9 Navy SEAL Quotes to Improve Your Life

Two U.S. Navy Seals navigating through swamp during the training Two U.S. Navy Seals navigating through swamp during the training
Two Navy SEALs navigating through swamp during the training (Photo: XY)

Engagement and accountability are critical elements for growth, productivity, and profitability in any organization. But in this fast-paced twenty-first century age of disruption, improving engagement and accountability seems more challenging than ever before.

According to the 2017 KPMG Global CEO Outlook Report, 74% of CEOs claim they plan to invest more heavily in improving culture and engagement to sustain growth and their competitive edge. And even though organizations are investing more time and resources to improve engagement, few have moved the needle far. The good news is that when successful, companies that have higher levels of engagement experience 17% higher productivity and 20% higher EBITDA.

Navy SEALs during the BUD/s with a wood
Navy SEALs during the BUD/s (Photo: XY)

As a Navy SEAL combat veteran, I can assure you that – in the Teams – engagement and accountability are not issues we have to deal with. If you are lacking in these areas, you don’t make it far in our selection and training process. But we have the most challenging special operations training program in the world. It costs millions of dollars to acquire one SEAL. So you can imagine how important talent acquisition, engagement, and retention are to the organization.

Obviously, we can’t replicate this process in the civilian sector but there are some principles from our culture that I have ingrained in my own companies and companies I work with. And you can do the same.

The following Navy SEAL quotes are derived from our philosophy and the Navy SEAL Ethos. They define our culture and how we approach life and work.

The only easy day was yesterday

There really are not truly “easy” days for individuals and organizations seeking an existence of excellence. Excellence can be defined as the constant pursuit of perfection – something that is impossible to achieve. Our lives and careers are full of challenges. We simply have to face those challenges head-on, controlling what we can and ignoring what we can’t.

It pays to be a winner

During SEAL training, the class is broken into boat crews – seven-man teams. We often compete against the other crews which encourage leadership, teamwork, and accountability. The instructors would shout, “It pays to be a winner gentleman!” Winning boat crews would sometimes be allowed to sit out during the following evolution to get some rest. When leaders make engagement and accountability and cultural priority, winning results are sure to follow.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

You learn on day one of training to get comfortable being uncomfortable. When individuals and teams push the boundaries of their comfort zone on a regular basis, the wider that area becomes. And in my experience, it’s outside the comfort zone where the magic really happens. When you practice this philosophy with discipline, things that used to be seemingly impossible can become part of your everyday life.

I persevere and thrive in adversity

One of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and says, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” This quote carried me through SEAL Hell Week. When organizations can ingrain resilience into their culture, they too will thrive in adversity and crush the competition.

In the absence of orders

I will take charge, lead my team and accomplish the mission. In the Teams, we expect leadership at all levels. We operate with agility in a decentralized command model. Everyone is expected to both lead and be led. The most successful organizations today are adopting a similar model – doing away with old hierarchies and replacing them with networks and ecosystems of truly empowered teams. Which in turn improves engagement and retention.

Uncompromising integrity is my standard

Integrity and trust have a direct and measurable impact on productivity and profitability. And like anything else, it starts at the top. But regardless of rank, title or tenure, this is a lead by example model and must happen on and off the battlefield. Organizations with high levels of integrity experience better employee and customer retention – which of course positively impacts the bottom line!

We demand discipline

We expect innovation. Organizations today are faced with almost constant change, forcing them to attempt to grow faster with fewer resources and face challenges they have never experienced – hence the need for creativity and innovation. The “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset no longer applies. Unless of course, you’re a fifty-year-old BBQ joint in Nashville – then you should never change! Leading change successfully requires discipline and innovation. Focus and follow-through are critical.

Embrace the pain

This one is my favorite. This is the ONLY mindset that gets you through SEAL training. Those that maintained a positive mental attitude through the worst parts of training, were the ones standing tall at graduation. We face more challenges in business than we ever have before. And as my friend Quinn (Deputy CEO of Optos) says, “Organizational change is a pain plus a plan.”

I am never out of the fight

I believe in this life philosophy so much that I have it tattooed on my arm in Latin. It needs no interpretation.

If any of these philosophies inspire you, I encourage you to share them with your team. Now go get after it!

Brent Gleeson is a Navy SEAL, speaker and leadership consultant. Follow Brent on Twitter at @BrentGleeson or view his website. The article first appeared on Forbes.

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