There are so many resources on leadership available, yet as a culture we still produce so many questionable leaders. From our day to day work lives to high level politicians, business people, media personalities and sporting stars there are countless examples of things going awry.
Because the secret lies in the doing not just the knowing. It is easy to stand up and tout the latest leadership buzzwords but it is another thing entirely to live them. To model what you speak and embody them in your everyday conduct.
Having spent almost 20 years of my military career in small teams from both the Special Forces and infantry combat units, I have been privileged to learn the non-negotiable skills of leadership from the best.
Combat, and I mean combat, as in the place where you can get killed by an enemy, is one of those complex, difficult environments where bad leaders won’t last. Their teams won’t unite, their orders won’t be followed and they won’t get results.
It’s challenging in the modern military to make young men risk their life fighting, to believe so strongly in a cause that they will suffer for it; so good leaders learn they must lead from the front.
So what is it that a frontline leader does differently?
1. Be Authentic
It’s number one for a reason. Before you start to lead and look after others you must know who you are, what you stand for and what you believe in. When you are really ready to lead, it will be because you know yourself intimately, your own personal strengths and weaknesses. There is no place for ego. You possess a genuine humility with the ability to take full ownership of decisions and results.
2. Build Trust
You exist to serve the team. When you realise that leadership is the privilege you have been given, you will make protecting the team and building its strength important to you. Know your team’s personalities and have their best interest at heart. Do these things and the team will see you as their leader without you telling them you are. Trust will occur naturally, and your influence will grow.
3. Gain Experience
Be competent at the roles, tasks and jobs of the members of your team. Strive to learn every aspect of your team’s area of expertise. Be professional and remember that complacency kills. Do the small things well.
4. Create a Shared Culture
Everything is shared. The values, purpose, objectives and outcomes. Members of a high performing team see themselves as a lot more than just a team. They will see their team as a family, cohort or tribe. When your team feel like they belong to a family, they will sacrifice for each other. The collective goal of the team becomes more important than the individual and as a result the team will prosper.
5. Display Personal Courage
This one is simple but far from natural or easy. Set the example and lead from the front. Once you have your plan implement it and “run into the breach” as they say. Your team will follow. Do what I do, not what I say. Be brave and take ownership of the team’s mistakes while giving them the credit for their successes.
6. Be Comfortable in Chaos
It is imperative for a leader to remain calm, especially when things don’t go to plan. Your team will look to you in adversity and it will be up to you to steer them out of trouble. Be flexible and work on your adaptability. It is the ability to prioritise and execute that will see your team succeed. Remaining calm will allow you to see the opportunities in unseemingly challenging situations and use them to your advantage.
7. Keep it Simple
Complexity is inherent in any situation, but overcomplicated plans lead to ambiguity which leads to things going wrong. Simplicity is crucial to success. Break everything down to the lowest common denominator and ensure every member of your team understands and is fully on board with the common why.
8. Continuous Improvement
Don’t rest on your laurels. Just because it worked or was the best way in the past doesn’t mean it will work or be the best way now or in the future. Never stop learning. Be open to new ideas. Evaluate every success, and more importantly, every failure, and use these to create better plans moving forward.
A frontline combat leader operates in a harsh and unforgiving environment, an environment where it would be easy to simply preach authority. But true leadership does not demand, it inspires. Create a shared purpose and build the right culture around it and your team will follow.
“I’m too busy” has become the catchphrase of our modern age. Everyone is endlessly pushing, hustling and grinding and busy is now worn like a badge of honour. Whatever the dream, goal, task, “I’m too busy” is now the go-to reason for inaction. But is it really a reason or just an excuse?
We all have the same 24 hours in every day. The key is in how we choose to use it. Somewhere along the line of adulthood we seem to stop doing what we want to do in favour of what we ‘have to’ do. Gambling on the illusion that our future is somehow guaranteed, we wait, we defer, we trade now for later. Unfortunately though, later rarely comes and that thing we want to do, no matter how long we wait, never happens.
