Updated: Jul 22, 2019
Hell Week is a drag.
You ever feel like you have one of those days or weeks that just drags on forever?
For SEAL candidates, the Navy makes sure you are intimately familiar with the experience.
The first part of becoming a Navy SEAL is a 6-month grueling selection course called BUD/s, short for Basic Underwater Demolitions. In BUD/s, every day feels like the longest of days. Nonstop from 4am to 11pm or midnight many days. You really start to lose track. Every single day becomes a monumental challenge all on its own.
But more than each day, one of the biggest Obstacles in BUD/s is week 4. Hell Week.
Where BUD/s is known for having an extremely high failure rate, Hell Week is known to be the reaping ax. Classes start around 160 to 170 on week 1. They usually make it to Hell week with around 100. And the average class size on the other side of Hell Week, week 4, is about 40. In one week it chops the class in half.
And just to clarify, it's not just a bunch of average joes showing up to BUD/s. Men compete against thousands of wannabe SEAL candidates nationally to get the chance to come to BUD/s. After training for years and signing a 6-year contract in the military, you are highly invested. It's not something you easily walk away from. Every single BUD's student will tell you that they have either wanted this since they were a little kid or that they wanted this more than anything in their life. There were many in my class who left things like a professional athlete career, a successful business they owned, or high profile account management on Wall Street behind to pursue this dream.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I honestly am not able with words to make you understand the pain of hell week. What I can try to explain to you is how bad people wanted to be there and how badly they desired to become a SEAL, yet so many fail.
There is no secret to hard things.
THERE. IS. NO. SECRET. TO. HARD. THINGS.
Yet, some people seem like they know a secret that no one else does. How do some perpetually conquer while others consecutively grovel?
Here is what the conquerors know.
When the odds are high, I must be an odds defier.
When it's never been done, I'll be the first.
If it can't be done, I'll make a way.
You are the secret.
Yeah, I know, all just words. Cool.
What I think is something that is universally agreed upon is that the way we think can change who we are and what we do.
If I had a secret to beating Hell Week, it's what I was thinking about from the beginning.
What is Hell week by the way? It starts on a Sunday afternoon/evening with gunfire, literally and doesn't end until Friday afternoon. You run over 200 miles in that week, almost entirely on the sand with a boat on your head. Instead of me describing it all to you, just watch this 2-minute video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVM_ekGx0cQ
And if you want the 4-hour documentary, here is that too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0fDLgiYQjo
For the few that made it through each class of Hell Week, most are utterly destroyed on the other side.
A handful end up in the ICU at the hospital with blood in their lungs or nasty infections. And those left like they've been through a literal meat grinder, many on crutches or barely hobbling.
The first time I witnessed this grim site, a thought immediately jumped into my head - "I won't look like that when I'm done."
In fact, I told myself not only will I not look like that, but I will go for a run on Saturday morning after Hell week completes.
I kept that thought to myself for weeks. I only spoke it once, to a crewmate who asked me the infamous question, "You think you'll make it?"
I told him my plans, and he said I was full of crap. I kind of expected that answer.
Unfortunately, that guy didn't make it. He was too worried about if other people thought he would make it.
Long story short, I finished Hell Week. My class start with 176 and finished Hell Week with 42. And I went for that run on Saturday. I mile down the beach in pure joy and satisfaction. I cherished every step. It was my victory lap.
How did I do it?
Here is the Takeaway
I wasn't focused on "Can I do it" I was focused on "what kind of finisher will I be and what will it look like when I do."
It was positive visualization and not just believing to finish but believing to thrive. My body was not broken and busted either at the end of the week like most were.
Some of my brothers would want to punch me in the face for saying this, but I barely even chafed.