What do you say to yourself when thinking about quitting―about giving up on the pursuit of your dream? Do conjure up reasons to justify your stopping forward movement?―I have. Does your brain find solace in the notion that your goal wasn’t worth it or was a foolish endeavor?―Mine has. Have you practiced your excuse with friends, seeking validation for settling?―I’ve done that too. Here’s the deal―The only one you answer to is you; and the greatest challenge you’ll face when you’ve given up is how to deal with the regret.

At my first SEAL Team―SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two (SDVT-2)―there was a wooden plaque bolted to the cinder block wall that supported our pull-up bars and two 30-foot ropes. The wood appeared as weathered as driftwood and had these words, not carved, but burned into it:

“Defeat is worse than death; You have to live with defeat.”

I spent many hours looking at that phrase through squinting eyes of pain, wondering if I would make it to the top of the rope climb without using my legs (at the time was weighing 255 pounds―rope climbs were one of the harder exercises for me). I can still see the gray ashen-looking wood with those charred words―I guess you could say they became burned into my brain―as I seemed to be in pain every time I saw that phrase. I was in so much pain at times that I would wonder if I could continue, and that’s when I would shift my focus to the meaning of defeat. Of course, defeat in SEAL Team is not something we discussed, but it was very much something we all feared. It drove us to push ourselves as though our lives depended on each training exercise. There was a time before 9/11 that more SEALs died in training than they did on the battlefield, which arose out of our fear of losing to an enemy. We’re not proud that we lost teammates in training, but we all knew why we were there and what the stakes were then and now.

Know the stakes, and make them high enough.

This might sound overly dramatic, but that intensity is how I approach going after a goal. Sure, death isn’t usually in the picture (even when we climb mountains, we’re not looking for the deadliest route), but what is in the picture are the consequences of not accomplishing the goal. I’ve created a habit that I call “understanding the stakes”―it’s like knowing your “why,” but also weighing both sides of the outcome. You see, our success starts and ends with our belief in ourselves. Success is in our heads, and that’s the battle we must win before we can claim victory over our goal. Knowing the stakes is paramount. If the stakes aren’t high enough―or should I say, if you don’t make the stakes high enough―then when the demons of doubt come knocking, you’ll find yourself bringing a knife to a gunfight of excuses. Know the stakes, and make them high enough that you won’t want to fail―a fate worse than death because you’ll have to live with your failure.

Remember, it’s not over until you decide it’s over.

This life is up to you, and what you do with the time and energy you have is your call―no one else’s. You decide what you’re willing sacrifice to find success; you decide how hard you’re willing to push yourself; you decide what your limits are; and, most importantly, you decide which regrets in life you’re going to live with. Go All in, everyday, and I promise that you’ll Move forward. Progress can be elusive, like climbing that rope in SEAL Team, when your brain is screaming at you to stop; but heed that whispering voice in your heart that says, “Keeping going―it’s worth it―we got this.”

And you do―you will succeed.

Alpha Mike―Alden

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