Do you have a significant setback in your life you’re trying to overcome?
Today, my guest is retired US Navy SEAL Lieutenant Jason Redman, a man who had to overcome a near-death experience by using every ounce of his training to avoid the victim mindset and become the inspirational leader he is today.
I know you’re going to be inspired after this episode and want to hear more — the great news is that Jason has written a new book called Pointman Planner, which allows you to set quarterly goals based on “Special Operations” principles.
In this episode, we discuss Jason’s heroic story of being shot in the face and nearly killed in Iraq and how he mentally prepared to overcome the challenge of his life. We also talk about how to avoid falling into a victim mentality when life gets tough, the three rules of leadership everyone can follow, the most significant lesson he learned as a Navy SEAL, and so much more.
I hope you get as much value out of his story as I did! Let’s get started.
Retired US Navy Lieutenant Jason Redman is a speaker, personal corporate leadership coach, and the best-selling author of the books, The Trident: The Forging And Reforging Of A Navy Seal Leader and Overcome: Crush Adversity With The Leadership Techniques of America’s Toughest Warriors, along with, Pointman Planner.
Between 1992 and 2013, Jason spent 11 years as an enlisted Navy SEAL and ten years as a SEAL Officer leading SEAL teams in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. On September 13, 2007, outside Fallujah, Iraq, he was severely wounded and nearly killed when his Assault Team came under heavy machine-gun and small-arms fire during an enemy ambush. Fortunately, he and his team had the training and mindset required to overcome the extreme adversity and survive the ambush.
Like many of us, Jason’s ego plagued his early leadership resulting in poor decisions. As a result, Jason had badly eroded SEAL’s trust, and they no longer wanted to work with him. Jason had to figure out how to consistently rebuild credibility one day at a time. Flash-forward to today, and he’s developed his own three rules of leadership, which are sure to set anyone on the right path:
“Number one, 70% of leadership is how you lead yourself. I wasn’t doing [that] — I was living the ‘do as I say — not as I do,’ [creed]. People confuse their ability to tell others what to do with leadership, and that’s not leadership — that’s often bad management.” – Jason Redman
As the saying goes, “People will follow you if you give them a reason to.” If we build structure, discipline, and maintain positivity in the face of negativity — then we show others what’s possible.
If a leader has a problem with their team, instead of wondering what to do to fix them, ask, “How well do I lead myself?”
“Number two is how do you lead others? If I say ‘jump’ [waiting for] you to say ‘how high’ — you’re not a leader, you’re a dictator. Good leadership is about motivating, inspiring, and providing the resources to be successful.” – Jason Redman
A true leader builds a successful team by inspiring each member to perform their role towards a common goal while being held accountable with clearly defined standards.
“Number three is [always leading]. You cannot pick and choose [when to lead, which] was the big mistake I made as a young officer that almost ended my career. … [When you are in the hardest moments in the eye of the storm], if everybody is starting to feel sorry for themselves and [although] haven’t physically quit — they’re mentally quitting and going through the motions — [step up and lead].” – Jason Redman
Learning how to always be a leader would become a defining moment in Jason’s life, as he faced the darkest days lying on a hospital bed.
Jason was one week away from returning home from another tour in Iraq when his SEAL team received their next mission to capture an Al-Qaeda leader. Unfortunately, their night mission led them into an abandoned field and an ambush.
“I’ve been shot at before but never like that. I could feel the pressure of bullets going by me. I was [hit] across the body armor and took two rounds in the left elbow; I thought my arm had been shot off.” – Jason Redman
Separated and pinned down by severe machine-gun fire, Jason was eventually struck in the head; his team thought he was dead. Thankfully, the bullet had missed his brain, and they urgently planned a medical evacuation. After what felt like a decade, Jason and two others were loaded on a helicopter and safely flown to the hospital. Jason credits his team for saving his life.
“The doctors told me I lost 40% of my blood volume [and] said it’s a miracle I survived. They [said] my fitness was the only thing that kept me alive — I think the big man [upstairs] helped.” – Jason Redman
Awaking in hospital, Jason couldn’t speak due to his injuries and subsequent reconstructive surgery, leaving his mouth left wired shut. Jason could only communicate with pen and paper, but he felt pure joy to be alive!
“Are the guys okay? Has my wife been notified? And do I still look pretty?’ I wanted to know that they were okay [and] nobody had died, that my wife was aware and then [I was] just trying to be funny!” – Jason Redman
Incredibly, it took just 96 hours after being shot in the face and evacuated from the battlefield to reach Bethesda, Maryland. Jason had a long road of facial reconstruction ahead of him, and once the initial joy of being alive began to wear off, Jason had a conversation in the hospital that angered him. After appearing to drift off to sleep mid-conversation, he heard a visitor focus on a victim mindset and how overwhelming the pain and suffering was. It spurred Jason into action with an epiphany.
“Nobody’s going to come into this room and feel sorry for me. I [realized] this is bigger than me. Around me in the hospital were other wounded guys. … I thought to myself, ‘This sucks, but you’ve been through worse. I recognized this is what leading from any position, even a hospital bed, means — [it’s] choosing positivity in the face of negativity.” – Jason Redman
Jason refused to allow anyone into his room unless they had a positive mindset and wrote the following sign to hang on his hospital room door:
‘ATTENTION, To all who enter here. If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds that I received I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country that I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20% further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrow. If you are not prepared for that: go elsewhere! FROM: The Management.’
Jason had no idea what impact that sign would have, not just for him but other wounded warriors. The sign became Jason’s mission statement guiding him like a light in the dark times.
