Brent Gleeson is a Navy SEAL combat veteran with multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Africa. Upon leaving SEAL Team 5, Brent turned his discipline and battlefield lessons to the world of business and has become an award-winning entrepreneur, bestselling author, and acclaimed speaker on topics ranging from resilience, mental toughness, leadership and building high-performance teams to culture, and organizational transformation.
Brent is the Founder and CEO of TakingPoint Leadership, a progressive leadership and organizational development consulting firm with a focus on business transformation and building high-performance cultures. Brent was named a Top 10 CEO by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2013.
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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I am John Shegerian. We are so honored to have with us today Brent Gleeson. Brent just wrote a book Embrace the Suck. He is already a New York Times bestselling author with his book Taking Point. Brent, welcome to the Impact Podcast.
Brent Gleeson: John, thanks so much. It is an honor to be here.
John: It is an honor to have you. True honor. You are American hero like so many other great people we have had the honor to interview before. Before we get talking about your new book, Embrace the Suck, which I loved and I have in my hand right here. I really welcome our listeners, our readers, and the people who watch this podcast to buy and read this book. Before we get talking about this book, tell us a little bit of a Brent Gleeson backstory. Someone does not become you just from being born. Explain where you were born and how you even got to this point in your life.
Brent: Sure. I grew up in Dallas, Texas. I had to represent with my Forbes from the teaser. I grew up in Dallas and did my undergrad education at Southern Methodist University. I earned degrees in Finance and Economics there. Actually, upon graduation, I took a job as a financial analyst with a global firm based in Downtown Dallas. During that time, I had a very close friend of mine at SMU who was a year behind me in school and one of my fraternity brothers., He was actually one of these young men who had a lifelong dream of passion and a vision of one day graduating and joining the Navy and at least attempting to be accepted into the notorious SEAL training pipeline. While I thought that was a very admirable, of course, of call to serve, and I keep in mind, this was just before 9/11. It was peacetime a little bit. Obviously, not a little bit, but very different environment and a bit of a different mentality when it comes to the idea and concept of military service. He and I started training together.
For me, it was just a way to stay fit and have a purpose and accountability partner. Help my friend prepare for his arduous journey in preparation for just the entrance physical test just to get in. We sort of spent a lot of time together and having a lot of dialogue about the implications of this journey. That piques my interest, of course. I started reading books about the history of the Naval Special Warfare community, our forefathers from the underwater demolition teams in World War II and how we essentially cut our teeth as ability to solve force in Vietnam.
That gradually, if not rapidly growing interest, coupled with the somewhat boring nature of my entry level financial analyst position led me to the culmination of the decision to basically live a life of no regret. The spreadsheets and pivot tables would be there for me later and gave to a cause greater than myself. I decided to join him on his journey. Let my parents know that I was quitting my job, much to their dismay. He and I moved up to Crested Butte, Colorado where we train for an additional six months or so at about eleven thousand feet altitude to get in the best physical condition that we could, and then join the Navy. After that, it was just the speeding freight train. 9/11 occurred. I will briefly explain the training pipeline, which is well over a year of training and selection. You start with BUD/S, which is an acronym, of course, that stands for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL. That is typically what you see in documentaries and movies. The depiction of BUD/S and hell week, which is only the fifth week of this sixteen to eighteen-month training pipeline.
Then, you go on to Advanced Training or SEAL Qualification Training (SQT). Between that week gap of BUDS and SQT was when 9/11 happened. Going into Advanced Training, we knew that we were transitioning quickly from peacetime SEALs into wartime SEALs. I went on to graduate with the SEAL Team 5. By that time, we are about nine months out from rumors of conflicts in Iraq spinning up. My task unit, we call it a troop now that it is essentially two platoons out of forty SEALs and platoons of support staff. Our troop was actually the first troop of SEALs in Iraq in early ’03. We are the very first troop in Iraq to perform what we call capture or kill missions, especially hunting down terrorists on the deck of cards or the blacklist and other various and certain faction leaders. I did combat deployments with five. I spent a lot of time in Iraq, Africa and some other theaters of war.
How do you plan on doing it as a career? I will say in full transparency, looking back, I was like, “Well, I should have done more. I should have stayed longer.” But back then, there was no concept that these conflicts could possibly go on as long as they have. We were looking back at Desert Storm and how quickly that came and went. We were wrong. Nonetheless, I transitioned out. I went to graduate school, and then go head first into the world of entrepreneurship, which essentially, I believe, has about the same failure rate as SEAL training at about ninety-percent. I built and sold a couple companies, and then my current organization TakingPoint Leadership as well. We are a leadership and organizational development consultant.
