10 Navy SEAL Sayings That Will Help You Lead a Kick-Ass Life
Life is a battle. At least, for most people.
Sure, there are some individuals out there who were born into good fortune and privilege. And it would be easy to look at them and conclude that everything in their life comes easy to them.
In some areas, perhaps it does. Maybe even most areas.
But not all.
It would be a very rare individual who never had to struggle for a single thing in their life.
For the vast majority of us, success isn’t just handed to us. It’s earned.
We have to work for it. And fight for it.
In other words, to get anywhere, we need to be life warriors.
Of course, we all want our life to be as successful and meaningful as possible. And that being the case, we can probably learn a thing or two about achieving our life goals from other skilled warriors who have proven themselves in their own battles.
As far as military warriors go, the US Navy SEALs are pretty much at the pinnacle of their craft. They deal with some of the toughest training and the most dangerous and difficult missions in existence.
So it would be fairly safe to say that they know a thing or two about winning a tough fight.
It’s no surprise, then, that over the years the SEALs have given birth to a number of very wise sayings that capture their philosophies on succeeding in battle.
Wise, because they’re bred out of the harsh lessons learned by these elite warriors, both in training and in war.
Below are 10 such sayings.
These can be invaluable in helping to guide your mindset, your attitude and your focus in your own life battles, to achieve your own highest possible level of elite success.
1. “The only easy day was yesterday”
This is probably the best-known of all the SEAL sayings.
It’s actually etched above the grinder in the BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training compound in Coronado, California.
The saying is a reminder that when you’re striving for success and constantly pushing yourself to be better and better, each new day brings its own new level of challenges. Things never get easier, they just get harder.
And you need to be ready for them. That’s the take-home message.
You can’t ever be complacent or rest on your laurels. You can’t take it easy after achieving some measure of success.
You must keep grinding and moving forward.
But there’s another side to this saying as well.
The fact is, everything is tough the first time you do it.
But as tough as each day is, once you battle through it and overcome all of its hurdles, you emerge stronger and more capable. And when you do, you’ve earned yourself the right to look back and say that it was easy.
You’re a different person, with a different perspective.
Yesterday threw something at you that you now know you can deal with and overcome.
Been there, done that.
It’s time to move on to tougher challenges today.
2. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable”
One very important aspect of SEAL training is learning to deal with discomfort.
The trainees are made to endure hours sitting in the icy-cold Pacific Ocean to the point of hypothermia, and are forced to carry out their training cycles constantly wet and sandy. They’re kept in a perpetual state of discomfort.
History has taught the SEALs that developing strength and fighting skills is all well and good, but developing the ability to operate in environments and situations that make them uncomfortable and miserable is crucial to their ability to succeed.
It’s the same in everyday life.
Regardless of what goal you’re pursuing in your life, you won’t get anywhere if you avoid the tough and uncomfortable tasks and only focus on the easy ones. That’s no way to ever achieve success or move forward.
Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy ass weights.
There’s no surer way to disappointment and mediocrity than avoiding discomfort and limiting yourself only to your comfort zone.
Instead, you need to accept and embrace discomfort. You need to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and constantly expand your comfort zone if you want to enjoy any success.
As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.
There are also times in life when finding the will or the energy to keep going is difficult. For example, you may have lost your job, suffered a painful relationship breakup, or experienced some other personal disappointment.
At those times it’s important to be able to keep pursuing your goals and doing what needs to be done, even if you have other things on your mind. Even if you don’t feel like it.
Life won’t wait until everything is just right for you.
Sometimes you won’t be 100% in the game, but you just have to keep fighting regardless, regardless of your internal misery.
3. “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying”
The Navy SEALs know from experience that sometimes, you just can’t get the job done by playing within the rules. When failure isn’t an option, you need to do whatever it takes to complete your mission, and if that means crossing the line then so be it.
There’s an old expression:
You’ll never know your limits until you push yourself to them.
Cheating is basically the act of skirting with limits and going past them. It’s an indication that you’re willing to go there and beyond to reach your objective. That you’re trying as hard as you possibly can.
