Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the UK, once said: “Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.”
Centuries earlier, John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, also said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are a leader.”
These two quotes show that leadership is all about leading by example. A great leader shows how to act and behave, inspiring others to follow them rather than telling people what to do. It’s often more powerful to lead by example rather than order others around.
Today, we are lucky to have a great leader with us: Rich Diviney, a former Navy SEAL officer with over 20 years of experience at the highest level. I love diving deep into the mindset of a Navy SEAL and talking about the techniques, lessons, and wisdom that comes from being a leader and a driver of success.
“Leadership has a mixture of skills and attributes. … Some people are born and predisposed with some of the [leadership] attributes, … while some are born [without it] but develop them as [they grow in life]. … And leadership skills [can be learned]. … [Also], leadership is something that people decide, not us. So, if we want to be leaders, we need to behave [as expected].” – Rich Diviney
Today on The School of Greatness with Rich Diviney, you will be learning how to attract success, destroy laziness, and achieve optimal performance — skills that can help you become a great leader by example.
An ex-Navy SEAL officer with over two decades of experience, Rich Diviney has completed over thirteen overseas deployments (eleven of them to Iraq and Afghanistan), handling multiple leadership positions. Since Rich’s retirement in 2017, he has worked as a speaker, facilitator, and consultant with the Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute and Simon Sinek Inc.
Reflecting on his vast experience, Rich recently wrote a book, The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance. This book will help you discover how to fit inside a team, how to handle stress, challenges, and uncertainty, and how you can master the attributes for success. It was an honor to have Rich on the show, and I hope you are inspired and motivated by our conversation.
We begin this session by discussing the relevance of optimal performance over its more seductive counterpart: peak performance. Many people think that “optimal” and “peak” are the same thing — but they aren’t.
“Peak performance is, in a word, ‘awesome.’ … It’s when you are at your best, and you are doing things that you never thought you could do. … It’s a great goal, … [but maybe for someone like an athlete or a musician, who has to be at their peak at that moment]. … [But for most of us, including Navy SEALs, it is the optimal performance that is ideal]. … Optimal [performance] is about [performing your best] with the ebb and flow of life, [even if you are not at your peak].” – Rich Diviney
There’s a small but important distinction between peak and optimal performance. Peak performance is what many athletes strive for — an athlete competing in the Olympics comes to mind. This is when you are at the very height of your abilities, a once-in-a-lifetime state that can’t be replicated.
Shooting for peak performance all the time is simply not sustainable, as any athlete knows. Instead, as Rich says, optimal performance should be the goal. It’s a subtle difference, but for any athlete, entrepreneur, and leader, optimal performance will give you greater longevity and success.
Finding your optimal performance starts with understanding yourself and your capabilities. Then, it’s about tapping into your core motivation and training yourself to destroy laziness.
How can you start to train for optimal performance? One of the attributes mentioned by Rich in his book is discipline. Like performance, the discipline has many facets: general discipline, self-discipline, and finding a balance between the two.
“Self-discipline is internally focused … [and] about managing oneself, … it has very little to do with external requirements. … A self-disciplined person likes routine and certainty, … but sometimes they have trouble achieving long-term goals. Long-term goals [require] an ability to march into the unknown and uncertainty, [and to get] thrown off your routine. … Moving towards a goal takes … [the ability] to adapt out of the structure [and going into the stressful situations]. The most successful people are those who have both – self-discipline and [general] discipline.” – Rich Diviney
The way one stays motivated towards a goal is highly subjective. But when it comes to Rich, he divides his goals into smaller chunks because then he can tackle each piece separately. Training your mind to be calm in stressful situations and creating a reward system for achieving a goal can help you stay motivated.
As a Navy SEAL, Rich has a ton of experience training for extreme situations when things might go wrong. He relies on what’s known as the 80/20 rule.
“This is where experience matters. … The 80/20 rule [tells us that every situation] comes with 80% of certainty, … [while the remaining] 20% is just … [beyond] control. This is when [training and] mindset come. [The confidence and faith] that if anything happens … [within] that 20% [then] we will figure the best possible way out.” – Rich Diviney
In any situation, 20% of what goes on is beyond your control. Let that sink in for a minute. It’s an incredibly freeing, powerful thing to realize — because it also means you can prepare for 80% of what life throws at you. Training your mind to deal with chaotic settings helps avoid freezing up or freaking out in a challenging situation. There are points at which you should start descending into an autonomic mode when your sub-consciousness takes over. And all this is possible only after extensive training and practice.
