Mark Divine

Mark Divine

Mark Divine is a Navy Seal Commander, New York Times best-selling author, yoga master, entrepreneur, and podcaster. Mark served nine years on active duty, eleven as a Reserve SEAL. The government eventually tasked him with creating a mentoring program today known as SEALFIT. Six years after retiring from the military, Mark launched the Courage Foundation – an organization to increase awareness about veteran suicide. In 2014, Mark started his podcast The Mark Divine Show aimed at learning from leaders, visionaries, scientists, and founders. He has authored five books, including Unbeatable Mind, Staring Down the Wolf, and Way of the Seal. Mark has also co-founded the Coronado Brewing Company, and launched US Tactical, a government contracting business. To call Mark a renaissance man is an understatement.

Mark started meditating Zen when he was 21, and studied under an enlightened, grand-master Zen teacher. And the crux of his work has centered around his unique fusion of Eastern methodologies for mental and spiritual development with physical training. His three main points to me were: Don’t neglect or misunderstand your mental toughness, manage your energy properly, and prioritize others more than you prioritize yourself and you’ll be better off.

His clients who go through Navy Seals BUD/S training have a 90% success rate using his training methodology. And BUD/S is a program with an 85% fail rate. Boom.

One of Mark’s innovations in training Navy Seals is emphasizing the value of mental toughness in addition to physical toughness. And he stressed that mental toughness is not about power or strength in the way we typically think. It’s not about sheer force, or blindly powering through something. Rather, “mental toughness is more about adaptability and flexibility than it is being able to gut through something.”

Mark used an example with the parable of the oak and the reed. It goes like this: Someone comes to a workout who’s a “Mr. Tough Guy” – they try to show off, try to do more than they really can, etc. Mark thinks that the problem with Mr. Tough Guy is that they’re lacking mental toughness, which is not the same thing as what we think of as physical toughness. Mark uses an example of an oak tree and a reed in the middle of a tsunami: “If a big storm or tsunami is coming, would you rather be the mighty oak, or the little reed? The tsunami’s going to break that oak and wash it away, but the reed is just going to bend over – it’ll be fine, because it can simply flex under pressure. Mental toughness means being more like the reed than the oak.”

After hearing it, Mark’s point makes a lot of sense. If you hurt yourself because you’re just trying to prove yourself, then you’re the mighty oak, and you’re going to get yourself knocked down!

The parable of the oak and reed is interesting, but how can we actually use it? Mark told me: “So, in something like a training session, you pay attention to how you’re managing your energy. Some models say just go hard and fast at everything. But the problem with that is it’s not ideal for your body, and you're going to have an injury eventually, so it’s way better to approach your workout with an awareness of what your body needs and how you can use your training to build teamwork.”

Mark stressed to me a motto used in the Seals: Team first. Mission second. You third. The fact that team comes first doesn’t mean that you don’t matter – in fact, it’s a way of reinforcing yourself. Mark explained it this way: If you have seven people on your team, and each one is prioritizing looking out for the others, then you have six people watching your back. If your priority is just yourself, then you only have one person watching your back. Would you rather have one person watching your back, or six?

“Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It just shattered my paradigm of what human beings are capable of.”

Do today what others won't, so you can do tomorrow what others can't.