EPISODE 180

Staring Down the Wolf: Ex-Navy SEAL Mark Divine on Leadership & Success

45 minutes · June 15, 2020

Former U.S. Navy SEAL & SEALFIT Founder Mark Divine joined the podcast to discuss his latest book, Staring Down the Wolf: 7 Leadership Commitments That Forge Elite Teams. Mark is a man on-call to many companies helping their executives hone the skills to overcome tough challenges. His unique career -- from CPA to SEAL Commander to serial entrepreneur -- taught him to combine military and business training to benefit any team, from the battlefield to the boardroom.

Speaker 1:

From the library of the New York Stock Exchange at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets in New York City, you're inside the ICE House, our podcast from Intercontinental Exchange on markets, leadership and vision and global business. The dream drivers that have made the NYSE an indispensable institution of global growth for over 225 years. Each week we feature stories of those who hatch plans, create jobs, and harness the engine of capitalism, right here, right now at the NYSE and at ICE's exchanges and clearing houses around the world. And now welcome inside the ICE House.

Pete Asch:

This is your host, Pete Asch. A quick note, this episode was initially recorded in March, 2020. Enjoy the episode.

Pete Asch:

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. Those words were just some of the countless pearls of wisdom given by the great Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric, whose recent passing was mourned across the business world and beyond. Jack Welch's leadership style, which led Fortune to crown him the man of the century in 1999, left a permanent imprint here at Intercontinental Exchange and among the thousands of companies that called the New York Stock Exchange home. His name has been brought up by several past guests who cite his influence on their career success. Leadership has become an underlying theme of nearly every conversation that takes place on this podcast, and for good reason. An executive's leadership skills are paramount to all their other skills in guiding their teams and businesses, especially during times of uncertainty. The problem, and likely the reason why business executives are so interested in talking, learning and studying leadership, is that management often requires a set of skills that are not necessarily acquired over the course of a successful business career.

Pete Asch:

Our guest today, Mark Divine is brought in by companies to help their executives hone their leadership skills, to prepare to meet business challenges. He's the author of the recently published, Staring Down the Wolf, and joins the podcast to share how he distilled a lifetime of study and trial into seven leadership commitments, that reinforce what it takes to be an effectively leader. Our conversation with Navy SEAL Mark Divine on how the successes and failures he saw and experienced over his career in the military and business worlds, allowed him to understand what it takes to lead, to build elite teams, and to succeed in all situations. Our conversation with Mark right after this.

Speaker 3:

And now a word from Ron Delia, CEO of Amcor, NYSE ticker, AMCR.

Ron Delia:

Today is a really big day for Amcor. We've been around for 160 years. After so much time, takes the passion and dedication of our people around the world, and it takes resilience. And we have lots of that at Amcor. Well, our aspiration is to be the leading global packaging company, and that means winning for our customers, our people, our investors, and the environment. We have a big pledge around sustainability. We really hope to change the world as we look forward. Amcor, now listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Pete Asch:

Our guest, Mark Divine is a New York Times best selling author whose most recent book, Staring Down the Wolf, was published in March, 2020. Mark began his career as a CPA for what today is PWC, and earned an MBA from New York University before serving two decades as a Navy SEAL officer. Since retiring in 2011, he has focused on his many business ventures, including the SEALFIT training program and The Unbeatable Mind, a development academy for the mind, body and spirit. Mark is also the host of The Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome inside the ICE House and welcome to the New York Stock Exchange.

Mark Divine:

Hey Pete, thanks for having me here. It's an honor.

Pete Asch:

It's great to have you. So, having read your book over the last couple weeks, I had a new word add to my vocabulary to explain what's going on with the market, which is VUCA, the military acronym that appears throughout your work. What is VUCA and where did that term first come from?

Mark Divine:

We've been using that in the spec ops community for a number of years, to describe the environments that we work in, which are, in the last 50 years and probably forever for special ops, but when it comes to conventional war, things are a little bit cleaner. But in our world, it's VUCA and VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. And there's a certain way of thinking that the SEALs master, that help them navigate VUCA. They're able to distill the battleground, to see things that other people don't see. They're able to declutter their environment. They're able to maintain calm and navigate through that, eliminating doubt one screw up or failure at a time. So they don't fear failure. They know that VUCA environment is all about challenge, risk. One obstacle at another's is going to be thrown at you. And so they learn how to deal with that. And Pete, I think the business world is a VUCA world now, just like our spec ops battlefield, and leaders need to learn how to think like this.

Pete Asch:

What is the Wolf, and where did that come from, and why do we need to stare it down?

