A Navy SEAL’s Tips to Excel Off the Battlefield

Sense of purpose is key to grit and resilience, says Platoon Commander James Waters.

June 10, 2017 5:00 am
A Navy SEAL with an M16A1 and M203 grenade launcher (US Navy)
A Navy SEAL with an M16A1 and M203 grenade launcher (US Navy)

The Ladders sat down with Navy SEAL Platoon Commander James Waters recently to discuss the finer points of grit and resilience, and how people can instill those important qualities in themselves away from the battlefield.

Waters has plenty of insight on the subject—of the 256 guys in his BUD/S class, he was one of just 16 who graduated.

Waters’ ideas about attaining grit are backed by research, specifically his theory that accomplishment comes from having a sense of purpose. “I still mentor a lot of guys who are interested in trying out for BUD/S,” Waters says, “and … my first question is always, “Why do you want to be a SEAL? What is it about being a SEAL that appeals to you?” Without tying their efforts to something personally meaningful, SEAL hopefuls drop out.

In Faster, Higher, Stronger, Mark McClusky backs up Waters’ ideas about purposefulness, pointing to central governor theory and saying that “exercise performance is ultimately limited by perception of effort rather than cardiorespiratory and musculoenergetic factors.”

Read the Ladders’ interview with Waters for more of his thoughts on developing grit.


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