SEALFIT Creator Mark Divine on Developing An Unbeatable Mind

SEALFIT Creator Mark Divine on Developing An Unbeatable Mind

Mark Divine is a highly respected former Navy SEAL commander. He now teaches people all over the country how to achieve the same elite level of physical and mental performance demonstrated by the SEALs.

In this episode he shares how he determines if someone is truly up for the challenge of developing an unbeatable mind, and what you can expect from the rigorous SEALFIT training.

Mark also shares his go-to tactics for controlling your body and mind, how to prepare for any situation, and how to perform under pressure.

Mark also has given OPP listeners special access to his Unbeatable Mind program, so if you want to cultivate the toughness, focus and confidence of a Navy SEAL, make sure you check out the link below.

OPP #15 (1)


What You'll Hear in This Episode from SealFit creator Mark Divine:

  • How to get develop the '20x Mindset'
  • Why Mark wants you to wake up, show up and grow up!
  • How to prepare for high pressure situations so you perform at your peak
  • Why hard work is key to having a fulfilled life
  • Warrior yoga and mindfulness for better workouts
  • What is SEALFIT?
  • How to stay 'front side focused'- single-mindedly pursuing a goal you've committed to
  • Box breathing - Mark's favorite tool for staying calm and focused when it really counts
  • Mark's top 3 tips to live optimal



Way of the Seal

Unbeatable Mind - OPP listeners get 30 days access FREE. This course is used by SEALs and civilians alike to build toughness and resilience, elite mental and physical capabilities and unshakeable poise and confidence.

Box Breathing

Mark Divine on Box Breathing, Warrior Yoga and Training SEALs

Ryan: You're listening to the Optimal Performance podcast sponsored by Natural Stacks. If you're into biohacking, performance and getting more out of your life, this is the show for you! If you want more on building optimal performance, check out

Alright, happy Thursday all you Optimal Performers. Thanks for listening and welcome to another episode of the Optimal Performance podcast. So we always think our guests are special, but today's guest is a man who commands tremendous respect; and I've got to be honest with you guys, I'm a little bit nervous to do this! So, Commander Mark Divine, thank you so much for hanging out with us today.

Mark: True! It's my pleasure. I'm looking forward to it.

Ryan: I am too, I am too. So for our listeners, who may not know the name and know who you are, Mark Divine is the owner of SEALFit, he's a New York Times bestselling author and retired Navy SEAL commander, so as you may expect today we're going to talk a lot about his project with SEALFit, Developing the Unbeatable Mind, the 20X Factor, and what SEALFit is all about and how it can benefit our listeners. So, with that, let's get right into it. Coach Divine, in your words, what is the 20X mindset?

Mark: Well, it's something that you got to experience first hand, didn't you Ryan?!

Ryan: Thats right! That's right.

Mark: Well the 20X Mindset is a knowingness, a deep knowingness that you're capable of far more than you've been led to believe, let's put it that way. You know our philosophy here at SEALFit is that the human being has tremendous potential, most of it largely untapped. And so we endeavor to create training programs and events that help you touch base with this potential.

You may not unlock all of it, but you unlock some of it and you experience what we call your first 20X moment, where you know, you truly do accomplish something physically, mentally, emotionally or um, you know, just in terms of accomplishment that's at least 20x what you thought was possible. And so once you experience that and then you unlock that key and you learn the skills to develop that 20X mindset then it's, you know, an ever escalating journey toward higher and higher levels of accomplishment where each one kinda blows the other one away. That's kinda what it's about.

Ryan: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head where the moment you have that first 'aha!' moment, where you realize: 'hey, I can do this!' Or 'yes, I can!' It's kind of a self-perpetuating cycle, you build momentum and then it keeps going. I guess when you go through a Kokoro Camp or a SEALFit, you do experience that, and you're in an environment where you almost can't fail. I'm sure some people have left, but if you stay then the system is there to help people, but if you're training, let's say somebody has signed up for one, they put their name on the line and they're going to do it. They're training to go, to show up for this, or even if somebody is not preparing for the Kokoro or the SEALFit, how can we get that first victory? How can we approach life in a way where we get over that first hump and start building that momentum?

Mark: Well, as you're well aware, Ryan, the first victory is the commitment, right? You know, we say to people don't even consider Kokoro Camp or one of our 20X programs- and I'll explain to our listeners what Kokoro Camp is in a moment- don't even consider it until you're ready to fully commit, because that kind of wishy washy wavering will lead to a fail before you even show up.

