Life Advice from a Navy SEAL

“Just don’t quit,” said my friend Tore Knos.

He was giving me a tour of his home in Venice Beach, California. While in his home office, I saw a picture of him posing on one knee with his rifle in hand looking sternly at the camera. Dressed in green fatigues, camouflage Boonie hat, combat boots and wearing a Fu Manchu moustache, he’s a warrior. No smiles here.

“Is this when when you were a Navy SEAL?”

He pointed to a plaque hanging next to the photo, “That’s right. I was a member of SEAL Team One.”

I met Tore ten years ago when he was invited to attend a Grace@Work Bible study I was leading at my office. I was about to start a one year study which would cover the entire Bible. A mutual friend asked him if he would be interested in attending.

In walked this man who was all of five eight and maybe one hundred and sixty pounds. You might have guessed my surprise when several weeks into the study I found out he was a Navy SEAL. I told him, “I thought all the Navy SEALs were big, strapping, muscle-bound tough guys.

He laughed and said, “There are guys like that on the SEAL Teams, but most of them look like me. Just looking at us, you wouldn’t know we are Navy SEALs.”

I’ve read a book on the difficulty of becoming a Navy SEAL. They are an elite unit of the military, given the most difficult assignments in the toughest of conditions. Many want to become SEALs, but very few make it through the BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training).

The numbers are incredible.

People who join the Navy annually: 40,000
Recruits expressing interest in becoming a SEAL: 20,000
Recruits meeting the minimum requirements: 1,200
Recruits who enter BUD/S training each year: 1,000
Recruits who become Navy SEALs: 250

Knowing these numbers, I asked him, “What is the secret to getting through BUD/S training and moving on to SEAL training?”

He said, “It’s simple. Don’t quit.”

Tore continued, “Everybody who qualifies for the basic training has the physical ability to become a SEAL. At every exercise, I was yelled at constantly, put in ridiculous physical situations, and made to endure inhuman environments. Everywhere we went, the trainers reminded us ‘the bell’ was always available.

“All we had to do to quit was walk over and ring the bell. They called it ringing out. They would immediately give us a blanket, hot coffee, and a doughnut. No judgment. No embarrassment. No questions asked. Simple to quit. But man, it was hard to stay.”

“I’d say,” I observed.

Then Tore said, “Much of success in life is decided by not quitting. Don’t quit. That’s it. Nothing profound. Simply don’t quit. When you quit, it is over. When you keep going, you don’t know what might happen. Greatness comes by saying to yourself, ‘Don’t quit.’”

Tore lived this motto in everything he did and continues to do.

When I met him, I found out he was a Ph.D. “Why did you pursue a Ph.D.?” I asked.

“My wife is a college professor and Ph.D., so I decided I should become a Ph.D., too,” he responded. So he applied and completed it. He never quit.

When we were in the Bible study together, he decided to move to Venice Beach. His son and daughter lived in California, so nothing was keeping him in Georgia. He asked his son to find him a fixer-upper in Venice Beach near the water. The real estate agent he talked to could not find anyone to buy the house he was interested in. It was such a mess. As I understood it, it was close to being condemned by the city.

Tore bought the house and moved to Venice.

He worked on the house himself, starting with rebuilding the foundation. He did all the work. It took him a year to “dry it in.” In the meantime, he lived in a tent on the property and showered with a hose in the front yard. That was over five years ago. When I visited the house, it was just beautiful. He never quit.

Before going to California, he thought it a good idea to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). He was 64 when he made this decision. We were sitting together in his last Bible study, the day before he was to begin the 2,181-mile hike. It was forecasted to rain with an average temperature of 45 degrees for the next five days. I said, “Why not wait a week for the weather to clear?”

He answered my question by saying, “There will be bad weather from time to time on the hike, so why not get used to it up front?” He left the next day.

He completed the hike in record time. I discovered later, about 1 in 4 people complete the AT each year. Funny how those are the same odds as BUD/S training. He didn’t quit.

What about entrepreneurs?

After leaving Tore, I couldn’t get his secret to success out of my head. I kept thinking about the successful entrepreneurs I have known over the years who practiced this very same principle. Don’t quit.

Then I realized this is true in life. Careers. Marriage. Children. Faith. Business. Markets. Wealth building. Health.

I thought about all the times in my life when I rang the bell and received the blanket, hot coffee, and doughnut. But then I remembered the times in my life which I’m so proud of. Those times when I didn’t quit.

So let’s listen to Tore, “Just don’t quit!”