As we start the walk out to the plane, I mentally rehearse everything I’ve learned in the last week. I’m about to jump out of what many call, “a perfectly good airplane,” for the first time. I’m desperately trying to stay calm while making sure I’m not forgetting anything (FYI, these two rarely go well together). As we get closer, I can barely hear over the rumble of the airplane's engines. My instructor walking ahead of me like it's just another day turns around to see what was probably my face looking extremely focused. He says, “don’t worry! Everything will be fine!” He’s yelling, and I’m partially reading his lips. “And if you have any problems, you have the rest of your life to figure it out!” HA! Good one dude! You got me there. Except I was too focused in that moment even to get the joke. As in, if I don’t figure out the problem, I will die. Awesome.
Moment of truth, crunch time, defining moment, the crux, all just words and phrases that essentially mean precisely what my jump school instructor said to me, “you have the rest of your life to figure it out” or however long the life if your situation is. In special operations, you get very familiar with the moment of truth. Many times that moment decides whether or not you’ll be home for dinner. Survive enough of them and the moments reveal the truth of what you're made of. Fortunately, the entire SEAL program, over a year of incredibly intense training, is centered around teaching you exactly how to master a moment.
Close quarters clearance, the “bread, and butter” of the SEAL teams as they say. It’s the part of our work where we are clearing buildings and structures, either looking for someone to save or someone to eliminate. It’s the most high-speed walking I've ever done in my life. And I don’t mean like those Olympic speed walkers whose feet never leave the ground. As we are merely walking and clearing, weapons always pointed at something, you are making highly critical decisions nearly every second. With every second, a new choice. With each moment, a moment of truth. When you are first learning, its mentally exhausting, but exhilarating.
Special Operations, and specifically the SEAL teams, spend a good majority of their training on this specific area. I can’t type the words on the keyboard that describe the level of pressure and intensity that SEAL training carries. So just imagine a lot. I remember early on in close quarters clearance training, we were learning how to move around a corner, and one of the instructors said something I will never forget, “slow down Unclebach. Don’t rush to your death.” I wasn’t even offended at the thought of my implied death. I was used to the verbal assault, as we all were. But the statement still shocked me. The instructor explained himself to the entire class in a very matter of fact way. “Never rush to your death. It doesn’t matter if you are on the biggest rescue op in history. When you take that corner, it's all up to you. If the first thing you see is a barrel pointed at your face. You had better be ready.”
I'll break that down for you even further. Whatever you’re doing you want to win right? So don’t show up unprepared. It doesn’t matter the level of urgency, you determine the speed. Training regularly taught us to find “the line” of too fast, and stay just below, in the sweet spot. When the fate of your situation is in your hands, and it is, you choose the pace. Let me be clear that doesn’t mean be comfortable or hesitate. Don’t be that person who rips the emergency brake at the edge of the diving board. All it means is this, the moment is yours. The enemy doesn’t set your pace, the clock doesn’t set choose your speed, you do.
Let me speak right to you for a second. I’d really love to see more people grasp this concept. In every single area of life, you can apply this. Even something as simple as grabbing all your things in the morning to get out the door. Was the 5 or 10 seconds you saved by moving too fast worth spilling coffee on yourself?
Try this today. Breathe, Think, Choose. Give every choice an inhale’s worth of time. Think deliberate, move deliberate, Be deliberate… and you’ll fail a lot less. Stop showing up to tasks and missions unprepared.