Mark Divine:

Yeah. I've been training Navy SEALs to dominate in the SEAL training program. 90% of my candidates, the people that I train, and it's hundreds a year, succeed at BUD/S. Whereas the average rate of failure is well known. It's like 85% of guys and future women who go to that program, fail. And in my training, I really start with this notion that came from another warrior tradition, the Apaches, Native Americans, that there's basically two energies vying for control of your life. And the Apaches call them two wolves. You had the wolf of fear, who lives in your mind, and the wolf of courage, who lives in your heart. And it's the wolf that you feed the most, that is going to win over you and going to allow you to win on the battlefield. So if you're feeding fear by being fearful, by allowing negative conditioning to expose the soft underbelly of your leadership flaws, and by not taking a look at the biases that interdict your success, then you are going to ultimately have a mediocre performance or a suboptimal performance.

Mark Divine:

But if you can eradicate fear by staring it down, staring down that wolf and starving it, and feeding the courage wolf by connecting to your heart, being more authentic with your relationships, taking responsibility for how your emotional self shows up and how your words land, instead of just dumping all over your staff or your team or your partners, you're going to be so much more effective. So that's a long-winded answer. So to stare down the wolf is to take care of the emotional shadow and the demons that everybody deals with at some level, no matter how successful you are.

Pete Asch:

And we'll get off the cover of your book in a minute. But the other question I had when I first picked up your book is, is the term commitment. You think leadership, you think skills, traits.

Mark Divine:

Right.

Pete Asch:

Why use the term commitment for what you wanted to bring across?

Mark Divine:

This is a hugely important point, and I'm glad you brought it up. Most leadership development to this point in time has been what I called horizontal development. It is to give the aspiring leader or the current leader, more strategy and tactics and skills of doing things that they already know how to do a little bit better, right? We're going to teach you how to build a better strategic plan, teach you how you maybe communicate a little bit better. And they don't change you as a person. They make you a little bit more effective. What I try to do with my training and what I learned is most effective nowadays, is to actually do what we call vertical development. Vertical development is the type of development that changes the leader from the inside out. It's character development. And, by the way, every time you grow, let's say, to a new stage of development, and these stages have been mapped by developmental psychology.

Mark Divine:

As we develop higher levels of awareness and consciousness and perspective taking and connection, then those horizontal skills also tend to be deployed more effectively. And so, just by virtue of growing vertically, we develop better effectiveness and more performance. Now, one more point in this, the reason I call it a commitment is because these become a practice. It's just like saying, I value something, but who cares? But if I practice it every day and habituate into a virtue, then I can say, that's important, because now you're a virtuous person. Everybody values something, but if they don't live it, who cares?

Mark Divine:

So staring down the wolf, the seven commitments are practices that you do every day, such as practicing courage. That's the first commitment. Do courageous things, do the right things, courageously and take risk there. To get comfortable being uncomfortable, to overcome the fear that you might have of failure in those areas, and take a stand around what's important for you. That takes courage. So staring down the wolf, in that regard, with courage is committing to every day taking a little risk and doing the things that you need to be doing to become a better leader.

Pete Asch:

You're very involved in physical fitness and you run SEALFIT. And so it almost is like building your muscles. If you're going to build your muscles, you need a core muscle to start with. You can work it out every day. Is it the same with leadership? Is there a natural...

Mark Divine:

I love that question.

Pete Asch:

...trait you need, or can anyone become a better leader?

Mark Divine:

I think anybody can be a leader if they have a compelling vision that is important to them. Because there's no important vision on this planet that can be accomplished alone anymore. So I think every single person, everyone listening, has a mission. Even if it's just to live the best life they can possibly live and maybe influence one person positively, then you're leading three people. You're leading yourself, that's two, right? Me leading myself. And then we're leading that other person. What you said, that quote with Jack Welch struck me and I would modify it. The leader's job is to develop him or herself first, and then continue developing him or herself with and through the team, while they develop the team.

Mark Divine:

So what I mean by that is the job of developing yourself doesn't stop. Because if all you do is go to get your Harvard MBA and work your way up through the ranks and learn those horizontal and tactical skills of navigating a boardroom effectively, then you still might miss the fact that true potential comes from connecting to your heart, developing what I call whole mind, which is what I work on with my SEAL and spec ops candidates, as well as corporate leaders and entrepreneurs. How do you access whole mind? So you're making decisions. I use the Japanese term also in my training called kokoro. It's kind of like courage, but it goes beyond. It's merging heart and mind into your actions. So you're not making one-dimensional decisions anymore. You're making decisions that are benefiting a much broader base of people, because you're coming from that heart connection. So that's what I mean. You got to get into the heart and get out the head and that takes a commitment to practice.

Pete Asch:

You mentioned Harvard and actually that dovetails well into something I wanted us to talk about, which is in 2017 the Harvard Business Review looked at all these candidates, looked at all these CEOs, and found something that I think dovetails well with some of the things you were finding in your book, which is 45% of CEOs had at least one major career blow up that either cost them their job or materially damaged their business. And that was before they became CEO. What is the best way to have a mistake like that? And how do high-achieving people take a mistake like that and then use it to prepare for their next job?

