How can Navy SEALs pull off seemingly superhuman feats in the most hostile environments around the globe? How does the U.S. military consistently transform average men and women into the world’s top soldiers? I believe one of the secrets to our country’s military success is the Five Basic Responses ingrained into each new recruit during basic training.
In the military, a soldier who is given an assignment or asked a question must answer with one of only five responses:
While the first three responses are easy, the last two separate great leaders from everyone else. When you don’t know the answer to a question, answer number four is the best answer you can give. By saying “I’ll find out, sir,” instead of the much more common “I don’t know,” you’re committing to finding the right answer, no matter how much work you’ll have to do to get it. The military sees “I don’t know” as the lazy answer, and laziness is never acceptable when lives are at stake.
Just as important as answer number four is number five: “no excuse, sir.” We are all human and we make mistakes, forget details and arrive late, but instead of launching into an explanation when you mess up, get in the habit of telling those who are counting on you that there is no excuse for your error. Once you make a mistake, it is your job to make sure it never happens again—and to be just as forgiving the next time someone on your team makes a mistake.
Personal responsibility becomes a habit when you start saying "no excuse” and “I’ll find out." Like all soldiers who learn the Five Basic Responses in basic training, you’ll quickly grow as a leader when you learn to step up. This mindset easily transitions to the court or field. Take responsibility for your actions and watch your team reap the benefits.
Stew Smith is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Navy SEAL and the author of fitness and self-defense books such as The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and Maximum Fitness. He has trained hundreds of people for the Navy SEALs, Special Forces, Air Force PJ, Army Rangers and other military and law enforcement units. Visit Smith’s official website at stewsmith.com, where you can access his ebooks.