The sign became a symbol of courage in the face of extreme adversity, reaching as far as the White House, where President George W. Bush invited him and signed his declaration. True to his character, instead of keeping it, the framed sign now hangs in Walter Reed’s wounded ward. Even first lady Michelle Obama was moved by his sign that she featured it twice in her book Becoming.
Jason’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle, but with the advantage of hindsight, he shared how the severe nature of SEAL training helped his recovery and made him stronger than ever.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing several SEALs like Jocko Willink, David Goggins, and Chadd Wright, to name a few. Everyone talks about the importance of the BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training in building the mindset and skills to perform at the highest levels in life. Jason shared the most important lesson that BUD/S training gave him that aided his recovery.
“I’ll sum it up in one phrase: ‘Get off the X.’ In SEAL training, ‘the X’ was the point of the attack or the ambush point, … [but] I also learned if you’re ever on the X, you have to get off it as quickly as possible. The longer you sit on it, the harder it is to get out of an ambush. When I got to the hospital, I realized I stepped out of one ambush into another.” – Jason Redman
As Jason heard doctors contemplate amputating his arm and that years of reconstructive surgery lay ahead, he realized that the ambush of bombs and bullets on the battlefield had been transferred to everyday life.
“It took a couple of years for that clarity, but everybody gets ambushed in life and stuck on that X. It’s like quicksand, and the more you want to feel sorry for yourself, three things happen. Number one, we look back at what we’ve lost and waste time [contemplating the what-ifs. [Number two,] we also look forward, [thinking] I was supposed to be this or that, and then when we get bitter about that, the last one is we look for someone or something to blame.” – Jason Redman
When life ambushes us, it’s easy to allow the victim mindset to pin us to our X. If left unchecked, the X becomes an excuse for decades, and people can “die” mentally and emotionally. Do you currently find yourself on the X? Have you been ambushed by something unexpectedly? If you are, take some time to write it down and find somebody you trust to talk about how you’re feeling — you can even use Jason’s three to do when stuck on the X as a starting point. It’s important to realize that if you feel stuck on your X, you’re not alone.
The next step can be to use some of Jason’s advice on how to analyze what is within our control and how to build our days constructively.
Jason’s SEAL training embedded the value of structure and discipline in Jason’s mind, which provided the platform to deal with more challenging events, like recovering from his life-threatening injuries. When writing his book Overcome, Jason needed deep reflections to answer people’s most pertinent question, “How did you remain so optimistic?” In our interview, Jason uncovered five key areas to find balance in the midst of difficult circumstances.
“The foundational level is physical leadership. As a leader, you need a lot of energy to think clearly [and] a sound mind in everything that you’re doing. The foundational level consists of sleep, nutrition, and fitness.” – Jason Redman
Jason’s doctors told him his fitness helped save his life. While most people will never experience that excruciating level of pain and trauma, everyone can still do their best to stay fit, active, and take care of their bodies so that when things do get difficult, they have a strong foundation.
“Number two is mental leadership. When I became a junior officer, I was arrogant and thought I knew everything. I didn’t challenge my beliefs [or] my capabilities, and I didn’t do things to get out of my comfort zone.” – Jason Redman
If we don’t challenge our beliefs, it’s easy to persist with something incorrect or even harmful to us. Jason recommended finding mentors to surround yourself with who demonstrate the success you’re seeking and remove the people pulling you away from your goals.
“Number three is emotional leadership. The third level is our ability to maintain [consistency and not be] too hot and not too cold. I struggle with [being emotionally consistent]. I was an emotional rollercoaster when I was younger, and I realize that damaged my credibility as a leader.” – Jason Redman
Part of emotional leadership is considering others and not being a “leadership wrecking ball” — someone who only focuses on the result and leaves a path of destruction behind them. Strong emotional leadership takes others into consideration before making decisions.
“Number four is social leadership. How do we build rings of influence around us? I [have] four rings of influence; the outermost ring is our work relationships; the next ring is work [related] acquaintances or friends; the third ring is close friends; and the bulls-eye is our immediate family. Western culture [focuses on] the two outermost rings, and we take [our close friends and family] for granted. If you haven’t put the time and effort into your immediate family, then often it will break.” – Jason Redman
That’s so true — how often do we hear about successful people getting to the end of their career or even lives saying, “why didn’t I put more time into my family?” Never take family or friends for granted — they can be one of your greatest pillars of support.
“The last one is spiritual leadership. Faith played a part [for me], but for others, I tell them [we need to] get outside of ourselves and have perspective in life. We all live in our own hell when we’re in a crisis, but spiritual leadership enables us to recognize others going through much worse. Recognize that what you’re going through is temporary — even though it’s painful, you will get to the other side and beyond it. If you’re alive, it’s a gift.” – Jason Redman
Life is certainly a gift, and we should remind ourselves of that every day. Jason has given us some great tools to maximize our potential and navigate out of our current obstacles, and I’m so thankful for him coming on the show to share his story with us.
Guys, this conversation with Jason Redman was jam-packed with wisdom that I just couldn’t include everything in this post, which is why I recommend listening to the entire episode.
Also, don’t forget to check out his new book, Pointman Planner, which combines Jason’s core principles underlying his signature coaching and leadership programs. The book is a daily/weekly/quarterly guide to defining personal and business objectives, committing to them and tracking your progress to keep focused and reap the rewards of productivity and performance.
Jason is an inspiration and a great example of how we can overcome setbacks. Not only that but using the skills we’ve learned to serve others — which Jason personifies with his definition of greatness.
“[Greatness is] the legacy you leave behind. Mine is I hope everybody I come in contact with will walk away and say, ‘That guy made me better in some small way.’ That is my definition of greatness.” – Jason Redman
If no one’s told you lately, I want to remind you that you are loved, you are worthy, and you matter. Now, it’s time to go out there and do something great!