To your point, my first book Taking Point. The strategy there was to write the book, and then build organizational development principles around the principles in the book, and build a company and team around that, which we have done. Of course, the new book Embrace the Suck with a great gut punch of a foreword by my former teammate and friend David Goggins. Many, if not all of your listeners or viewers, will know who he is, a former retired SEAL and a world renowned ultra athlete. It has been quite a journey. I have got a wife and four kids. Our youngest is three weeks old. We had a New Year’s Eve baby. We figured 2020 was not chaotic enough, so let us throw another human in the mix.
John: Wait a second. Let us break it down. You were really on the path. You did not have any military members in your family prior to this.
Brent: Well, my dad had been a marine reservist during Vietnam. He had not deployed and we did not really talked about it. They never pushed military service on my twin brother nor I. It was not really a thing that was discussed as a potential career path.
John: This was not the path. You really want to be a business person growing up and that is how you went to college. As a Layman, what is the fail rate when you go into with your body to become a Navy SEAL. First, the Navy, and then the Navy SEAL for deployment. How many really make it? What percentage really make it? Obviously, you were training like you really did it. You leaned in . You just did not say I want to be a Navy SEAL. You were putting in the hard work. What percentage really make?
Brent: It is interesting. I will kind of give you a full answer there. One is that what people do not talk about often is if you break it down, probably, we run six classes a year, so every two months. There is roughly, if you break down the numbers, they might even be higher these days. About a thousand applicants if you just average it out per class. Of that, you will probably start with, let us say easy math, around two hundred students in a class. You will typically graduate twenty to thirty of those students. You will weed down to, give or take, your graduating class by the end of hell week, so about the end of the fifth week. Obviously, that is intentional. We are not trying to spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on students that are not going to successfully navigate. Of course, there is multiple reasons, but that is being one of them. It is really interesting because when you get there and it kind of starts as we are the teams, SEAL Teams, but no. The first couple weeks is kind of an individual exercise, sizing each other up, and you are trying to think about who is going to make it and who is not.
If you try to handpick the twenty or thirty or so students that are going to be standing tall at graduation, you would be lucky to get one or two of those correct. It is such an interesting social experiment when it comes to the mental, emotional physical, and cognitive attributes of students that are more likely to navigate this course. We have actually, of course, been intentional just like any well-run organization, too. From a talent acquisition stand point, I try to identify those attributes, so that we can bring students in who are more likely to graduate. We would like to have more SEALs, but it is arguably the hardest training pipeline with Special Operations. It is one of the things I focus on in the book. It really comes down to the data points that initially the narrative that that data might paint is not what you would think, extreme physical capability, high levels of academic capability and intellect. Of course, fitness and intelligence are critically important. It really comes down to the less measurable data points of great resilience and a deep passion to serve. Not just serve in the military, but to serve as a special operator as a SEAL. If we think about any walk of life, any lofty goal you have never achieved in your illustrious career.
First of all, it did not come without pain, suffering, adversity, and anxiety. It took passion and an emotional connection to the long-term vision to drive you through those inevitable obstacles. That is what drives these students to succeed. It does not have anything to do with being an Olympian or Stanford lacrosse player. We get a lot of those, and then we get people who come from no real significant background, who end up being rock stars in the class.
John: What you are saying is it is truly rare air, but it is based on other factors than what us, laymen, would think, like strong physicality and things. It more comes down to resilience and the ability to just keep moving forward.
John: That is so interesting. Let us go back to Goggins, who I am a huge fan of. I have read his materials and I follow him. This is in the foreword. This is the quote in the foreword. “The pain that you are willing to endure is measured by how bad you want it.”
Brent: Kind of what we were talking about.
John: Exactly. You have a few men in this great book Embrace the Suck. Again, for our listeners and our viewers, we have got Brent Gleeson with us. You can find Brent at takingpointleadership.com or by his book and read this great book. The ability to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, unpack that and unpack Goggins’ quote, so our viewers and our listeners can understand what is the core of what makes you so great, Brent.
Brent: Sure. I will take it back to the one step further up. Well, Embrace the Suck, catchy title. What does that mean exactly? It is a phrase born in the military and obviously adopted in the ranks of Special Operations and Special Operations training, and just the lifestyle in general. Essentially, it is saying look the battlefield. We can be talking about the literal battlefield of the figurative battlefield in this context. The battlefield is tough. Do not just accept it. Lean into it and move more quickly from the normal human emotion, that bunker of human emotion that impacts us when we face adversity of the surprise, anger, depression, and eventually, hopefully, acceptance, enlightenment, wisdom, and taking action. Moving more quickly through that path towards action-oriented execution and developing a plan, taking stand of your current reality, and stepping back onto that battlefield of life.
