The Heart and the Fist
Good morning, afternoon, or evening to you! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve checked in. I’ve been relatively busy, slash apparently catching up on sleep from Thailand. I don’t think I really gave myself adequate time to recover when I got back to the States. Just jumped back into the routine. Such is life, though. So here’s the brief recap of my life since October 28th.
I’m almost finished with a book that was recommended to me by a friend of mine. Written by Eric Greitens, the title of the book is The Heart and The Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, The Making of a Navy SEAL. From the inside cover:
Like many young idealists, Eric Greitens wanted to make a difference. Throughout college and after, he traveled to the world’s trouble spots, working in refugee camps and serving the sick and the poor on four different continents, from Gaza to Croatia to Mother Teresa’s home in Calcutta, among others. Yet when innocent civilians were threatened with harm, there was nothing he could do but step up and try to ease the suffering. He became a Rhodes Scholar to study the history of humanitarianism, in search of a better way, but all the theory in the world could not get past the fundamental problem: when an army invades, the weak need to be protected.
So, he joined the Navy SEALs and became one of the world’s elite warriors. As an officer, he ledhis men through the unforgettable soul-testing of SEAL training, culminating in Hell Week – recounted in these pages with remarkable detail – and went on to deployments in Kenya, Thailand, Afghanistan, and Iraq, where he faced harrowing encounters and brutal militia attacks. Yet even when he wore heavy armor and wielded some of the deadliest combat arms, the lessons of humanitarian work bore fruit.
At the heart of Eric’s powerful story lies a paradox: sometimes you have to be strong to do good, but you also have to do good to be strong. The heart and the fist together are more powerful than either one alone.
The book is excellent, and a handful of parts stick out to me. It’s rather inspiring actually. But there was one part that, as an athlete and especially as a coach, I thought was very insightful. It’s toward the end of the Chapter called Hell Week, where he walks us through the most grueling 7 days of training imaginable. It’s a very vivid account of the mental, physical, and emotional tests, strains, ups and downs of the SEAL hopefuls that voluntarily go through this. He explains to us, also, that everyone has their own reasons for going through it. And as such, it’s tough to predict who will make it through. He begins to close out this chapter:
“People always ask me, “What kind of people make it through Hell Week?” The most basic answer is, “I don’t know.” I know – generally – who won’t make it through Hell Week.”
From there, he goes on to explain those types of people.
As an athlete and a coach, I could identify each and every one of the people me mentions – either generically, or specifically from teams that I’ve played on or coached. And to be fair, I had to question whether I had been any of these people. I’m secure in saying that I haven’t been, although it would not surprise me if at times I’ve been perceived as any of these people. And if I’ve been perceived as one, there’s a reason. These perceptions are generally not out of the blue. What is it about my actions, or my words that would have others perceive me as …. (fill in the blank)? That was an interesting process for me.
But as a coach specifically, I find that from time to time, you get these types of players. Coaches constantly preach (in various ways) that the team is only as strong as the weakest link. Or that everybody on the team has to be on the same page; has to be willing to put the team first; make sacrifices on behalf of their teammates; go the extra mile; dig deeper; be less about talk and more about doing; and a whole host of other clichés. At the end of the day, successful teams – and more importantly successful programs – all live up to these criteria. And the people that Eric Greitens mentions in his answer all detract from the building of a successful team and a successful program. Navy SEALs have earned the privilege of being a part of such an elite team; a team often recognized as the best of the best. The people that Greitens mentions in his answer must either completely change or be left behind. And as coaches, when we are trying to build the best team, we stumble into these same young men and women … or maybe they stumble into us. But in order for our teams to succeed, we must help them to change, or unfortunately leave them behind. And as athletes, we have to be willing to take a deep look at ourselves and determine who we want to be, and how to get there; starting with who we are right now. And if we find ourselves in the reflection of Eric Greiten’s answer, then how do we start to move forward?
“There are dozens of types that fail. The weightlifting meatheads who think that the size of their biceps is an indication of their strength; they usually fail. The kids covered in tattoos announcing to the world how tough they are; they usually fail. The preening leaders who don’t want to be dirty; they usually fail. The me-first, look-at-me, I’m the best former athletes who have always been told that they are stars and think that they can master BUD/S like they mastered their high school football tryouts; they usually fail. The blowhards who have a thousand stories about what they are going to do, but a thin record of what they have actually done; they usually fail. The whiners, the “this is not fair” guys, the self-pitying criers; they usually fail. The talkers who have always looked good or sounded good, rather than actually been good – they usually fail. In short, all of the men who focus on show fail. The vicious beauty of BUD/S is that there are no excuses, no explanations. You do, or do not.”
Chazz Woodson Fan Page (facebook)