It takes about $25,000 to train a Marine. A Navy SEAL, on the other hand, costs about $500,000 in initial training. Elite teams like SEAL Team Six cost up to $85 million to train and maintain.
And yet, the most important aspect of an elite SEAL is not trainable, it can only be screened for. Does the candidate, with his back against the wall, retreat into himself, or merge with his team?
I’m just diving into Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work, by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal. You may remember Kotler’s last book, The Rise of Superman, which examines “extreme” athletes in a scientific review of ultimate human performance thanks to entering a flow state, commonly known as “getting in the zone.”
In Stealing Fire, the authors examine the broader topic of leveraging altered states for peak performance. They first cover the fascinating topic of group flow, or what the Greeks called ecstasis — the act of “stepping beyond oneself.”
This is the ability an elite SEAL must possess, but cannot yet be trained for. As soon as a mission begins, it’s as if a switch is flipped, and a group of individual soldiers morph into a single choreographed entity, even though every single action is improvised.
- Whatever the description, for the SEALs, once that switch was flipped, the experience was unmistakable. Their awareness shifted. They stopped acting like individuals, and they started operating as one—a single entity, a hive mind. In the high-stakes hot zone that is their job, this collective awareness is “the only way to get the job done.”
Ecstasis is not just for military operations. By 2001, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had created an extremely tight team that got them to $100 million in revenue. To take it to the next level, the Google board suggested a little “adult supervision” in the form of a more experienced CEO.
Page and Brin managed to “alienate fifty of the top executives in Silicon Valley” trying to find the right CEO who would fit with the team rather than disrupt it. So, they decided to take candidate Eric Schmidt, a forty-six-year-old veteran of Sun Microsystems and a Berkeley Ph.D. computer scientist, to Burning Man.
They wanted to see how Schmidt handled the Burning Man experience, or the “communal vocational ecstasy” that Page, Brin, and so many of Google’s engineers had discovered in the desert. Schmidt passed the test, gelled with the team, and took Google revenue to $40 billion before handing the CEO reigns back to Page.
Both the Navy and Google are exploring traditional and technological approaches to inducing people to lose their “selves” in order to enter group flow for maximum effectiveness. For example, rather than the decades it takes for meditation to consistently produce a state where the self vanishes, meditators can be hooked up to neurofeedback devices that steer the brain directly toward the target alpha/theta range that does the trick.
Stealing Fire is a fascinating read so far, and I’ll likely be sharing more from it as I finish. But if you lead or operate within a high stakes team, I’d say it’s required reading.
Solid tips here for when FOMO food urges start to sneak up on you. I’m personally sorry to report that “a loaf of sourdough bread” is not one of the options.
We’ve heard about the multiple benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT) time and again over the last couple of years. It gets you better results in a lot less time, for one. And while HIIT certainly assists with healthy aging, this is the first time I’ve seen the word “reverse” used. The reason why is pretty fascinating.
You hear a lot about robotics these days, mainly related to future employment (or lack thereof) for humans. These particular robots, however, are at the nanoscale, and literally go to work inside your blood stream. Things are getting weirder, faster.
Person of Interest
A typical savings account has been near worthless for many years now. Given that interest rates may now keep rising, it pays to find a savings vehicle that goes beyond typical.
The true definition of wealth for many people would be the means and freedom to travel as much as possible. Here are some tips for the means … you’ll have to handle the freedom.
Following up on the last piece, many times we let our own minds get in the way of the freedom we already have to travel. See if any of these mental objections are holding you back. Then realize that they’re easily overcome if you really want to travel more.
Of course, not every excursion has to be exotic and expensive. Sometimes you just need to literally “vacate” and spend some time alone. Oddly, my family is constantly encouraging this for me. 🙂
Wrong Move, Right Turn
A recently published study caught people in the act of avoiding criticism. The particular kind of criticism that interested the researchers was where you think you’re doing a good job, and then someone tells you that you’re not.
Low Hanging Fruit
As humans, we’re wired to take the path of least resistance, just like water, electricity, and Google maps. In the modern world, however, taking the easy path is downright dangerous — especially to your health. But in just about every are that we hope to excel, taking the easy way out is the least likely to lead to success and personal growth.
Tough It Out
If you do decide to pursue the tougher path in pursuit of excellence, you’re going to have to strengthen the way you react to your emotions. These five questions are derived from some of the areas we’ve explored in Further — mindfulness and Stoicism, all backed by science.
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