“[As Navy SEALs], when bad things happened, we used to slow down and start thinking through it, versus [getting] all hyped-up. … It comes down to [knowing] how to think under stressful circumstances. … [Even as] civilians … [you should think about deliberately] putting yourself into [stressful moments] daily, where it doesn’t hurt you but prepares you.” – Rich Diviney
Controlled discomfort is one way to get yourself to build resilience so that when something comes up, you can remain calm. There are all kinds of ways to experience discomfort intentionally that can lead you toward personal growth. Do a hard, ten-minute workout, try public speaking; basically, do anything that challenges you and tests your will. Do it in a structured way that allows you to grow without putting yourself in any serious harm’s way. The thrill of overcoming a challenge or a fear is an excellent way to practice leading by example when the chips are down.
In addition to being calm in the face of chaos, Rich has identified certain character traits that inspire others to admire or follow your lead. These qualities need to be developed by anyone who aspires to be a good leader one day.
“[The five traits] I talk about in my book [are] – … empathy, … selflessness, … authenticity, … decisiveness, … and accountability.” – Rich Diviney
Why are these traits so important? Empathy shows that you care. Selflessness shows that your intentions are pure. By being real or authentic, you can build trust with others. Decisiveness is a sign of having a presence of mind. Accountability reflects ownership, which is all essential to becoming a great leader. Working on one’s humility and keeping narcissism in check is also something you must actively work on. Another value that sets leaders apart from the rest is the ability to switch tasks while keeping priority in mind.
Rich finds multi-tasking to be a myth. The idea that we can do multiple things well at the same time is simply impossible. Our conscious mind can’t focus on more than one thing at once. Everything else you do alongside your primary task mostly happens subconsciously. For example, imagine that you’re driving a car and have to brake suddenly. Your entire focus shifts to the driving, right? At that moment, you aren’t listening to the podcast or song you had on in the background. Instead of multitasking, what we’re really doing is task-switching.
“Task-switching is hopping [from one task to another]. … [We switch context], and do it automatically. … [Some find] switching more difficult [than others], which is advantageous [at times when you need a deep focus]. … On the other side, [there could be someone] with ADHD [(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) who constantly switches]. When you constantly switch tasks or contexts, then it uses a tremendous amount of energy. [So what you need is a balance].” – Rich Diviney
The balance is when you can focus on something and be in a state of awareness for other things that are going on the side, such that when priorities switch, you can switch your focus quickly. Task switching allows you to take control of a situation effectively while leading your team. And having the confidence to switch tasks not only helps in you having faith in yourself but also gives faith to your team.
Learning how to develop competency within yourself, and being self-confident enough not to doubt your abilities when challenges arise, is a big part of growing.
“It’s [about] taking control of two things — the internal factors like your psychology [and mindset], and external factors [like your physical strength and endurance]. … [About immediately being able] to control what you can, … and [managing] uncertainty. Control and action builds confidence.” – Rich Diviney
Have you ever asked yourself, “Am I living in fear?” This question can help you recognize that you might be faking confidence or living off confidence from the past that you no longer feel.
“There’s nothing that builds more confidence [than setting goals and accomplishing them]. … [The goal] can be as small or as large as you want, [just] pick some goals, set your intent, and move towards it.” – Rich Diviney
Something I like to do is to make a list of my biggest fears and start facing them one at a time. Looking fear in the face takes away its power. This exercise can get you at least comfortable with fear until you master it. When you are afraid of something, you need to see through the stress and find a way to embrace that fear without letting it cripple you. Overcoming your fears is a massive step toward achieving true self-confidence.
I’ve talked to a lot of people, and most of them are afraid of failing. Many people say that they are afraid of success and the pressure that comes with it. But, they’re also afraid of being judged by others.
“The fear of rejection is [an internal] process, it is what you are thinking about [yourself], and judgment is what [other people are] thinking about you. … [People are afraid of being judged by others] … because they feel like they are actively excluded from the group.” – Rich Diviney
There’s a way to use that fear of rejection and our fear of being judged by others to our advantage.