Mark Divine:

That's such a great question. One of the commitments, the sixth one, is resiliency. And resiliency is the idea that you fall down seven times, get up eight, but you get up stronger. Because first you expect that failure's in your future, right? In the SEALs we learned to fail forward as fast as possible, so that we could find a way or make a way to victory. We didn't go into the battlefield or into a mission thinking we had it all figured out, knowing that our plan was going to dominate the enemy. We knew that our plan would fail because no plan survives contact with a fire fight, right? And so it taught us that, no matter what you're doing, expect failure. And this is something I try to teach leaders and we do in our training out in California.

Mark Divine:

And actually we're taking it on the road now because we have a lot of certified coaches. We help leaders appreciate that failure's just around the next bend. And the failure is just an event. To expect it. It doesn't make you a bad person. In fact, it can make you a stronger person, more resilient. So expect failure and then learn from it. And one of my acronyms for fear is failures expected, are you ready? Right. So get ready for failure. It's coming fast. It's a VUCA world. Learn how to navigate failure so you can learn fast and just roll over those obstacles as they come.

Pete Asch:

You speak a lot of the time you spent serving under Admiral William McRaven.

Mark Divine:

Right.

Pete Asch:

And it's interesting because you talk using, really, what could be seen as a failure, but that's your example for trust.

Mark Divine:

Right.

Pete Asch:

So how did him owning his mistake, using what he learned to really improve how the SEALs deploy their forces, how does learning from a mistake put trust in the people underneath you?

Mark Divine:

Yeah. This is related to our conversation we just had. I watched this firsthand with then Commander McRaven, who was the new SEAL team three commanding officer. And I had been at the team for several years. Just got back from a deployment and there's McRaven, had recently checked in. So I met him and worked with him for a couple months and I started to see how he was operating. On one mission he's up in this place called Morrow Bay, which is notorious for its just booming waves, when certain conditions are there. And so the waves were 50 feet this day and a platoon was up there doing their, what we call, operational readiness exam to certify them to go to combat. And he looked at these waves and the platoon was wondering whether they could get through them. And the special boat unit guys who are boat drivers and they had these big rigid hull inflatable boats, were taking a look at these waves.

Mark Divine:

And so McRaven went up to them and said, "Hey, do you think you can get through that?" And they said, "Yes, sir. We can definitely get through that. We just came back from Kodiak, Alaska. These are the best drivers we have in the force." So he said, "Okay, great, give me a life jacket. Let's go do this." And so he gets in this rib. There's 11 operators and they take off and they go up and up and up and up and up and this wave. And suddenly they're realizing this thing is monster and they go flying off the top. The boat lands, breaks its hull. One of the guys from the front is thrown out of the boat.

Mark Divine:

This is game over, but they can't stop because here comes the next wave. They go up and up and up. This time they get five seconds in hang time. And then they end over and collapse and flipped the boat. $500,000, 50,000 pound boat, just boom. Operators thrown into the water, broken bones. People basically drowning. The SEALs on the shore watch this and they were immediately out in their rubber boats, rescuing people. McRaven himself had to be rescued. It was a major screw up. Most of us thought that McRaven's career would be over from that, right? Including myself. I was like, oh shit, that's a major screw up. But he was the senior man. He had a hundred percent accountability. A lot of leaders would've looked at that and started the what if it, you know what I mean? There were all these circumstances, this and that, and it was not my mission, not my boats or whatever.

Mark Divine:

They would've pointed in every direction and McRaven didn't. He said, "This is my fuck up. I own this one." He was totally transparent with the investigation because the Navy, military has investigations up the yin yang for stuff like that. They were looking to find out the quality of decision making. And if it was bad quality decision making, he would've been in trouble. So at least he would've probably ended his career there, had some twilight tour. But he was radically honest and transparent and very, very humble. There was no bravado, no, like I said, pointing fingers. He was completely transparent, very humble, and had this wicked follow through where he was relentless about finding what we could learn from this, so we could actually improve the efficacy of the SEAL force and operating in that type of environment.

Mark Divine:

And then out of that came an entirely new training program for the boat drivers, which has been extremely successful. So it actually reinforced his career. What could have been a show stopper, supported his career. But if he had done it like, "Hey, I'm going to do it like this as a bunch of tactics to support my career." It would've fallen flat. It all came from his heart. He knew he screwed up and he wanted to make it right for the troops, and also not have the team and the SEALs become more risk averse in this area, because we really need to go toward risk and not away from it.