That’s what this saying means.
If you’re not cheating, you’re not testing and exceeding limits, which means you could be trying harder.
Cheating doesn’t have to only refer to rules and laws, however. It can also refer to conventions and expected norms.
Whenever you break from convention, whenever you think outside the box and come up with crazy solutions to problems through creative, lateral thinking, this is often also seen as cheating by many people.
Extraordinarily successful business people do this on a regular basis, while mediocre ones idly look on and complain that what they’ve done isn’t fair.
Life isn’t fair.
It was never ‘meant to be.
If you want to reach lofty goals in your life, don’t allow yourself to be bound by rules that society sets for you. Push past them and make your own. Just be clever about how you go about it to avoid getting caught out.
4. “Don’t run to your death”
To Navy SEALs, the advice from this saying is taken literally.
In their world, when raiding dangerous enemy targets there’s no room for impulsiveness or recklessness. A calm, level-headed and methodical approach is the order of the day, to ensure that no one loses their life.
Although you may never find yourself facing such a life-or-death situation, the advice is just as valid.
Basically, what this is saying is to think before acting on anything important.
Before making any big decision or taking any important action, ensure that your mind is clear first, that you’ve armed yourself with all the information possible, and that you have a well thought-out plan before moving forward.
It’s also important never to make an important decision when you’re in an emotional state.
Emotions make you impulsive. And impulsive decisions often lead you to doing or saying things that you later regret. Things that usually can’t be reversed.
Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.
So whenever you’re faced with an important decision in your life that relates to business, finance, relationships, health, and so on, don’t just lumber in. Have a plan. Be methodical.
Slow and steady wins the race.
5. “It pays to be a winner”
In BUD/S training, failure to complete tasks satisfactorily and/or on time is generally met with a punishment of some type. Normally it’s an additional tough task, or simply being forced to do the original task again, right away. Even in an exhausted state.
This approach is designed to forge mental toughness and instill in the trainees a single-minded focus on successfully achieving their objectives, no matter what.
The saying, “It pays to be a winner”, was born among the SEALs from the lesson learned in training that it’s always in one’s best interests to get a task done right the first time. Failing to do so only means having to face even more difficulty, so it’s never going to get easier.
The same is true in everyday life.
It always pays to do your utmost to successfully complete every task that comes your way. Don’t be complacent, even about the little things. Because even small failures will make your path to success so much more difficult.
Have a success-oriented focus and fight doggedly for every small victory. Each one matters.
Success in life is a battle of attrition, and the battle will be far more achievable by refusing to accept small, avoidable failures along the way.
6. “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”
This saying didn’t actually originate with the Navy SEALs, but rather it was paraphrased over time from a quote by Helmuth von Moltke, a German field marshal who lived in the 1800s.
It essentially states that no matter how well you formulate a plan of action, once you put it to work in the real world things change. Unexpected surprises pop up, and you’re forced to deviate from it.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever make plans. Planning is a vital element of success in any area of life. But a good plan needs to allow for contingencies. Life never goes exactly the way you expect it to.
You need to be flexible and you need to have the ability to flow and adapt according to circumstances. That’s why preparation and personal development and improvement are just as important as your plan.
Once your plan is in place, think about all the things that can go wrong, and be ready for them. Then also prepare for things to happen that you haven’t even thought of, by developing your life skills and core personal qualities.
Champion boxer Mike Tyson once coined a phase that’s quite similar to this saying:
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.
This emphasizes the fact that sometimes life can really rattle you, to the point where you forget about your plan altogether and abandon it.
No matter what life throws at you, you need to develop the ability to keep your eye on the prize and keep fighting for your goals.
7. “If you’re gonna be stupid, you better be hard”
In all aspects of life, stupid mistakes rarely go unpunished. The consequences can vary from relatively minor to very severe, but they’re always unfavorable.
To the SEALs, this saying highlights the fact that if you’re going to make stupid mistakes, then you had better be physically prepared to face the consequences. No doubt this refers to mistakes in training, because in combat the consequences are usually life-threatening and not just physically punishing.
