I’ve finally finished reading the book Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.

This is a book that makes me Laugh Out Loud from time to time. The author, Jesse Itzler is funny. His self-deprecation description of the ordeal he went through, of how he failed at one challenge and another, of the idiosyncrasies of the SEAL ( ie: the toughest man on the planet) such as buying an escape raft in the middle of Manhattan, makes the book a page turner. The book is divided into one day per chapter, after you finish one chapter, you can’t wait to go to another one, just to see how else can the author got tortured the next day.

Every single day was a new challenge for Jesse, while he was staying with SEAL, because SEAL would make him do uncomfortable things. The key to growth, is to do things that you are not comfortable with. This point was registered on him on the first day of SEAL arrival; when SEAL showed up on his door, he immediately asked Jesse to go out and run with him, despite that the temperature outside was 14F ( -10C). Jesse tried to object to running in such weather, by pointing out that his computer said that the temperature is 14F. SEAL’s reply was legendary:

“The temperature is what you think it is, not what you think your computer think it is”.

Even if the temperature is 14F, so what? If you want to run, you can still run.

(Interestingly, things don’t work the other way. SEAL told Jesse that if it’s too hot outside, then you can’t think away the temperature as cold, it simply wouldn’t work. You just have to learn to enjoy the hotness)

(Be water, my friend. Pick whatever that is working for you)

You have an insurmountable challenge ahead of you, or so you think. If you really believe that it is insurmountable, then it really is. But if you think you can conquer over it, you too are right.

True, there are too many people dying trying to scale Everest, but there are also far too many people sitting at home not doing anything because of imaginary fears. I believe that a lot of us are actually overestimating the difficulties we face; growing up in modern, comfortable environment makes our brain too quick to say no. The net result is we take less risk and challenge than we actually can.

Which leads to another SEAL’s point: 40% rule

When your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you’re exhausted, that you cannot possibly go any further,  you’re only actually 40% done.

Try running 42KM Marathon and you will see what I mean. When you are about half way into the run, your legs will tell you that you are done for good. Every single step seems heavy, and every breath seems like eternity. At this point, if you give up and take an ambulance, you will be glad that you are free from the ordeal. But if you continue, your legs will hate you, your lung will burst, and you will feel that your heart might stop beating any moment.

And when you reach the destination, then you can breath a relief that you didn’t succumb to the easy way. That you went through hell and came back alive.

SEAL, whose real name is David Goggins, is a retired Navy SEAL. He began long-distance running with the aim of raising money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation after several of his friends died in Afghanistan during a military action. His mission: to raise funds for the Foundation by participating in extreme sports. Once when he was running 100 miles, he made it to 70 miles within the first 12-13 hours when all the metatarsal bones in his feet were broken, and there were stress fractures, shin splints and muscles tearing all in his body.

He still managed to complete the 100 miles with the allocated 24 hours.

The thing that pulled him through, is the purpose. Giggins has a purpose bigger than himself. This purpose trumps every motivation, and moves him to complete the unthinkable.

Enough about SEAL, what can we learn from the author, Jesse Itzler?

For starters, Jesse Itzler is the embodiment of Chutzpah, an English word borrowed from Yiddish, which means extreme self-confidence or audacity.

When he was still a nobody rapper, he called a record label named Delicious Vinyl, and tried to pass on as another successful rapper named Dana Dane in order to secure an appointment. When Dana Dane didn’t appear, he played his music and viola! He got a signing.

The Chutzpah went on display again, when Jesse was required to get the NBA player Grant Hill’s signature for a promotion. The problem was Grant Hill didn’t even know who Jesse was. So Jesse just did the unthinkable, he just flew to another city on his own dime, went to the stadium, waited for Grant Hill to appear and then pleaded with him to help.

He succeeded.

As Jesse said in a podcast

“I’m just not scared of being embarrassed. I don’t like it, but I’m not scared of it,” Jesse says, “Once you give yourself that gift, you’re liberated.”

Jesse  doesn’t have a resume, he doesn’t want a resume, instead, he is out there, building his life resume.

You have only one life, why do you obsess over yesterday, why do you get bitter because your parents couldn’t get you into your dream school, why do you grumble that you are now stuck in a job you dislike and can’t seem to get out?

Why don’t just get out and invest in this moment, so that your life resume will not go wasted?

After becoming a successful rapper, Jesse went on to start a private jet prepaid card company. He didn’t dwell in the glorious days of rapping, he moved on. He buried his own success so that new ones can sprout up. After he sold the private jet company, he started 100 Mile Group and partnered with ZICO Coconut Water. That too, resulted in a successful sale to Coca-Cola three years later.

Talking about his career as a successful rapper, Jesse wasn’t the best, most talented rapper during his time, but then he succeeded in carving out a niche for himself in rapping sports song. The classic Go NY Go was his creation. He was passionate about rapping, and he was passionate about sports. Though he was not the top for any of these two categories, but at the intersection of these two, he was the top.

It’s pretty hard to be the top of any category, given the stiff competition nowadays, but can you carve out a new category by combining existing categories? If you can, then you can be the top of this new category.

There are so many lessons one can get from the book, be it personal or business. When I was reading the book, I was constantly checking on my life and my business. I would compare Jesse’s or SEAL’s life experience with mine, and I would think what else can I do to improve.

Am I so risk-averse that I always take the safest bet, missing out bigger chances?

Am I still living in the past, complaining that my parents couldn’t get me overseas?

Am I keep on telling myself this and that cannot be done, because the weather is too cold? Then SEAL would tell me that it’s 14F only if I think it’s 14F.

We are told to think outside of the box, but what is the invisible box that is constraining us all the time? Do we actually know? The best is to live without a box to begin with. Then you can break all of the rules and do amazing things because you don’t know that they can’t be done.

I encourage you to also read the book, not just to get entertained, but also to see what are the improvement you are inspired to. After all, you only live once.

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