That is essentially what the Embrace the Suck philosophy is. It is not just accepting life’s inevitable obstacles, the pain, the suffering, and anxiety we face, but leaning into it. Saying, ” You know what? Great.” Because adversity, with the right mindset, of course, is the mother of success. It is the mother of reinvention, of reassessment, of transformation. Think about all the things we have all been through personally and professionally over the past ten months. I mean, talk about the necessary reinvention for all of us or just reassessment. We face these very unforeseen obstacles like COVID. I can guarantee you, someone with your background did the same thing I did. I started taking stock of my current resources, what I need, where are we going as a business and where we are going as a family. Look at all the waste and things that we were not paying attention to. It really is all about reinvention. That phrase “Get comfortable being uncomfortable” is very similar philosophy to embrace the suck was born from the Naval special Warfare community. It just means being more intentional in the fine and subtle art of comfort zone expansion. Expand your comfort zone intentionally. The more you do it, the more you lean in and the more you embrace the things that maybe you are not all that good.
If you approach life with a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset, you are being intentional in expanding your comfort zone. The things that used to live outside that comfort zone, the goal is that used to seem insurmountable for the obstacles that made you cringe become part of your everyday life. You can change that lifestyle and you keep moving the goal posts and doing it again. We just came into a new year. People are making their New Year’s resolutions. You and I would both agree that any goal should be measurable, concise, achievable and time-bound. I joked about this on The Today Show because they call me out about. In the book, I say, “New Year’s resolutions are for losers.” What I mean by that, I am not talking about goals and how you approach life and work, but it is about making incremental choices every single day to be in a constant state of improvement. Not saying like, “Well, come January 1st, I am going to start A, B and C. I do not know who is doing this research, but shows that these resolutions fall off by mid-February. That is six weeks.
John: That is right. It is really true. Brent, let us pause there because before we went on the air, you and I were having a great catch up. We were talking about today. You and I are doing this interview today. You are down in the San Diego area. I am up here in Fresno and we get to do this interview, but the Inauguration is happening today. America is turning over today. It is, in many ways, a wonderful day to celebrate, but we are still living through this pandemic. One of the messages that I have given our team — we have about one thousand two hundred employees here at ERI — goes to your point. It is a choice. Right, Brent? If you want to come through this. When people talk about being a new normal when we get to the other side, I feel that is such a defeatist mindset and mentality. My message here has been, “We are going to get to the other side, and as a company and as people, be a new better. Is that really the message you also want to give people. That you get this book and you embrace these principles. Embrace the Suck, which I just love the title. You can be a new better as well. Is that really some of the core of what you are trying to get at?
Brent: Hundred percent. For a while, many of us, I am probably guilty of this as well. We are saying, “when this is all over,” or “when things go back to normal.” Then, we started to graduate to “Well, this is the new normal.” Still not even quite there at the mindset of no, this was what we call an inevitable life ambush, a business ambush. Nobody had this in their 2020 contingency plans. Many of us have 2020 projections shot to hell. At the end of the day, yes, it was a bit of a shock at first, but the organizations like yours and like many of our clients, and like we have done to a degree have pivoted very rapidly by really good planning and really good engagement of all of the majority of the organization.
Like I reckon my first book, organizational change or transformation efforts in a normal chaotic business environment still typically fail or fall short of meeting their objectives, according to McKinsey of Deloitte year-over-year of the research and data. Macro changes or micro changes are done to the project level or business unit level, but the organizations that get it, and you have seen this, are going to come out of this stronger, more sustainable; more fiscally responsible; probably with one or two new revenue streams of how they interact with customers and how they interact with their employees; their ability to leverage technology and digital transformation to engage with teams. It is really the permanency in a lot of this is going to make organizations — the ones that have been tackling this head-on as opposed to those with a wait-and-see mentality — are going to possibly be even more profitable in a way if they put all these resilience principles in place and create scale from the forced innovation.
John: Is resilience something that you are born with, Brent, or is it learnable and is it then become a muscle that you keep having to exercise and grow?
