When I left the SEAL Teams to attend graduate school and dip my toe into the world of entrepreneurship, I completely immersed myself in this endeavor. I knew that I would face many new challenges. But when my oldest son was two-and-a-half, I was transformed into a full-time single parent literally overnight. That's when the real learning, and teaching, began. As much as I told myself that the situation wouldn't affect my ability to lead my company with my business partner, it did. I had to prioritize my son and his needs over my own. That's being a parent right?
During that time a very special bond was created that lasts to this day and will hopefully last through his teen years! He is now ten and I know he watches every move I make. As parents that's when we have to constantly remind ourselves that our actions and the words we speak each day are molding our children's personalities, values and viewpoints.
As a former SEAL, I would never push my sons to pursue that line of work, but I will always try to impart upon them the values I learned from those experiences. I have applied these lessons to navigating the waters of entrepreneurship and know they will aid my sons in their own pursuits of success.
Here they are.
Be humble. You can either start off by being humble or life will take care of that for you. I want my sons to know that they will have victories as well as defeats. I want them to pursue passions that are greater than themselves. To take everything life can give them while always giving back. There is nothing better than a strong man with even greater humility.
Be the sheepdog, not the wolf. The sheepdog is the protector of the flock. The sheepdog protects others that cannot protect themselves. The wolf is a coward that prays on the weak. In the Teams, we fight to protect our brothers. It's that simple. I will always teach my sons to protect those around them, even if it's with the most simple gesture or kind word.
Accept defeat gracefully. As I mentioned above, they will learn to know defeat. My oldest son has played on championship flag football teams. Like this season! Go Bears! But he has also played on a team that only won one game all season. These are good lessons to learn. Any successful man has accepted defeat gracefully, learned from the experience, picked himself up and carried on.
Respect other points of view. Having an open mind and respecting other's viewpoints is critical for personal and professional success. And I'm not just talking about politics, religion and sports. This applies to any setting.
Take charge. One of the lines from the SEAL Creed says, "In the absence of orders, I will take charge, lead my team and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations." Life won't always have a set of instructions to help us navigate the tough times. We need to teach our children to be leaders and responsibly take charge when necessary.
Laugh when you'd rather cry. There were many times in training where I think crying would have been a perfectly reasonable reaction. I did cry when our class leader passed away during Hell Week. But beyond that, when things got tough, those that stood tall at graduation had found a way to put on a smile and laugh our way through. Life is just like that. There is little point in wallowing in misery when we run into obstacles. Mental toughness and a positive mental attitude are some of the best tools to have in life.
Be disciplined. A former SEAL and colleague named Jocko Willkin says that "discipline leads to freedom." Think about that. It makes perfect sense. The more disciplined we are in the pursuit of our goals, the more likely we are to have the freedom to reach them. And even exceed them. I want to teach my sons to be disciplined in all that they pursue because I know that will lead to great personal satisfaction for them. And for their parents!
Get the little things right. Pay attention to detail. This is a big one in the Teams. It's a core value at my company. In SEAL training you start out by being tested in the pursuit of perfection in what seems like the smallest things. Such as keeping your room spotless. Keeping your knife blade sharp. Taking care of your gear. Watching your swim buddy's back. If we can't get the little things right in life, how can we expect to tackle the real challenges later on.
Be passionate. At my company we hire people for both technical expertise but also passion. Passion above all things can be the most powerful tool for achieving success. If we aren't passionate about whatever it is we are doing, it makes it very difficult to go the extra mile. I want my sons to pursue things that inspire them and ignite their passions. Doing so will lead to greater success and happiness.
Never ring the bell. In SEAL training, when you quit, you are forced to ring the bell in front of your classmates. The twenty-three of us in my class that graduated never considered quitting. Ever. Yes, of course in life there are things we should start doing and things we should stop doing. But that's not what I am talking about. Whether my sons have made a commitment to a team, set a specific goal or working towards completing their chores, I want them to understand that quitting should never be an option. Do things right, the first time, every time. And never be out of the fight.
Five years ago God blessed me with my wife. We met at the wedding of one of my closest SEAL Team buddies. We now have two more beautiful children; our two-year-old daughter Parker Rose and our three-month-old son Ryder.