Although time is limited, it is extremely elastic and will stretch to accommodate whatever you choose to put into it. Have you noticed that every time you encounter an unexpected hurdle, a flat battery, computer malfunction, no internet access, that you somehow manage to find the time to deal with it. In these situations, the opportunity cost (what you give up) is perceived as high so instantly they move up the priority list. Why is it then we do not value our own desires and dreams just as highly?
Life is not a dress rehearsal. There are no do-over’s or second chances. So instead of just piling more ‘have to’ tasks on your never ending to-do list, take control and make you a priority. If you are overextended, this is a position you’ve choosen to be in. Everything currently occupying your time you have at some point said yes to. Step back and reassess what is important. Are you designing a life you want to live or is your life designing you?
Once you get clear on your priorities, it is amazing how much time you will find to do the things that make you feel alive. We are exchanging life for everything we do. You want to make sure you are exchanging it for things that truly matter.
Time or perceived lack of it, is not the issue. Time is simply an excuse, an avoidance technique to keep you from taking charge and changing your reality. Stop thinking about what you don’t want and start thinking about what you do. One of life’s major purposes is fulfillment so don’t be content to just let it pass you by. That book you want to write, mountain you want to climb, weight you want to lose, job you want to change, adventure you want to have…. it’s not a matter of “is there time?” but rather “is there time not to?”
The past has passed and the future is yet to arrive so embrace the only time we ever have.. right now!
The tragedy of life is not that we only have a short time on the earth. The tragedy is wasting it.
At Point Assist we believe every person should have at least one life changing adventure/in filling life with adventures not stuff. Travel is so much more than bus tours, shopping malls and sun lounges by the 5 star pool. Travel is experience and adventure. It is learning and growth. It is opening your mind and exploring the unknown. When you book a package holiday you sign on to other people’s agenda. You travel when, where and how someone else decides. You invest your money, take time off work, organise someone to look after your pets, all just to give up the very thing you are seeking….freedom! If you can’t stop to take a photo when you see something amazing, you’re on the wrong trip.
Being outside your comfort zone is where you truly meet adventure. The true depth, vibrance and culture of a destination rarely presents itself on the well-worn tourist path. It is when you go where the locals go and do what the locals do you discover the true heart of your destination. Experiencing a meal with a family in a village, visiting a local industry, travelling to a remote area untouched by tourists…these are the moments you remember long after you finished your last cocktail at the resort bar. They are the things that change you, that challenge your perceptions and beliefs about life and just generally give you the reminder that life is so much more than the narrow constructs within which we live day to day. So next time you travel, take control of your adventure and make it authentic. Experience the things that interest you not those that someone else deems worthy. When it comes to travel, a little risk offers the greatest reward. When all is said and done life is nothing more than a series of moments and if you miss the moments you miss life.
What moments would you love to experience? From the mountains of Tasmania to the jungles of Cambodia and the deserts of Mongolia, at Point Assist we specialise in unique adventure travel and tailoring your trip just for you! Whatever you can dream, you can do. Contact us to find out how!
In the lead up to your overseas travel its easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all and focus only on all the awesome things you are planning on seeing and doing. But a few well spent minutes of preparation can save hours of headaches and expense during or after your trip.
So before your next overseas adventure, follow our preparation checklist for hassle free travel:
It’s easy to consider the planning phase overkill and cut corners but getting caught out unexpectedly is a situation no one wants to find themselves in. The better prepared you are the safer and more enjoyable your travel will be…. the best trips are the ones where all your preparation seemed unnecessary.
Reading our last two posts, hopefully you’re thinking a little more about where you operate. Or maybe you’re thinking ‘It’s easy for him to say…..’ Well, yes. It does sounds easy, doesn’t it? But you know that things are never that straightforward. We all have fears and weaknesses. It’s not about being devoid of them, but rather, about showing up in spite of them. It’s a choice we make.
