A decade ago, US Navy SEALs went on a mission of a lifetime: to kill the most wanted man in the world— Osama bin Laden. One of them stood face-to-face with the bin Laden. And then finished the job.
Robert O’Neill is one of the most decorated and recognized US service members for killing the world’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden.
Because of his courage in combat, Rob is a sought-after public speaker, author, and advocate for veterans.
He is also the bestselling author of “The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior.” Following its success, Rob, and his co-author Dakota Meyer, have released “The Way Forward: Master Life’s Toughest Battles and Create Your Lasting Legacy”— which I had the privilege of reading in advance of its release (spoiler alert, it is phenomenal!).
“The Way Forward” presents Rob and Dakota’s philosophy in combat and life. This isn’t a book about the glory of war and combat, but one about facing your enemies, some who are flesh and blood and some that are in your mind— your doubts, your boredom, and your regrets.
In this episode, Rob takes us back to the historic mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan and the many facets of that he and his team had to handle right after the successful raid— from salutes and jealousy to his personal battle with PTSD. Tune in now.
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] Robert O'Neill: I've never met anyone who just like a CEO of a company that says, yep, nailed that on the first try. And I'm just the boss now you don't learn a lot from success. And what I've also learned is success causes complacency. But if you're too good at stuff, you're going to say, well, this is the way we've always done it.
[00:18] And that's where the.
[00:20] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: You listen to podcasts, read books, follow the experts on social media, and you find yourself getting mediocre results in your business, in your health, in your relationships. And you know, you're not living up to your full potential. You've not broken through the limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
[00:34] And if you continue on this path, there are consequences. If nothing changes. Imagine looking back in 20 years with regret and thinking, what if, like, what if I could have found a way to unlock my true potential? Like how would the different, well, you can unlock your true potential. I'm hosting our second annual retreat May 13th through 15th, titled moving to mastery.
[00:58] We're going to take all the book knowledge that you've learned and all of the life experiences that you've lived in, turn it into results. It's going to be an intense weekend of deep learning and powerful immersive experiences. That don't stop when you leave, but actually include in additional 30 days of growth.
[01:16] Following the retreat, we've reserved a private lodge and event center, all to ourselves located on 330 acres, just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It's an hour and a half drive from two major airports, Dallas and BWI. So it's easy access for. Anywhere in the United States or Canada space is limited.
[01:36] So if you're interested in self-mastery and finally getting the results, you know, you're capable of reach out to me as soon as possible to apply. Just go to Jim Harsha, junior.com/retreat. It's time for you to move to mass. Welcome to another episode of success through failure. This is your host, Jim harsher, Jr.
[02:00] And today I bring you Rob O'Neill. If that name sounds familiar it's because he is the Navy seal who killed Osama bin Laden. Insane conversation that you're about to listen to right now, Rob talks about how he became a Navy seal. He talks about going from seal team two to seal team six, and he talks about the raid where they killed Osama bin Laden.
[02:23] He talks about the weeks leading up to it, the uncertainty. And what they felt was certain death that they were walking into, but they knew it was a mission that they had to do and then leaving the compound and actually getting back into Afghanistan and just an incredible story and incredible saga. And then also the pros and the cons of everything in terms of how this changed his life, moving forward, some real crazy things happened to them after that raid.
[02:48] So let's get into my interview with Rob O'Neill and he just launched his book by the way. Which is called the way forwards. Check that out the way forward and absolutely incredible book. I got an advanced copy, so I've got to read it before it went on the bookshelves, which is this week as of one of launching this episode.
[03:08] But before we do that real quick, I want to give a shout out to one of my listeners who left this rating and review in iTunes. If you want to hear your name on the podcast and you want to leave me a rating and review, absolutely. Love to get your ratings and reviews. Those are super helpful in helping other people find these episodes.
[03:26] This is from Mike Perry. He said, it's titled want to be a better person. Listen to this podcast. I'll give you the abbreviated version of this, but he said, someone recommended Jim's podcast and it has changed my life. I truly mean that I picked up skills and mindsets from this podcast that will always be with me.
[03:44] And I sincerely appreciate Jim's message. Thank you, Mike, for leaving the message. Listen to. If you can leave a rating and review, that goes such a long way in helping grow this podcast, which helps me bring on even better guests like we have here today would be amazing. Rob O'Neill. So what led you to becoming a Navy seal
[04:06] Robert O'Neill: chance?
[04:07] I learned early on that when you make a plan, God laughs at you, that life happens around you. I was actually playing college basketball and my plan was to get an MBA. I'd probably work with my dad as a stockbroker and just had a bad relationship. And it was one of those points in life where I just got to get out of town and actually realized later on in life that no matter where I went be it Fredericksburg, Virginia, San Diego, California, a local would always say the same thing.
[04:32] I just got to get out of here. And it was just my time. And I went to join the Marine Corps because I had a couple of friends that were Marines. I went to high school with. And again, as luck would have it, the Marine recruiter was not in the office, but the Navy guy was, and I simply went into. When the Marine would be back.
[04:48] And he said, um, why do you want the Marine? I said, I want to be a sniper. And he said, look, no further. We have snipers in the Navy. All you gotta do is become a Navy seal first. And then we'll send you to sniper school. And he kind of brushed over that. I didn't know what a Navy seal was. I didn't know how to swim.
