In America, less than 1 percent of the population serves in the Armed Forces.
Of this relatively small group of heroic men and women, even fewer qualify to join the ranks of Special Forces groups such as the Navy SEALS, the Army Rangers, the Marine Raider Regiment and Air Force Special Operations teams.
While I’m part of the 99 percent who have never served in the U.S. Military, I’ve always had a deep respect for those who do. And more recently, I’ve become particularly fascinated by the military elite.
I’ve found that the elite, the best of the best, are different. They think differently. They act differently. They achieve different results.
And having coached sales professionals for nearly two decades and interviewed hundreds of high-performing sales leaders, I started to see connections between the elite of the sales and military worlds.
As I dug further, I realized that becoming one of the elite is largely about the decisions you make every day. And while the majority of my research focused on how sales professionals could apply these lessons, I believe any business leader can take a few tips from the military elite.
Here’s how you can develop the mindsets and habits of our military heroes and become a White Collar Warrior.
The Mindset of the Elite
Army Ranger Captain Chad Fleming (retired) has faced fear head-on.
Early in his first deployment to Iraq, his unit was attacked with a barrage of grenades, and he suffered injuries that eventually led to the loss of one of his legs.
“When the grenade detonated one foot away from me and I sustained major damage to my leg, my only thought was, ‘Am I going to die?’” he recalls.
To keep himself alive during the attack, Chad relied on his training and his commitment to not let his fellow soldiers down. He went on to do five more deployments with one leg missing, earning two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts.
Chad has learned that fear can cause a physical shutdown — vision narrows, the heart races, and you lose all rational thought processes — or you can learn to channel it and focus it in the right direction.
“Lives depend on your leadership in these moments,” he says. “Fear can be the ultimate smack in the face.”
Like Captain Chad Fleming, the military elite are masters of harnessing their fear, failure and motivation and using them to achieve the results they want.
These warriors know fear is an essential and useful part of their job — one that can either paralyze them or propel them forward. They see failure as an opportunity to reevaluate and grow. They’re driven by something bigger than themselves, and it motivates them to keep going through tough times.
Sales professionals face a variety of challenges in the field, whether it’s losing a deal or a referral relationship, encountering objections, going through dry spells or dealing with the fear of rejection. But White Collar Warriors know how to harness their fear, failure and motivation to develop the right mindset for growth.
You can take the following steps to start mastering your mindset today.
‣ Tackle your fear head-on: Fear isn’t the enemy — it’s a friend. By learning to work through your fear, you can unlock your potential and learn to work calmly and courageously through even the most difficult circumstances. Take a moment to recall how you’ve overcome fears in the past. What takeaways from those experiences can you apply to the fears you’re facing in your work? Consider the best-case and worst-case scenarios that could play out if you were to face your fears head-on. What’s the most likely outcome, and how could you bounce back from the worst-case scenario?
‣ Hold a mission debriefing: No one sets out to fail, but failure comes with the territory, and the best of the best learn from failure and use it to fuel future growth. In the military, they hold a mission debriefing, or after-action review, after each mission to determine what went right, what went wrong and where improvements can be made. You can mimic this process after each “mission” you tackle, such as a prospecting phone call or a new strategy to expand your market share. On a sheet of paper, reflect on the goal of your mission, summarize how it went down — the good and the bad — and consider what you can improve and what you can’t control. Write down what you learned and what systems you’d like to implement next time to achieve a successful outcome.
‣ Know your “why”: When you know why you do what you do, motivation comes naturally. It drives you on in spite of resistance, and it equips you to fight for yourself and those you care about most. If you want to stay motivated through the good days and the bad days, you need a Life Plan and a Business Vision to clarify your purpose and make sure it connects to your actions. Having a clear picture of the future you want will help you push through your struggles today. So schedule a day to craft your Life Plan and Business Vision.
The Habits of the Elite
For more than fifteen years, the best and the brightest analytical and military minds searched for Osama bin Laden.
They turned over every stone until they tracked him down. When they found out where he was hiding, they didn’t rush in. They took their time. They gathered intelligence about his habits, his schedule, his routine, and his surroundings.
They created a mock-up of his compound and rehearsed the takedown until it became second nature. They had backups and contingency plans should something go awry.
When the time came to execute the mission, its success was a foregone conclusion, because they had prepared for every eventuality.
The military elite don’t achieve success overnight. They put themselves through rigorous training. They implement daily disciplines to push toward the results they want. They create a well-defined plan to position themselves for mission success.
Many leaders say they want success, but few are willing to do commit the training, planning and discipline to make it happen.
The reality is that if you’re not moving forward in your business, then you’re regressing. By implementing some key habits of the military elite, you can ensure that you’re moving forward and getting closer to your goals.
Here are a few actions you can take to develop the right habits to move your business forward.
‣ Pursue training opportunities: For the military elite, what separates success from failure is training. Day in and day out, that’s what they do. And so it must be with you. Take some time to think about what situations you tend to avoid. Likely, you’re avoiding them because of a lack of training. So what professional training options could you pursue to develop your skills in those areas? Could you read a book, take a class or hire a coach? Schedule time in your calendar this week to research training options, and then commit to at least one of them.
‣ Establish a morning routine: Every successful professional I know has a morning routine. It’s like a signal to your brain that lets it know it’s time to begin. You could start your day with meditation, reading, journaling, exercise, a healthy breakfast or time with your family — whatever it is that helps you set your day up for success for the rest of the day. The important thing is to find a morning routine that works for you and stick with it.
‣ Create a Simple Business Plan: Whatever your mission, it’s doomed to fail without a plan. So commit to spending an afternoon sketching out a plan for your business. With a simple, visual reminder of your desired outcomes, your deadlines and the daily disciplines that will get you there, you’ll be better equipped to stay focused on the big picture and stay out of the weeds. Use the Simple Business Plan guide to get started.
Become the Elite in Your Industry
You know what it takes to become a White Collar Warrior.
You’ve discovered that it means embracing fear, pushing past failure and finding a sense of purpose that will keep you going no matter what.
You’ve learned that it requires tireless training, a well-defined plan and the discipline to get it done.
Now, it’s time to conquer your fear, capture your potential and become the elite in your industry.
You have what it takes to succeed. So lean in and get started today.
Learn More About ‘White Collar Warrior’
Coach Bill Hart’s first book, “White Collar Warrior: Lessons for Sales Professionals from America’s Military Elite,” is out now.
Drawing on exclusive interviews with former members of the U.S. Special Forces and leading sales professionals from a variety of industries, “White Collar Warrior” will show you how to conquer fear, capture potential and become a sales warrior.