We routinely have people who just don't even show up for the training and it's because you know, they were lukewarm or they got suckered into it or they didn't really understand the ramifications of what they were getting themselves into. And so they lacked the full commitment and the closer and closer they got to the event, you can imagine the dread that starts to build in them, and because they never committed fully, they didn't begin the training, right, they didn't try to close the gap between where they were in terms of their physical, mental and emotional readiness and where they needed to be to successfully navigate the course. And so they just don't show up, or they show up and they get injured really quickly. We call those 'quinjuries', you know, it's really a quit, but they'd mask it as an injury, right?

And so for some people who've never really committed to something that arduous or that challenging, just the commitment is a 20X experience. I mean it's super empowering, super scary. It might be terrifying for some people to commit to something that's you know, 50 hours of non-stop physical and mental training, but that commitment does something magical to us, especially if you do it with someone else who's going to hold them accountable, but you know, even if done alone, you're holding yourself accountable. You witness that commitment and you're deeply committed to your own growth as a human being, and so now there's no turning back, right? You burn those boats and then you know, that courage starts to well up and flow into you. And the courage, you know, then you start to train and that's where my staff and the coaches stand by to support and say: 'okay, how do you prepare for Kokoro? How do you close the gap?' Well you know everyone's going to have a different path.

It really depends upon what you've done up to that point in your life, what skills you have, you know, what your endurance, your stamina, your work-past, your durability, those types of things, and so you close the gaps, right, until you get closer and closer to the event and as you do, as the gaps get closed tighter and tighter, the fear starts to kind of go away and then you have this sense of, you know certainty about the training, a sense of certainty about your abilities, right, to accomplish the task.

And so that certainty is another 20X experience because you know, many people go through life with no sense of certainty. They really are acting out of fear, day in and day out, and they're just reacting to you know, that subtle sense of anxiety or fear, because they don't know whether they can do something, they don't know whether they can survive a fight, they don't know how they're going to act in a crisis. And that kind of low grade pervasive fear of not knowing how you're going to react because you don't know yourself at that level, is debilitating. And so just developing a sense of certainty that you know you can accomplish something because you've got the skills and the tools and the mental control and the ability to frame the dialogue for victory. And I think that's a powerful 20X experience.

Of course doing the event itself just cements it in at a rock solid layer, it just like burns it into your psyche at all levels so that when you come out of that event; what we call a crucible, and there's a reason that we call it a crucible, because that's where you smelt steel, you know. You go in as one type of being and then you get cooked at all levels and then you come out, right, you come out as a piece of steel. Well, you know, human steel. And so that crucible then becomes another 20X and so you've had several 20X experiences all the way up to the event itself, and it's super powerful.

Ryan: You know, I'm kinda smiling as you say all that stuff because I remember that we had 2 incredible coaches when we went through the 20X challenge, QD: Quatro Duece and Coach Mcleod, and I remember at the end, after we'd been secured, we actually got to go out to eat with these guys and you know, I forget which one of them, said 'always sharpening the blade'. And if you look around in nature, whether it's the alpha-lion or a flower, that when you stop growing, you start dying. And so, it's funny that you mentioned steel and hardening and sharpening. I guess my question to you is if you share that same kinda outlook and philosophy with these guys, is that something that is.. Is that a trait that is inherent in people that are drawn to SEAL culture, or is that something that you guys have not ingrained in you, but is that something that is cultivated through your training or maybe a mix of both?

Mark: The answer is both, but let's just say there's the inspirational stage and then the aspirational stage and then the performance stage, right. The inspiration stage is 'hey that looks cool, I wonder if I can do that', right, and a lot of people stay there, read a book, you know they watch the videos, they're inspired by the training, but they're never going to go there. And that's cool, right? There's no judgement here. They've got other things in their lives that are important. Um, but, if you're inspired and then you aspire to learn and grow so that you can act and think the way that we're discussing here on this podcast, then you shift into this aspirational stage where you are actively seeking the knowledge, actively seeking to learn. So this is when you will actually push the button on the website to enroll in let's say our 3 day Fundamental Academy, or our 2 day Basic Training Certification; the first of which we're running this week actually, this Thursday and Friday, to learn the skills of how to train in what we call both working out and working in.

Working out is the classic SEALFit Operator workout, Operator WODs, which are very challenging at best, you know, inconceivable to a lot of people when you first look at them, but when you work through the process and do the on-ramp and then the basic WOD and then you get to this up WOD and all of a sudden you're able to accomplish it, and then you're able to accomplish it in RX, at you know, prescribed loads, it's an incredibly empowering moment and it's life changing to be able to work at that level, right?

