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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.


Sep 16, 2019


By Thom Shea

Author of “Unbreakable: A Navy SEAL’s Way of Life.”


Each of us is interested in balance in our lives, either in balancing relationships with work, work with fitness, or all things and spirituality. How do we balance the multiple interests we have when we cannot even excel in the small things we do each day?


Please, let me share with you reflections of 23 years as a Navy SEAL and 6 years transitioning into the nebulous business world of training leaders to lead. The simple fact that only a few people master the self-defeating idiom called “Never quit” causes most to avoid tough times and to never go beyond the point where they wanted to quit. The thing about an idiom is that the meaning of the original expression has been lost over the ages. The real meaning of “Never Quit” is to actually embrace the moments when you want to quit and push beyond them. There is no real valid reason to quit.


So few companies, so few leaders, so few parents, and so few coaches these days actually use the dynamics of learning how not to quit as the foundation for success. So since the real foundation for success is gone we build everything on sand. We quit in school at early ages because parents are not clear that kids need the experience the gravity of learning and not being prepared and require the firm hand of strong parents to try again. Sports no longer allow or better yet force players to fail and experience loss so they learn to never quit, so they quit in the first half when they other team scores. Or the quit in the forth quarter when they think they have won.


That is the current foundation we then take into our adult lives.


One of the most unattended and at the same time highly recognizable conditions for every person anywhere is quitting. Now what I mean regarding quitting is that quitting is so pervasive in the world that few actually engage in mastering the benefits surrounding “quitting.” Since everyone quits now there is a reward for just showing up. Tragic! SEALs learned long ago that to be truly successful, you must face the depths of failure, and the cause of all failure is quitting. They make training so hard and so unwinnable and so painful quitting is the only solution. We weed out people who quit because in real life, in combat you cannot have people quit or everyone will die.


Make an honest list of your physical capacity, your intellectual facility, your wealth accomplishments, your relationship endeavors, and finally your spiritual life … notice both the small things you have quit on in each and the big things you have not been able to accomplish. Stop when you get to 5 things because honestly the list will go on and on and on.


I want to share with you the depth at which I have encountered quitting in my own life and the far reaches I have seen “quitting” show up in the lives of others. I held this section out of the manuscript when I presented it to my publisher of Unbreakable a navy SEALs way of life for one simple reason, because quitting is so brutal and seductive that I personally felt opening up the “Pandora’s Box” that surrounds quitting would turn off everyone who might read it. And, I didn’t want Stacy to know how many times I quit on my men, and on her, and on my self.


In reading “Unbreakable: A Navy SEAL’s Way of Life,” you surely will have noticed some small elements of how you do give up and quit while you attempted to accomplish the 13 Unbreakable lessons, so you know that as I share this final lesson, the effect of quitting is real and pervasive. As you read these lost writings, my intent is that the reading will open up your own “Pandora’s Box” and you will encounter how frequently you quit in all aspects of your own life, or worse yet, quit before you even start.


What would your life actually be like if you mastered quitting?   I often wonder, because after encountering quitting in my own life and being pushed in SEAL training to just push beyond quitting, I see and interact with all aspects of life very differently than those around me who have not and will not encounter quitting. All of the 13 “Unbreakable Lessons” were written for my children to discover various wonderful tools they would need to grow in your life in case I died in combat. The 13 Unbreakable lessons (you must read Unbreakable and do the lessons first) are tools to this final lesson … “Just never quit on yourself.”


To master quitting, I ask you to stop avoiding the things you are afraid of doing, or simply to stop avoiding quitting. I want you to face a fear of anything you have and safely realize that fear- feel it in your soul. By safely I mean go through the process internally to the point where you are internally going through and feeling the fear. That is to say, if you are afraid of something because you fear dying/doing it. I ask you to go through the mental process of experiencing that exact thing.