Brent: Sure. It is a great question. I get that a lot. I touch on this in the book. Actually, the concept of resilience, which has been studied in various settings, does still pose a challenge to psychologists and behavioral scientists. Whereas, some are in this tool that certain people have more zillions great mental fortitude than others. I argue with the questions of like, “In our resilience bank account, do I start life with a higher balance than you do? How do I make more deposits? Do we have more than others?” Take David Goggins and me, for example, showing up in the same BUD/S class. Now, arguably, this was his third BUD/S class because I used to joke that he just loved hell week because he just kept doing it over and over. Two wildly different backgrounds. I grew up in an upper class neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, went to private school my whole life. Whereas David grew up with relatively extreme adversity, racism, childhood obesity, learning disabilities, and an emotionally and physically abusive household. You have read about it in the book. It is gnarly.
You might think people in that situation might naturally develop more resilience than others. Sometimes, those situations are debilitating and it depletes their ability to have that sort of natural grip resilience. To some degree, it is a choice and it was a choice for him. And you know for me it was a choice. For me, it was a choice to engage in what I refer to as purposeful suffering. We all have that sort of flame burning inside of us, so either snuff it out or we look at it. We listen to it. We touch it. We feel it. We use it to channel us down to the road less traveled or taking calculated risks or trying to set off to your stretch goals as opposed to staying in our comfort zone where things are good. But you stay too long in your comfort zone and the ultimate outcome will be regret, possibly depression, and just overall mediocrity.
I mean even study show that you know people who take more risk or who have been through hardships that they did not plan for come out stronger or emotionally more mature. They have a different outlook on life in a positive way. They are happier. They are more inspirational to others. They give to causes greater than themselves. Obviously, my philosophy is that resilience is like any muscle and if you were intentional, pushing its boundaries, making tough choices, and doing hard stuff and obviously, things that are in line with the goals you want to achieve in your value system. But then, you will continue to develop it more and more over and over. Being more intentional t in that journey, you will get there quicker.
John: For our listeners and our viewers that have just tuned in, we are so honored to have with us today American hero Brent Gleeson, founder and CEO of TakingPoint Leadership. To find Brent and his great company and colleagues, you could go to takingpointleadership.com. His clients or just a who is who of what is what, from Bank of America to Raytheon to Boeing. You can hire Brent to work with your firm or you can read his book Embrace the Suck and learn the principles that have gotten him to be a big success besides an American hero. Brent, I have two children now. They are actually behind me in that. That is when they were much younger. They are thirty-four and twenty-eight, and then I have one thousand and two hundred employees who become sort of adopted children in many ways if you are doing a good job as a leader. One of my core messages, and you tell me if I have got this right or wrong, is no one gets through this journey unscathed. Is it right to expect that we are all going to face challenges and it is really how we deal with those challenges that really defines who we are, how how we get through this thing and how we get success or failure?
Brent: Yes. I try to weave in some quotes that I really liked and inspired by throughout the book. One of them is “The most massive characters are seared with scars.” It is a really powerful quote because it really answers the question you just asked and the character that we develop over time. When I transitioned out and became an entrepreneur, my first two companies were more technology-focused companies, therefore in digital media analytics, etcetera. My employee base was largely younger. Let us say out of my last company, we got a couple hundred employees across three offices in New York, Vegas and San Diego. I would say seventy percent were millennial. I had to really work hard at adjusting my leadership style and my management capability in learning how to — this is what we teach our clients as well — learning happens connect and motivate different people. We all have different needs. When you look at motivation theory, between autonomy, mastery, and purpose, you still have to boil that down into the individual.
Now, it is even more complex than ever managing and leading remote teams. At the same time, I have always tried to bring it back to you having been blessed with the opportunity to serve in the capacity that I did. I have a unique ability or platform when it comes to our employees to share some of that perspective, if you will, when it comes to hardship and anxiety. I joked in the book about I tell my SEAL buddy, good friend Jason writing his story. Great battlefield commander, got ambushed, got shot seven times in the face, chest, and arm. He almost died, walked by himself unaccompanied to the Medevac helicopter, and then got so annoyed when people are coming into his hospital room and they were crying over his scars, what he could not do, and the things that he would not be able to do the rest of his life. He is like “Time out, people.” He wrote this amazing inspirational sign I share in the book. “Stop right there. If you are coming into this room to cry over my loss, my scars, and my injuries, go elsewhere. This is a room of happiness and of rapid regrowth. I will recover a hundred and ten percent and more. Then, I will push it another twenty percent of that obscure mental tenacity.”
