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Interview With Mark Divine: Learning From a Trained SEAL

In retirement, Mark Divine has coached thousands of SEAL and other special operations candidates to succeed in some of the most demanding military training programs in the world.

April 8, 2014
Related Topics: Management Skills and Development, Organizational Development, The Latest, Talent Management, Workplace Culture, Training

Mark Divine served as a U.S. Navy SEAL for 20 years. In retirement, he has coached thousands of SEAL and other special operations candidates to succeed in some of the most demanding military training programs in the world. Drawing from these experiences, Divine penned “The Way of the SEAL,” which offers strategies and tactics that teach people to think and lead like Navy SEALs. WorkforceAssociate Editor Max Mihelich recently caught up with Divine in an email interview.

Workforce: What are the similarities between corporate life and military life that make ‘thinking like a SEAL’ valuable to business people?Mark Divine, SEAL

Mark Divine: The similarities exist between the way that special operations in the military have been conducted in the last decade, and the way that the corporate world is evolving in the next decade. Special operators have been forced to get and stay on the cutting edge of human performance and advanced technologies. The mindset and training that elite warriors undergo makes them very open to new ways of thinking and working. They try anything to improve their performance and mission success and quickly discard what doesn’t work.

WF: Do you ever receive criticism from people who may feel you’re making an exaggerated comparison between being a service member and a business professional? If so, how would you respond?

Divine: I have never had that critique. In fact, readers of ‘The Way of the SEAL’ have been blown away by the usefulness of the simple training tools and strategies I offer in the book. These tools and strategies have been tested on thousands of special-ops candidates and corporate professionals alike since I began to develop them 10 years ago.

WF: You helped found Coronado Brewing Co. How did your ‘thinking like a SEAL’ method lend itself useful to starting a business?

Divine: I approached starting the microbrewery like I approached any SEAL mission. I studied the industry to develop a deep situational awareness of the competitors, the location and the people I needed to align with for mission success. Then I built a solid mission plan/business plan. I knew from the SEALs how important it is to be able to visualize victory in my mind, so I created a vivid picture of what the successful business looked like — even creating a graphical image of it. I didn’t do everything well, though. In the SEALs I was able to rely on my teammates with my life. But with the brewing company, the selection of my teammates was not done as carefully as the SEALs do it.

WF: Do certain personality types take better to this sort of mentality?

Divine: To some degree, yes. Anyone who is already committed to improving themselves, to seeking new information on how to perform better, and leaders trying to improve their leadership effectiveness immediately find the insights extremely valuable. The integrated training model I offer requires discipline, patience and actual work. It is not a quick fix or a series of simple ‘secrets’ for success. 

WF: Do you find people in certain industries are more receptive to it?

Divine: I have had clients from all industries that were extremely receptive to the ideas and skills that I teach. The principles are universal and as one reader stated, “on time and on target” for today’s business professional. We need new ways of thinking and acting to solve the vast problems we face in the world today. The skills for developing grit, emotional resiliency, intuition, an offensive mindset and a winning attitude have been used by advanced warriors for centuries. Modern day SEALs have simply evolved the skills and I am bringing them to the public, where they are proving invaluable for business and other professionals. I am trying to teach everyone who reads my book to think like an elite warrior to lead and succeed at the highest levels, so that they can experience the level of balanced success they deserve, and the world can be a better place for it.

Max Mihelich is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below or email Follow Mihelich on Twitter at @workforcemax.

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