In normal life, the consequences of stupid mistakes are varied.
They can be physical, mental, emotional, or a combination of all three. You can become financially ruined, you can lose your freedom, you can destroy relationships and/or your reputation, you can lose your health, and so on.
And the lesson is that if you’re going to be careless or reckless enough to be making stupid mistakes in your life, you need to prepare yourself for the inevitable fallout.
There’s a very old but wise saying that’s closely related to this:
Work smarter, not harder.
At the end of the day, you have two options on how to approach your life.
You can be smart, collect all the information you need and think things through before making sound decisions and acting as prudently as possible. Or you can be stupid. You can be haphazard, careless and reckless in the way you approach situations.
If you choose the latter, you need to prepare yourself for a life that will be harder and more painful than it otherwise needs to be.
8. “All in, all the time”
Being all in, all the time means that whatever you happen to be doing, you’re giving it everything you have, all the time.
When they’re on the job, Navy SEALs don’t have the luxury of thinking about what they’ll be doing on the weekend, what they’ll be having for dinner, how many months it will be before they return home, or anything else that’s unrelated to their mission.
To focus less than 100% on their task can often cost them their life.
If huge success in life is of importance to you, then it’s necessary for you to adopt this same “all-in” mindset.
When you’re working on an important task, give it your maximum effort and your undivided attention. Don’t let distractions like what’s on TV or friends calling to invite you to drinks deviate you from your objective.
Of course, you need time in your life for rest and relaxation, after all, balance is important. But there’s a time for work and a time for play.
And when that work time involves something that’s important to your future, you need to be all in.
We all have to face important, challenging tasks in life. Things such as completing a big work project, leading a team, bringing up children, training for a competition, and so on. And to succeed in these, it has to be all or nothing.
Being half-hearted or putting in a mediocre performance just isn’t good enough.
But notice how this saying says, “all the time”?
Is it really necessary to be “on” all the time? Isn’t it acceptable to take it easy sometimes, when you can get away with it?
Well, that depends on you. And on how high your ambitions are.
Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.
The fact is, everything you do in life is important. It all matters.
Sometimes you can be doing something you consider to be menial and unimportant. It can be cleaning a bathroom, collecting trash, or picking up litter, for example.
The thing is, when you perform even the most menial of tasks to the very best of your abilities, people notice. This is how opportunities are created.
There’s no shortage of stories about people who started off as janitors and cleaners in a company, and climbed their way up to upper management.
This is how being all in, all the time creates success from nothing.
9. “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat”
This saying emphasizes the importance of being prepared.
Part of what makes the Navy SEALs such an elite fighting force is that they simply train harder and longer than their adversaries.
And their training is constantly ongoing. If they’re not on a mission, they’re most likely training.
Essentially what this saying is stating is that the harder and more diligently you prepare and train for something, the easier you’ll find it.
This is a universal truth in all areas of life. The more effort you put into your training and preparation, the less you will suffer down the line.
Train hard, fight easy.
This sentiment is also very well-known in combat sports.
Whatever it is in your life that you’re aiming to succeed or excel in, always remember that preparation in the way of practice or training is crucial. It makes all the difference.
Success rarely just falls into your lap. It’s almost always earned.
10. “I am never out of the fight”
This saying is actually a part of the Navy SEAL creed, and its meaning is very simple – never quit.
No matter how tough the challenge, how grueling the road ahead, how steep the odds, or how unlikely the outcome, never stop fighting.
History is littered with unlikely success stories and stories of people who kept going the face of consistent failures, only to finally find success.
No doubt you’ve heard of some yourself.
For example, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before finally succeeding. Colonel Sanders was rejected 1,009 times before finally finding a restaurant owner who agreed to use his chicken recipe.
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Quitting is the one sure road to failure.
On the other hand, never giving up is the one sure road to success. You won’t always know when it will happen or what it’s going to take to get there, but as these two examples show, if you simply persist, it’s inevitable.
And besides, the more you had to sacrifice to achieve your success, the sweeter it is.