He is like, “If you are not prepared for that, go elsewhere.” He signed it “The Management.” It caught the attention of the then President George W. Bush and hangs in the wounded area of Walter Reed. He was brought to the White House and things like that. After sharing the story, say feel kind of stupid because you just stepped on a Lego and screamed a bunch a flurry of expletives. Again, bringing back to that perspective that we all need. All of us, all the time. I need it, too. My wife is really good at bringing me back. You are worrying about things that are out of your control. When you are over stressing about something, she is like we got this. We all are at a natural human emotion when stress, anxiety or uncertainty inevitably hit us, but it really is a unique opportunity. You are pointing to take a leadership angle in that when it comes to developing teams and employees. We obviously use that with our clients, too.
John: Brent, something tells me, although you and I have not met personally yet and one day we will, that you were going to be a success regardless if you had gone to the SEALs or not, you were going to be a business success, which was your original dream. Unpack a little bit about getting out of the SEALs and starting your first two companies. Now, as an entrepreneur with your graduate degree, and how your SEAL training and what we are learning in this book Embrace the Suck, and also in your other best seller Taking Point. How did that made you more successful and how those companies succeed in more than they would have if you had not become a SEAL?
Brent: I guess I can answer that in the sense of if I had two to three core takeaways from my relatively comparatively brief time as a CEO. I have got buddies have done fourteen combat deployments in his career SEALS or twenty plus years. Even in the brief time and spending time in combat and spending time with great combat leaders and learning from them, I would not even pushed back. I do not know what success would have looked like had I not been in the military. I am sure with my normal drive, curiosity, and sort of appetite for taking risk, I would have done some some cool things.
At the same time, I really have no idea because I attribute much of my success, however we want to define that, comes from the mindset transformation that occurs, for certain, in the military service, but also, in the upper echelons of Special Operations, and then using those skill sets that you develop — both actual skill sets and mental skill sets — on the literal battlefield. One of the things that I take away from a leadership standpoint, any good leader or effective leader will say as a lifelong learner or a humble and never satisfied with the status quo, especially when it comes to ourselves, we want that feedback. Sometimes, it makes you cringe a little bit but we quickly move to like “Great. Roger that. I am going to apply that.” or “Great. I am going to take stock of that, and make sure that I am in that consultative development.” Not just how I perceive myself as a person or leader, but more importantly how your twelve thousand employees see you as a leader.
One is personal accountability. That is critical. We are human. We are not always perfect at that, but having the discipline to continually be able to debrief with yourself. I talk about that after action review model in the book, but instead of a team or organization, let us use it on ourselves, to not just celebrate the wins, but kind of take stock of the loss. Where did I fall short? Where did I deviate from my core values? Where did I disconnect from my emotional connection to that goal? What distractions got in my way? One is that level of discipline and accountability. Probably even overarching is anxiety and stress management are a little easier because of the perspective you gain just on the world in general, and the reality of how freaking good so many of us have it despite the dumb stuff that we complain about day in and day out, myself included. Continuing to remind ourselves, remember the stuff that you saw down range, remember the stuff you did or did not do, or the guilt you carry for this or for that. Put all that in a bucket to remind your support over your head every now. Wake up. Someone has it worse than you do. Many people have it worse that you do. That perspective when it comes to anxiety, stress or the inevitable obstacles of life.
Also, I would say the third thing, and this might surprise you or the listener or viewers, is greater levels of empathy and humility. If you do not have that going in the SEAL training alone, it will either be beaten into you or it will push you out of that pipeline organically. Experiencing what you do, seeing what you do, doing what you do, experiencing the loss of teammates and friends time and time again, you gain this really heightened sense of empathy or being in a combat zone and seeing non-combatants or children or grandparents in situations where one minute we are blowing the door off and run a gunfight. Two minutes later, I had my rifle slung and I am carrying two four-year-old girls across the room because there is glass all over the floor. Having that ability to dial down your very intense intensity and focus up, but also dial it down to a heightened sense of emotional intelligence, self-awareness and empathy is a good skill set. I think you would agree to have it just in life so good and so as a business a business leader.
John: So good. Talk about the importance of friends, and also, who you surround yourself with. Are you good friends still with a lot of the SEAL members that you became brothers with along the way?
Brent: They are. It is such an interesting community. Even while you are in to, you made great friends in the SEAL training pipeline. Then you go to different teams, and then your teammates are like family. Like family, you do not always get along, but you respect the hell out of each other. When it is time to work, there is a switch that is flipped, and you would intentionally dive into a hail of bullets just to save the person to your left and right without second thought. It is a fascinating thing. Very hard, if not impossible to replicate in the civilian world, just because the training and the actual stakes are as high as they can possibly be. When it comes to friends and your social circle, my social circle is pretty small right now. The funny thing about it and I always joke about this with my teammates or some really good SEAL friends. We are all kind of guys guys so we could go for three years without even seeing or talking to one another. You can text me, “What is up, bro” “What is up? How are you doing?” “Good.” “Good. Okay. ” And then, that three years is erased like you never skipped a beat. It is really cool.