And then the working in is our method of, and you alluded to it before, it's our unbeatable mind. It's the process that I've developed for training mental toughness and emotional resiliency through your training. You can also train it through other things, we call it practice. Practicing things like warrior yoga and a lot of other things. But we deliberately train it through the SEALFit training model, with the big 4 skills of mental toughness through, you know, a Team effect, and through the Crucible type training methods so when you stack it all up, I think first you know. I heard somewhere once that if you wanna grow first you have to wake up, right, and once you wake up to this need to grow, this compulsion to sharpen the sword everyday, then you never go back. Like you said, once you realize that you've gotta train every day to sharpen the sword, in the SEALs we call it 'earning our trident', you have to earn your trident every day, it's not a one time thing, you go through BUD/S, you're a SEAL, woohoo you know, and then you can go party and you know, everyone's going to love you.. Uhuh, it doesn't work that way, you know. That's when the work starts, right. You've gotta work.

Your job as a SEAL gets harder by a magnitude of 5-10X once you get through SEAL training. You've gotta realize that, right, that's when the real work begins and you've gotta earn that every day. Well that's like waking up, because a lot of people, Ryan, as you know, never experience that. They go through their entire lives just kinda getting by based upon what they've been spoon fed by society, their family or whatever their own self imposed limitations are. But when you get inspired by something, and it might be a Spartan race or a Tough Mudder, it might just be watching a movie like Lone Survivor.

A lot of people tell me they got inspired by reading or seeing something about the SEALs and they looked it up and then all of a sudden here comes SEALFit and they started watching our videos and they're like 'Holy crap! I wonder if I could do that?!', and then that wonderment starts to wake them up, and they think maybe there is something more, maybe I am leaving something on the table.. I really do want to experience what these guys experience, I wanna feel that kinda certainty, I wanna feel that confidence, that utter true confidence to know that you're going to be able to kick ass and take names, whatever's thrown at you. And then you know, once you wake up, that's not enough. Then you've gotta show up, right? And showing up is doing the work every single day, right? You wake up and you show up with 100% effort, with a smile on your face, being a good teammate, and those are all those habits and skills that you develop, the discipline, drive and determination to get the job done. To close the gap, right? And then through that process you end up growing up. So you wake up and show up so you can grow up, isn't that interesting? I love that.

Ryan: I like that!

Mark: So that's kinda like the inspiration, aspiration and performance. Getting to the performance is really not a big deal, that's just the event. You know, that's just basically.. Going to the camp, whether it's the Kokoro camp or an expedition, or you know, a board meeting, whatever it is in your life, those challenging moments that you wanna be at your peak. When you train for them and you win in your mind, then those moments are easy and they're fun, right? And you just dominate them because you train for them every day just like they are real. Just like the SEALs train for the firefight, they train for war every single day, so when they get to war, the guys are all excited about it, literally. I mean there's a little bit of nervousness, but they know what's coming and they're not afraid. I mean, let me just rephrase that, there is fear, but it's not the fear that normal people feel, it's managed fear, right? Because we manage it with our training.

Right. It's not the debilitating, crippling fear and you're prepared for it. I think that's definitely something that's kinda the lesson behind all of this, to be able to be prepared for whatever situation you're going to be facing. So, you've mentioned a couple of times already, you know, how a lot of people are laying dormant,  so to speak, or maybe have this underlying belief somewhere that they know that they have this potential that they're not capitalizing on. And I have actually read some things that you've written where you've said that the Kokoro camps are a great bullshit detector, or BS detector.

Ryan: It's true! So a two part question on that is, I guess, what is causing this latency or whatever you wanna call it in our society? And can you elaborate on how the camps and SEALFit, what you guys do, kinda expose that and force you to reckon with what you've been doing and make that change?

Mark: Sure. Well, what we've noticed and I'm sure you have too, is that the human being thrives on hard work, right? And yet it resists it. It resists hard work until the human experiences the fruits of hard work, which are hard to appreciate, they're hard to see, they're hard to even comprehend, if you haven't gone through the tribulations of hard work. Does that make sense? And so we've grown up in a society that really avoids hard work at all costs. You know, we take great, great pains to ensure that what we do is not hard, and that everything we do is easy and can be solved with a pill or a TV show, or you know, a drink. And so, you know, it really is different than generations.Even when I grew up in upstate New York in the early 60s, hard work was much easier to find! You know, it wasn't like I had to go looking.

