Inside Delta Force
Yesterday I wrote about how • the ability to operate effectively under conditions of adversity might actually be the secret to life; and • I had no ability whatsoever to do so until quite recently.
It turns out there are many formulations of this principle. (*) But where I personally finally got it from, actually, was from reading and writing obsessively about the military world’s special operators for whom resilience and RESOLVE are their universal guiding principles. For whom resilience and resolve are absolutely everything.
The defining feature, in fact, of almost all special-operations selection processes, where they decide who gets in and this is particularly true for the really elite units is that they systematically make the candidates so completely miserable, exhausted, physically drained, and mentally crushed, that only those with superhuman resilience and resolve stick around (never mind are still able to perform at the stratospheric level required). Basically, by the end, because it has been so monumentally hard and sucky, virtually anyone remotely willing to quit anything under any circumstances has by then already thrown in the towel. And what’s left at the end is: only the people who “have no quit in them.” And that in addition to being pro-level athletes with high intelligence and staggeringly large and diverse skill sets is why they are unstoppable. (*)
Anyway, funnily enough, and to my great good fortune, it turned out just not to be possible for me to read the great piles of military special operations books and memoirs I do, without in some measure however small, and however fumblingly eventually becoming infected with these guys’ amazing spirit of resilience and resolve. I would read about them overcoming such utterly daunting and dangerous obstacles, both in training and operationally and going out and doing so time and time and time again. And it took no particular genius on my part to begin to consider: Hmm maybe my problems aren’t so insurmountable. Maybe they can be overcome. Maybe all I really need is just the right ATTITUDE.
What I needed was resilience and resolve.
It may be no great exaggeration to say that the operators saved my life. They certainly saved my writing career. How could I give up on writing about these guys, or on my ambition to make it as a writer, when faced with nothing more than a little publishing industry adversity… when these guys never once gave up on their training or mission tasks not even when facing daunting complexity and difficulty, horrendous danger, absurdly overwhelming odds, high risk of death or disabling injury, pain and struggle and soul-crushing exertion and endurance, the likes of which I can scarcely imagine?
So here’s an overdue thank-you to the operators not only for going out and saving the world and battling for freedom and decency every day; not only for training like professional athletes and performing like minor gods; not only for their enormous sacrifice and commitment; but for providing such an amazing and priceless example of how to make it through life successfully: with resilience to all difficulties, and with resolve to never quit.
If you’d like to get some of that spec-ops mindset and attitude, here are a few titles (roughly in favourite order) to get you started.
There are the Stoic philosophers. There is Ryan Holiday’s wonderful book The Obstacle Is the Way. Even Tori Amos worked this out somewhere along the line she has a lyric, “I’ve found the secret to life: I’m okay, when everything, is not okay.”
All this is also why they are completely and endlessly fascinating to write about. Basically, we’ve got real-life superheroes walking around.