Book of the Month 001 (June ’18) – Extreme Ownership: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The sun was shining bright and the wind cascaded over the ridgeline, which created a cool breeze lofting through the basin. I peered through the trees, hoping to see a distant peak or view not yet observed. This moment carried on with me after I had made that trek, the future aspiration for continued understanding and knowledge. At the end of the day, that’s what really carries on with us…

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As outdoor athletes and sportsman, it’s our responsibility to stay ahead and constantly be pushing the boundaries. This holds true not only in the realm of our activities, but also in our realm of personal development. For this reason, the first monday of every month with henceforth be devoted to a book of the month. These books will vary from sport specific; surrounding individual athletes/sports to self-improvement/betterment books to inspire you to become the greatest version of yourself. It is always important to be assessing where we’ve been and where we’re currently at, so as to best determine how we can move forward tomorrow. Become better tomorrow than you were today…

Following this idea, this month’s book is EXTREME OWNERSHIP: How US Navy Seals lead and win by Jocko Willing and Lief Babin. This book is directed on a principal/business application by employing storytelling of these Heros’ endeavors to drive home the ideals that constitute the Extreme Ownership mentality. So, to give an idea of the Extreme Ownership mindset, I’ll cover a few of the topics I felt had the most impact on me.

Let’s get to it.

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There Are No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders.

Winter had finally set in on campus and was making a mess of everything. Not only had the snow cause wet, sloppy floors throughout the main deck of the barracks, but also the snowmelt applied outside tracked a nasty film that looked gross and smelled worse.

It was a constant battle; between the shoveling, classwork, and general standards of cleaning required within our barracks, the morale of my Plebes (college freshmen) was at an extreme low. As the tasks kept adding up, the cleanliness standards slowly fell to a standard unacceptable by our Company Commander.

I was the main deck Platoon Commander, meaning it was my responsibility to ensure these kiddos got their jobs done and were feeling appreciated. To be honest, I had slacked on the responsibility myself. I hadn’t invested the time into finding out the needs of the Plebes or how they were doing with the amount of tasks they were required.

Because of this, I was punished by the Company Commander which ultimately affected my Plebes as well. If I had taken greater ownership of the Plebes, I would have known a lot of them were struggling to manage sports, classes, band, and their duties to the regiment. Looking at this I would have been able to devise a stronger rotation cleaning or led from the front and assisted in the duties myself. Due to my selfishness and lack of solid leadership, we all suffered consequences.

This is the idea of Bad Leadership within the Extreme Ownership mindset. Instead of blaming subordinates or pushing the blame of failure to a source outside yourself as the leader, you are giving away control of the situation and ultimately admitting defeat. With a strong leader, it would have been seen as such from the plebes, who in turn would have been positively affected and performed better.

Mission Clarity:

It all starts in the brief.

Before each mission, it is imperative aviators know the ins and outs of their entire sortie. We were going to be flying in a low-level environment, meaning the risks were substantially higher than typical. At low altitudes we had to deal with civilian traffic, birds, and decreased response time. As we briefed our initial planned route, we determined the weather to be a big enough factor that would should devise a secondary route, take an hour to prep, and reconvene.

After the hour had past, I was back at center-stage. My responsibility was to brief the entire route of flight, all flight risks (and determine if they were valid), and all other aspects inherent to command a flight of multiple aircraft.

This brief was horrendous. Between not creating proper tools for our mission, inadequate routing knowledge, and stumbling over standard briefing items – it was not successful.

We executed the mission, completed it (to our astonishment), and debriefed. Worst flight of the syllabus…

It all boiled down to WHY. In the time I spent prepping, I had not thought about the one simple question: Why? What was the purpose of executing this mission – and why is it important?

Any team, or individual for that matter, needs to know the purpose of their mission in order to move in a direction for success. Got a lofty goal to travel Europe for a year? Why? Want to climb that mountain? Great. Why?

If you can’t break down the why, then you’ve already set yourself up failure. It doesn’t need to be a complicated why, just something enough to help you continue to pursue whatever goal it may be!

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Decisiveness in Uncertainty.

I had initially pushed over the ridge down a 55’ pitch with the intention of making five or six carving turns. The snowpack was reasonable and there wasn’t a lot of exposed rock – except once I got 2 turns in there was. I stopped to re-assess my turns, and that’s when it happened – the clouds socked me in.

It was my first season skiing at this new resort and I still hadn’t grown accustomed to the variable conditions. Compared to my roots (CO) this was like skiing in a thick soup. White, mirky, and impossible to see more than 15ft in front of you, this pitch was NOT the ideal place to be stuck – especially since I was skiing solo.

Due to this unfamiliarity with the line, the variable clouds, and less than stellar snowpack, I had to make a decision to press or wait. I gave it 5 minutes… still no sign of long-term clearing. I reassessed my location and decided to push around to avoid the drop and reduce the pitch amidst the worsening conditions. This, turns out, was the smart move as when I got to the bottom of that line the entire top of it was completely whiteout.

This is where decisiveness in uncertainty comes in. No matter what situation you may be facing, no matter the obstacle, there will NEVER be 100% – without a doubt – certainty. Unless we’re talking 2+2, uncertainty is a large obstacle to face, and decisiveness will either make or break you. I didn’t have all the answers to my situation, but I did my best to judge the situation and mitigate as much risk as possible. And, as it turns out, worked out for the best. Being able to take time to assess, then make the hard call is an important trait to develop as it can help serve you in a multitude of situations.

You may be thinking: “Ok, but how do these all tie in to Extreme Ownership?” Well, as individuals we should always be striving to better ourselves. Each of these ideas forms a type of accountability to oneself which will in turn help you develop and evolve. Being able to assess if you are commanding your ‘leadership’ presence is important to understanding where and how you can improve in your realm of activities. Having a simple yet clear understanding of why you’re doing what you do will help you move towards successful execution of it with far greater zeal! And knowing that even though you feel overwhelmed in a realm of uncertainty you can still be decisive and take action will allow you better control over even more difficult decisions in the future – ones that may even mean life and death.

Therefore, I highly recommend giving Extreme Ownership a read if you have a free minute or two this month. It will definitely give some solid perspective on how to move forward in the future! (you can buy the book here)

If you’re reading this, you made it to the end! I want to take a quick moment and say THANK YOU for reading through the article. Without your support this blog wouldn’t exist. If you’d like to support the blog in future endeavors, be sure to sign up to our mailing list and check out the GlacierLife shop.

Have a great day – get out there and enjoy YOUR adventure!

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