Desire, above all traits, is the biggest determinant of success, says Chad Williams, author and former Navy SEAL.
He addressed the 2023 CUNA Lending Council Conference Sunday in Denver.
Williams took attendees through his journey from a failing community college student to a member of the world’s most elite fighting unit, culminating in a harrowing last mission to capture a suicide bomb maker in Iraq.
Along the way, he offered seven principles that translate from the battlefield to the business world:1. Aim small, miss small. The more particular you are about your target, the better you’ll be, whether what’s in your crosshairs is an enemy combatant or a business goal.
“If you aim small, your miss will be small as well, and you’ll likely meet your goal,” Williams says. “The more particular you are about what’s in your crosshairs, the better you’ll be at hitting it.”
2. Common man with an uncommon desire to succeed. Williams recalls some SEAL candidates who seemed destined to succeed, and others to fail. Strong desire has pushed many less-promising candidates to succeed where many frontrunners failed.
“The most important factor for success is desire,” he says, noting his determined mindset. “I’d rather die than quit.”
3. Humbly I serve. Servant leadership is the foundation of the Navy SEALs. “It’s team first, then your buddy, and then you,” Williams says. “The needs of the team and others are more important than your needs. This creates a family dynamic.”
Servant leaders, whether in the military or in business, engender loyalty and “get the extra mile out of others,” he says.
4. Forged by adversity. How people react to adversity shapes their lives, Williams says. “It will be what causes you to utterly fail, or you’ll be forged by it.”
The death of Williams’ mentor in Iraq, while devastating, fueled his drive. Out of 173 SEAL candidates in his class, only 13 passed. “Graduation was one of the happiest days of my life.”
5. Earn your Trident every day. The Navy SEAL Trident is a badge awarded to those who’ve completed SEAL qualification training. However, both SEALs and business leaders must strive to improve constantly.
“You need to earn it and strive for innovation every day,” Williams says. “Tactics are perishable, and the enemy is evolving. Look for better ways to do things, and cultivate that type of atmosphere.”
6. Control emotions and actions regardless of circumstances. Williams confronted grave circumstances during his last mission in Iraq, where he faced a deadly ambush. His squad leader calmly issued orders: “I need you to push left,” which meant advancing into fire.
The squad leader’s low-key demeanor maintained order. “Calmness is contagious,” Williams says.
7. The ultimate motivation discovered in a hat. Navy SEAL candidates write what motivates them inside their hats. Common themes among those who succeed: faith, family, and friends.
“You have to reach outside of yourself to succeed,” says Williams, who wrote the name of his fallen mentor in his hat. “Go for something greater than yourself. What would you write on the inside of your hat?”