[05:03] And he showed me the video. After I signed the contract, of course it turns out Navy seals, swim. And I had basically five months from the time I signed at the time I shipped out for the Navy to learn how to swim. I had a friend ended up swimming for Notre Dame, teach me how to swim in five months. So you,
[05:19] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: you, you sign up for this thing called you know, the Navy and becoming a Navy seal.
[05:24] What was the experience like for you going through the eight months of training and buds and hell
[05:28] Robert O'Neill: week? Well, it was, I mean, it was scary for me because once I actually saw the videos and realized I was going to. It w it was, it was more surreal than anything. And getting into the training. I mean, it was so bad that I remember thinking, you know, I have a past, I don't have a future.
[05:45] I'm just going to be in hell forever. But, um, I had an instructor. You hear stuff that they say that seal training is all mental. It's, it's mental, but it's physical. Meaning you can talk your body through anything through your mind. And I had an instructor say that, um, regardless of what you've been told, this course is not impossible.
[06:02] Like look at me. People make it through you. It's possible. So I'll never ask you to do anything impossible, but I'll make you do something very hard, followed by something very hard, followed by something very hard. And he's trying to give me the big picture. And he said, do you know, day after day after day for eight straight months.
[06:16] And that sounds like a lot to get from now to eight months from now. But don't think about it that way, because that's not how you achieve a long-term goal. Do it like this. And he kind of broke it down and wake up in the morning on time, make your bed the right way and then brush your teeth. You already started the day with three wins.
[06:29] Make it to the 5:00 AM. Workout on. And as I'm beating you, don't think about the pain concentrate on your next goal in life, which is making it to breakfast after breakfast. Your next goal in life has lunch after lunch, make it to dinner after dinner, do everything you need to do to get back inside that perfectly made bed.
[06:44] And because you took the time in the morning to make your bed the right way, regardless of how bad today was, tomorrow is a clean slate. Tomorrow is a fresh start. And when you feel like quitting, which you will don't quit right now, that's your emotion quit tomorrow. And if you can keep quitting tomorrow, you can do.
[07:00] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I appreciate you pulling back the curtain on that, because I think so many people. Looking at guys like you are Navy seals, this world-class performers and say, ah, things must just be easy for them. They have this stable mindset, the whole way saying I got this and I could do this. And there, you know, you're running along and you're holding the boat above your head and thinking, you know, I got this the whole time and it's just a, it's just a foregone conclusion that Rob was going to become a Navy seal.
[07:23] That's not the case. There's what a 85% failure rate here.
[07:26] Robert O'Neill: Usually 85% about that. Yeah. And I didn't think I was going to graduate until the last week when we graduated on Friday that Monday, it hit me that, oh my God, I'm going to graduate. Because the last 40 days of this training is all on San Clemente island, which is off the coast of California.
[07:40] And it's a Naval base and you got to figure, this course is the hardest training in the world. It's in Cornado by one of the nicest hotels. And they beat you there in front of tourists. When you go to the island for 40 straight days, they tell you before you go, nobody can hear you screaming. And that last 40 days is miserable.
[07:57] No time off. I'm convinced a lot of the instructors hit the sauce right around noon. Cause they get violent. All you, you, you know, you, you drink water, drink milk, and eat good food and you're, they're building you up. And it, you know, it's, it's tough, but you get done with that. And all of a sudden you got to graduate.
[08:10] And for me, because it was never going to, it was never going to happen. I'm not. But I'm probably going to fail something and you do fail things, but they'll give you more than one attempt at certain things to fail, to see how you, uh, how do you respond to it. But then you get back on Monday and all of a sudden my parents were flying down and it's, it's like an administrative week, get your dental records, uh, up to date medical up-to-date admin stuff.
[08:31] And by the way, you're going to seal team two. And that's like, well, what does that mean? I wait a minute. I have to be a Navy seal. Now, what does that mean? And so
[08:39] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: failure plays a role, even in, even in the training, even in becoming.
[08:44] Robert O'Neill: Yeah, they, um, they'll usually give you every evolution that we call it being a, a time swim, uh, 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, you can fail them.
[09:00] And then they'll, um, they'll 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? I've seen guides as well, especially when we get into a later training for seal team six, they'll really punish you severely physically for something you didn't screw up to see how you handle, not screwing up.
[09:22] They'd 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. Don't dwell on it. You're not getting it back. Learn. When I talk to football teams, I'll tell them. It doesn't matter why it's second and 15, it just is learn from why it is and get over it.
[09:46] We'll talk about it later. It doesn't matter how we got here. We're just here. They'll do different drills, identical. It's all a mental thing because they, they want to see if. Compartmentalize everything that you're doing. So if you fail two miles swim and every there's three phases of seal training, every phase, the time gets shorter.
[10:03] So they'll not five minutes off the swim. So if you barely pass a swim, now you've got to swim at, you know, five minutes and five seconds faster. And it's, everything's a mind game, but you got to compartmentalize it and worrying about something that you're worried is not gonna affect sophomores. Like I said, learn, get over it.
[10:19] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Fill in order to become a Navy seal. You just have to be. The type of person, you have to embrace the mindset that like, you know, when I fail, it doesn't mean I'm done. I'm out of here on no. Good. I can't do this. It just means I got to come back. I got to do it better next time. And you got to hit it harder,
[10:35] Robert O'Neill: right?