Pete Asch:

You mentioned, when you first introduced him, that there was some negative feelings towards him because I think the words you used, he was not a man willing to crawl on a beach with a knife in his mouth. Which, on one hand, set something up as a tactician. But then you tell this story of him jumping in the boat with his men.

Mark Divine:

Yeah. Yeah.

Pete Asch:

How do you square that edge between those two things?

Mark Divine:

It's funny. When I ran this story by him, he actually took offense at that. And I said, well, that was my perception initially. And that was some of the scuttlebutt. Because he had been, before he came to SEAL team two, he was at SEAL team six with Richard Marcinko, the founder of six. I also have a story about him and the principle in excellence. And Marcinko really was what we call the prototypical hairy-chested frogman. He was more comfortable brawling in the bar than being in his Navy uniform, saluting an Admiral. And McRaven could walk the edge, right? But he got fired by... There was another failure, right? That he could have ended his career, but he got fired by Marcinko because Marcinko didn't like the fact that McRaven was challenging the status quo at SEAL team six, which is now called DEVGRU, and McRaven was much more polished.

Mark Divine:

And at the same time, he was a pretty good operator. I didn't put on my armor and go kick doors down with him, but you want to understand he's a pretty solid operator. But he presented a whole different maybe era of SEAL. He was extremely smart, extremely polished. I make the point in there that he was a PowerPoint God. And who would expect a Navy SEAL, who's supposed to go after the terrorists, to be a PowerPoint God, and to be able to brief freaking four star admirals as a Lieutenant Commander or even a Lieutenant. And in fact, I mean, he ended up... It was that balance that made him so effective. He was very risk tolerant and really understood that we need to push the envelope.

Mark Divine:

But he also understood that we had to know data. We had to be able to analyze and use new technology. He was always looking for something new and a new way to do things. And that led him to be the guy that I think is largely responsible for nailing bin Laden. I mean he ran JSOC, joint spec ops command, for I think four years or maybe eight years total, between being at DEVGRU and JSOC. And it was during that time that he kept the pressure on to find bin Laden and he was the one that led the op.

Pete Asch:

And that raid has become famous for the pre-mortem and the amount of planning that went into that you don't think about. I want to turn the attention how this experience and this work then turns into your work you do today with some companies. You talked about Shell, which is part of Royal Dutch Shell, and how their teams prepare for the dislocation that occurs between, like you say, the work on the PowerPoint and the work in the field. How do you get engaged with companies like this, and what are you really brought in to do for them?

Mark Divine:

Yeah. I started my, when I got off active duty in the SEALs and I had this passion for developing other SEALs and other candidates, it was my way of giving back. And to back up a little bit and contextualize it, what was most valuable for me, Pete, when I went from CPA here in Manhattan with clients like Solomon Brothers and Drexel Burnham Lambert, and my MBA at NYU, to all of a sudden becoming a Navy SEAL officer, was something that surprises most people. And I talk about it a lot in my book, The Way of The SEAL and a little bit more in Staring Down the Wolf. I began a meditation practice in Zen meditation here in New York when I was 21, under the watchful eye of a karate master and Zen master named Tadashi Nakamura. 23rd street, Seido karate.

Mark Divine:

This guy changed my life in a big way. Four years and a black belt later, I was no longer an MBA CPA. I was on my way to officer candidate school to be a Navy SEAL. So what I learned was the power of these unique inner practices or vertical development practices, such as controlling the breath and using the breath as a daily practice to de-stress and to clear your mind. This is money for Navy SEALs. In fact, the Navy SEALs have begun to implement my box breathing training into the BUD/S pipeline because it's so effective. And any leader out there should be doing a controlled breathing practice every day, as part of their preparation for their VUCA battlefield. Second was visualization. And when I started to visualize, I first did it so I can control and clear my mind so I could concentrate.

Mark Divine:

Because Zen is primarily a training in concentration. And so I learned visualization as a swimmer at Colgate University first, from a coach who was well ahead of this time. And then I started to use it to practice being a Navy SEAL or becoming a Navy SEAL. And I did it literally for nine months or so. And I had this tremendous experience where suddenly I had this absolute certainty that I was going to be a Navy SEAL. And literally a week later, my recruiter, who henceforth or heretofore before that, had said, you probably don't stand a big chance. But as soon as I had that sense of certainty come over me, I got this call and said, "Mark, congratulations. You're one of two people this year that are going to go from the civilian world into officer candidate school with a guaranteed to go to Navy SEAL training."

Mark Divine:

So breath control, visualization. The third is the ability to, I guess you'd call it mindfulness in today's lexicon. But the ability to watch the patterns that are happening in your mind and emotions, and to be able to interdict negative programming. This is like what we talked about earlier, staring down that fear, eradicating the fear, transmuting it to power, and then stoking courage with positive self dialogue and positive emotional energy. Those three right there. I won't even get into the fourth, but those three right there allowed me to go into SEAL training at 26 years old and dominate. And I was the number one graduate of my class and I got my whole boat crew through. So 185 guys start training, 19 graduate. And seven of us are all from the same team. That was my first elite team. And when I got off the SEALs, I wanted to dissect what the hell happened?