My Dad used us a little slave tribe, that was hard work, and then my best friend Bill had a farm and we used to farm it primarily during the summer, there was some work in the winter, but you know, bailing hay all summer long. It was hard work! Talk about a functioning work out. And then later on, we used to go on thesee 18-20 mile rucks, we'd just call it a hike in the woods, but you know, that was hard work and we just learned how good we felt at the end of those days, you know, and we watched our bodies develop into hard bodies at a young age, and our minds were developing alongside, and so you know we learned to appreciate that. And then of course that carried through into athletics, you know, I was a competitive swimmer and rower and triathlete, and then the martial arts and then of course the SEALs. You know there's no place that probably works harder in the world, in terms of the physical and mental daily output required of a SEAL.

Anyways, my point is that you really have to search these things out nowadays. You know, technology and the way that work is organized has really made it hard to find hard work, and even the way people exercise, you know it's just do 20 minutes 3 times a week, it's all you need, or go for a brisk walk, right? You know, being P90X was actually.. I valued P90X when that came out because that was actually pretty hard and people are like 'oh my god, this is hard work!', and then CrossFit, so what's happened is there has been a resurgence in the past 10 years, actually more like the last 5 years I would say, of programs that are actually hard. So people are actually starting to go 'oh wow, that feels good! I feel good after running that Spartan race!', or 'I feel good after that Go Ruck', and 'I feel good after the 20X challenge at SEALFit', or even just making it through a SEALFit operator workout, you know, that's challenging. And so I'm hoping, along with my peers in this industry, to rekindle a passion for hard work and then have that permeate through our society at all levels. And so, you know, ultimately as you're probably well aware, even though SEALFit is the name of the company and it sounds like we're a fitness company, we really are about developing strong people. We're about developing character; strength of body, mind and spirit. I don't know if that answers your question, I kinda went on a little bit of a tangent!

Ryan: No, I think that's a great answer and you know we didn't talked about this before we came on, but I also own a gym, House of Strength. And the name is kind of all encompassing, I mean, it's like you said, what we do in the fitness side of it is just the vessel that helps you to develop into this person who, when you constantly throw a challenge at yourself and overcome it and conquer it, you do, you start to realize that you can conquer anything and that's what kind of builds and fosters that unbeatable mindset. And like you said, it permeates into every aspect of your life and that's what it's really all about. Knowing that whatever life throws at you, you can handle.

Mark: Right

Ryan: Now, you mentioned a couple of times, the incredible volume in the SEALFit program, that SEALs are some of the hardest working people. So, I know you're huge on recovery, especially Warrior Yoga, is that something that you had to learn because of the need for it? Is that something that came out of necessity?

Mark: Yeah, I think so. You know when I was a SEAL, we didn't have as much science and now the SEALs have a program called the Human Performance Center and they're starting to really understand that you know, a training program needs to be balanced, the hard needs to be balanced with the soft. But when I was a SEAL, none of that was there and we just trained, trained, trained, trained, and then broke, do you know what I mean? And there's a lot of broken SEALs from my generation. Fortunately I managed to avoid getting broken and I took up yoga as a balance, back in.. Gosh, 1999, I think. I got into the SEALs in 1990 and in 1998 or 1999 I started doing yoga, and I never stopped. It's become a huge part of my training program, so I try to spend as much time doing the yoga and the working in skills off the grinder as I do on the grinder when I train. And it's also brought tremendous mindfulness into how I prepare for my training, and how I handle myself immediately after training, which I consider you know, the two bookends to a training session.

Preparation is really important and so I use some yoga drills for that, you know, in a more dynamic fashion, and I use some breathing practices and some mental training for that, to prep, and that ensures that I have a safe and effective workout. And then after the WOD, we call these the pre and the post standard operating procedures, or SOPs, after the WOD we have some yoga drills also that we do and we do what we call a recapitulation session. And we try to learn from our mistakes and to grow from it, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. And so, you know, all those practices come from my yoga training and so I really worked hard and I continued to evolve it to where.. You know, I'm trying to develop SEALFit to almost be like a western yoga, believe it or not! Even though we're using barbells, it's no different than doing posing, right?

You can do poses, but the key with yoga is to move with the breath in an intentional and developed concentration, it's a science of the mind; the flexibility is almost secondary, but it's extremely important. So with SEALFit, you know, if you're doing barbell training, you can do it just like yoga where you're moving with the breath and you're very mindful and you're developing your concentration and it's no different, at all. You're just developing strength instead of flexibility. And boy, does it really power your training and make it much more of an integrated experience! Ultimately, Ryan, SEALFit is what I call an integrated training program, so we integrate physical, mental, emotional, intuitional and spiritual. And you remember those, the 5 Mountains from your training!

Ryan: I do, I do. So, I guess now would be as good a time as any to ask you to elaborate for our listeners. What's the difference between Kokoro, the 20X challenge, and I know you mentioned you have some new offerings starting later this week..

