Life in the SEALs taught me a thing or two about resilience. As I shifted from the precision of a sniper’s sight to the unpredictability of the entrepreneurial world, I often found parallels in unexpected places. Robert Frost’s words, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,” became a recurring echo in my mind. Every career transition is a leap into the unfamiliar, a road less traveled.
Why do some people have incredible success in one career, like the Olympic swimmer Phelps, and then struggle in transition? I see this with many former SEAL Teammates also. On top of the world one minute and in despair the next. This has been a question I’ve been pondering for over a year.
After a lot of thinking it became obvious. Just because you have resilience in one career doesn’t mean it’s transportable to the next phase of your life.
You have to rebuild, and I don’t care how tough you are; resilience is not about just one determined person.
We have to realize that we can’t do it all by ourselves. It takes a system.
Professional networks, teammates, coaches, mentors, great social circles, and purpose are some of the core elements that lead to an individual’s ability to be resilient.
Reflect on that because most don’t, and it’s why they leave one career on top and in transition sink into depression, despair, or worse. It’s why a lot of Navy SEALs fall off the edge of society when they leave the Teams. They left their support system and never took the time to build up a new one.
In the crucible of SEAL Teams, resilience was more than just a buzzword—it was our lifeline. This journey was a whirlwind of trials and triumphs, revealing the importance of having a robust support system. But the combat zone and the corporate world are vastly different battlefields, and I soon realized the significance of Emotional Intelligence, as expounded upon by Daniel Goleman. Recognizing, understanding, and managing our emotions is pivotal in any endeavor, particularly when venturing into unknown territories.
Shifting gears into the realm of business, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning illuminated my path. Frankl’s poignant insights on deriving purpose amidst adversity were a reminder that without a clear ‘why,’ the ‘how’ becomes almost insurmountable. When I found my new purpose, it became my rudder, steering me through the tumultuous seas of entrepreneurship.
Yet, with every stride in my new journey, it was evident that the scaffolding that held me up in the military wouldn’t necessarily be the same in the business domain. The essence of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg resonated deeply. Habits, both personal and professional, had to be redefined, and in doing so, I recognized the necessity to recalibrate my support system. Professional networks, social groups, mentors – they aren’t just add-ons; they are the lifeblood of resilience in any arena. Rebuilding those networks required vulnerability, an admission that the same tools don’t work on every canvas.
I first joined the Entrepreneurs network, then YPO.org, and went on to complete a two-year Harvard Business OPM program.
Upon setting foot in the storied halls of Harvard Business School’s OPM program, an epiphany of sorts struck me. Here, amidst the brilliant minds and voracious learners, I discerned a tangible embodiment of the adage, “we are who we surround ourselves with.” Each interaction, each shared insight, was a testament to the idea that our environment significantly shapes our ambitions, outlook, and eventual success. This realization was reinforced when I became a part of YPO.org.
Engaging with global leaders, trailblazers, and visionaries within YPO further crystallized this notion. It’s not merely about personal drive or individual brilliance, but the collective wisdom and energy of the community you immerse yourself in. Both these esteemed institutions, Harvard and YPO, served as living, breathing exemplars of the transformative power of surrounding oneself with excellence and ambition.
In summation, resilience is more than an individual endeavor. It’s a tapestry woven from threads of personal determination, purpose, and the invaluable strength of the collective.
It’s important to know if you are about to make a serious career change you need to identify your new purpose and rebuild your networks of support. And remember, resilience is not a solitary journey. It’s an intricate dance of individual grit, purpose, and the collective strength of our support systems.
My next book is about how to build unsinkable resilience, but I wanted to share some thoughts as I start terraforming my next nonfiction work. And as I continue to reinvent myself, I find solace in knowing that I stand on the shoulders of giants — both from my past and those I meet in my present.