Mark Divine:

And why were those tools so useful to me? And why weren't they teaching these in the military? And so I said, screw it, I'm going to start teaching these to other spec ops candidates. And they were crushing it. 90%, like I said, are getting through the training to the point where now the SEALs are like, whoa. And the air force para rescue has brought this type of training. I won't take a hundred percent of credit because there's now a lot of... But when I started doing this, it was brand new and it's had a pretty profound effect.

Mark Divine:

I went off on a little bit of a tangent there, Pete, but those are the skills. When you ask, what is it that I'm doing now for corporate leaders? I'm bringing those same skills. And these are not just tactical skills from the SEAL battlefield, but how do you train your mind, your emotions, your physic body, and your spirit to all align and to be able to tap the intuitive knowledge that you have, your insight, your spontaneous knowingness, all these things that have been talked about, but no one really knows how to get to it? Well, we figured out how to train that. And I think that's the next frontier for leaders, because the answer is everything's too complex for a single human mind to grasp.

Pete Asch:

Well, too complex to grasp but we'll try to break it down after the break.

Mark Divine:

Sure.

Pete Asch:

After the break, Mark Divine, author of Staring Down the Wolf, and I turn attention to his entrepreneurial energy to combine his military and business training to the benefit of both. We'll be right back.

Speaker 3:

And now a word from Calvin Choi, CEO of AMTD, NYSE ticker, HKIB.

Calvin Choi:

We are the first Hong Kong independent investment bank to list here. It's so unique coming here to list because we want to embrace internationalization. We want to go global. This is a global change. We want to embrace global connectivity. A is adventure, M is actually mission, T is actually teamwork, D is destination. NYC is our destination. AMTD now list on the New York Stock Exchange.

Pete Asch:

Welcome back. Before the break Mark Divine, author of Staring Down the Wolf was previewing some of the leadership commitments that make up his process to lead elite teams and business in life. So, so far three episodes of Inside the ICE House have featured guests who have made the transition from elite leader in the Navy SEALs to successful business career. But you're the first to do the reverse, going from a corporate job to join the military. Where did this interest in the military come? Were your parents in the military as well or...

Mark Divine:

No, in fact... Well, actually, although my dad never talked about it, he essentially was told by a judge, join the army or go to jail. It was one of those deals. This was after he drove his car into this fraternity house at union college. And so he did spend two years in the 11th airborne, which was a horrible unit, disbanded. They were in Germany, there to peacekeeping after world war II. And he was a little later than that. But so he hated the military. It was not a good experience. There was no talk about me being in the military. I was groomed to go back to the family business, which was 120 year old manufacturing business in upstate New York. Not big, but maybe 15, 20 million, employed 300 people, unionized.

Mark Divine:

I mean, it was old school. And they thought it was, when I told them I'd gotten this job to become a CPA and to go to NYU and to work with Coopers and Lybrand, which is now Price Waterhouse Coopers, they thought it was brilliant. They're like, that's great. You're going to go down and get some real world experience and some more education. And then, when you come back to run Divine Brothers, you'll have a lot more experience. And that's the road I was charging down, Pete, because I hadn't learned yet to investigate my beliefs and the stories that were driving my behavior. And that's subconscious patterning that arises from our early child, just growing up steeped in a certain family cultural values. But when I begin to meditate, under Nakamura's watchful eye, then I started to see a different version of myself come out.

Mark Divine:

I call it, meeting yourself for the first time. So I met my real self for the first time and my real self, basically, through insight and imagery and feelings, told me that I was not meant to be a CPA. I was a complete misfit. I had no business being a charlatan in a business suit at that time. And I was meant to be a warrior. Now it's not like I suddenly saw imagery of me as a Navy SEAL. I actually didn't even know what the SEALs were at the time. In fact, very few did. This is 1987 or '88. We didn't have the internet. You couldn't look up the SEALs, you know what I mean? Even the recruiters didn't know much about them. One night I walked home from work and I passed a Navy recruiting office and they had a poster on the window. And the title of the poster was be someone special. Now, right there, I didn't feel real special as a certified public accountant at 25 years old or 24.

Mark Divine:

And I felt like I was misaligned. But what was on the poster is what was even more interesting to me. It was pictures of what I now know were SEALs doing cool SEAL shit. You know what I mean? Locking out of these mini submarines and jumping out of airplanes and parachuting through the dark night sky, that kind of stuff. Be someone special is all it said. And I looked at that poster and I just stared at it for a while. I said, that's it. That's what I'm supposed to do.