Mark: Sure. Um, we have 2 kind of training.. Well, I guess 3 training models now that I mention it. One is you know, you can experience SEALFit just by doing the workouts at a gym. Now, we are not like CrossFit, we haven't affiliated or licensed gyms, but I do have some senior SEALs who run programs. You met Quatro Duece, so is CrossFit gym is Trident Fitness in Virginia, they run a SEALFit program, and then Dan Cerrillo, from CrossFit Bellevue, runs one up in Washington, and of course Brad Mcleod, down in Florida. Or, you know, a lot of folks have come to my training, my academies in the past, and so they've done that to learn the model, and we train them so then they can do the training with their team. So there's military units who would do SEALFit, law enforcement guys, and you know, there's CrossFit gyms that do SEALFit WODs, you know, on a Saturday, as a team training. And right now, that's mostly informal, although this certification program that we're starting this week on Thursday and Friday, and then we're gonna run another one in November, and then we're gonna kind of kick it off around the country in 2016.

We call it the Basic Training Cert. It's really a practitioner cert, it's like, okay if you look at the SEALFit training model, primarily OPWOD and SOFWOD, the Special Ops WOD, which is for SOF candidates. Some people with a really strong background, like you as a coach or others that have been training for a long time, they're going to look at those and be like: 'okay, I get that and I can do the movements and you know, I can run with it'. But the vast majority of people are going to be like, 'I can't even understand what an RDL is or what an Man Maker is, or what a Curtis P is, and I don't know how to do it properly, and I don't know what loads I should do and I don't know how I should scale and I don't know how to substitute cause I don't have this equipment or that equipment'. And so the Basic Training Cert is basically to download the training model over 2 days. Why and how do we do strength training? Why and how do we do stamina training? Why and how do we do durability? How do we put it all together? How do we do endurance training? And so you can go train. And it's not designed to certify you to coach, but actually to certify you to train, to do this stuff without killing yourself.

Ryan: Right

Mark: And then that'll prequalify you, along with some other pre-reqs, to eventually come to the Advanced Training Cert which will be a coaching cert, where you'll be able to engage with SEALFit as a coach to help out at 20Xs like Brad and you know, that type of thing. Or eventually, we're even looking at maybe a franchise model. But that's kind of down the road. We're taking our time with this because I don't wanna gundeck it and have a lot of sloppy stuff out there. You can't'make SEALs overnight and you can't mass produce SEALFit coaches overnight either! Anyways, I'm excited about that program. So that's our newest program, and that is to teach the daily training OPWOD, SOFWOD, etc. etc.

The second model we have is the academy setting. Now this is done only here at headquarters, with me and my headquarters staff. It's like the high end training, it's like, you know, it's the highest.. I don't know how to say this! I can only be in so many places at one time, and so I like to train, I like to coach, I don't wanna be running all around the country just giving speeches or doing this and that. I literally want to be moving barbells and doing this work and so I have these academies which are live in, immersion academies at SEALFit headquarters in Encinitas, California. And for 3 days and 5 days, and then for the Special Ops one it's 21 days, 18 or 20 days, something like that. We can take up to 20 people at a time and we literally live on site, we train from 5 in the morning until 7 or 8 at night, sometimes around the clock, just soaking up the full model. So that's like the warrior monk immersion experience, right?! So those academies are cool. Fundamentals is 3 days, comprehensive is 5 days and then the SOF academy is 18 days. We run those roughly 3-5 times a year, depending on the program. The SOF academy is twice a year in the summer.

Ryan: Okay

Mark: And then the third model we have is what you experienced. That's the Crucible. Now the Crucible is just a kick in the jimmy that's to test your character, to kinda burn in all the training that you've done to date, to take that you know, you close the gap and then test and now we lock it in. It's like you ratchet up your knowingness of your capabilities, you ratchet up your confidence and you ratchet up your confidence to a whole new level, and you burn it in so it's permanent. And that's what the 20X and the Kokoro is. So they are non-stop arduous, physical, mental and emotional training done as a team. 20X is 12 hours and Kokoro Camp is 50+ hours, give or take, you know, a few. And we use a shorter version of 20X with high school and college sports teams, right? And occasionally a CEO group that doesn't wanna go the full 12 hours. But it's the same basic model, the same training.

Ryan: Okay

Mark: So those are the 3 ways that people experience SEALFit, assuming, Ryan, that they're up for the physical challenge, right? If folks aren't up for the physical challenge then we have some online training. My Unbeatable Mind online course is really more of a life coaching or executive coaching thing and yeah, that's about it. Does that answer your question?

