The Simple Difference Between Average And Elite

In 1999, I was deployed overseas on operations and was fortunate enough to work with a Sergeant Major that’d had a long and distinguished career. One day, the subject of success came up. I asked him his opinion on the difference between a Special Forces soldier and everyone else.

“What do Special Forces soldiers do that other soldiers don’t?”

He initially proceeded with a politically correct answer and said that it was their determination, never-say-die attitude, and strong mental state of mind.

I interrupted him and asked him for his personal opinion and not something that just came out of a soldier’s manual or something scripted. He gave me a look that could kill, but then a small smirk appeared at the corner of his mouth. He rolled his eyes upward as if looking for a thought, then gave me his insightful answer.

He said, “Elite soldiers can deal with the boredom and monotony of training. They give their best every single day, even if they do the same thing over and over again. They are consistent day in and day out, and are committed to providing excellent service to their team mates even on days when they don’t feel like it.”

Successful people are simply those with successful habits.”
– Brian Tracy

“Basically, an average soldier, when inspired or motivated, can perform at the top level for a while, but falls away after a few days or weeks and doesn’t have the same consistency as the elite soldier.

Average soldiers become disillusioned when they fail or when an obstacle becomes too great. Once they lose their inspiration and desire to do their best, they tend to get disheartened and feel like they have lost momentum, which they find too difficult to get back. Most people think that the best soldiers have this unrelenting obsession and drive that others seem to be missing, but that is just not the case.”

Elite soldiers experience the same lack of drive that everyone else feels. They don’t have some magic formula that makes them feel ready and inspired every single day.”

He put his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye. “The difference,” he said, “is that the best soldiers persist with their goals because they don’t allow their emotions to influence their actions. They consistently, whether they feel like it or not, find a way to do the small, mundane, and boring things needed to achieve their goals and what is best for the team, not themselves. It’s all about doing the one percenters.

My takeaway for this week:
The ability to train, work, and do the hard yards regardless of who is paying attention is the difference between an elite soldier and everyone else. Be internally motivated and derive satisfaction from achieving your best.

*Last week I thanked all the people who have helped me pack my parachute over the years.
The Regimental Sergeant Major I am referring to in the above story is Owen ‘Speedy’ Schubert. The best and most approachable leader I have ever had the privilege to work under.


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