Pete Asch:

What, from your MBA and business experience, in addition to the work you've been doing with the Zen meditation, what about that prepared you to then enter the SEALs world, this BUD/S school?

Mark Divine:

Well, you have to meet the physical standards. Everyone thinks SEAL training is about physical and it's not. So I met the physical standards. I was a competitive athlete, competitive rower, a triathlete. Competitive swimmer, rower and a triathlete. And then I had a black belt in the martial arts. Most all SEALs have something like that. We have world class Olympic swimmers and world class rowers and jujitsu guys. So everyone who shows up to SEAL training is physically fit. That's the baseline. Now the ones who make it are the ones who are mentally and emotionally durable. So they have mental toughness, emotional durability. They'll never quit. So they've got this attitude, this fierce attitude of I'm committed to this mission. They'd have to kill me to get me out. That's all mental. That's all preparing the mind for the battle that comes and making sure that you don't have any holes looked at. There's no weaknesses that are going to trip you up before you go into battle, before you go into BUD/S.

Mark Divine:

So that's the attitude I had and so I doubled down on my mental training through Zen. I practice every single day, my box breathing. I practice my concentration. So I knew that, once I get into the SEAL training, I needed to concentrate on one thing at a time and just get her done, right? Let no distractions come in the way. And this is nine months long, day in and day out. And I've practiced my visualization. So I could mentalize everything that's going on every day. I could see the win. I could also see what could go wrong. And then I also could see myself at the end of training, strong. And it's important to have both types of visualization, where you see yourself in the long run, getting through a really challenging situation. So you can stay the course. It's like mental endurance. As well as daily, you see yourself, we call it dirt diving. Going through every event and every day before it happens. And even then before every event.

Mark Divine:

So it creates this partition in your mind where you're become the watcher of everything that's going on. You become a watcher of your thoughts, a watcher of your emotions, and a watcher of the motion picture that you've created for how things are supposed to go. And then you just watch and see if anything's veering off track. And when it does, you make a quick course correction. And when things fall apart, you already have a plan for how to get back on track. Those skills, the way I'm describing them, Pete, they were the main reason that I dominated BUD/S, because I just showed up differently. And most important, it allowed me to be different with my teammates.

Mark Divine:

One, partly because I was able to teach them these skills or model them. Two, because when the instructors came, the main job of the instructors is to select their next teammates. And one of the ways they did this is to instill fear and chaos and to put the pressure on. So they could see who's got some basic fundamental skills like this, and who's going to be a good teammate and help the team get through this latest crisis du jours. And those people who cowered or who got stuck in fight or flight, or really locked up or seized up or just weren't helpful at all, they were the ones that they washed out. Those who could maintain calm under pressure, keep a smile on their face, laugh in the face of the worst training, the most physical pain, those are the ones they wanted to work with. And ultimately that's about 15% of the class.

Pete Asch:

Since leaving active duty, you've always had multiple endeavors going on, SEALFIT, founding of the Coronado Brewery. Then The Unbreakable Mind, the books you've authored. Why this passion to have multiple disparate things going on at one time?

Mark Divine:

I think SEALs are all like me a little bit. We get bored easily. We become pretty good entrepreneurs for a large part, because SEALs are unlike any other military operator. We're taught to be, it's pretty obvious from this conversation, but we're taught to be pretty flexible in our thinking. In fact the Marine Corps, our a motto is semper fi, which means always faithful. And the SEALs have an informal motto, it's semper Gumby. And Gumby is a little green bendy thing. And so that means always flexible. So the SEALs learn to be flexible. We learn to fail gracefully and quickly and learn from it. We learn that it's not about us, it's really about the team. We are completely comfortable getting the heck out of the way, if we're not the right one to lead a mission or an evolution.

Mark Divine:

So we learn to check our ego at the door. Not all SEALs get this, but the best SEALs get it. You check your ego at the door and don't let it interfere with the teaming process. These skills tend to be very, very useful for the entrepreneur. So when I got off active duty, I started my first business. That was Coronado Brewing Company. I made some big mistakes there because I made a lot of assumptions. This is part of my staring down the wolf. I was codependent to my brother-in-laws, who were my partners, and didn't really do the things I needed to do to make sure that we would have those really crucial conversations. I learned some lessons. I said, okay, I want to do... Just getting free beer for life isn't a good enough why behind being in business.

Mark Divine:

I've since learned and I really believe that, just like a Navy SEAL knows why they're on their mission and why they're serving their country and they're very passionate about it, everyone in business, every leader should make sure that what they're doing they're really passionate about and it's completely aligned with their own life calling, their own purpose. Otherwise your leadership could land softly and not be as effective as it is, because you're not going to have the passion for it, or you're not going to care as much about the outcome. I didn't really care about the Coronado Brewing Company beyond having an entrepreneurial win as my first business. Free beer, right? And money, right? And so those were all bad motivators, right? They were all external, all bad motivators. So after that, I committed to never do that again. And that's one of my commitments, the last commitments to alignment.

