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Master Of Choice


Never Quit, it’s the SEAL motto. “How did you do it?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that.

I’ll do my best to explain it; though I don’t believe it's very complicated. It comes down to one word, choice. That’s it cut and dry. But choice has two masters.


The most misleading statement you can believe in, here it goes, “Anything is possible if you want it bad enough.”


Once, on a training jump (skydive) in San Diego, I jumped out of the airplane with my iPhone in my hand taking video. It wasn’t attached to anything, I was just holding on to it… as I sped towards the ground at 120mph. Later on, I showed the video to some people, and they asked: “Weren't you afraid of dropping your phone?” Without thinking I shot back, “Why would I drop my phone?”

Yeah, I know, that’s a sarcastic, smart-@#$ answer, but there is truth in it. Of course, there are forces out of my control, as always. In this case, a 120 mph hour wind trying to rip the phone out of my hand, but what about the things I can control? The initial question implied that the outcome wasn’t up to me. Anyone who would ask that question probably drops their phone a lot. And when they are explaining to their friends why they are replacing the glass on their phone for the 4th time in 6 months the explanation probably doesn’t include anything resembling “I dropped my phone.” Probably more like “the door hit my phone.”


If you are the one dropping your phone all the time, don’t be offended. This is article isn’t making fun of you. It’s just an example. Listen up, and this might save you $80, or a whole lot more.


First, understand that you are responsible for everything that happens to you. Until you accept this, you will keep dropping your phone, and forgetting to respond to emails and text, and just generally dropping the ball at most of the things that you do. But this is only the first step.


My father loves to tell the story of me preparing for BUD’s training at home. At 19, I knew basically nothing, even less about the requirements of being a SEAL. I did know a few things, I knew that a lot of people quit in SEAL training. One of the significant hurdles in this training is being miserable, cold and wet, borderline-hypothermic all the time. I had read that many people quit in surf torture. Where they leave you in the surf zone of San Diego water (temp in the ’50s) for over an hour at a time. So in my own preparation, as soon as it was winter, I started getting in my parent's pool (temps in the 30s and 40s). You would think I was practicing resistance to cold water. Wrong.


I was practicing not quitting.


I would sit in the water until I felt like I could absolutely no longer take it and I was shivering so hard I thought I was guna chip a tooth. I would sit in the water until I so badly wanted to quit and get out. Then I would choose to keep going until I felt like I could stay there until I died. After that, I would get out of the pool and take off running like a baby giraffe with my numb legs. And I would run until the feeling started to come back into my toes. Then I’d turn around and head back to the pool and start the process over.


I showed up at BUD’s less than a year after I had first discovered what the SEALs were. In many ways, except the one that mattered, I was vastly underprepared. And I would tell you most of the men there WANTED it far more than me. Some of them had grown up with father’s who were SEALs and wanted this more than anything in the world… Ha! All of the “legacy students” in my class quit before hell week. Their desire didn’t even get them past the first 4 weeks training.


You want it so bad… until you don’t.


It’s not about what you want. It’s not about what you desire. You want to lose weight? Cool story. How often do you practice control over what you put in your mouth? How many times can you resist the temptation of your favorite indulgence?


You want to stop making the wrong choices? Then meet the two masters of choice.


Willpower: You really really really want to lose weight. So you come up with a weight loss plan where you will only eat specific foods. For a while, you do really good and get really close to or even achieve your goal. Slowly, over time, you begin to reward yourself, because one little cheat won’t kill you. That is an actual fact. However, you haven’t been practicing decision making, you’ve been dieting. And every time you cheat your desire for momentary gratification competes with your desire for change. You think that by taking a break now and then that you are resting and recovering your willpower muscle. And that you are. But in doing so, you are giving steroids to the desires and temptations that your willpower is trying to fight against. Willpower is weak. Willpower will fail you when you need it the most.


Discipline: You’ve discovered that to lose weight you have to control what goes in your mouth and you’ve decided that, lose weight you shall. Fortunately, no one is shoving food down your mouth (or you have other problems). That's very helpful. So, the choice is yours. You decide that you will have to form habits that never allow temptations to overpower your choice and you understand that you will slowly convert consistent choices into habits. You begin to intentionally, with joy, say no to every single thing that crosses your path that does not support your “decision” to lose weight. In fact, you start saying no to a lot of other things you’ve wanted to say no to for a long time. These unbroken choices build habits into discipline. Over time the more decisions you make the power of your disciple grows further. The fat falls away, along with other undesired pieces of your former lifestyle, never to return.



Willpower is a finite resource. Eroded slowly like the bank of a river, one decision at a time. Disciple, however, is an impenetrable wall. Discipline doesn’t weaken with repetition, it is strengthened. Discipline only dies by lack of exercise.


Now you know the difference. Discipline is built upon purpose, will power stands on desires. One goes the distance, the other is temporary.


I did not make it through BUD/s on my desire. I made through with my developed discipline of never quitting. I knew in my own training the incredible damage it would do if ever allowing myself to quit. Even if it was just once and no one saw. I would know. And my discipline would be weakened.


If you want to stop failing, build discipline.



It all comes back to choice. What are you building with your choices? Are you holding your willpower breath, waiting for the next gratifying gasp of air, or are you building forever disciplines?


Choose wisely.


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