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Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

There is no one else to blame; you must own problems along with solutions; commit to lead up and down the chain of command.

Enjoying Solitude

Combat, the most intense and dynamic environment imaginable, teaches the toughest leadership lessons with almost everything at stake. Jocko Willink –  the commander of Task Unit Bruiser, the most decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War, and Leif Babin – one of his two platoon commanders, learnt this first-hand on the most violent and dangerous battlefields of Iraq.

In their book – Extreme Ownership – they explain the mindset and guiding principles that enable SEAL combat units to achieve extraordinary results. The principles they talk about, are not only applicable in the battlefield, but equally in business and our daily lives. It primarily talks about “Mindset”.

What they have learnt through tragic loss, acts of heroism and hard won victories, is that leadership is the most important factor whether a team succeeds or fails.

Here are the principles, that we all may find very useful:

The Foremost Principle: Admit and own mistakes and develop plan to overcome them, and blame no one else: We must realize that we are truly and ultimately responsible for everything. That is Extreme Ownership, the fundamental core of what constitutes an effective leader in the SEAL Teams or in any leadership endeavour.

    • We must realize that we are at the source of everything that’s happened to us.
    • We can’t play victim.
    • We can’t blame.
    • Only thing that we can do is take charge.
Enjoying Solitude

The Four Laws of Combat

  1. Cover and Move 
    • Put simply, cover and move means teamwork.
    • If the team fails, everyone fails, even if a specific member or element in the team did their job well.
    • No point blaming each other.
    • Instead, focus must be on how best to accomplish the mission
  1. Simple
    • If people don’t understand, they can’t execute.
    • So, communication must be simple, clear, and concise
  1. Prioritize and Execute
    • You must detach from the situation.
    • Relax, look around, make a call
  1. Decentralized Command
    • Everyone leads.
    • Everyone must understand not just what they are doing but why
Enjoying Solitude

Mindsets for Victory

Default: Aggressive

  • Move fast – seize the initiative.
  • Take the fight to the enemy

Humility : Check Your Ego

  • One must self assess; otherwise there’s no way one can get better.
  • Ego is the #1 killer in combat, in business and life.
  • Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism.

Innovate and Adapt : Decisiveness Amid Uncertainty

  • The battlefield changes, the enemy adjusts, new tactics emerge. Similarly, technology evolves, but you have to stay ahead of your competition
  • Similarly, technology evolves, but you have to stay ahead of your competition

Discipline = Freedom 

  • Being disciplined with high standards leads to freedom : Flexibility, agility, and speed of action

An excerpt from the book:
Discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning. I say “first alarm clock” because I have three, as I was taught by one of the most feared and respected instructors in SEAL training: one electric, one battery powered, one windup. That way, there is no excuse for not getting out of bed, especially with all that rests on that decisive moment. The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win — you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.

I believe that all of us will be able to relate to the above principles. These are simple to follow. But what lies at the core is Extreme Ownership of our life; taking charge of our thoughts and deeds; realizing that We, and none but We ourselves, are the source of everything in our lives.

So, take charge and own your life!

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Vandana R. Singh and Arindam Ghosh
Written for Schoolnet India & Learnet Skills on 10th April 2020

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