[10:36] Well, even with stuff like underwater, nighttime drills, you you'll get four attempts. And I've seen guys up to the third, like they failed their third attempt and then the realization of, okay, I failed three times. If I don't pass right now, And just, can you do it? Can you suck it up and do it? And I've seen guys that like the nighttime drills, a certain amount of knots underwater, and you have to tie five in a row.
[10:58] And I saw a guy on his last, not drown, and they went and got him, picked him up. He was out for about a minute, minute and a half. They were doing CPR on this kid when they finally brought him to life. Because the first thing he said was, did I pass? He didn't ask about his family. He asked him. And they said, yeah, you pass.
[11:16] And he said, well, thank God. I finally tied the fifth knot. And they said, no, no, you didn't tie the fifth nut, but that's not the point. I don't care how many knots, you know, how to tie my job is to see how far you'll push yourself. You didn't tie five knots, but you killed yourself. You pass the test, that's all we're looking for.
[11:31] You kill themselves, trying to pat. And that's like, okay, he didn't get the nod, but that's, we don't care about that. So there's an underlying message. And you're going to, I've never met anyone who just like a CEO of a company that says, yep. Nailed that on the first try. And I'm just. You don't learn a lot from success.
[11:45] And what I've also learned is success causes complacency that if you're too good at stuff, you're going to say, well, this is the way we've always done it. And that's where they're going to get you. My wife works in the power line industry and I'll talk to the men, the guys that get up on the poles and work the power lines.
[12:02] And I'll say when there was a fatality last time there was a fatality or an injury. How many safe days on that big sign with their 506. Because that one day, while we've been doing this, we're safe. Boom. So complacency failure, success, or, and so for the listener, I
[12:19] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: apply this to your life. I know we're talking to Rob O'Neill Navy seal seal team six, like how does this apply to you in your business and your life and your relationships and your health?
[12:29] Maybe you're trying to run a marathon or maybe you're trying to get off the couch and run a 5k, like, and you failed, like, yeah. Get used to it, get over it. And this is, this is the
[12:38] Robert O'Neill: path to success. I think that failure is, is misunderstood because a lot of people are afraid of it. And that's why a lot of people won't try and that almost will lead to a sense of envy and wanting other people to fail, because you don't want to try it.
[12:52] But I mean, if you, if you just get after it, it's, you know, it's the whole thing with my kids. I tell them, I'm sure you've heard it. How do you eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I mean, even, even as far as monetarily, you can, you can lose everything and still build yourself back up. People do that all the time.
[13:06] I think I th I fail three times a day before breakfast. Like, you're good at, you're going to mess something up. Listen, just be, uh, be open-minded don't place the blame and just learn. I mean, that's, that's all learning is SU family, right? I'm trying to think of different. I mean, there's so many, so many examples of me feeling like, I mean, when we went after Osama bin Ladin, the helicopter crashed in the front yard right off the bat.
[13:28] You think it'd be easy to just surrender at that point. Like, well, this is.
[13:32] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: So I want to talk about the Isama bin Laden raid first let's oh, I want to hear, how, how do you go from seal team two to seal teams?
[13:41] Robert O'Neill: There's a process you need to be a Navy seal for a certain amount of time. And I think it's five years as a Navy seal minimum, then you need to get recommended by your team to represent them there's um, about a nine or 10 month selection process, everything from tactics, physical ability that it get in your mind.
[14:00] Psychiatrist, psych evaluation. That's a 50% attrition rate, which means half of the top 1% of Navy seals, don't make it through the training for seal team six. So that's, that's our tier one unit. The reason it's called seal team six, there's nothing special about it. Um, Richard Marcinko in seal team six, I think in 1980, because we had seal team one and seal team two, and we divide them by coast so that the even numbers are in Virginia odd numbers are in.
[14:26] San Diego. So he invented six because the Russians would say, okay, there's one, two and six, where the hell are the three, four and five are just seal team six. Now it just sounds really cool, even though it's sort of one of those, well, we can't say the name, but like a little wink, wink seal team six. So it's really hard to get there.
[14:42] You need, and you need it's more serious, better budget, better training opportunities, more opportunities to. Develop tactics and weapons systems and stuff like that. And then once the war started well, after you know, 9, 9, 12, then they really started sending us after, um, high value targets. And then we were working every single night.
[15:00] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: So there's a lot. And for the listener, we're skipping a lot here, right by the book. It's phenomenal, but there's so much to this story, but we're going to skip ahead a little bit to the Isama bin Laden. Can you take us back to the night when you killed Osama bin Laden and walk us through that mission
[15:21] Robert O'Neill: red that started about three weeks before we went on the raid for us, there was a group of women, one woman in particular that found him and she is depicted as Maya in the movie, zero dark 30 highly recommend watching that movie to understand the process behind.
[15:38] So it's like, there's so much behind it. We're just the sales rep that shows up at the door like except, well, the customer is always wrong. Uh, they found him over the course of years, they presented to president Obama. Then they told us about three weeks out because we were one of five options. And they picked a group of Navy seals based on performance and experience the most experienced guys available at the time.
[16:00] And they basically brought us in a room and it started off with, uh, this is, this is real. This is not a drill. We found a thing. And this thing is in a house and this house is in a bowl in a country and you're going to go get this thing and bring it to us. And that's all the. We didn't know where it was, how we're getting there, what country it was.
