After leaving the Navy SEAL Teams, I went to grad school, met my business partner, and we started our first company. The housing market was booming, so we created a vertical search engine for finding new homes and condos. Then the bubble burst. I should have listened to my economics professor.

Diversification was needed, and needed fast. We learned so much about digital marketing while building that company that we decided to say "yes" to the question, "Do you guys also offer marketing services?" We borrowed money from that business to start the new business, gave those shareholders equal shares in the new company, and Internet Marketing Inc. was born.

As a motivational speaker, most of what I present in my keynote presentations is based on principles I learned in SEAL training and combat, which we have applied in growing our digital-marketing agency.

Based mostly on learning from failure, here are 15 rules for achieving success in your personal and professional life.

  1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Get outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. The more you do, the wider that area becomes. Things that used to seem impossible can become part of your everyday life.
  2. Never quit. Unless you're doing something you should stop doing. Just because something doesn't work out the first time doesn't mean there isn't a different approach or a better way to do it. We used to say in the Teams, "Plan your dive and dive your plan." Don't change course just because you face obstacles.
  3. Know the difference between preparation and planning. Plans are great and essential for success. But preparation and execution are what gets it done. As General Patton once said, "A good plan executed violently today is far better than a great plan tomorrow."
  4. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Setting and achieving lofty goals is great. But those big, far-reaching goals mean nothing without a series of more near-term strategic achievable goals and milestone set along that path to the achievement of the larger goal. Break the big goals into bite-size chunks, making them less daunting and more achievable.
  5. Never stop moving forward. One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. says, "If you can't fly, you run; if you can't run, you walk; and if you can't walk, you crawl. But no matter what, you keep moving forward." If you are not focusing on improving your life and career every day, things will stagnate. If you aren't always trying to improve, then what's the point?
  6. Measure everything that is important. If you aren't measuring the success of your activities, there isn't much chance they will thrive. But if you do, there is little chance they won't improve.
  7. Manage everything that is important. I don't know how many times I've set something on cruise control to focus on other initiatives only to circle back later to find things either in shambles or with zero progress. It doesn't have to be you, but someone needs to be actively managing the important aspects of your business or life.
  8. Know that life isn't fair. I've been in combat, lost brothers, spent years as a single dad while trying to lead a company, gone through costly divorce, battled to maintain much needed full custody of my son, and worked hard to recover from inevitable business mistakes. But God doesn't put us in situations we can't handle. He blessed me with the most amazing wife who saved my life. And she blessed us with a beautiful baby girl. Then she was born with a birth defect and spent a month in the neonatal intensive care unit. That's life. As long as you take every day knowing things aren't fair, you'll be just fine. Never be out of the fight.
  9. Laugh when you would rather cry. There is always a reason to smile, especially when you are leading a team. Positivity and calmness are contagious. As is panic. Decide what type of environment you want to promote. Lead by example.
  10. Know the difference between skill and success. The world is full of highly skilled people or teams that fall short of achieving true success. In SEAL training, often it was the most elite athletes who were the first to quit. Although they had the physicality, they lacked the mental fortitude to compete and win at that level. They lacked the ability to adapt. We have to be able to bridge the gap between skill and applying that skill to achieving goals.
  11. Surround yourself with subject-matter experts. And then take credit for all of their work. Just joking! I would never be where I am today without my wife, business partners, advisers, and our amazing team. I am the least important person at my company. As soon as I realized that, I knew how to get out of the way.

These are just some of the things I have learned along the way. There will be many more lessons to come.