And it is always easier to talk about something than to take action. But people who know me also know that I believe that actions speak louder than words. I don’t like just hearing about places; I want to see them for myself. I don’t want to know how many reps you’ve done, how far you’ve run, how many books you’ve read or mountains you’ve climbed in the past, I want to know what’s next. And I don’t want to tell you about what I’ve done – time spent talking is time better spent living life. And, for me, that means operating in the red zone and challenging myself every day.
The good news is that this isn’t limited to me. You too can learn to ignore those little voices, develop your operator within, and use discomfort and fear as motivation to succeed. This is where we come in.
Thanks to our background and training, we are uniquely placed to assist you in reaching your goals. These may be physical; to build muscle, run a marathon, complete 10 push-ups. Or they may be mental; to become a better leader or manager, to become more self-disciplined or confident. Either way, the process is the same.
Start small but make a definite move into your red zone. Do something you have never done or take an activity you already love further. It is natural to have hesitation when stepping into unchartered waters. What you need to know is you are not unique. Everyone does. The key is not letting those doubts and fears control the process or the outcome.
Look at your tribe. The cohort you train with, work with or play with. Are their behaviours, attitudes and habits helping you or holding you back? Do they inspire you to grow? If their skill and proficiency exceeds yours, then good. It will force you to step up. They say you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, so your tribe matters. Surround yourself with people that can teach and push you beyond your limits.
Lastly and critically, is taking action. Everyone talks, but not everyone does. The experience is in the doing, not the knowing. So whatever it is, just start. Begin taking steps towards your goals, no matter how small. One step leads to another and another and with each step you learn. Your experience and confidence expand, and with it, the boundaries of your red and green zones change. You have grown. You have strengthened the operator within, the only person with which you ever truly compete.
Stay tuned for the launch of our upcoming program, Point Tactics. These one and two-day training events focus on harnessing and strengthening both mind and body. Open to everyone, regardless of fitness level, age or goals, you will explore your true potential as we equip you with the key skills and techniques we know lead to success. To move beyond the confines of comfort and go confidently after what you want in life.
Whatever avenue I choose, I want to be the very best. And the very best may not be “I’m Number One”. The very best may be “Did I leave everything inside me out there?” . . . The best is . . . I’m running against myself in everything I do.”
If you’re reading this, you probably know a little about my background as an Special Forces soldier. Many people assume that most of what I’ve achieved is beyond their capacity. But over time, I’ve learned three things. First, most people have an imperfect understanding of what they are capable of, which is always much more than they think. Second, mindset matters, perhaps much more than actual capability. The ability to ‘back yourself’ and not be deterred by obstacles or failure, for failure is only a matter of perception. And third, we are all travelling our own journey. So comparisons with other people don’t make sense. In our last blog, we talked about the importance of thinking about where we operate in our daily lives. Are you firmly in the green zone? Or is the red zone your playground?
This question was brought home to me when I stumbled across David Goggins in a YouTube Video. This is, without a doubt, a man who lives firmly in the red zone. Growing up disadvantaged and bullied, he learned at an early age to turn inwards for drive and strength. He remains the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to have completed Navy SEAL, U.S. Army Ranger School and Air Force Tactical Controller training. Since leaving the military, he has taken up ultra-marathon running and ultra-distance cycling. All of this is extraordinary in itself, but what sets Goggins apart, and caught my attention, is not Goggin’s obvious physical capacity but his specific attitude towards life.
Goggins has built his life around a recognition that the only person who truly matters is yourself. That, when you look in the mirror, the person looking back at you is the only one who can see inside and knows whether you’ve given it all. The only person you cannot lie to, and who can tell if you’ve taken the easy way out. And, what I know myself, is that the easy way out, the short-cut, the stopping when it hurts, are all choices which are ultimately unproductive. So Goggins has chosen, consistently, the “path of most resistance.” The more difficult option, the struggle, the challenging and the painful, choices which have enabled him to surpass, and then far exceed, the limitations others have attempted to set for him, and the limitations others have set for themselves.
