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]

Overcoming Life’s Obstacles with Consistent Persistence

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you were in trouble?

It happened to me on my first day at Nuclear Power School. I found myself surrounded by graduates of top engineering schools like MIT, Stanford, and Georgia Tech. These were the brightest technical minds in the country assembled in one place for one reason – to become nuclear engineers in the U.S. Navy.

It didn’t take long to realize; I was in over my head.

Growing up during the Cold War, my dream was to one day become a Nuclear Submarine Officer. I was fascinated with the idea of undersea warfare.

The problem was, I needed to be technically strong to get into this elite service.

I did well enough in High School to get into a decent Engineering School. I had even graduated with honors, but there was a dirty little secret.

I wasn’t that smart.

All my academic achievements had come through hard workperseverance, and stubborn persistence.

All my academic achievements had come through hard work, perseverance, and stubborn persistence. Click To Tweet

I walked into the military’s most challenging technical school – one with a 40% failure rate – as a fraud.

This school was a place for the best and the brightest, and I knew I was neither. I was just a blue-collar kid with a big dream. I also feared that hard work, the one thing I had relied on for years, wouldn’t be enough to get through this challenge.

I started well. My grades were decent, and I began to think I could make it. But soon, the depth and pace of the training took its toll. My GPA started to slip.

It was clear I was in a fight for my life.

I consider the alternatives. What would happen if I failed?

For one thing, it would crush my dream. I would probably get assigned to some rusty, reserve frigate out of Long Beach, and spend my Navy career hunting for drug smugglers.

The Cold War was on, and I wanted to chase Soviet submarines.

I made a decision then and there – I would do whatever it took to get through this school.

Failure was not an option.

I doubled down on the only thing I knew, hard work. I studied my notes from every lecture and completed extra assignments every day. I sought out tutoring and spent my nights in the study room, ensuring I fully understood every concept.

I attacked this challenge with the same stubborn persistence I had used my whole life.

And it worked.

I graduated from Nuclear Power School, and I achieved my dream of becoming a Nuclear Submarine Officer.

It was the most formidable challenge I have ever faced, and I almost failed. I almost gave in to the overwhelming feeling that I didn’t belong there, I wasn’t smart enough, and I couldn’t do it.

I achieved my goal by not giving up.

I achieved my goal by not giving up. Click To Tweet

I tell you this story because I recently had a guest on my podcast, Dean Bundschu, who talked about this concept.

He explained that military veterans are well-suited to become entrepreneurs because they display one crucial characteristic – consistent persistence. When things get tough, they work harder to overcome the challenge.

It reminded me of the Babe Ruth quote, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”

Whatever you face today, understand you can overcome even the most challenging situation through daily, consistent effort and refusing to quit.

I have the watch book


Listen to my full interview with Dean Bundschu here.

And for more stories like this,  pick up a copy of my bestselling leadership book, I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following here.

The One Job Nobody Wants (And Why You Should Take It)

Everybody wants to be the boss. They want to be in charge. They want the corner office, the assistant, the parking spot, the title, the salary and all the trappings that go along with being in charge. That is, of course, if everything is going well.

Nobody wants to be the leader when things are going wrong. Nobody wants to oversee a business that is failing with major problems in customer satisfaction, delivery, quality, profits, employee retention or morale. Nobody wants to be the leader in times of crisis.

While people will line up to lead organizations and departments that are performing well, almost no one wants the jobs that require an extraordinary leadership effort. Except for me. I want the hard leadership jobs. I want to lead the turnaround. I want to motivate a team to do the impossible. I want the helm in times of crisis. I want to run to the fire. In fact, you should want it as well. Let me explain.

“Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Leading during tough times is difficult, but, the rewards are incredible.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

Tough times require you to operate at your highest level. When the seas are calm and the weather is nice, you don’t have to be on the top of your game. But tough times require an intense, 24/7 focus on the problem. As a leader, everyone in the organization is watching you and depending on you to make the right decisions to lead them out of the situation. It requires focus, determination, decisiveness, courage, intensity and perseverance. It will take your absolute best.

You learn a lot about yourself during tough times. The challenge of leading during difficult times is learning to deal with those voices of self-doubt, fear and worry while your team is depending on you for confidence and strength. Tough times are the ultimate test of a leader’s character and resolve. There is nothing that will boost confidence more than facing the toughest challenge in your career and coming out on top.

You build strong bonds with your team during tough times. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with your team through a crisis, you build a bond that can last a lifetime. When a leader and a team step up and work together through a tough situation, it builds a powerful new level of trust and respect. The overall capability of the organization is forever enhanced through this experience.

Tough times give you a new perspective. Your perspective forever changes from having withstood a difficult period. You have a much greater appreciation for when times are good. You also are less likely to let people, politics and minor issues get you down. Tough times help build your maturity as a leader.

Tough times become an anchor point for the rest of your career. Great leaders can almost always point to a time in their career when they became great. In most cases, it was leading an organization through a tough situation. The most challenging situation you face may be the defining moment in your career.

Most of us don’t want to go through difficult times. It’s human nature to want things to be easy. The problem is that, when things are easy and you aren’t challenged, you don’t grow. Confidence and maturity as a leader come from dealing with your self-doubt and fears while overcoming adversity.

Tough times require your best. You learn what you are capable of, you learn what your team is capable of, you build strong bonds, you gain a new perspective and your performance will define your career. Why not take the tough leadership jobs? It may be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Photo credit: “Mike” Michael L. Baird, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/6932387544