I keep in touch with those guys because it also gives me that continued emotional connection to the community. I am on the board of the SEAL Family Foundation. I have been on that for seven years and it helps me stay connected and continue to serve. I connect with the team to that capacity as well. But, that point, if we think about the importance of our friends or our social circle as it relates to our life, our aspirations, our goals and our core values, one easy explanation is when I made that decision to transition from financial analyst to train to become a CEO. One of the things I looked at when assessing my current environment to develop that plan of action to train is my social circle. I looked at, “Okay. There are some people here who I know are going to support me . A lot of researches are more secured for children, but children who become eventually experts in certain fields during their most developmental years, they had a very supportive family, social circle and an emotional coaches who would push them to that next level of performance. I removed people from my life that I knew… Obviously, we all have the haters. We wanted to go down that path, but also just the people who either do not wish you well or are a distraction. Most of the people I am close with, I have a pretty tight small social circle of actual friends. We all have a lot of acquaintances.
John: Anecdotally, I have always read that you really become your five closest people that are to you, besides your wife and children. That is really what defines you, so having good people that support you is really a necessary part of the journey, whether they are SEALS or people that believe in your values and what your journey is. It that not true? Having distractions really is not good for people’s development.
Brent: It is not. Again, hopefully, we are all busy doing great things. There is no time for the nonsense. There is no time for spending time, emotion, or thought on either people who do not have your best intentions in mind or even worse. It is just a waste. Like you said, having that circle of four or five people that you know you can always count on and that will always lift you up is extremely healthy, but anything outside of that is just kind of a waste of emotion.
John: If you have just joined us, we have got Brent Gleeson with us today. He is the founder and CEO of TakingPoint Leadership. You can find them at takingpointleadership.com. He also wrote the best selling book Taking Point. He has also written Embrace the Suck. There is nobody that would deny, Brent, that this pandemic, as you said at the top of the show, is not only unexpected. It is not only tragic. It sucks for all of us, no matter where we are, whether we are sitting here in the United States, but also around the world. This pandemic has sucked. What I would like you to share with our viewers and our listeners is if we are all living through the suck right now today and we are going to get to the other side. Science is going to win. The vaccines are coming. We got it. Still, we are six months minimally up to a year away from getting back to some sort of knew better. How do we embrace this suck period still and come across a new better? Can people really read your book, and given that they are just civilians, get to the other side and learn one, two or three great points from this book and really be better on the other side of this pandemic, this suck period.
Brent: Yes, absolutely. When I started down this path, admittedly, I did not realize 2020 would suck so bad. Selfish would be the timing is wonderful for me, but one thing. I never read a book that technically falls in this genre before, so I started doing some research and I found some really inspirational words, good books and popular books. Not a lot of books that were really actionable. That is what I really did try to do on my first book Taking Point. It is to make sure that every chapter has a very specific application to business leadership and culture or organizational development. I want to do that, so each chapter has a mental note. I think we have all now graduated from the “When this is all over” mindset to “Okay. We are in this. We are going to be in this for a while, and we need to start moving away from the causal thinking of why me, why this and why now,: into action-oriented execution.
If I had to pick one or two things from the book to really take away this current environment — we are kind of in a transitional period — would be like, “Okay. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are ways out from that, so life and business must go on. One of the pitfalls we, as humans, typically fall into is we waste a lot of time, emotion, and energy focusing on things outside of our control. One of the countenance of resilient people and a growth mindset is they focus predominantly only what is in their control and sphere of influence. In that way, they can do greater impact. They are more confident, and they achieve or exceed more of the goals they set. Also, the subset of that is they are happier and more fulfilled, etcetera. They can build upon that momentum. Whereas a fixed mindset typically focuses on things outside of our control, less on what is in our control, and we stay in that environment for far too long or permanently.
Therefore, there is no development. There is no growth. We rarely sometimes get out of that swamp or quicksand of mediocrity. What I would say is… A lot of people have done this already. A lot of business has done this already, but to continue down that path is take a tactical pause, take stock of your current reality, and develop a plan of action for your family, your personal finances, for your business, for your career, and possibly even for your own mental health as well. Develop a plan and design that plan based on what is in your control. One of the things we teach our clients and I write about it in the book is sort of your own thinking from a team mission planning perspective to more of a personal mission planning perspective. You can do it for your family or your business, but also just for your own personal goals, whether it be a fitness goal, a business goal or career goal. Identify your core objective. What is your objective statement to navigate the next year or so related to this pandemic, related to family, business, etcetera.