Ryan: Yeah absolutely! I'm getting so fired up just, I mean through this whole podcast, but just listening to you talk about those and I'm having flashbacks to our 20X experience and I mean it's like I told you before we came on the air, every time I think about it I either learn a new lesson or reflect back on one of the numerous lessons that, as you described, it was kind of sealed in and etched in. If anybody listening is on the fence, I can't recommend it enough. It's truly a life changing experience. So, one of the other questions I have for you, Mark, is in your book 'Way of the SEAL', you talk about staying front sight focused. And earlier in this podcast we talked about wake up, show up, grow up, so if somebody's in that showing up stage, where they're trying to build the habits, how do you stay front sight focused during that preparation phase leading up to the performance?

Mark: Sure, well I'm assuming, you know, at this stage you've made a commitment, right? And so if you've committed to something significant like a core camp, then the presumption is that you've gone through a target selection process and that target aka 20X or Kokoro Camp has risen to the top, you've probably had some time period where you've had to evaluate: do I have the time? do I have the resources? You know, is this the right thing for me right now? And you said yes and so you made that commitment. You know, like we talked about in the beginning of the podcast, and that's your first 20X. That commitment allows the courage to kind of flood in and you begin to close the gap.

Now your question is, you know, how do you stay front side focused during the training period when you're closing the gap? Well the only way to do that is to simplify your life. Like you've gotta apply the KISS principle. You might remember that from the book too. You've got the target, Kokoro Camp, you know, obviously you've got other things going on in your life, right. You've got some family needs and may have some business targets as well you're going after. You've gotta decide where this target, Kokoro Camp, sits in relation to the other targets and you've gotta proportion your energy between them all, right? And so that gets challenging if you're focused on too many things. It gets challenging if like say you're trying to launch a business while you do Kokoro Camp, I mean, you know, there's two 20X events you've taken on, and so you know, hopefully you wouldn't make that choice. And so the whole concept of front side focused is to make sure that you're making the right choices; you're choosing the right targets. And then when you choose that target, you're able to laser beam focus on it and get rid of the distractions from the other things that maybe were on your target list because now those don't, they're not the main thing; what I call the one thing.

You know, so when Kokoro is on your list, it's like in your physical, training, life.. It is your one thing. There should be nothing else you're thinking about besides training and preparing for that one event. Like I said, life still goes on, but when you get up in the morning you've got something else.. You know, there's a major initiative in your day that's gonna drive you closer toward mission success, and those are your tactical goals tied to that strategic goal of accomplishing Kokoro Camp. But you've gotta simplify the battle field, you've gotta declutter your environment, you're gotta get rid of the noise and all the confusing things and just really, just laser focus in on that goal.It's a very cool experience when you do commit to something big like that because you just realise how much your life has just been consumed with things that really don't matter, and now you'vé gotta get serious, right? So you know, you just start saying 'no' a lot easier. You know, all the friends who you know, try to pull you off track; with good intentions, you know, to play golf or go to the game or do this and that, and you can just say: no, no, no, no, no, no, because I've gotta stay focused on Kokoro Camp. I've gotta get up at 5 in the morning tomorrow and do my OPWOD, I've gotta go for that 12 mile ruck, I've gotta meet my friends on Saturday and do a Monster Mash, and you know, and so it gets easier to say no so you can stay focused, and that's very empowering. And those skills carry on through beyond the Kokoro and you start to really get clear about what's the next target and this feels good, you know, just being very focused and not having all these commitments and things that just diffuse your energy, right?

Ryan: Right

Mark: And then that's ultimately one of the keys to that book, 'The Way of the SEAL', was to literally learn how to focus so that you're setting up a mental framework for success, so that you can win in your mind. It's hard to win in your mind when you've got 27 things that you're focusing on and you're not good at any one of them, right? Or you're not able to develop the skills to dominate any one of them.

Ryan: Right. And it's even harder to win in reality if you can't win in your mind first.

Mark: You must win in your mind first, you know, ultimately the key here is to imagine you know, that we grow up with a framework in our minds, and a) it's usually not our framework, and b) it's usually not the right framework for the future and so we're dealing with like a rundown condo and we wanna have you know a beautiful fricking mansion in our minds to succeed and so you've gotta basically do some reconstruction, right. You've gotta tear down the walls which are belief systems; you've gotta tear down the old belief systems that are not going to get you where you want to go, where you need to go, and then you've gotta reconstruct some new belief systems and then turn those new belief systems into habits you know, through your actions; your daily discipline actions. And so through that process you're setting up the framework for an entirely new internal world and in that internal world which is comprised of your thoughts, your emotions and your imagery, you see the win, right? You understand the win; you understand what victory looks, tastes and feels like, you understand what you need to do to get there, you understand how to develop the skills to do what you need to do to get there, and you understand how to become and how to be the type of person that can handle the win. And unless you can do that, unless you can build the new structure in your mind and get control of your internal dialogue and internal imagery and your internal emotional life, you'll never achieve that level of success that we're talking about here.