This too is how I’ve approached my own life. When someone told me I couldn’t do something, I told myself I could. And then I did. But what sets me, and Goggins, and my former comrades apart, is one simple thing. We are willing to spend time with the operator within.
This operator within is the person you see in the mirror whose eyes you can’t quite meet when you’ve done something you’re ashamed of, when you’ve quit too easily, or given up too soon. It’s also the voice in your head which, when you’re pushing yourself as hard as you can and it starts hurting, tells you to turn inwards and keep on bearing down. And the more time you spend with that person, the more you realise that the physical pain isn’t really the problem. It’s the mind games you play with yourself. The excuses, the little voices of fear that say that you should stop, take the easy way out, do it tomorrow, or not take the risk because you might fail, get hurt, or rejected. So you can ignore the operator inside. So you can just walk away. And maybe you do. Or maybe, you shrug, bite down on the pain and the fear and just get on with it.
When you’ve learned to do that, and to take the pain and discomfort and use them as a motivation to spur you onwards, then you are operating in the red zone. It is only through challenge that you grow. And you are only challenged in the red zone.
We noted previously how easy it is to avoid the red zone in daily life but without risk there is no reward. Interested in challenging yourself, and equipping yourself for success? We have a few ideas for you. Stay tuned for our next blog.
One of the defining features of military life is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. At times it seems as if decisions are being made and orders given for the sole purpose of increasing discomfort and making things more unpleasant. The reality however, is that being constantly pushed beyond our comfort zones and having to deal with pain, fatigue, fear and loss of control was exactly what tempered our capacity to achieve beyond perceived limitations.
These lessons are not easily forgotten. In every situation we continued to seek opportunities to push ourselves, to challenge ourselves. Because it is through challenge that we grow. And if we begin to forget those lessons, to remind ourselves, we remember our heritage.
Serving in the military, you became very familiar with operating in two distinct zones. The ‘green zone’ is safe and secure. In this zone everything runs smoothly and there are no issues. A relaxed place where you practice and prepare for active duty.
But when you deploy, you do so in the red zone.
Operating in the red zone is different. You are alert, aware that this is where your opponents also operate. A place of consequence where your actions can get you hurt, or killed. The red zone is where you execute and challenge yourself. Where you put all of your practice and preparation to the test, and find out if you measure up.
Civilian life is, by any measure, vastly different. Most people here seem to live eternally in the green zone. It is a comfortable existence, working in a predictable, familiar environment. But how much does it challenge you? When was the last time you did something that truly scared you? That you took a risk and operated in the red zone?
The red zone doesn’t always mean being involved in trench clearing operations, defusing IED’s or breaking down doors. The red zone is the place you operate in when you are confronted by something which scares you, hurts you or attempts to incapacitate you emotionally, physically or socially. A good operator will have prepared for this through ongoing training and continued exposure to the red zone. To get comfortable with the pain in order to get used to it. So when you train, or practice, or prepare for life, you need to be working in a zone which on some level makes you uncomfortable. For it is only through challenge that you grow.
When you are in the red zone, pushing your limits and going to exhaustion, you are learning that being uncomfortable is transient. But it tempers you, and makes you stronger and more resilient. So that the next time you can go a little bit further, then a little bit further again. The red zone remains a place of challenge, but it is a place where the challenge is something to be overcome, not an insurmountable obstacle.
In the next blog, we discuss what a life lived in the red zone looks like. In the meantime, take some time to reflect and ask yourself, when did you last operate in the red zone? And what’s holding you back?
I spend the next 15 minutes processing just how unsettling accurate this statement is likely to be. My mind fights with me, questioning my ability and worthiness to even be on this mountain, attempting this climb. All the reasons to quit now start rushing into my mind. Luckily, I realise this response as fear, my body’s primal response to push me back to safety. So, with a deep breath, I summon every bit of courage I have and stare that peak down. Something in me shifts. My fear is replaced with belief and determination and I soon settle into a steady, comfy pace and enjoy the beauty of my surrounds.