[16:16] Didn't know if it was a thing or a guy or whatever, but we figured it out. They told us only Navy seals were coming. We can't bring our experts, uh, communicators, which are air force experts up paramedics, which are air force. We got to bring our own stuff. And then the woman came in the room and said, the reason you guys are here is this is as close as we've ever been to Osama bin Laden.
[16:35] And to hear her say the first time you ever heard the word a bottom ad, which is the city that was like, this is legit. So. You know, we kind of trained up, talked about it, fat, you know, a lot of stuff here and there, contingencies. Then we flew to Afghanistan. So we got the green line on a Friday night. We didn't go on Saturday because of, uh, believe it or not because the correspondence dinner in Washington, because, um, they knew the cabinet would be there with the president.
[17:02] If we launched a Kilbane law and everyone's getting up, the press is going to see it. What is this? We went on Sunday. The reason it was Saturday and Sunday, because they had 0% illumination and we want to know Moonlight. We left on Sunday on a flight that we know is going to get shot down. Like we're not coming home.
[17:16] This is it. This is a one way mission, because we don't know if the technology works. We know it's not a third world country. They have probably Russian made anti-aircraft stuff. There's going to be a gunfight. No doubt. The house is probably going to blow up when we get in it and we're going to run out of fuel.
[17:31] So we're either going to fight the Pakistanis or, and die, or end up in a Pakistani prison and dying a very agonizing death there, not a lot of good options. So. We did get the green light. We got into the helicopters and we left. Even our families didn't know where we were. They thought we were probably in the United States.
[17:48] We, um, you know, you sorta call family members, but you can't tell them where you are. I called my father and sort of thanked him for teaching me how to be a man or something like that. He used to say stuff, I'd call him on misses before and say, um, you know, we got to go to work tonight and he'd always say, I wish I could come with you.
[18:05] And I would say, yeah, me too, dad. But this time you said, Hey, I wish I could come with you. And I said, don't worry. I'm with. And so we took off and it was a 90 minute flight. So we crossed the border, uh, 90 minutes in, and again, we're at a point where worrying about a missiles, not going to stop the missiles.
[18:20] So there's no point in worrying about, so I'm sitting on this tri-fold chair and the dog Cairo was next to me. And one of my guys was laying on the floor with his headphones in listening to music and he fell asleep. And I remember looking at him thinking you're asleep on the ride to bin Laden's house craziness.
[18:40] Yeah. So I was counting to keep my mind off. And I was counting from zero to a thousand thousand, zero, 80 minutes in we bank to the south. I was counting again. I don't know how I remembered it, but I said I'm 5 56, 5 57. Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward and freedom will be defended.
[19:00] And I remember that that's a Bush that a nine 11 and, uh, it started to sink in that, you know, I'm, I'm on, I'm on this mission. We're gonna. We did one more bank, the doors open one minute out. You could sort of see the lights. It's a resort town. I know there's a golf course there. And I started thinking this is some serious Navy seal shit.
[19:17] We're about to do. We split off. We were supposed to have some guys fast rope in front of the house. Um, they're going to let us off some guys off my helicopter, some snipers and the dog. We were going to go to the rooftop and we're going to hit them this way. So they're going to fast rope. We're going up here.
[19:32] The pilot noticed something was wrong. He had a crash land in the front yard and he, by doing that, he saved everyone's lives in the blink of an eye because he said if he would have hovered, he would have rolled it. He didn't have a choice, but he, we were fortunate to have the four best pilots in the world.
[19:47] They were army pilots. So he put them down. Our guys saw them do that. So he just let us out there without telling us. And we kind of knew something was up. And I remember sticking my foot out ticking, I guess we'd start the war from here. I could see. I know there's a double door right there that we're going to blow up.
[20:02] So I brought the breacher up. He put a huge bomb on the door, blasted that it opened up, but there's a brick wall behind it. So he just kind of turned around and said, well, that's failed. Breaches is bad. And I said, no, this is good. That's a failure. That's a fake door. Nobody does that. He's in there. So then I knew we could blast this door.
[20:22] I didn't know that the other guys were in there. I didn't know. They crashed, I thought they said something else. And I said, Hey, this is so-and-so. I'm going to blast the car. And the guy said, no, don't blast. It will open it. And the door opened and a thumb came out with a glove and I recognized, and again, I don't know how they got there, but it doesn't matter.
[20:38] They're just, there let's go. So we went in there, there's already a gunfight going on. Some of my guys are doing stuff I get in the bottom floor of where, you know, his house and other guys are hitting me and I'm watching them do little things that the good guy. Like go across the room to grab a kid.
[20:55] That's got separated to bring them to the parents. So the kids aren't afraid of Al-Qaeda would not do that for us. And I'm thinking these are the good guys. And I was very proud of my guys and they're working their way down. They open another door and the woman that found bid and said, I don't know where it is, but you're going to find a stairwell.
[21:13] And when you do, you're going to run into Khaleed bin Laden. And that's his son. That's his last line of defense. We ran into him. The front guy took him in. I was about seven or eight guys back when we go to the second floor and everyone kind of split off to the right and left are clearing this room. And now it's down to two of us, the last set of stairs.
[21:32] There's one guy in front of me and he's pointing up and there's a curtain and he can see people moving behind it. So he's assuming these are the suicide bombers, which we've seen recently. They do this, but if we go right now, we can beat them. We got to. And he kind of convinced me, I'm like, well, this is it.
