Who’s Gonna Carry the Boats?

Have you seen the video of former Navy SEAL David Goggins working out with endurance athlete Cameron Hanes?

In the video, Goggins is bench-pressing after what looks like a long workout. As he struggles, he yells out, “You don’t know me, son!” multiple times and pushes through a few more reps. As he continues to weaken, he stares at the camera intensely and screams out, “Who’s gonna carry the boats?”

Goggins reaches deep into his soul at his breaking point and pulls out a mantra that he developed in the Navy during BUD/S training.

He asks the question, “Who’s gonna carry the boats?”

Navy BUD/S training is basic training for Navy SEALs. Located in Coronado, California, it’s considered the toughest physical military training in the world. As part of that training, candidates are assigned to crews and carry inflatable boats that weigh more than 200 pounds through deep sand.

They do this for hours on end until candidates collapse from sheer exhaustion.

Goggins developed this mantra to keep his boat crew motivated as they suffered together. As teammates would drop off, the boat became heavier, and the remaining candidates would feel frustrated, depressed, and mentally fatigued. They all wanted to quit.

He would yell out, “Who’s gonna carry the boats?” to spur the remaining team forward and encourage those who dropped out to get back into the fight.

As I thought of this question, I considered it from a leadership perspective.

On that beach, Goggins led by example. He wasn’t just encouraging his crew with his words; he was leading them with his actions as well. He could only motivate those exhausted sailors on that lonely beach because he was physically, mentally, and emotionally strong.

He answered the question of “who’s gonna carry the boats” by his actions.

His actions said, “I will. Who’s with me?”

As leaders, we can’t expect people to do things we are unable or unwilling to do ourselves. Our people need to see us lead by example.

As leaders, we can’t expect people to do things we are unable or unwilling to do ourselves Click To Tweet

When things get tough, people will look to us to see how we’re dealing with the challenge. If we wilt under pressure, our team will as well. This is why leaders need to train themselves to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong.

Leaders need to train themselves to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong. Click To Tweet

The stronger we are, the more able we are to lead, especially in tough times. And in business, there will always be tough times.

Think about this in your leadership journey.

Are you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong?

Are you preparing yourself to lead in the tough times?

How will you answer the question, “Who’s gonna carry the boats?”

The only correct answer as a leader is, “I will. Who’s with me?”

If you’re interested in how I learned how to lead during challenging times in the Navy, check out my latest leadership book, All in the Same Boat.

[Photo Nelvin C. Cepeda]