The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine: Book Overview

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Way of the SEAL" by Mark Divine. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

What is The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine about? What are the main takeaways of the book?

In The Way of the Seal, retired Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine discusses modern work world challenges that resemble a SEAL battlefield. He also provides strategies to identify your values, focus on your goals, embrace uncertainty, and harness your mental strengths.

Read below for a brief overview of The Way of the SEAL.

The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine

In The Way of the SEAL, retired Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine outlines key strategies adapted from his military experience to help business leaders meet and master the challenges of today’s complex, rapidly evolving world of work. The explosion of technology and the ability to exchange information instantly and globally has forever altered the landscape. To successfully navigate change, Divine says leaders must be balanced in mind and body, aligned with their core values, and adopt a forward-driving, flexible, mindset—or perish. 

Divine blends strategies from his 20-year Navy SEAL career with yoga and martial arts to create powerful mind-body training techniques that enable people to become powerful leaders. He’s the best-selling author of Staring Down the Wolf and Unbeatable Mind and founder of six multimillion-dollar businesses, including SEALFIT and Unbeatable. The Way of the SEAL was published in 2013. 

Part 1: Understand the Challenges of the Modern Work World 

Divine says that business leaders must adopt a SEAL mindset to navigate the challenges of the modern work world, which resembles SEALs’ “VUCA” battlefield. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity—characteristics that define today’s business landscape.

Divine says that leaders should handle each element of VUCA the same way SEALs do: 

  • Navigate volatility with a powerful vision and focus on your mission.
  • Surpass uncertainty through attunement to your, and rivals’, thoughts and behaviors.
  • Address complexity by taking in others’ perspectives, considering the bigger picture, adapting a simpler solution, and refocusing your mission.
  • Destroy ambiguity with quick action and necessary risk-taking to achieve your goal.

Part 2: Tap Your Inner Power to Operate at Your Peak

In the first section we discussed how leaders can tackle the VUCA business world like Navy SEALs do. Next we’ll examine four actions you can take to identify and tap your inner strengths, so you can operate at your highest level.

Action 1: Identify Your Core Compass

Divine says that to be an effective leader in a chaotic, evolving work world, you must first connect with your inner compass—the internal force based on your values and goals that guides you. This will prevent you from getting thrown by obstacles that arise and keep you focused so you can operate from your greatest point of strength.

For example, imagine that you’ve been offered a promotion at work but your inner compass hinges on a stable family and home life. The promotion will earn you extra money, but also require that you spend more time at work—including on weekends when you usually watch your kids’ sports games. You decide to turn down the promotion because spending time with your family is more important to you than the extra money from the promotion.)

To identify your inner compass, you have to know what you care most about in life (your values), what fundamentally motivates you, what you feel passionate about, and what an ideal version of yourself looks like. 

Action 2: Focus Intensely On Your Goals

Divine says that to connect with your inner power and be a strong leader, you must focus on your goals with a high level of intensity—what the Navy SEALS call “front sight focus,” or, intensely and narrowly focused like you’re aiming through the front sight of a gun. When you place your whole focus on achieving each small goal in front of you you won’t get distracted by obstacles. This will allow you to stay calm and will give you a sense of accomplishment each time you achieve a goal, increasing your confidence and helping you operate at your best.

Divine says the Navy SEALs used front sight focus to break large tasks into small ones and capture Osama bin Laden. The SEALS didn’t know where to find bin Laden, so instead they found and interviewed smaller targets who could lead them to him. Each person provided information that led to the next—until, eight years later, the SEALS finally located and killed bin Laden.

To focus intensely on your goals, avoid distractions, and overcome obstacles you encounter while trying to achieve your goals, Divine says you have to manage your squirrely mind.

Action 3: Confront Your Fear and Unleash Your Potential

Divine says that to tap your inner power and operate at your peak, you have to step out of your comfort zone and confront your fears. Your comfort zone makes you feel safe but is actually a prison. It allows you to live in a state of fear of the unknown. This makes you reluctant to try new things and prevents you from growing. 

The only way to escape the comfort prison is to seek out and do things you’re scared of. When you push your limits and find you can conquer challenges you didn’t think you could, your understanding of yourself expands—leading to greater confidence and growth.

Completing a terrifying challenge taught an executive who Divine took on a rappelling trip that he could confront and survive his worst fears. Midway down a 100-foot cliff in Mexico, Divine directed the executive—who had a fear of heights—to take things “one step at a time.” But as the executive descended he panicked, flipped upside down, and started screaming for help. Divine shouted at him to stop screaming and focus by closing his eyes and breathing deeply. The executive did as instructed, regained control, and safely reached the ground. 

To step out of your comfort zone and face your fears, Devine says you should welcome new challenges: 

  • Schedule challenges for yourself once a week, month, and year. This will force you out of your comfort zone regularly, making the process less painful and fear-laden.
  • Meet challenges with positive self-talk and a smile. This allows you to assert control in the new situation and reminds you that pain you experience along the way is part of the process of achieving a bigger goal.   
  • Make discipline, drive, and determination a habit. Cultivate discipline to help build habits, drive (the reason why you do things), and determination (your commitment to the action you’re carrying out). This creates a positively reinforcing cycle that supports your ability to continually take on new challenges.  

Action 4: Bolster Your Mental Fortitude

Divine says strong leaders are mentally tougher than everyone else and refuse to give up during life’s most challenging moments. In other words, they have “grit.” This mental toughness comes from honing their ability to: 

  • Manage their physical and emotional response
  • Turn negative self-talk that hampers performance into positives and tap the power of their subconscious
  • Visualize their success

Together, these skills can help you tap your inner power and function at your best. 

Part 3: Lead Effectively in an Unpredictable Work World

In the last section we talked about how to tap and harness your inner power to stay grounded and focused, confront your fears, and bolster your mental fortitude to operate at your peak. In this last section we’ll discuss actions that will help you successfully lead your business and respond to factors beyond your control.

Action 1: Set a Strong, Clear Mission

Divine says that when you start a new business in today’s unpredictable, ever-changing work world, you can mitigate the risk of failure and increase your organization’s resiliency by having a strong, achievable company mission that keeps you and your team focused on your objective. A clear mission makes it easier to determine where to target your resources so you don’t squander them, which helps you lead your business to success.

A strong mission is:

  • Simple and achievable 
  • Important to you and your company
  • A strong fit for your time, resources, and the talents of your team
  • A good return on investment (in other words, the outcome will make the time and money you put in worthwhile)
  • Timed well (new and needed in the market now)
  • Easy to communicate to your team  

Action 2: Embrace and Adapt to Change

Divine says that to successfully lead in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous), business leaders must stay one step ahead of their competitors. To do this, proactively seek out and adapt quickly to change, be confident, and let go of things that don’t work.

The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine: Book Overview

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Mark Divine's "The Way of the SEAL" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Way of the SEAL summary:

  • A former Navy SEAL's strategies to help business leaders
  • A mind-body technique that combines yoga, martial arts, and SEAL training
  • How to bolster and harness your mental fortitude

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.