[21:50] So I wasn't bravery. It's like, I'm trying to think about it. Let's go. And he went up, move the curtain and he jumped on some people that he thought were suicide bomber. So he gave his life for that for the guy behind him. And because he went here, I went here and there's been lot in standing there and he's got his hand on him, all shoulders and he's sort of pushing her.
[22:08] And I realized that. He's taller than I thought he's skinny, but he's not surrendering. That's his nose. That's him. He's a threat. So I shot him twice. Shot him again, moved. I moved the wifi out of the way, push her to the back of the room near the bed. And I like his two-year-old son was there and here's the human element.
[22:23] As a father. I thought this kid has nothing to do with this. And I pick him up, move him, put him next to his mom. Other seals are coming in the room at this point, we're getting ready to take his pictures. And I sort of stood there. And a guy comes up to me and he goes, are you okay? And I said, no, what do we do now?
[22:43] And he smiled said, well, now we find the computers, man. We do this every single night, hundreds of times. And I said, yeah, you're right. I'm back. Holy shit. And he goes, here's how cool Navy seals are? He goes, yeah, you just killed Osama bin Laden. Your life should change. Don't get to fucking work. That's that?
[22:58] So we got him, we got it. Now it's time to get the stuff and leave.
[23:01] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Wow. I mean, when did the enormity of that moment hit you? It sounds like, you know, you, you felt that on the, on the flight in, right. And then
[23:11] Robert O'Neill: it was a moment on the flight out that it sunk in when, so the sniper that initiated the fire to kill the Somali pirates, rescued Richard Phillips.
[23:20] So that was our team. We did that too. Um, so he was sitting and that was a lot for him to take. Cause that was the biggest mission in the history of the seal teams up to them. And so I would talk to him. And when, you know, he would feel down in the dumps or not sure that you normally, I would give him my Copenhagen and say, here, take your Copenhagen.
[23:36] You're a hero. Don't forget that. So now relieving on the Binladin rate and I'm sitting next to him and there's another dude right here who was on the bird that came to get us he's from New York. His name was also Rob and he hit me and he goes, who got. And I said I did. And he said on behalf of my family, thank you.
[23:56] And I looked at the sniper and he handed me, his Copenhagen goes now, you know what? It's like to be a fucking hero. And that's what it's like, holy crap. So that's when it started and now we're leaving and we have 90 minutes to live on a mission where we're supposed to die. But if we live for 90 minutes, we get 50 years, I get to see my kids again.
[24:15] Right. So we're hauling ass, but worrying about, it's not going to help. So stop worrying about a missile, but they know we're here. So you start the stopwatch and you're just watching 90 minutes. It's been 10 minutes. It's been 20 now. It's been 30. It's been 40 minutes, man. It's been 50 minutes. We've got to get to 90.
[24:33] And then you start thinking sports. You know, I played basketball. You're a wrestler. I start thinking about like a no-hitter at Yankee stadium, top of the seventh. I'm not going to say anything. 60 minutes, 70 minutes, 80 minutes, 90 minutes. I got to get there. I started thinking about miracle. When the Americans are beating the Russians four to three, they should lose, but they're winning 10, 9, 8.
[24:54] And then all of a sudden, the pilot came over and said, all right, gentlemen, for the first time in your life, you're going to be happy to hear this. Welcome to Canada. I did not. So that's all because the butterfly effect, you know, I got dumped by a girl, joined the Navy. Now I'm in bin Laden's bedroom,
[25:08] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: quick interruption.
[25:09] Hey, if you like what you're hearing, be sure to get the notes, quotes and links in the action plan from this episode, just go to Jim harso Jr. Com slash action. That's Jim harsher Jr. Com slash action. To get your free copy of the action plan. Now back to the show. So two different directions. I want to go with this.
[25:30] First is this. So you mentioned the, the humanity actually in the moment, right when you're killing the world's worst human being, but you, you have a human moment in there, whether it's his wife and there's the two year old. And, you know, most, most people don't even reflect upon that. And that, that moment really struck me in the book.
[25:50] When you talked about that, because we don't think about that. We're like, Hey, hurrah, you know, you just did it and there's, there's more to it. Right. He, you know, there's a, there's a child
[25:59] Robert O'Neill: with her mother and her family. I mean, not even that, but like that he wasn't the first guy killed and you actually wasn't the last guy killed, but you know, I'm not talking about him, but like there are guys that I've been in gunfights with that I killed and I've actually the further I get away from it.
[26:14] Did we just find each other because we were born on different sides of the planet. Like if we had met somewhere else under diff would we have had a cup of coffee and laughed and that's, that's the PTSD part of it that there's a very human element. I've gone into the wrong house in Iraq. And I remember it was a, there was a woman and her daughter and I tracked mud on their carpet.
[26:32] And I remember thinking, I see why they hate us three in the morning, some assholes in here with night vision and muddy boots, you know, it's, it's, it's, uh, the world's a small.
[26:42] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Yeah. Yeah. I remember Dakota Meyer in the book in one point where, where he actually talked about killing a man with his, with his hands and a rock in his hand.
[26:50] And, and for the listener, you got to buy the book, you got to hear some of these stories. They're just mind blowing, but he has this moment where he's about to kill the guy. And, and he says, I don't even hate him.
[27:03] Robert O'Neill: I don't even hate him. And we both know what's about to happen. Yeah. Right. It's crazy. There's some very intimate moments.
[27:10] I don't even, you know, I don't get counting how many kills you have, but I think that the furthest one I have is, is 20 feet. Like they're all up close. Yeah.
[27:20] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And you knew when you were done, right. You talk about that in the book, there was a moment where you knew you were done when the killing had changed for you making a kill.
[27:29] What was that moment like?
[27:31] Robert O'Neill: I, um, I stopped getting adrenaline and gun. And again, that's complacency through success. I think that some people die in combat because they get bored and it was just, it was time for me. Cause we went from the highest moment in our history, telling him to Lon a few months later to the lowest.
[27:50] When we lost a extortion, one seven on August 6th, 2011 31 Americans died in a single shot. And it was like, you know what? It's just too many close calls. A bullet needs to be right. And that's it. That's all it takes. And it was a lucky shot with extortion one seven and everyone lost their lives. And I know, I know a lot of kids that won't see their dads again, because of that one night, it's like, it's, I'm too close to it.
[28:10] Okay. Um,
[28:12] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: so you, you make the kill with the song had been Loddon and you know, you, you get back to base, you get back to the states and like you said, everything changed in your life. When word got out about who killed someone. There was resentment. There was jealousy. Then you said that began almost immediately.
[28:32] Robert O'Neill: Well, we knew, I mean, we knew right away, as soon as we got back to, um, I mean, we flew from Milan's house to Jalalabad Afghanistan, the mechanics in the hangar pointing at me like they knew who did it, every single person who found it as soon as it found up in London was dead asked the same question who got them, even the guy next to him in the helicopter who got them.
[28:50] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: That's what everybody's going to ask them. You're in the helicopter and people want to know who.
[28:54] Robert O'Neill: And then we talk about like the highest level of performers. These are alpha performers. And if you're that close to doing something like that, I'd imagine, you know, why wasn't it me type thing I remember.
[29:03] Cause I worked with Dennis Stan, one more deployment after that. And I watched a different squadron from seal team six and jump in to Somalia, to rescue Jessica Buchanan from Al-Shabaab, which is Al-Qaeda. And I was watching them live feed, being jealous, like why isn't that up? And I'm like, oh wait, we did get in line.
[29:22] I guess someone else should do something, but I was jealous. And so I get it. And it just, it was, it was tough to go to work. You know, people just, I don't know what it is. It's one of those things where like, when you're a kid, you play a game where you whisper something in someone's ear and they whisper and it turns into a different story.
[29:36] Just chick goes around. So someone asked me if I signed a book deal for 17 million. And I said, well, first of all, I don't think, you know how book deals work because you don't get that big of an advance, but no, I did, but it just, it just became, it became a lot. It was just time to leave. It was my time to get out.
[29:50] Yeah. You know,
[29:51] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I guess this has kind of hit me now thinking about this. It would be like, you know, your team goes to the super bowl, but it's in some weird alternate universe. Only like one guy on the team gets to win the super bowl.
[30:02] Robert O'Neill: Right. Like it is. And to me too, I, I, the team got them, the women that found them, the woman that.
[30:08] She was so damn smart. I was smart enough to carry a sledgehammer and a gun and have her go that way. Go that with third floor. That's me. I mean, I was part of the team that got and let the helicopter pilots got us there. The air crew opened the door, you know, the breaches, it had to be blew the doors open.
[30:22] I just happened, you know, right place, right time. Yeah. So there's
[30:26] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: the seal ethos sort of historically of the quiet professional and, you know, I get, how did you feel about starting to speak publicly about the killing of Osama bin Laden and, and then also, I guess sort of more broadly. There are a lot of Navy seals out there these days, you know, building brands, building businesses, you know, speaking, et cetera.
[30:46] Robert O'Neill: Well, the seal ethos was written well after I got to seal team six and I was standing actually with the lead jumper from the Jessica, we can and mission. Seasoned seal team sent dies. The first time we read it was together and we said, what's this horse shit as it come on. It's like the Eagles, like yeah.
[31:05] In times of need. There's a man of honor. I'm that man? That's bullshit. I mean, it's just, it was written more for a cartoon superhero than the guys are sending in the middle of the night to kill people. As far as silent professional, I've been to the military section of Barnes and noble, and there's a lot of books written by military guy.
[31:21] And I'm happy that like George Washington had a biographer with him when he crossed the Delaware to fight the Hessians. As long as you get it approved. No one's in danger and you don't give up tactics. I think people should know history. So at first it sort of bothered me that they said you shouldn't be talking, but I really couldn't care less.
[31:37] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: seeing and experiencing horrific atrocities throughout your career, you were never evaluated for PTSD.
[31:44] Robert O'Neill: No, I, I got a hundred percent disabled before they got to PTSD. So I said we're not even gonna bother cause it's a hundred. But I mean, PTSD is definitely real and I've experienced a lot of it.
[31:54] It's not, it's not cool, but it's very treatable. If places like the VA open their minds to different kinds of treatments, their, their thing is, um, give you a pill that sedates you. And then veterans have a tendency. I've done it myself to self-medicate with alcohol and that's not the way to do it. There are certain ways they should be, um, there's different kinds of, uh, psychedelic treatments.