When you could look at a lot of business, like the objectives and key results, or the OKR model. A nice clear and concise objective statement is powerful. You can connect to it. It gets you excited. A few sample of points or KPIs that say, “Okay, here is how we are going to execute this.” and taking go from X to Y, equals Z by such and such a dat. But then identifying what are my resources? What do I have now or need to acquire to achieve this objective? What are our threats and blockages? Well, we have already identified most of those. One of the things about this transition now is it is going to be hard. It is going to be very similar to last year minus most of the surprises hopefully. Anything can happen, but you still want to take stock of the threats, blockages and obstacles that do or could possibly pop up and stand in your way of achieving that objective. Apply some of the lessons learned we have all inevitably absorbed over the past ten months. Then, you have a plan. I always recommend with any plan whether it is your personal plan team or organization, is apply a red team model.
Basically, have a small team, committee, or one accountability partner who pokes the holes in your plan and ask you have you considered this? Have you considered this? Have you considered this? You do not debate it. You just take notes if there is a gem of wisdom in their reply to your plan. Then, you develop your actions, the what, the who and the when. What am I going to do? What needs to be done? When am I going to do it by? Continue to develop these action plans whether it is for your family or whether you are a business owner, a leader, manager or direct contributor, and so this might apply to your career. Have this planned. Then, you have a sixty percent to seventy percent plan, you go back. You apply some contingencies, then you have an eighty percent plan. That is as far as you go. There is no such thing as a hundred percent plan. You would not have gotten where you are with that because they do not exist.
John: Right. That is so true. You are so right. Like I always say, man plans and God laughs. That is that twenty percent. I love your website, Brent. When our listeners go to your website, is that for hiring you to give this kind of training to their companies or do people hire you even one-on-one to help themselves improve one-on-one? How does it really work besides reading your book?
Brent: We are a full-service leadership and organizational development consulting firm, especially in its highest level. Building higher performing teams that drive better business outcomes. As well as ask the question what drives profit in an organization, assuming we are talking about a for-profit organization. You get all these different answers. Essentially the number one thing is customer retention. How do you retain customers? Well, through high quality products and services. Where do you get those from? Well, great people doing cool stuff and highly engaged employees who are passionate about what they do. Where you got that from? Well, you get it from good leadership. Not just at the top like folks like yourself, but passing it all the way down to the frontline contributors. We have that environment where essentially everybody meets. That is what is great about the Special Operations community itself. On the battlefield, in training or off the battlefield, you are expected to be a leader regardless of rank or title. That is my other core foundations of a high performing team mindset. You get great leaders by developing them. It really comes down to that progression when you think about the success of an organization. It is identifying those people in your organization that you can continue to develop to create higher levels of performance. I think I got off that tangent, but I want to make sure say that.
John: That is great. Brent, when I interview pilots, I asked them about the level of difficulty of what solely pulled off on the Miracle on the Hudson. Most pilots will tell me like he was the perfect human being to do what he did, but still the odds were long and wide. Million to one. Hundred thousand to one. It was truly miraculous when he pulled off. Given that, we are almost ten years removed from the SEALs taking out Bin Laden. What were the odds going into that when leaders like Obama and the other great leaders that run our country in the defense department had to make that call to go do that and they called on the great SEALs who pulled that off? I know there is so many other missions we never hear about. That one was a very public. Level of difficulty and danger on that kind of stuff.
Brent: Well, it is interesting. One thing we do not think about is the squadron from that group, we are not supposed to say the name. our Tier 1 Special Operations Unit. Everybody knows the thing. What we do not think about is the fact that they have done probably a dozen similar missions the month before and they did a dozen similar mission the following month. This was a high-profile mission per se. One of my closest friend and former teammates at Team 5, Mark Owen who wrote No Easy Day and No Hero. No Easy Day being the first book written about the Bin Laden mission. You can read the book about the same insight that I have that you will get from the book that I do for him. A lot of who gets what mission in the Tier 1 World Special Operations comes from who is in the country, availability, who can get there fast, some capability obviously, and this one, by the grace of God, many other factors fell onto steals. They respond a couple weeks prior, but they, just like we did in the regular teams from any of our missions, they trained for two weeks day and night. I believe it is about two weeks or even shorter on a more or less two scale replica model of the compound.
