Zero to Hero: It’s Your Choice

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We started with 174-ish (I don’t remember exactly) guys in my BUD/S class. One hundred and seventy-four (somewhat) bright young men who thought they each had what it would take to become one of America’s elite. Only thirty-four of us believed we had it. Why?

Thought vs. Belief: It’s a Choice

One of the many things I learned while undergoing Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training was that things don’t go as planned. At the naïve age of 23, I knew BUD/S would be difficult but I never imagined just how much. Moreover, I never anticipated the physical and mental hiccups I would encounter while pursuing a dream of mine that had lasted so long.

You see, the first class I started with—class 234 (yes, the “Discovery [Channel] Class”)—was an eye opener; it helped me realize that not everything goes as planned, and here’s why…

For the four years in college that I spent preparing myself physically for BUD/S—running, swimming, calisthenics 5-6 days a week—I thought I was “good.” That is, the thought of injury never occurred to me because of all the preparatory work I was doing.

And then, in Tuesday night of Hell Week in class 234, it happened.

During one of our medical checks, the doc realized I was limping. Knowing all too well the risks associated with overtraining too much too soon, I was sent to the hospital for an X-ray, only to return with bad news. A hairline fracture appeared just above my right knee at the base of my femur. And then…

I was done.

Stress fractures are the most common injury at BUD/S for the simple fact that running 50-60 miles a week, oftentimes with a boat or telephone pole on/over your head is not natural. Hell, we ran 6 miles a day just to eat chow. Tack on Hell Week to that ungodly amount and your body screams, “What the hell are you doing to me!?”

Anyways, getting rolled back to another class certainly sucked but in hindsight, it was the best thing that ever happened for this reason: it reaffirmed the belief that I could make it through training (not mention I met some of the best guys I will ever know).

Have Not’s, Never Will Be’s, and Always Will’s

From the inside of my bubble, I believe there are three types of people in this world:

1. Have Not’s: these are the unfortunate people who, as a matter of circumstance, will never have the opportunity to grow because they are too focused on survival. Homelessness, poverty, birth born handicaps, these are all challenges that people deal with that preclude or limit their personal growth for the sheer fact that their circumstance is forbidding. They have no other options.

2. Never Will Be’s: this group, however, are people who have never had the desire to change because they’ve never found the need or seen the purpose in doing so, and so they just keep repeating themselves—like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day (except Bill’s character came to a new conclusion, a new belief). Never Will Be’s are those people whose life experiences are limited because they have never pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone and so they will never be anything but who they already are.

3. Always Will’s: Winners. Pure and simple. Always Will’s are the people who always will be successful because they’re problem-solvers. They are doers of today and go-getters of tomorrow because of the growth mindset they foster. Always Will’s see success where others see failure, opportunity where others see setback, and development where others see decline.

I admit, after getting rolled back from class 234, my spirit was crushed. The thought of starting over at day 1, week 1 of BUD/S was NOT encouraging, to say the least. But it was my purpose for being there, not to mention the thought of spending the next four years on a ship was enough to make me want to vomit (sorry).

Wrap Up

BUD/S instructors used to tell us the secret to making it through training all the time but we never believed them. The secret, they said, was knowing you were going to make it through. As students, we didn’t think that was very funny at the time but reflecting now, they were spot on.

There is a difference between thinking you can do something and believing you can. There were 140 guys who thought they could make it through BUD/S, but only 34 of us who truly believed we could—and did.


What separates the two?


Make the right one.

Be a hero.



5 thoughts on “Zero to Hero: It’s Your Choice

  1. Jeff, Kudos on your whole site. I’m sharing a lot of your writing with our team here at Fighter Design. Our CEO is former SOF, and the winning attitude you talk about spreads like a good habit because he talks about it. Inspiring to be around. Special thanks from me. The team here really appreciates all your contributions online. You’re a great writer. I’ll be buying the book.

    1. Many thanks to you and the team! I’m glad you find the posts inspiring and now that I know a little more about the audience, I’ll make an effort to tailor some of the topics more. Thanks again!

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