“If the fear [is leading you] proactively towards your goal, [then it is effective]. … If it is detracting from your goals, … [then] it is being used ineffectively.” – Rich Diviney
Most people are obsessed with the negative comments they get versus the abundance of positive words they receive. It’s part of our innate human mindset — to give more weight to your fears is just how we’re wired. Perceiving your fears as opportunities just takes a little bit of practice and a change of mindset.
Facing your fears, building self-confidence, finding strength in discomfort: These things take time and constant effort. But, they can also lead you to a whole new level of success and leadership. One tactic Rich uses to keep himself motivated is to question his status quo constantly.
“The quality of our lives is directly proportional to the quality of questions we ask ourselves consistently. … If you [constantly] ask [yourselves] negative questions, then your quality of life is probably going to suffer. … You must ask yourself … – What am I great at? What are some of the things that I can learn [from my mistakes], and how can [I make them better]?” – Rich Diviney
It is often said that you attract the energy that you put into the world. If you are angry, then everything around you will act as a trigger and make your situation even more miserable. This is where the law of attraction comes in.
Rich believes in ‘The Law of Attraction,” and he has an interesting story about his relationship with the law and how it has worked for him.
“[When I was] in high school, my mom gave me a book called The Key to Yourself by Venice J. Bloodworth, … and this book was all about the ‘Law of Attraction.’ [It brings forward] this idea that if you set your [intention and focus] towards a positive [mindset], you will start heading down [the road to success and happiness]. You reap what you sow.” – Rich Diviney
When you set an intention and write down a goal, it gets lodged in your brain, allowing you to notice and grab opportunities that are already there. This also allows you to think out of the box to reach your goals efficiently.
Every problem has two elements. The first element is something variable which outlines the problem; the second element is the solution. Rich also talks about an attribute called “cunning,” which is the ability to think outside-the-box to deal with a problem. Here’s an example of how this works.
“A king wants to save … a princess [stuck in] a tower guarded by a dragon. [The normal solution is to slay the dragon and rescue the princess. But if you look at it], the mission is to save the princess, [it says nothing] about [slaying] the dragon. … So save the princess [without slaying the dragon, and that is the most effective solution].” – Rich Diviney
Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best one. When you start thinking outside-the-box, you open yourself to seeing more possibilities and opportunities to attract success.
The last year has been tough on all of us. COVID has uprooted a lot of people’s lives and had brought the world to a grinding halt. None of us had faced a similar situation before, and now all of us were facing it together.
But, it’s a new year — a chance to hit the reset button. The beginning of 2021 means it’s time for a new gameplan.
“[You must] look back at 2020 and [identify] what [the year] has taught you about your attributes because we were all thrown into … [uncertainty]. … [Through my book], you can [identify the attributes that you have, and develop the ones that you don’t].” – Rich Diviney
Rich offers a free assessment tool that will test you for grit, mental acuity, and your drive. It will allow you to see where you stand regarding having the attributes that make a successful leader. You can develop any attribute you like as long as you are disciplined, motivated, and ready to get comfortable with fear and discomfort.
Going through adversity brings confidence, and you should be alive and thriving when you get on to the other side, which is key to growth.
Rich has such good insight to offer, and I strongly recommend listening to this whole episode. I think my biggest takeaway from our conversation is what Rich calls the three truths of life:
Truth #1 – You are entitled to nothing, so work hard and get your hands dirty.
Truth #2 – Knowledge is potential power, but not ultimate power because unless you act, nothing happens.
Truth #3 – Set goals, but don’t be stubborn in taking or avoiding a particular pathway. Instead, be flexible and start moving towards your goal; figure out your path as you go.
I acknowledge and appreciate Rich for joining us to share his knowledge and wisdom over self-improvement and optimal performance. I am extremely grateful to him for taking out the time to join us in this episode of The School of Greatness. Please follow Rich on Instagram @rich_diviney for more inspiration and motivation and check out his company’s pages on Facebook and LinkedIn.
I will leave you with a quote from Ernest Hemingway: “When people talk, listen completely.” You are worthy, and you matter, and I am so grateful for you. It is time to go out there and do something great.
Stressed about money? Try You Need a Budget FREE for 34 days (no credit card required) at youneedabudget.com/greatness.
No matter what you're into, Bespoke Post and Box of Awesome have you covered. Get 20% your first monthly box when you visit boxofawesome.com and use code GREATNESS at checkout.