“I have control. Five – Four – Three – Two – One. Execute, Execute, Execute.” A loud explosion goes off only a few feet in front of me. I should know, I put it there. A billow of smoke engulfs the doorway as the man in front of me makes entry. I step across the mangled metal on the floor that just moments ago was a solid locked door. I look for targets and engage anything that appears to be a threat. We all do. Flowing seamless through the house you hear automatic gunfire coming from every room. Guys yelling commands, calling out what they see in front of them. It’s loud. It’s dark. It’s pitch black except for the glow of tac-lights moving all over the hallway and colored chem-lights on the floor. It looks like chaos. In a way it is, but we love it. Organized chaos. Finally, “all clear” is heard throughout the house. Everything is secure. The lights come on, the dust settles, and it’s all over. Everyone is okay. Everyone is always okay.
When I first joined the Marine Corps, I was apart of the Recapture Tactics Team (RTT) platoon aboard a Naval Submarine Base. We were a close quarters battle (CQB) team that was responsible for recapturing strategic assets, as the name implies. RTT specializes in responding to security threats and recapturing property, personnel, and materials. If unfamiliar with the term CQB and to give you a better picture, it’s the military equivalent to a SWAT team. We were young but we were good. Most of us weren’t old enough to even drink, yet we were tasked with guarding our nations nuclear weapons. Most of us knew that nothing was ever going to really happen. We were sure of it actually, but we trained like it was inevitable. Daily drills, endless dry-fire, hours and hours on the range, and so many entires I couldn’t even begin to count. When we weren’t training, we were talking about training. More than anything, we talked mindset. I didn’t realize it then, but those few years with that team would later save my life and give me the valuable tools to live it to its fullest.
I’m still not sure why, but I’m thankful that the group of misfits I was with were all so obsessed with the things beyond simple weapons and tactics. We talked about statistics for everything, inside terrorists, team casualties, the impact of civilians and hostages in a situation, everything that could possibly impact our mission. Most of us, including myself, became obsessed with the mindset involved in all of this. The mental conditioning it would actually take to make a real live-fire entry by explosive breach. We discussed it in detail, taught ourselves to think a certain way, and conducted all our training with that mindset. See, that entry I described earlier is exactly what all my entries were like with that team. They were on a training range and they always ended the same way, safe. As a good friend of mine (we’ll call him Neo) once said, “Back when the enemy was made of green paper, and every casualty always got back up.” Even then it was chaotic and we knew that wouldn’t even come close to the chaos of real people shooting back at us. Glass breaking, debris flying everywhere, civilians screaming and running in every direction, the cracks and hisses of bullets whizzing by you, all of it would be overwhelming to say the least. So, you mentally prepare for it. We knew that if that day ever came, a couple of us would die, more of us would be wounded. We knew it, we accepted it, and we trained for it. We did so, knowing deep down that nothing was ever going to happen. Then, early one morning my security pager went off that said “alert” and I got a phone call seconds later. I needed to come in, and I wasn’t sure why. As I was grabbing my kit bag, I looked over at the television and saw the North Tower of the World Trade Center on fire. That day had come. Mindset was now everything.
I left that team the following year and would find myself in Iraq over the next three (2003, 2004, 2005). I can affirm with full certainty that those years spent with that team is the main reason I’m sitting here writing this blog today. It wasn’t the training, it wasn’t the planning, it wasn’t the strategy, and it definitely wasn’t the intel; it was the mental conditioning we had put each other through years earlier. RTT placed a massive amount of confidence and responsibility on the shoulders of teenagers and I thank them for it.
That weight made me a man. Now almost 20 years later, nothing has changed. Mental conditioning is the only avenue to success. Mindset can save your life, save your relationship, or save your business. Mentally preparing yourself for the worst and hoping that day never comes. We had a t-shirt on that team that epitomized this sentiment to a T.
“LORD, FORBID THEM FROM ENTERING AND FORGIVE US, FOR THEY SHALL NEVER LEAVE. “
We never wanted anyone to come into that base, just as none of us ever pray for war (regardless of what you might think). We pray that no man ever has to be subjected to war, and then, if he must, we proudly raise our hands to go because we know we are mentally prepared to endure it. This is the same manner in which you should attack life. Preparation and Optimism. Prepare yourself for the storms that may come. Make sure you are ready to right your ship and then set sail for calm waters. The point of preparation is not to live life in fear of what will come. The point of preparation is to live life knowing your ready for when it does. You must steal any and all fear associated with the storm. So, when life rears its ugly head as it sometimes does, you must have the mindset ready to endure and overcome any obstacle. Whether it be financial blunders, business matters, relationship issues, or even a life threatening situation, you must challenge the beliefs associated with each of them. Evaluate the belief systems you have that are holding onto you. What is really true about those beliefs and what would need to change to make them more positive and accurate? I’m sure at some point we’ve all had that experience that completely brakes your heart, you think you will never recover, and your life is now completely over. Your heart probably was broken, but you would get over it, and life was far from over. With the right mindset, the right belief system, that heartache can be short-lived and better yet, a great learning experience. So, prepare yourself mentally for the hardships that may come, live life with blissful optimism, and grow with every adversity.
Remember you have control, and in as little as 3 – 2 – 1 you can execute.