By the time they hit these targets, that is what is fascinating about Special Operations, you rehearse every mission if possible. Does not matter if you are doing [inaudible]. You dirt dive and rehearse. Lessons learned, kind of work out the kinks over and over again. Just like any high performing team or individual. Does not matter how many times you done it. Going to rehearse, rehearse rehearse. You can envision your role and responsibilities, everybody else’s role and responsibilities, and what the winning outcome is going to look like. By the time they executed the mission, everybody on the team knows where they are supposed to land, how many steps from land zone to the first reaching point, the internal structures work in the room. Of course, they practice for contingencies. What was the first thing that happened when they got over that target? [inaudible] does that. But they had, in some capacity, practiced for a helo crash or some type of other major event like that assuming that Murphy is going to show up, which he usually does.
As you know, I am going to thank the Lord, nobody was killed in that crash that the pilot really made a very solid media tactical decision to bury the nose down quickly, so that the helicopter once the tail hit the wall did not roll. When helicopters roll, that is when people die. Again, your adrenaline is going so high that Mark, for example, did not even realize that he fractured two vertebrae in his neck and then got shot while he was on target. It was not a lethal wound, but nonetheless, he still got shot. He realizes his back was broken more or less total like a week later. Point being is a high-performance teams practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. I have been firm and individuals do this, regardless of the fact that you have done it a million times. You always have a very rigid and disciplined approach to the execution of what you are going to do.
John: That is awesome. Brent, I have one last question before I let you go today. You have been more than kind and generous with your time today. One of the great quotes in your new book… For our listeners out there, Embrace the Suck. I really highly recommend this book. We are living through a sucky period in world history. Hopefully, we never have to live through this again. This will help you make it through it, and not just make it through it, but also make you better in the process. I love the line, “Do something that sucks every day.” We are all conditioned. There is not one of us that would not love to buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and watch Seinfeld reruns on the couch every night. What do you truly mean by “Do something that sucks?” Give something to our listeners right now that is actionable, that they can start doing right now before they even read your great book.
Brent: That phrase is not intended to elude the fact that we do the wrong things that suck. It is about being intentional in setting the right goals, taking the right amount of calculated risk in these personal goals, professional goals, fitness goals or whatever they might be, and then identifying the things, the obstacles along that path to the achievement of that goal. Whatever that goal might be, there is going to be things that you do not like doing, things you are not that good at, things that make you cringe, and things that you really just have a distaste for. Think about growing a business. As a business leader, we do not love every aspect of what we do. There is things were not good at, things we got to develop, and things we just hate doing so typically we delegate. However, in this case, I am talking about identifying the things that stand in our way and the things that were not good at, and being intentional in practicing those things. For example, one of the things, as a leader, I have had to work on through feedback and just my own developmental opportunities and growth opportunities. Ironically, on the literal battlefield, I will run towards a hail of bullets.
In a business setting, as a leader, sometimes, I have a tendency or have had a tendency to avoid the difficult conversations, the angry board member, the client that I know is about to cancel their major contract, or the employee that I have to let go. I have to do I do that on Thursday. Come Thursday, I am like, “I am really busy today. Probably need to push that to next week.” It is like no. My wife tells me, “Honey, just right between the eyes, just do it. Get it done.” Then once you start intentionally practicing those things that suck at I do not like doing, I find that one, it is not that big and scary. It is not that hard. The more you do it, the more confident you get within that skill set, whatever it might be. Then, go find the next big, scary, audacious obstacle and tackle that one. Make that part of your lifestyle, and do something like that every day. You have some developmental opportunity every day, whether it is a fitness goal, pushing yourself a little bit harder each day. Doing something that is a little more uncomfortable each day. That signifies mental and physical growth. If we are not growing, we are essentially sort of dying a slow death. That is great.
John: Well, for our listeners out there, we got Brent Gleeson with us. Go to his website to find him, takingpointleadership.com. Read his New York Times best-selling book Taking Point. Read his new book Embrace the Suck. I was already going through it. Brent, really truly, God bless not only Texas, but God bless the great people like you who serve this great country that we live in. Today is the Inauguration Day. I am so happy and so honored to get to celebrate with someone like you and your life, and the wisdom that you have and you shared in this book today. Thank you for being a guest on the Impact Podcast. I am truly honored to have you on. You are making great impacts every day. Again, God bless you and the other young men and women who have served our great country.
Brent: God bless you, brother. Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation. Let us do it again sometime.
John: Anytime with you. Anytime.
Brent: Thank you.
John: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Trajectory Energy Partners. Trajectory Energy Partners brings together landowners, electricity users, and communities to develop solar energy projects with strong local support. For more information on how Trajectory is leading the solar revolution, please visit trajectoryenergy.com.