[32:14] They should be. Uh, the works for a lot of guys, not for me. Um, but it works for a lot of guys. I just get goofy, but there's, I've done certain kinds of treatments that really helped it, that I wish people were more open-minded than they are.
[32:28] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Yeah. You and Dakota both talk about it in the book. I mean, totally.
[32:32] Treatments, you know, one that you did that was not sort of a, I don't know what the word is, sanctioned or approved or whatever. And then one that the Dakota did that was, he had to go to Mexico for. I mean, but these, I mean, you know, you guys started experiencing PTSD and bad and I mean, you said here's a quote from the book.
[32:47] You said despite 400 missions where I watched men's heads explode like watermelons or bodies stitched into with machine gun, fire, or children who saw their parents killed in front of them. You were never evaluated for PTSD. And then in 2019, Which is not that long ago, you started seeing things happening in your life that that told you something was wrong.
[33:05] So what were some of those symptoms? And then I don't know how much you can share, you know, as much, or as little as you want to share about the, uh,
[33:11] Robert O'Neill: If you can just do for me is it's not stuff that I've seen. It's stuff that I can imagine happening. That's not realistic. I think in the wild kingdom, man is the most vicious.
[33:22] We're capable of doing things to each other that shouldn't be done. And I wish I could imagine those and get creative in my mind. And I wanted those to go away because they're not going to happen worrying about things again, that aren't going to happen. So I started taking treatment and the treatment's good because it's administered by a doctor and you're in a safe place and they're watching you, but you just, it's almost like you get.
[33:40] You get a, um, a tour of your own soul from yourself and you just wake up, refresh it and you can just compartmentalize a lot of the nonsense and push it away. Like I remember, um, a prime example, uh, packing a suitcase in the spare room. If I hear a noise and I kind of get jumpy, but after this treatment, I would hear a noise, like from the closet.
[34:01] And I'm like, you could fuck off too and just keep going. Like, so it eases your mind. It's not one size fits all, but there's so much out there that is available that I wish people were just, you know, you know that for crying out loud, they're handing out crack pipes now from the government, they should give veterans some sort of.
[34:18] Right. So you
[34:19] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: have this concept that you talk about in the book of the first day. Can we touch on this? Like, you know, you referenced that, you know, you had your first day in buds and you had your first day speaking about the Osama bin Laden kill, you know, your first day after leaving the Navy. And I think, again, we have this view of guys like you, who.
[34:37] There's no fear, you know, you can handle anything, but you say in the book, you know, whether you're a fortune 500 CEO or you're a terrified 14, year-old stepping into a high school home room, or you're the seal team, six operator who shoots bin Laden. There's still that the nerves are still the fear.
[34:52] There's still the anxiety. We'll talk about this, this concept of first day.
[34:56] Robert O'Neill: Well then, I mean, there should be, everyone's had their first day somewhere and we're all going to continue to have. That's what the book, the way forward is about, you know, okay, you did all this now, what? And people need to realize that fear is now.
[35:06] It's okay to be afraid because that makes you think more clearly, like I was talking about the noise behind me. That's fair. Working for you. The problem with fear is there's a fine line because panic is contagious. If one person panics everybody pants, you've got to stop that like panic is contagious, but so is calm.
[35:23] And as a leader, it doesn't matter what you feel. If you portray calm, your people will be. Prime example of, of panic being contagious is the great toilet paper incidence. In 2020, somebody saw somebody buy all the toilet paper. So they went somewhere else and bottled the toilet paper, someone saw them. So they went, wouldn't bought it all because they're panicking and that's, that's all it is so fierce, natural.
[35:44] Don't, don't be afraid to be afraid, but don't let it overtake you. And I've heard also,
[35:48] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: where are you talking about stress, like saying stress is a choice. Tell me, talk to you about this, about that mindset.
[35:54] Robert O'Neill: Yes. Stresses in your mind. And if you can talk, just take a second, take a deep breath and make an informed decision, as opposed to just, and I give myself my own advice every single day, like stressing out, trying to get to the TSA line.
[36:06] You're you're going to be fine. You're going to make it. Don't worry about stuff. That's not going to happen, but like, if you, if you can calm down, take a breath, put stress down and forget about it. Slow is smooth. Smooth. You want to be fast, slow down. Yeah.
[36:20] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: You know, I just think about there's, there's a client who I have who had to raise some, a bunch of capital for starting another business.
[36:27] And it was scary and hard the first time he did it and then he had to do it again. And then again and again, like by the second time and third time and fourth time, it wasn't scary. It was hot. It wasn't hard, you know, obviously we're talking, you know, exponentially different planet that you exist on in terms of what you've experienced and done.
[36:42] But you get through that, right? You go through it the first time. It's socks. It's hard. There's more fear, therefore more stress. But as you do it more, you know, you, you realize, wait, what was I so
[36:50] Robert O'Neill: stressed about? Yeah. It's one of those things moving around as much as I did Afghanistan, Iraq, other places around the world, no matter where you are, you're going to get used to it.
[37:00] You're going to get used to being uncomfortable. Um, time's going to heal everything and I mean, prove me wrong. It's it's, it's just, it is what it is. It's not so much embrace the suck, but it's like if you wake up in a bad mood, Five in the morning. If you're going to reach bedtime again, it's going to get there, you know, just got to compartmentalize one thing at a time.
