The very thing most of us fear, Navy SEALs embrace. In a world where failure is often seen as a weakness, these warriors reveal the true power of falling short.
In this special episode of the Success Through Failure podcast, we look back on the life-altering experiences of 7 Navy SEALs who I’ve interviewed. We uncover their extraordinary journeys not through their feats of heroism, but through their moments of failure.
These men have fought on the front lines of some of the most dangerous conflicts in modern history, and they’ve all experienced failure in some way. But it’s not just about the failures themselves— it’s about how these SEALs approach failure and use it to their advantage.
Through their stories and insights, these SEALs show us that success is not about never failing, but about learning from failure and using it to become stronger. It’s about embracing the struggle and using it to become the best version of ourselves. Tune in now and explore the true nature of success through the eyes of these 7 Navy SEALs.
If you don’t have time to listen to the entire episode or if you hear something that you like but don’t have time to write it down, be sure to grab your free copy of the Action Plan from this episode— as well as get access to action plans from EVERY episode— at JimHarshawJr.com/Action.
[00:00] What are you going to do with this information from these seven world class performers? Seven Navy SEALs. Now for me, here's my biggest takeaway. It's that Navy SEALs fail. And that it's a necessary part of training. It's necessary to become a world class warrior. Welcome to another episode of Success Through Failure.
[00:24] The show for successful people. And for those who want to become successful, the only show that reveals the true nature of success. This is your host, Jim Harshaw, Jr. and today I'm bringing you an episode that is all about failure from the perspective of Navy SEALs. These are world class warriors, and you're going to get a peek inside of their heads in terms of how they think about failure, how they approach failure, how they build failure into their lives and their training.
[00:50] And how do you leverage this? For success, right? These are some of the highest performing people on the planet and they fail and they also embrace failure. Listen, this is not something that, that we seek out in the sense that, Hey, we want to go do something and actually fail and not do well at something, but we can build failure into a process so that we can learn from it and get better from it.
[01:12] And this is a compilation of seven different Navy SEALs who I've interviewed over the years and 400 plus episodes. So if you have friends who would enjoy this episode, if you're part of a social group or a workout group, or a group of texts with a bunch of old friends or something like that, or a social media on social media, give this a share, give this a share.
[01:33] That's how this thing grows. That's how people find out about it. This is all about Navy SEALs. All right, here we go. How Navy SEALs. We're going to start out with Robert O'Neill. Robert O'Neill is the Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden. I mean, that was an incredible episode back in episode 342, by the way, in the action plan, we're going to have a link to all of the episodes that I've referenced here, or you can go to JimHarshawJr.com/SEAL. And You can listen to all of the episodes right there. You can get just sort of see what all these episodes are. And also that link will also have a couple of army rangers as well mixed into there. It's a great, a great place to get a lot of these military guys who I've interviewed over the years and get their feedback on failure.
[02:20] So what did Robert O'Neill have to say about failure? Like, you know, from the outside, looking in, we know at some level that failure is not a bad thing. I've been talking about this for years, but we really don't want it. Right. But it is part of our learning. It's part of a process of growing and getting better.
[02:38] And we can see that in sports and maybe even in the military, but here's what Robert O'Neill had to say about building this into training because it's such a great tool. Every evolution that we call it, be it a time swim, a timed run, timed obstacle course, weird drills like tied up in the, in the pool for an hour at a time, doing different drills to see how you respond.
[03:04] You can fail them. And then they'll, they're teaching you through negative reinforcement. That is the only way, the only way to learn is to fail. And what did I do wrong? How can I learn, or do I get down on myself and quit? I've seen guys, well, especially when, you know, we'll get into a later training for SEAL team six, they'll really punish you severely, physically for something you didn't screw up.
[03:26] To see how you handle not screwing up. They punish you for a mistake that you both know you didn't make to see how you handle making a mistake you didn't make. And the lesson is you're going to screw up, learn from it. Now get over it. The lesson is you're going to screw up, learn from it. Now, get over it.
[03:46] It's hard to feel that way in the moment when you fail, cause there's a lot of emotion around it, but this is the truth. This is truly how you have to handle it. This isn't just kind of what you tell your kids, or maybe this is a good idea for your colleagues or for somebody else. No, this is for you when you actually fail.
[04:06] It's easy to say these words and tell somebody else, but, but how about you when you actually fail? Now I go to episode 166. This is Eric Davis, and this is his definition. of failure. Anytime the word failure comes up, I always feel like I need to clarify it just so that people know where I'm coming from.
[04:27] So failure to me is not something to be avoided. Failure to me is when we run out of time, talent or strength and running out of time, talent and strength does something very special. It actually gets more time, more talent, more strength. If you understand how to do it, the same is working out right? Like we want to run out of strength when we work out.
[04:45] So things break down. So we go to muscle failure so that Things can respond in a way to build our strength. So first and foremost, that's important. And yeah, I love that. I have big distinctions between failing, quitting, and stopping. Those are three different ways to cease an activity. All have different ramifications.
