providing them with the gift that I was blessed with, the motivation, the fuel, the positivity given to me by God, my wife, my children, my family, my close friends, my teammates in the Brotherhood; all those who’ve played a role in my successes and failures, helping me get to where I’m at so that I might help that next person ignite the fire in their gut in order to live life to it’s fullest, to defeat the Negative Insurgency and to achieve victory in the combat of life by living a blessed Team Life. I will never forget the sacrifice of those who came before me; will never drop the the burden of service, and will never quit on achieving my mission. This is my purpose, this is my life.”
What is your purpose? Is it clearly defined? Are you able to practice your purpose on the team you’re a part of? I know these are heavy questions but without answers, you lack the necessary momentum to effectuate real change in the world around you. Helping others change is rewarding and transformational. So much of people’s lives are spent waiting for life to change them. Letting life control you, which is reacting to things out of your control, is no way to discover your purpose. It’s not fulfilling. It’s okay to not know. But it’s not okay to not be constantly searching for your purpose. Becoming part of a great team or recruiting an awesome team is the only way to discover and live with purpose.
Teams succeed and fail because of the power of their people and their collective ability to live with purpose. It’s your duty to unite in each other’s embraced fear, to forge your self-confidence in order to painfully place team ahead of self, to submit to the Team Life by willingly offering your sacrificial trust and by defining your clear purpose to those you care about most in order to lead each other with Love on the battlefield of life.
These are the truths that I have learned over the past 25 years exploring and researching the human condition. Today my mission is to share my discoveries with individuals and teams around the world, teaching them how to succeed and fail together. We’re all a part of some team. We all play a huge role in each other’s success and failure, whether you want to or not. It’s time you learn how to ignite the fire in your gut and defeat the Negative Insurgency so you, too, can bring the right weapons to bear on the battlefield of your team.
For more information about David please visit the About section of this website.
If you’re interested in participating in one of David’s amazing motivational seminars, please visit www.navysealmotivationalevents.com