Ryan: Now you mentioned that 'Way of the SEAL' is... I mean, that's the gist of this book is to help people develop that, and so you know, if people wanted to really dig into that then go get the book, it's a great book, but for the sake of our podcast is there one tip or one exercise that you could share with our listeners to help develop that or maybe start down that road?

Mark: Sure. Yeah, my favourite and I would say the right place to start is box breathing. You probably knew I was gonna say that! Getting control of the breath. Box breathing is controlled breathing. It's a very simple practise, but it has a profound effect. The first level the effect is on your fueling, and so you know, deep breathing like belly, diaphragm, chest breathing, this is in a controlled environment like a training environment, to a count, so you're taking conscious control of the breaths, so, inhale for 5 count, hold your breath for 5 count, exhale for 5 count, hold your breath for 5 count, or some people might need to start at 3 or 4, that's fine, but you're going to be slowing down your breathing pattern, so that's a 20 count breath that means you're doing 3 breaths per minute which is very healthy. It's slowing down and ensuring that you get a full, full breath of air, lots of fuel, and that you're expelling all that toxic air when you're done. So right there, the benefits for performance are legion and by the way, the breath is through the nose, which helps with performance right, because it draws it deep into your lungs and you know, you're getting the nitrous oxide effect of delivering that nitrous oxide boost to your air supply.

The second level effect is basically physiological control, so when you breathe through your nose, deep into your belly, you're activating the parasympathetic nervous system, countering all that fight or flight response from the low grade stress we have in our society or anxiety or whatever, and so now you're getting really calm, right? And I have a lot of doctors who have been doing my Unbeatable Mind program and they tell me they used box breathing during surgery and it has a profound effect to help them stay really really focused and keeps you really calm. Which brings me to the third level effect and probably the most important, which is that when you control your breathing there is a link between your breath and your mind and so your mind begins to get under control. It's yoga essentially to control your breathing, but and to have that effect spill over into a controlled mind because you're really focused on this pattern and it acts as sort of a concentration drill, your mind settles down.

Of course it settles down also because every you know, breathing pattern has an associated emotional pattern and this nice and steady breathing pattern is associated with calmness, with peace of mind, with clarity, and so guess what?! All of a sudden we start to feel calm and clear in our minds and we can make better decisions. And so this is like carrying a nuke in your pocket when it comes to drills! And guess what, wherever you go, there's your training. You don't need any tools, right? You don't even need to keep box breathing in your pocket, right, because it's just there!

Ryan: Yeah, and I know in the book you talk about maybe starting your day with that or finishing your day with that, you know, setting your intentions for the day, so again, you know if people are interested in that then check out the book Way of the SEAL. So, Mark, I've got thousands and thousands of questions and I would love to stay and talk with you all day long but I know you have things to do, and so we're going to get you to answer two final questions, first: where can our listeners get more of you?

Mark: They can learn more about me at, tons of videos, my weekly blog, all of that's free and then we have online training which is pretty cool if someone wanted our workout program, you know, say you wanted to train your team then SEALfit online has all the WODs that I've programmed myself and then we create derivative workouts from them. It's $9 a month and you get access to that, and then if you wanted more content, and a little bit more access to my coaches and then Unbeatable Mind is where I go really deep into all the, well the way I see it is this: SEALfit really focuses on the physical and mental mountains, right? You develop hardcore SEAL level fitness through the training regiment and the mental discipline and emotional resiliency of a Navy SEAL.

And then Unbeatable Mind, both my book and my online training program there develop the emotional, intuitional and spiritual mountains and the mental, a little less focused on physical. And so a lot of people do them together but a lot of people who aren't ready for that physical you know, hammer session of SEALfit, then you know, they can do the training program we have on Unbeatable Mind which is much more of a on-ramp kinda beginners program, or it's just softer, right? There's not as much barbell work; I don't think there's any in the first few months at all. At any rate, so Unbeatable Mind is really a great, great program. And then you know, I do do occasional seminars and speaking engagements, so you can either catch me at one of those or invite me to come speak, I suppose, that's one way to do it. I don't do many of those, I try to limit that to one or two a month.