[05:01] Failure is when you run out of time, talent, or strength. It doesn't mean you're not good enough. It doesn't mean you're not worthy enough. It means you've run out of time, talent, or strength. Can you actually have that mindset? Like when you fail. Can you think, okay, I've run out of time. I don't have the talent right now.
[05:19] I don't have the strength. It's not that I'm not worthy enough for, I'm not good enough for that. I can't accomplish this thing. And he also distinguishes between failing and quitting and stopping. Failing is running out of time, talent, or strength. Quitting is not doing something that you still actually might be able to do or accomplish.
[05:39] And then stopping is just simply because it's the right decision, right? Failing quitting, stopping now, Rourke Denver, who I interviewed in episode one 63, this is what Rourke Denver had to say about. If there's one thing we could export from SEAL training or if I could figure out a way to put it into a fizzy drink and bottle it, which would instantly make you me a billionaire would be to never quit.
[06:05] I mean, it sounds so trite and simple, but if you quit in SEAL training, you're adventurant. You're not going to see the finish line. That's it. You're done. Go do something else. If you don't quit, it's possible you won't make it. I mean, it's possible you're going to fail something or they're going to see something in you, or we're going to see something in you that doesn't.
[06:21] You know, gel with the team or you do something performance wise that's gonna make you go away. But that's very, very rare. Exceedingly rare. If you don't quit, there's a good chance you're gonna become a seal. And the seal is, you know, a pretty high test, high pinnacle thing to achieve. Right? And so it is honestly about that simple.
[06:38] And I just see it in my kids. I see it in friends, and I, I just won't let them quit. I won't let them give up on something cuz you can develop this level of not giving up. You're going to go far. I mean, you might not get every goal you're shooting at, but you guaranteed won't get it if you give up. So not quitting is the elemental, you know, baseline thing that somebody needs to have in their DNA or that program is not going to work for them.
[07:02] Quick interruption. If you like what you're hearing here and you want to learn how you can implement this Into your life. Just go to JimHarshawJr.com/apply to see how you can get a free one on one coaching session with me. That's JimHarshawJr.com/apply. Now back to the show. If you quit, you're guaranteed not to succeed.
[07:23] If you don't quit, you still have a chance. But the tricky part here is how do you stay strong enough? So you don't quit. How do you deal with failure so that you can be resilient? So you can actually move forward. I asked Tom Shea, this Tom Shea is a Navy SEAL who talks here in this clip, dealing with failure.
[07:44] It's the only community that actually plans for it and embraces it. And as a SEAL in training, they never allow you to win. And that's also another reason why so few people can tolerate it is because most people want to win. They wanted the feeling of winning. They want the reinforcement. And then in the SEAL community, they decided long time ago that to only way to be successful in combat.
[08:16] Is to constantly in training embrace failure because during failure you get to see what the real problems are. In success you cover up all the things. And so everything you do pushes something to the brink. You go out and shoot a gun until the gun falls apart to see how many rounds the gun can handle.
[08:39] Physically, they push you until you're very capable. To see what you're going to do when you've hit the failure point, and then learn, okay, you know, my arms aren't strong enough. Good, you've learned once you've hit failure that your arms aren't strong enough. Then you go back and make them stronger. Tom talks about how the SEAL community is the only community that actually plans for it and embraces it.
[09:06] Just like Robert O'Neill said, the very first one here, a few minutes ago. They plan for it. They embrace it. It makes you stronger, but so often we're, we're just too busy to reflect so that we can actually get stronger. Like Tom talked about, we're too busy to do the, you know, in the military, they call it an after action review.
[09:26] I call it a productive pause. We're so busy. We're going so quickly from one thing to the next, to the next. We don't actually look at the failure, analyze it and figure out, Hey, what went well, what did I actually do? Right. What did I, what did I do wrong or what went wrong? And then what can I learn from this?
[09:44] Like, what can I do better next time? How am I more qualified? Not less. I recently had an epiphany that. Looking back on one of my biggest failures, which was a business. I raised angel capital, started a software company and this thing failed. And at the end of it, I remember just sort of unconsciously moving on from it, as opposed to saying, wait a second, I am actually so much more qualified to build a technology company now because of this, to build a software company, to raise angel capital, I got my MBA from the school of hard knocks.
[10:18] By going through this and I learned how to build wireframes, learn how to, to hire and work with an offshore development team, all stuff that I had no clue what to do before. Now I had all these skills, but internally I felt like I was a failure. This is something I can't do. I guess I'm not cut out for this, but I actually was, I actually had gained so much knowledge and so much information through that experience, but we're too busy, right?
[10:43] We're always moving on to the next thing. We're looking ahead, looking ahead, looking ahead. Now here's Jeff Eggers. Who's talked about the digital age and how our mind is always so busy. Like I said, so busy that we're, we're always looking ahead. We're, we're always occupied. We're never taking that time to, to pause and to reflect.
