Always be ready…
It’s a great motto, a simple concept, and a difficult reality. Is it possible to be ready for everything? I don’t think so. Is it possible to be prepared? Absolutely.
I often hear people talking about luck. The sentiment is usually around someone at the apex of their sport or activity, and how they appear to exhibit more “luck” than those around them. I have had the good fortune to spend a significant amount of time around these types of individuals, and not once would I equate their success, or position to luck. Time and time again, I encounter masters of their craft who are absolutely, and utterly dedicated to perfecting their chosen profession. They don’t have a finish line; they don’t have a position they are hoping to achieve so they can say that they have “made” it. Their life is defined by their dedication and hard work. Does luck play a part? I have to assume that it must, but it is not the determining factor in their success.
I spend half of my year as a professional skydiver and BASE jumper. Nearly every social media post I make is of me, or a group of people flying wingsuits in the sky from an airplane, or a mountainside somewhere in the world. Those pictures are just a shiny object, and they also tell an incomplete story. I dislike social media because it allows for selective filtering, something I am equally guilty of. It allows you to highlight what we choose to, and leave out the bits and pieces that are not as “exciting.” It focuses on the end state, and not the journey required to get there. I feel it often sets unrealistic expectations in others, creating an environment where those with less than optimal levels of experience are reaching above their skill level in an attempt to “one up” each other. What is most often left on the cutting room floor? The grind. The day after day of hard work, practice, and dedication, which combine to prepare the individual for whatever it is they choose to do.
To me, there are two components of preparation, mental and physical.
Physical training is they easy part. “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Embrace the quote, and embody it in your training routine. Determine the likely challenges of your sport, occupation, or daily life, and exceed them often. Find your physical threshold, and move it forward, incrementally. Play with your limits and limitations in practice, so you know when you are approaching them in real life.
Mental toughness, and mental training were topics that often arose during my 18 months as a BUD/s instructor. Bottom line, you are born with a certain capacity for mental toughness, but that does not mean you can’t add to it. If you want to be mentally tough, seek failure, not comfort. Find the things that scare you, that challenge you, that you struggle with, and spend your time with them. The beauty of mental training is that it complements, and enhances your physical training. Pushing yourself harder than you feel comfortable is equal parts mental, and physical, and can be done at the same time. I have done many workouts that gave men an uneasy feeling in my stomach before beginning them. They scared me, and it was my litmus test for knowing when the challenge was appropriate.
Whatever your chosen path, passion, or profession, you will have challenges. The margins between victory and defeat can be razor thin, and the determining factor in the moments that count the most, will be you. It is easy to focus on gear, your opponent, the conditions, you fill in the blank. You have no control of those things, but absolute control over yourself.
Don’t rely on luck; rely on your training and preparation.
Always be ready.
Andy Stumpf retired from a 17 year career as a Navy SEAL with several commendations for his service. He turned his passion for skydiving and base jumping to help raise awareness and money for the Navy SEAL Foundation Survivor Support Program. Besides his philanthropic adventures he continues to push the boundaries of base jumping and using a winged flight suit to cover amazing distances. For more writing from Andy, visit his blog.