Ryan: Okay, alright. Now, alright, the last thing we have to ask you before we let you go. We close every episode with our guests top 3 tips to live optimal. And so I am incredibly anxious to hear what you have to say to that. What are your 3 best tips for our listeners to live optimal?

Mark: Wake up, show up and grow up! Okay, I'm just kidding... Although that pretty much covers it!

Ryan: Let's count that as one, two and three. Let's hear 4, 5 and 6.

Mark: Okay, okay... Um, start your day with a ritual that sets you up for success. Treat your day as if it was an entire lifetime, like as if this day was your day to learn everything you needed to know to win what you needed to win, to be the person you needed to be. And in order to do that you're not going to just jump on your bed and check your email and you know, race out the door and stress about traffic, and not set the conditions for success in your mind. And so, spend some time in the morning clarifying you know, your 'why'; understand your purpose for the day, set an intention for aligning with the purpose that you're meant to fulfill on this planet. And everyone normally has some sense of that and if not then you need to figure it out, I think, because you're going to be a lot more peaceful and happy when you can connect all of your actions to this greater sense of purpose.

So I call that winning in the mind starting first thing in the morning, right. And then, secondarily, um.. Develop an ability to witness your thoughts. So this is also something that will come from practise of box breathing or mindfulness; when you can create a space between your thought and you, the observer, then we can pause and reflect before we react, and we can start to rebuild that internal dialogue that we talked about earlier, where you can notice patterns and then you can say okay, that pattern, and you can trace those patterns back, that pattern came from the way my father behaved and it's just so deeply wired in me from my early childhood; I am not my Dad and so therefore I am going to take that pattern and I am going to deliberately choose not to follow it anymore and I'm going to create this new pattern which is going to be much more powerful and much more positive and much more whatever, I'm just using it as an example. And so developing this ability to witness your thoughts and not be merged with your thoughts, but to have the ability to constantly ask if this is the right thought, is this the right action that is going to lead me toward mission success? And wow, talk about a see change in your life when you can create this skill, and that's something we teach in our academies and I do in mine.

And the third thing, and this is super important too, is you've gone through the day now, you've been present, you've been witnessing, you've been making the best decisions possible, you're seeing success because you set the conditions for success in the morning, by the way you opened up your day and went into it. Now at the end of your day, take a moment- and it doesn't need to be more than 3 or 4 or 5 minutes- to recapitulate your day. Go back to the beginning and see yourself going through the day, see what worked and what didn't. Not obsessively, I don't want you to obsess about things that didn't go right or whatever, but I want you to pause at every single moment and find the silver lining. Find the lesson. What did you learn from this, and if you fucked up, screwed up, excuse my language, then forgive yourself and commit to learning from it, right? And so, you do this with your journal, you might jot down 2 or 3 things that you've learned about yourself or about the day, and this way, we're constantly learning and not just from in the moment, but we're learning by looking back from now that we have some perspective on it.

Furthermore, it also ensures that we don't go to bed with any regrets, and you know, regrets keep us locked in the past and drain us of energy and are very negative, and so what we want to do is clear the ground of any regrets and then once we do that we make sure that every day we go into our recovery cycle, into our sleep cycle, with no regrets, and we'll sleep better, our mental processing will be more clear and more purposeful and it's just a beautiful practise, you know, these bookends that I talked about and then going through your day with that witnessing mindset.

Ryan: Those are 3 very profound and very powerful tips, and so I hope our listeners can put those into practise. I wanna touch on that second one for just a minute. You talk about separating thoughts and breaking those thought processes and patterns; when I actually returned home from the 20X Challenge, I put in a rule at the gym, at House of Strength, that said.. You know, I guess at the 20X Challenge, there were certain things where we were penalized and the penalty was to do no handed burpees. I'm not sure if that's a secret or if I'm not allowed to talk about that, but that is..

Mark: I will just let people imagine how that's done!

Ryan: We have kept that penalty at House of Strength. If you say the words 'I can't'; you know, I believe that is a self limiting thought and we are trying to break that thought process and that pattern and so if anybody in our gym says I can't then everybody in the gym has to do 10 no-handed burpees!

Mark: That's awesome! Good job.

Ryan: I thank you for that!

Mark: Hooyah! Awesome.

Ryan: Hooyah! Alright, Mark. Thank you so much for your time, and thanks for all that you do, both in your days of service and with SEALfit and Unbeatable Mind.

Mark: It's my pleasure. And I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on your podcast and let me know how I can help.

Ryan: Absolutely. And so for all of our listeners, hope you guys enjoyed that, make sure you head on over to iTunes, give us a 5* review, make sure you tell iTunes and us how much you like the show and until next time! We'll talk to you next Thursday.

Shop the Products