[11:01] And I interviewed Jeff in episode 174, actually got to meet with Jeff in person up in Washington, DC, and, and spend some time at the McChrystal Institute for leadership, but here's what Jeff has to say about the digital age and how busy our mind always is. There's so much greater awareness of all the things going on around us, what, what others are doing, that it makes it a lot harder to see kind of the relative beauty and just slowing down.
[11:30] And so I think there is a particular need for all of us to step back and savor, whether it's, you know, helping your kid with homework at the end of the day. Or just that quiet moment at home with family in a very private, you know, personal way. There's a, there's a growing need to just find more and more ability to savor those kinds of moments.
[11:51] We have a Navy SEAL talking about the beauty of just slowing down. We don't think about Navy SEALs as people who slow down and savor moments. We think of guys who are just plowing forward, moving on, going to the next thing. No! An important part of learning from failure, an important part of success. Is the beauty of just slowing down, savoring moments.
[12:17] And there was another Navy SEAL, Pat Dossett, who I interviewed in episode two 65, who talked about this too. Here's what Pat has to say about slowing down and about savoring moments through gratitude. Gratitude is having an orientation towards recognizing and celebrating the good, even when things are bad.
[12:38] I think the words matter here, like this idea of having an orientation or a disposition towards recognizing the good, even when things are bad. And it's something that when I think about immediately, it tells me. That while this is something that seals do really, really well, in fact, those 17 people that are left at the end of training, this is something I would say that they are masterful practitioners of gratitude because they're able to in real time, figure out when the stress is so high, or when the situation is so bad or whatever, they can find a silver lining in it.
[13:09] They can find something to anchor towards that gives them energy, gives them resilience, makes them feel better. Savoring moments like Jeff Eggers said, and being grateful and having an orientation towards celebrating the good, like Pat Dossett said, this means cultivating the inner part of you. So you can actually benefit from failure and not just let it beat you down, not just move on without learning from it.
[13:36] Mark Devine, who I interviewed in episode 45, he talked about how. Understanding your purpose is important in being resilient and dealing with failure. And that comes from cultivating the inner domain, the inner you. Here's what Mark Devine has to say about that. The warrior cultivates the inner domain so that he can be prepared for anything in the outer.
[14:00] And in that process, That cultivation of the inner domain, the things like awareness and intuition and a deep sense of yourself. And what that leads to, Jim, is a notion of what you're on this planet for. And I truly believe that we all have a unique and discernible purpose. That we're, you know, we're here to serve in some powerful way.
[14:20] And I also believe that most people never figure this out. Have you cultivated your inner domain? Do you have a practice of this? And that may be meditation and maybe journaling and maybe working with a coach, maybe all three, maybe other things, but this is about cultivating your inner domain, not moving so fast that you're not paying attention to what's going on inside.
[14:39] It's not just paying attention to your to do list. I mean, listen, I'm, I'm as guilty as, as anyone. And I'm the guy, I'm the coach. I'm the one who, who preaches this stuff. And I feel convicted when I don't. And because I get to teach this and because I get to preach this, I'd certainly do this a lot more than I would otherwise.
[14:56] But it's about this inner domain, finding a practice to help you cultivate this inner domain. And now it's your turn. Like, what are you going to do with this? What are you going to do with this information? What's the one thing you've taken away from this episode that you're going to take action on? What are you going to do with this information from these seven world class performers, seven Navy SEALs?
[15:16] Now for me, here's my biggest takeaway. It's that Navy SEALs fail and that it's a necessary part of training. It's necessary to become a world class warrior and that they have to cultivate an awareness, even a gratitude for the failures, because as much as they suck, as much as we don't want them, if you have the right understanding of your purpose, then your failures will be essential steps in your success, just as they are essential part of the training of the greatest warriors in the world.
[15:49] How about you? Can you incorporate this into your life? And if so, how, like, what are you going to do in the next 24 to 48 hours to start incorporating this into your life? One action item here is to download the action plan. Go to JimHarshawJr.com/action, or you can sign up for a free one time clarity call with me.
[16:06] Go to JimHarshawJr.com/apply. I look forward to talking to you. Thanks for listening. If you want to apply these principles into your life, let's talk. You can see the limited spaces that are open on my calendar at. JimHarshawJr.com/apply, where you can sign up for a free one time coaching call directly.
[16:27] And don't forget to grab your action plan. Just go to JimHarshawJr.com/action. And lastly, iTunes tends to suggest podcasts with more ratings and reviews more often, you would totally make my day. If you give me a rating and review, those go a long way in helping me grow the podcast audience. Just open up your podcast app.
[16:48] If you have an iPhone, do a search for success through failure. Select it and then scroll the whole way to the bottom where you can leave the podcast, a rating and a review. Now, I hope this isn't just another podcast episode for you. I hope you take action on what you learned here today. Good luck and thanks for listening.
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