Physical Quitting (example):

  1. Identify something physically that you encounter that makes you want to quit or makes you afraid to encounter.
  2. Internally I want you to imagine the whole thing unfolding as if you quit. I want you to imagine quitting in the middle of a run when you legs are hurting or you are out of breath and don’t want to continue. I ask you to put yourself there and actually experience the pain. Don’t run away from the pain. Feel it.
  3. After having imagined it happening, I ask you to go on that exact run with the intent to quit at the exact spot you had imagined quitting.
  4. Now that you are on the side of the road or trail feeling sorry for yourself and in pain. I want you to notice something. I want you to notice that you are feeling pain and you are out of breath, and at the same time you told yourself to quit. You used Internal Dialogue to talk yourself into stopping. No one else told you to quit, you did.
  5. Now I want you to sit there and keep telling yourself to quit that you are a victim of bad genetics; that you are never going to be a successful runner, or any other victim of life language you can put there to ensure you will quit.
  6. Tell yourself you are a quitter until you begin to laugh. Some of you may not get to laughter, simply because you have programmed yourself to believe you are a victim and not a winner. If you do start to laugh, you are seeing the power of Internal Dialogue in driving your performance. If you laugh then just replace I am a quitter with a new dialogue, that says to you get up and go two more steps.


You can do this same experiment with intellectual, with wealth, with relationship, and with spiritual mastery. Just quit on yourself in each until you begin to hear in your internal dialogue, the language that keeps you quitting and from quitting.


Imagine quitting on your husband or wife. Imagine any or every situation they could bring to you that would make you quit. They cheated, they called you a name, they stop saying I love you, they may even say they hate you. Keep quitting on them. Imagine quitting and getting a divorce, walking away from your family and kids. Quit because you are a victim and no one treats you right. Quit because raising kids is too hard. Go ahead quit. Surround yourself with everyone who agrees with you. The Quitters tribe.


Eventually quitters find them selves alone, and empty, and bitter, and even their quitter tribe quits on them because that my friends is what happens when you quit.


You will notice that you quit on studying with a very robust dialogue; you will notice that you quit on business and work using very believable dialogue; you will notice that you quit on your partners clearly because you say “they aren’t … whatever”; and you will notice that you quit on spiritual mastery for very earthly, and real reasons.


What would you life be like if you never quit?


In school when you feel like quitting because some bully punched you in the mouth, you instead learn how to protect yourself and face the bully down. Never giving up is the cure to bullying. So you are studying and you cannot figure it out. Take a break and ask for help and get to it again. Don’t listen to people who say you need sleep, freaking study until you pass out for god’s sake.


You young athletes and coaches, Practice hard. Practice until they get it wrong not until they get it right. Practice until they are discouraged so that you can teach them every single play matters. Once you do this then they simply try each new play with all they have, no matter what happened before or what the threat of the future may bring. Relentless players just don’t quit because they have already learned from coaches that feeling of loss and were able to get up and run the next play anyway.


Relationships seem to be the most prevalent place in the world today where quitting happens so rapidly and completely that life itself never seems to turn positive. First, for god’s sake, don’t hang with people who are naïve and think things are easy. They will leave you so fast you won’t remember the smell of their perfume. Second, don’t quit when either of you is emotional. Emotional decisions are complete shit, everyone knows this so why make a decision base on how you feel. Third, don’t quit when things are really bad such as loss of a kid, or death of a family member, or when either of you is sick or injured. Play the long game because there are things you just cannot control in the short game. Stick it out. Because if you don’t learn to stick it out with this person, you will be really trained and extremely efficient on quitting with the next person.


I personally never quit on five hell weeks. The first four I got injured, I had a concussion, I dislocated my shoulder, I got pneumonia twice, and the fifth one I just didn’t quit even though it made no sense to continue. I took that never quit mentality into my career and never quit during 2000 hours of combat during four combat tours and brought back every single guy in my platoon. I have trained 85 people in six years to create a foundation for not quitting in their lives and have seen marriages turn around, families come back together that were completely split up. I have trained 28 of my clients to run ultra marathons because once you learn how to not quit, everything becomes possible. I have seen businesses 2x profit in 9 months where were on the brink of bankruptcy.


Quitting is the most destructive force on the planet. Not quitting is the most learnable skill and only 20% of the people you know have learned it.


Learn how not to quit. Forego learning anything else.