Mark Divine:

So not only to have your team aligned, which we were not at the brewery, but also to make sure that your mission for your team and your organization is aligned with your personal mission or vice versa. So that every day you go, you're super excited to be there. You know you're making a difference. You can even articulate what you're doing as a company or team in a bigger way. And a lot of companies are starting to do that, are looking at saying, you know, what we make widgets, but what we really do is help people see the world differently. Or maybe we align with a charity like the Navy SEAL Foundation that you talked about. And we're helping the world and not just making my widget. So that's what I wanted to do. So anyways, to answer your question specifically.

Mark Divine:

I know I'm going on here a little bit but this led to the creation of Navyseals.com. Through Navyseals.com, I found a platform to be able to train digitally a lot of SEAL candidates. They started asking me to do it in person. Then the Navy hired me for a nationwide mentoring program, which helped the SEALs grow their force with a better quality candidate. Then I launched SEALFIT. And then I had a lot of business professionals coming to me who said, "I love SEALFIT. I want to learn what you're teaching those guys, but I can't do that hardcore physical training. I have a limitation, I got a broken hip or I'm just older. I can't do it."

Mark Divine:

And so we launched a company called Unbeatable and a book called The Unbeatable Mind, which takes these principles even deeper and applies a lot of what I was teaching the SEALs to leaders. And then I started working with a lot of organizations and teams, and I learned a lot of what wasn't working and what would work. And then that became Staring Down the Wolf. So it really has been an evolution. It's not like I started these all at once. They're more like in series.

Pete Asch:

They're branches off the same tree.

Mark Divine:

Yeah. They're branches off the same training, the same mindset and the same ideals.

Pete Asch:

And so we started the conversation talking about the two wolves. And so we've been mostly concentrating on the fear wolf, but in 2017 you started the Courage Foundation. So how are you helping veterans feed the courage wolf, the other wolf?

Mark Divine:

I thank you so much for asking that, because this is something everyone needs to know that 22 veterans a day, men and women who served our country, many of my teammates, are committing suicide. And there's several reasons for this, some are obvious and others are less obvious. Individuals who are deeply committed to a mission like the military operators, when they leave suddenly they don't have a mission and they're not taught how to find a new mission. And so all of a sudden they're kind of aimless, they're purposeless. That's one. Two, the military is one of the few places in the world where you have a team that we actually love each other and you will actually lay down your life for your teammate. Where else do you find that? Maybe Shell Oil would have a little taste of that. We mentioned that earlier.

Mark Divine:

High risk organizations like SpaceX and Shell Oil, people that I've worked with have maybe a percentage of that, but not the same level as the military. And so when these operators all of a sudden end their career, they get out because of injury or because their retirement, or just get out. All of a sudden, like I did at the Coronado Brewing Company, I expected to find my team with me, but the team isn't there. People don't have the ability to connect with you. Everyone's after their own self-interests. Everyone's at all these different levels. Lack of trust, lack of respect, lack of courage. And so this really, really hurts them. So now they have no mission, they have no team. Then third, they've built up tremendous amount of stress, especially from combat.

Mark Divine:

And they have not been given the tools to learn how to self-regulate that stress and to down-regulate, to bleed it off. The tools for that are the things we've been talking about, breath control practice, somatic movement, meditation, visualization, neuro feedback, these types of things. All these things that now have been taken up by nonprofits, like the Courage Foundation, because the military and the VA system just had no mechanism, no tools for that. And what they were doing was issuing them antidepressants and Oxycontin. And it was just taking these guys south and keeping them locked in their suicidal thoughts until they ended it. At any rate, those are the reasons. And I knew that we could make a difference. I've been, for years, helping leaders go from good to great or great to greatest.

Mark Divine:

And I really wanted to help these vets go from I'm stuck and thinking about ending it, to thriving again. So Courage Foundation, we now offer a long program, which is really important. So we have a three day immersive event where we teach these vets, the ones who are suffering the most, how to rebalance their life, how to de-stress, how to find purpose again, and have a mission in life. And we put them on a team. We call that a boat crew, and then we connect them with a coach who's one of our military veterans, Unbeatable Mind coaches. We have a certification program. We have 500 certified coaches and they work with them for 18 months and are checking in with them every month, two or three times, both as a boat crew and as a coach. And so far 75% of the vets or near 80% of the vets that we've been working with have had dramatic reversals of fortune and turnaround.