[37:19] The, just the realization that the normal can become normal, just. So for
[37:23] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: the listener who, who listened to this interview, you know, wants to buy the book. And by the way, for listening a little, we'll tell you where to buy the book. And that will be linked in the action plan as well as always, but they want to take some action items out of this conversation.
[37:35] I want them to learn from you, Rob, learn from your experiences learned from this book, like what can they do maybe in the next 24 or 48 hours there an action item or a couple of action items. You can recommend that, that people can take away from this and actually employ in their, their lives.
[37:49] Robert O'Neill: Yeah. Don't don't just think I gotta do this and gotta do that.
[37:52] Cause you're going to leave loose ends, make a list as best you can in order of priority and then delete everything except the top five. And then try to get those done. When you get stressed out, write down one. Why stress you out about it? And then when you're in bed at night, just that gives you time to think about it.
[38:10] Write down how you could've handled. Just a little stress log, you know, moving around the board, moving stuff, put trying to put up drapes, whatever the hell I'm doing. And just if I don't write it down and once you get, see it, it's like the monster. There he is. I see them. I like to dive with sharks. I think it's great.
[38:27] I've been with 33 different great whites tiger sharks. The scariest part of diving with sharks is moving from the bench on the boat, into the water because it's the fear. Once you get into it, you're like, oh, that's cool. This isn't that. I don't recommend great whites for everyone, but definitely tigers
[38:43] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I'm into it.
[38:44] I would definitely be down for it. So, so Rob share with us with the listeners where you at these days, what are you up to kind of what's next for you? What are you doing?
[38:52] Robert O'Neill: Well, I'm doing some travel, obviously the book, the way forward. It's Dakota Meyer. I'm giving speeches. My apparel business is fun. I like shipmate because I'm, that's a word like they got rid of in the Navy because it was a.
[39:05] Offensive or something like that. I think shit makes a mess, whatever, but I also have a shirt called front toward enemy, which is bottom line is keep it simple. One of our models is keep it simple, stupid kiss, front door, enemies on the front of a Claymore mine. And it's simple, meaning, well, if this is directly.
[39:20] Mine which way does it go? Oh, front toward enemy. And on the back, it says back so simple. So I admitted a shirt. That's that's a good way to face life. You got a problem front towards the enemy. And then it says back because I can tell people, well, the hoodie, you bust out a hoodie it's directions on how to wear a hoodie, just keeping it simple.
[39:37] So a lot of that, I got a beer company called an armed forces brewing company. Just look that up on my website. You can invest. And then, um, you just get some other stuff. What else? I'm sure there's other, so just trying to do some entrepreneurial stuff, trying to I'm starting, I will be starting a podcast.
[39:51] I got a hot sauce. Rob O'Neill's top secret hot sauce. We'll be selling that very soon. Just kind of fun stuff, trying to, trying to, you know, entertain myself. And I like traveling because I get to talk to people face to face. I think I'm very froggy because I talked to probably 5,000 people last week and it's just nice to get out of.
[40:10] Real people. Aren't on social media and aren't on cable news. Real people are actually real and they actually care about each other. And although they disagree, it's not the same as on Twitter. It's like, wow, I never in person. I never thought about it that way. As opposed to. Calling me whatever name in the book, but I don't have to travel out to talk to people, new things, sports events, stuff like that.
[40:30] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Hey man, man. Well sad. Especially the stuff about real people. We're just real people. No matter what you believe, it's like, man, you get people together.
[40:37] Robert O'Neill: Well, I mean, you realize most people are the same and it's like when they be seals, don't like your mind, you must be super human. No, we're not super. We got 1%.
[40:45] It was like, everyone else that can run the five minute miles nonstop, but most guys are like me. My favorite joke is I could probably be on the cover of decent shape magazine. Yeah. Well,
[40:54] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: you've done some world-class things, man. So humbled and absolutely honored to have you on Rob, where can listeners find you follow you on social media?
[41:03] Buy the book,
[41:03] Robert O'Neill: et cetera. Yeah. I'll check out. Robert Joe neal.com. That leads to my speaking engagements, my Twitter handle, which is , which is a funny story. When I was still in the Navy, they said, there's this thing called Twitter. And you got to get on an anonymously because you can just talk crap to everybody.
[41:19] And so I thought, well, we say who y'all in seal training. I'm an Irish guy. So. And then my neighbor leaks is killing the law and I woke up with like 10,000 followers on my great now I'm forever. So, but it's fun entertainment. I don't take social media that serious. I like to poke fun at people and make jokes.
[41:37] So it's pretty entertaining. Excellent. Yeah,
[41:39] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: you're a good follow. So excellent for there's. I recommend you listen to him and find him, follow him, subscribe to the podcast. Whenever you do, whenever you do get that launch, Rob, let me know. We'll get that out there and we'll share it for sure. So, thanks man.
[41:50] Appreciate it. Great stories. Appreciate the time. And uh, I hope the book launch just absolutely crushed it.
[41:55] Robert O'Neill: Outstanding. I really appreciate your time. Talk to you soon. Thanks.
[42:00] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: 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 Jim Harsha Jr.
[42:08] Com slash apply where you can sign up for a free one-time coaching call. With me. And don't forget to grab your action plan. Just go to Jim harsher Jr. Com slash 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.
[42:33] Just open up your podcast app. If you have an iPhone, do a search for success through. 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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