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Best selling author and US Navy SEAL, Thom Shea discusses what life is like when you stop quitting and become the best version of yourself.


Jun 10, 2019

No way out and no back-up plans in raising warrior children and warrior adults.

There is nothing new under the sun. Really, all the human issues we are experiencing today are still the same foundational issues we have faced since the first humans. Albeit, technology has been introduced our father’s and mother’s of 1,000,000 years ago could not even fathom as possible, the human condition remains the same. What remains the same is the fact that humans operate at their peak performance in all areas when they don’t have a back-up plan in their life.

In the world of excellence and achievement in any area around you, I ask you to find one person who achieved success by having a back-up plan? Find one. If you do contact me I want to bring you on and have you tell us the story of how someone succeeded by having a robust back-up plan while they were trying to win with the primary plan.

I have just spent the past 29 years working with high achievers from the SEAL Teams to business leaders to ultra marathon athletes and se the critical disparity when people have back up plans. Back up plans kill success. Back up plans cause a drain in energy that cripples the primary plan. Back up plans ensure that when the first things goes wrong with the primary plan and no effort is made to learn from the mistake and the back up plan gets engaged.

So let’s talk about his issue because literally nothing else matters more than understanding this dynamic. Let me weave in the current culture issues and maybe we will all arrive together at a place where you will get some momentum in your life.

The first big misunderstanding is the pursuit of passion and Your Big Why. Good Lord you cannot turn on a single podcast or read any article without the author tagging the Why or Passion utter BS. Let me, if I can, Unfold the Why sales pitch. When would you use why or ask why? That really is the question isn’t it. The sales pitch covers up this essential underlying question. What causes you to ask Why? The people selling the Why question twist this around into “you should have a Why”. So you immediately find yourself in the quicksand of despair because you notice you aren’t asking why.

Here is the deal with asking why, Why always arises from facing a problem or break-down. Another way of saying this is you really question why you are doing what you are doing when you are dealing with the breakdowns that come up.

I have not met anyone at the top who can articulate their Why, other than everyone of them literally saying, “I am doing this because I said I would do it.”

The best example I can give to show you how destructive forcing the why is when you have a back up plan. Take an ultra marathon. I use this reference because it is the same as making a million dollars. It is hard. No, it is damn right hard as hell to do both. In the first 10 miles everything could be going well or according to the plan. You have told yourself I will never DNF(or quit). You have prepared, hopefully, by putting in the miles for 9 months prior. You have a plan for eating and drinking and resting and dealing with pain. Then it goes bad. It starts to rain or you get lost, or you turn and ankle or even worse you fall and break your wrist. You know what you ask yourself in that moment “why the hell am I doing this?” The pain in your wrist is telling you you are going to die if you continue. So this is the difference with pros and what I call the Why generation. The Why generation has a back up plan or a pre conceived point to which they wont keep going. The Why generation “who is running for their mom or to prove themselves” immediately finds that this explanation to keep going is redonkulous. So the quit which is always the back up plan. By the way the pros just wrap the injury and keep going. They don’t pick the back up plan or quitting. They may not make the finish line but they don’t go to the quit plan.

Passion, too, is a disaster as a point of trying to be passionate upfront before you are completely committed and before you have done the work needed to actually do the thing well. Passion comes and goes. Let me say that again, passion comes and goes with the weather. There is a saying in the SEAL Teams, it is easy to be a SEAL on a sunny day, and it sucks being a SEAL when it is high surf and raining and you can no longer feel your feet and hands. Finding passion when you are frozen is impossible. Just do it anyway. Someone, not the pro, found out a way to talk about passion and use the passion conversation to sell people on them maybe. I don’t know. Passion is cool but passion may not be a thing needed to succeed. In the SEAL teams and in every business I have seen that works well over time, there is a saying “No one cares how you feel about it. Just get to it and keep doing it until it is complete.” That mindset allows for passion but doesn’t need to be the point of decision.

The best example I can come up with is marriage. Oh no, is he going to go there? Yes!   Marriage built on Passion lasts only as long as the passion is there. Which is about up to the point when you get in your first argument over taking out the trash or cleaning up the kitchen or bedroom. Or maybe you have lucked out and maintained passion for years, then you have a baby. The hormones actually fade for women and passion isn’t available. Passion ahaha. If you think passion is what is important on a daily basis and it isn’t there one day, you will get divorced which is your back up plan. What if you didn’t have the back up plan of quitting when passion isn’t there?

The other part of the human condition that is important to consider is the Time and Energy required to succeed on the primary plan itself. Using the making a million or ultra marathon analogy, it takes years to actually be or win at both, years. If you are prepping for an ultra your daily requirement of time and energy is 4-5 hours of running, stretching, and nutrition. And that is when everything is going well. Putting in the hours it takes to succeed takes focused commitment. If you have a back up plan you won’t stick with it. If you have problems, which I guarantee you will have problems, big problem, and you passion that you were sold as vital, fades, or if you question why you are doing this every day you will quit.   You don’t have enough time and energy to spread across two concurrent plans working at the same time, so drop the back up plan just drop it.

Let me ask you:

In your athletic world you live in, do you have a back up plan? Or are you already to the point in life you don’t even have a plan anymore because you have quit so often on your plan you see it not important?

At your job, are there so many choices you are afraid to commit to one? Or do you play it safe by having a plan that is just being stable this year?

In your relationship at home, do you even have a big hairy plan as a couple? Or do you just survive?

What is it like to always be on the back up plan and never solely on the primary plan?