Mark Divine:

And we're hoping to raise a lot more money because I started this by self-funding it. You'll find this humorous, but what could I do to raise money and awareness? So I put a challenge out to our tribe a year and a half ago. I said, listen, these 22 vets a day are committing suicide. This is unsat, we've got to do something. Everybody's got to do something. So here's what we're going to do. Because this is my SEALFIT tribe. I said, one of the things that everybody listening and everybody listening to my email, reading my emails, on my email list can do is a burpee. You know what a burpee is, right?

Pete Asch:

I know what a burpee is, yes.

Mark Divine:

Most people do and people hate burpees because they suck, right? They're hard. So I said, here's what we're going to do. I challenge us as a team to do 22 million burpees and to raise a quarter million dollars for the Courage Foundation. And I had hundreds of people take me up on that challenge. And so some of us, like myself, we said, okay, personally, I'm going to go after a big chunk and bite off a big chunk. So I bit off a hundred thousand. I did a hundred thousand burpees in one year in 2018, 300 a day, which gave me actually more like 110,000 or more than that. We also broke a world record. Six of us, three women and three men broke a world record for most number of burpees in 24 hours. And we raised $25,000 just on that night. We did 36,000 burpees in 24 hours. So it was like a burpee festival all year long. We raised more than our $250,000.

Mark Divine:

And we put another cohort of vets through our program. As you can imagine, Pete, that's kind of a tough way to raise money. So that might be a one and done thing. But we're at 20 million burpees right now. We've got 2 million to go. So if anyone listening wants to do some burpees, let me know. That's Courage Foundation is found at feedcourage.org by the way.

Pete Asch:

And they can donate even if they don't want to do burpees.

Mark Divine:

You don't have to do burpees. We're looking more for corporate partners now because, for an initiative like this, raising money a dollar at a time is recipe for a long slog. So we're looking for corporate and philanthropic partners who really are aligned with our mission, and either help us raise money or to be part of the solution. Maybe to sponsor a cohort of 12 or 14 vets or... You know what I mean? Then we've got a bunch of partners like Google that we're starting to work with and it's got a big future, but it's a big problem. And there's a lot of other entrepreneurs and philanthropists who are nibbling away at the edges of this issue. So hopefully we'll solve it.

Pete Asch:

So if our listeners want to keep up with your activities, burpee-related or others, and purchase the book, what's the best way they can do that?

Mark Divine:

Well, the book of course is available at any... If you like to just swipe and click on Amazon, go for it. If you're interested in some more in depth learning from me on the principles in the book, then staringdownthewolf.com, which is the book landing page, we have some free video training for you. It's three hours of video training or something like that. Don't quote me on the time. It might only be an hour, I don't know. But some free training, right? So it's basically a gift, but also you'll have to give your email address. So that's obviously the business purpose there. But Staring Down the Wolf will give you that. And also you can see all the cool testimonies and stuff.

Mark Divine:

And then if you're interested in SEALFIT training, the physical training... Like I was on Wall Street and I have so many peers now who have bailed Wall Street. I don't mean the stock exchange or ICE. I mean jobs around here, because they're just not satisfied. The cutoff for the SEALs is 28 or same thing with special forces but I know guys have gone later with a waiver. Then check out SEALFIT. If you want to do that, make a big change, go serve your country. We know how to get you there. We can almost guarantee that if you do the work and do what we tell you to do, then there's a 90% chance you'll become a Navy SEAL. That's sealfit.com. Corporate training and leadership is unbeatablemind.com. And my personal website is markdivine, D-I-V-I-N-E.com.

Pete Asch:

And of course they can find your podcast wherever they're listening to this podcast.

Mark Divine:

Yeah. Just search for Unbeatable Mind podcast.

Pete Asch:

Well, thank you so much, Mark, for joining us Inside the ICE House. That's our conversation for this week. Our guest was Mark Divine, author of Staring Down the Wolf. If you like what you heard, please rate us on iTunes so other folks know where to find us. Got a comment or question you'd like one of our experts to tackle on a future show, email us at [email protected] or tweet at us at icehouse podcast. Our show is produced by Ken Abel with production assistance from Stephen Romanchik and Ian Wolff. I'm Pete Asch, your host, signing off from the library of the New York Stock Exchange. Thanks for listening. Talk to you next week.

Speaker 1:

Information contained in this podcast was obtained, in part, from publicly available sources and not independently verified. Neither ICE nor its affiliates make any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information, and do not sponsor, approve, or endorse any of the content herein. All of which is presented solely for informational and educational purposes. Nothing herein constitutes an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, or a recommendation of any security or trading practice. Some portions of the proceeding conversation may have been edited for the purpose of length or clarity.

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Information contained in this podcast was obtained in part from publicly available sources, and not independently verified. Neither ICE nor its affiliates make any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and do not sponsor, approve, or endorse any of the content herein, all of which is presented solely for informational and educational purposes. Nothing herein constitutes an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, or a recommendation of any security or trading practice.