Lessons Learned From the Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and Peyton Manning

STACK Expert Rod Olson shares nuggets of wisdom he learned from the Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and elite QB Peyton Manning.

What if you could spend a day with leaders of the Army Rangers and Navy SEALs, and also be part of an informal meeting with Peyton Manning?

What nuggets of wisdom could you glean from these elite leaders?

I am grateful for the opportunity to have visited with these groups. Here are a few of the golden nuggets I picked up on my journeys. Hopefully they will impact and inspire you as a leader, coach or parent.

Rangers Lead the Way

As I found myself at the edge of a 75-foot, rock-faced cliff, I had a decision to make: succumb to my feelings of fear and doubt, or trust the facts and training I had received earlier and rappel down the cliff as instructed.

It had been a long time since I had been on the player's side of things, and this cliff was forcing me to put my leadership teachings to the test. Army Ranger leaders have their soldiers focus on the facts, not how they feel when performing difficult tasks.

If we hope to accomplish the difficult task or coach others to overcome it, we must focus on the facts of a situation and not our feelings.

Lesson learned: You are prepared for this. You may not feel completely sure about it, but it is time for you to trust your training and go for it.

SEALs Are Forged by Adversity

"If we can't trust you as a man, we will not be able to trust you as a soldier," the veteran SEAL instructor said. "They are not separate."

When I heard this, it reaffirmed to me the importance of how we teach coaches to focus on development—specifically, development of the person—not just the athlete.

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As I looked up following our conversation with the instructor, I saw a sign hanging above a door that read "Be Someone Special."

SEAL instructors believe it is their calling to develop special people who do uncommon things. If we hope to develop elite athletes, we must simultaneously develop them as people.

Lesson learned: Excellence, selflessness and discipline are ways of life, not things you can turn on and off. They must be lived and coached daily.

Peyton Manning's Court Awareness

As Peyton Manning entered the office, the baseball manager with whom I was visiting shared a story about his first encounter with the future Hall of Fame QB.

He said, "Peyton came to take batting practice here, and he is the only celebrity who has ever asked me if I could take him underneath to the batting cages for a short coaching session prior to him taking batting practice on the field that afternoon. That tells you a bit about who Peyton is."

Manning's preparation skills are well documented. However, as I sat in the office with him that day, another quality jumped out: his court awareness.

An athlete with great court awareness can be described as a player with great vision who sees and hears everything around him or her.

As I listened to Manning, his awareness of his surroundings was palpable. He acknowledged others in the room and included us in the conversation. He honored the differences and similarities between baseball and football, and most importantly, he didn't do or say anything inappropriate.

Court awareness can be taught if it is intentionally sought. As a coach, our role is to help our athletes improve their court awareness both on the field and in life.

Lesson learned: "Pressure is something you feel when you don't know what you're doing."

Another shared quality that impressed me during my visits with the Rangers, SEALs and Manning was their humility. These people are the best in the world at what they do, yet they remain humble as they go about their business on a daily basis.

Some questions to ponder as you reflect on these lessons:

  • Do you focus on facts or feelings when competing?
  • Are you development-driven or results-driven?
  • Would your teammates say that you have great court awareness?

Be a difference maker and a legacy builder today!


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: COACH | LEADER | BATTING