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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.


Nov 4, 2019

Unbreakable Podcast is for people who want to rediscover their edge. I believe in the human ability to get off the X and regain their edge. It doesn’t matter how old, how many times you have won or lost, or how low you have become. I am committed to you getting your edge.


Let’s talk about strengths and weaknesses.


There are tons of well meaning people distracting young people from success. With the volumes of data injected into our brains bypassing our senses, which were long ago designed to filter out stupid meaningless bits, the well meaning seemingly educated good doers are trending the nimble young minds into failed efforts.


You have to be careful when you are young or you are stuck on the X or you are wanting to get your edge. You have to learn to filter out stupid.


First I have to make a point of clarity about what doesn’t work. I want to make it early so if you are doing it you can stop doing it quickly so that later maybe the good things to do (the things that work) will be available to use. The old saying you cannot fill a cup full of water when it is full of crap, you have to dump the crap out first is a true statement.


So if you are on the X and having trouble getting after it; or if you are successful and lack interest; or if you are unsure what to do to become successful, the first truth is this: Life is supposed to be hard. I mean that. It is hard to get and stay in shape. It is hard to be a mom or dad raising a newborn. It is very hard taking an idea from your head and making money with it. So if you find yourself facing a hard uphill you are doing it right. Don’t back off, don’t walk away, keep getting up every time you get knocked down.


Next point is even simpler. Nothing works the first 100 times. You may have lost sight of that simple fact. You have forgotten as an infant you couldn’t swallow easily, it was painful and new and nothing worked. You tried and cried and got frustrated but you kept going. You have forgotten that standing and walking was very difficult. But you kept doing it even though you fell and got hurt and yelled at for breaking this or that. These young “try again” experiences were supposed to teach you do keep after it later in life but you have forgotten.


The final issue is be careful who you surround yourself with. The truth is most people around you don’t want you to win, I am not sure why this is the universal truth but alas be careful. Your parents may or may not be helpful. Your friends are more often than not going to be there when you fall and help you through it. Your spouse or lover may leave when you fall apart.


So now to the original point: which is more vital to your over all success in any endeavor in life? Are your strengths more important than your weaknesses?


Let me explain how the well meaning get this wrong. Many (very successful men and women) say double down on your strengths and don’t spend time on weaknesses. What they don’t explain in any detail is what they mean. To a great degree that notion that don’t waste time on weaknesses is completely absurd. Reality is no one has a real strength that they haven’t worked on honing through pain and breakdown and years of effort.


These well meaning good doers may mean is don’t be emotionally invested in utopia. I call this utopia because a 4 foot 11 kid may spend his or her whole life dreaming of playing pro basketball. Or a one legged combat vet may wish and dream for the leg to return. These sorts of nonsensical emotional issues may be what they mean, because the time wishing on utopia could be spent grinding out being the best 4 foot 11 person in the world or possibly learning to do incredible things on one leg.


So I have to define what I am meaning by both strength and weakness. A strength is simply something you do that comes easy and makes things happen in the real world. Some people are good at running the first time they try. Some are good at public speaking even as a kid. Some are built strong no matter what they do. Some long great without make up. You get the idea.


Weaknesses are simply things you do that are fumbles. Weaknesses are things that you struggle at doing or have a hard time even wanting to do. Here is the kicker so few people like to struggle, and fewer still even consider doing something they don’t want to do. Working on speaking when you stutter is very difficult, but those who do get better. Running when you are fat and overweight is a definite struggle, those who do lose weight and get better at running. Learning how to not spend yourself out of business is hard. It is hard to cut spending and do without until the business turns north again. Those who learn to deal with debt and curb spending have a great opportunity to win when the business cycle turns.


Strengths are a misconception because if you think you just doing what comes easy with make you better you will fail to the person who is working on their weaknesses. And you will lose every time if you just do easy and comfortable things.


I have never seen successful people in any field do what is comfortable and easy. They simply do not.   A master craftsman works on the details he screws up. I know a man who has played the violin for 80 years, he is 90 now. I hear him playing every morning. I found this odd, so I asked him why he plays. His answer floored me.


I am paraphrasing as best I can:

            I played in the New York symphony the San Diego and for may conductors    and in many operas. To the listeners and even to trained ears my music is        flawless. But it never has been. There are sounds I struggle to make and the           music struggles to come out. I keep working on each movement and sound     until it goes right. This morning I am working on a piece I have struggled      with since I was 13. I have never got it right.


As I listened I heard nothing. The sound was like butter. And it was moving to hear. He told me the name and it meant nothing to me but it was stunning to witness a master struggling with perfection. The piece was titled: JS Bach’s Chaconne from Partita in d minor. I hear it is a hard one to play but it looked effortless. I suppose after 70 years of practice it looks that way. But to him is was constant imperfection.



Personally, I have known many of the greatest athletes in running, football, swimming, ocr, adventure racing. And I can assure you these professionals spend 90% of their time working on imperfections and weaknesses. They embrace struggle.


I know the top ultra runners some are friends and some I know by watching them for years because I could never catch them. One would think ultra runners just run. That is their apparent strength. But let’s not lie to each other here. Ultra runners only feel their weaknesses so that is what they work on. They would rather just do a run on flat pavement in 7 degree tempts. Instead they do the opposite. They run uphill in the rain. They hate to feel the bonk of energy and dehydration so they push until the bonk to work on what to do if that happens. They learn to eat and run on a full stomach. They learn to run on bloody feet when others don’t want to. They go to yoga because running makes you stiff as a board. They get massages on the psoas muscle and it hurts like hell but it gets weak and tired so they do it.


I know business leaders who wake up early even though they are multi-millionaires. They wake up early to learn something they don’t know or to find some detail they may have missed. They look for gaps and weaknesses they can improve.


You know who works only on their strengths? I think you do, but let me just remind you. People who work on their strengths are those who are lazy. They do the same thing day after day. Same routine. Same every thing. They are stuck because breaking routine, breaking sameness is unsettling and they would have to face a weakness or a level of discomfort they no longer want. This only doing what they feel strong doing actually destroys them.


This week, do something to improve a weakness. Don’t do something arbitrary. Pick a weakness in an area of life that matters to you. If it is uncomfortable to fast for a day than do it. I promise your health will be more under your control. If it is uncomfortable then do it because it will make all the difference.


Share discomfort with the people who you want to get off the X or who you know are down and need a kick in the butt.