An hour or so later comes challenge number two. Injury. What began as a dull ache in my butt swiftly turns to a burning sensation down the whole front of my hip and thigh. This is the very pain that has been wiping the floor with me in the months leading up to the climb. I knew this would happen, but nowhere near this early in the piece. Once again my mind starts chattering, questioning my ability to endure the pain for such a large portion of the climb. But, like it or not, the pain is here. I cannot control it, only my responses to it.
So I let these thoughts pass and instead focus on employing the strategies I have developed to deal with this obstacle. I’ve trained my body in different ways of walking to shift weight distribution and alleviate discomfort and I’ve trained my mind with walking meditation to manage the pain. A short break and some food revitalise me and once again I get over the hump and find my rhythm.
Scenery, sunshine, fresh air, movement… its Sam nirvana! This is exactly how I imagined this experience to be. I’m in my zone, that sweet spot where reality matches expectations. The mountain; however, has other things in store. Before I know it my nice little walking track and wilderness vegetation is swiftly replaced with a near horizontal gradient and nothing but rocks all the way to the summit. Its decision time. Either I fold or go all in. Refusing to waste the opportunity before me, I say goodbye to hiking and hello to my rock climbing debut.
There is no doubt I am out of my comfort zone, but I take each step in my stride. My pace slows but my determination does not. It’s tough, but manageable. But once again, the mountain is a harsh teacher. Before long, the gradient gets steeper, the rocks larger and the climbing harder. At times I am literally clinging to the side of this mountain. My focus narrows as adrenalin begins to flow through my body. I concentrate on one rock at a time, but my lack of skill is becoming evident and we are now fighting against daylight as well as my capability to reach the summit before dark.
My guide stops me and goes ahead to assess. Returning without his pack I am hopeful we are close to the top. That he has left his pack at the summit and will take mine to allow me to make the rest of the journey easier. But with one look at his face I can tell the reality of the situation is very different.
“Sam, I’m concerned. What lies ahead is increasingly more difficult and I’m not sure it’s within your capability. Your safety is now my primary concern.”
Even now I think: “What?.. No way, I’ve got this”. But as my guide, I know his judgement is more sound than my own. No further words are spoken. I know the decision has been made and ultimately it is the right one.
Failure, disappointment, regret and exhaustion flood my body and I begin to cry. The feelings are overwhelming and for a moment I can’t move. The minute I take a step back down that mountain I have been defeated. Even now, my will is still fighting my capability.
“I’ve failed” is all I can utter. “Are you kidding me?” he retorts. “Today you’ve done things you’ve never done or thought possible for yourself. How is that failing? If you define success on a mountain as simply reaching the summit, you’re missing the point. It is the journey, not the destination that makes you great. It is with each step that you grow, learn and demonstrate what you are made of.”
As I lay in the tent that night my disappointment is replaced with pride. Did I reach the top, no. Did I give it absolutely everything I had, yes. I came for a life changing experience and that is exactly what I got. I learned so much more about myself than had I simply waltzed up an easier mountain just to see a sunset.
On the day the mountain turned out to be too great for me. But I will gladly pay the cost. In defeat I learned humility, self-awareness and what I need to do to improve and better position myself for success in the future.
So next time you are faced with a challenge, don’t run. Instead, be brave. Lean into your fear and grow. Nothing worth doing comes easy. If you want to be your best self, you need to stretch and in stretching, you must change your relationship with failure. It is not something to be feared but something to be encouraged. Understand and accept that on the path to success you will fail, (possibly many times), but it is with these experiences you will find the exact lessons you need to take you to the next level.
“I will come again and I will conquer you because as a mountain you can’t grow.
But as a human, I can”
– Sir Edmund Hillary
The New Year period can be a potential flash point for difficulties and obstacles that can make your goals seem unattainable. However, while you can’t always control when and where your resilience might be tested; you can have your mindset and skills ready to assist you in overcoming the resistance you may face on the way towards your objective.
Here are a few techniques to employ next time you feel mission success is compromised: