Welcome back to the series.
As documented in my books and cited in countless speeches, articles and more, by the time I suffered the ambush for which I’m best-known — the battlefield attack that nearly ended my life in September 2007 — I had already endured what I now refer to as a “life ambush” in the form of more than one career leadership failure.
Then that battlefield ambush turned life-ambush by its profound impact to my personal and professional lives. During my initial stage of recovery in Bethesda Naval Hospital, it was hard enough trying to process what had happened to my Navy SEAL team and me in Iraq but even more challenging trying to begin processing visions of what would happen to my life going forward.
One sporadically lucid hour I awoke to a somber yet critical reality: If I didn’t define my future and my plan for it, somebody else would. Two visitors stood near the foot of the bed where I had been sleeping, tsking and sulking as they discussed my prognosis less in medical terms and more in terms of pity, hopelessness and sympathy for what they envisioned would be a grim future. My grim future.
They were calling it, right then and there: I was a victim, forever changed for the worse and doomed to a life of relative adversity, helplessness and psychological isolation.
Talk about a bombshell. (And I’d thought I was in a safe place.)
Hell, no, I told myself; that ain’t my plan.
My new mission became clear to me: Get off this X. My mind kicked into gear immediately to initiate a process that I have since further developed as the REACT Methodology:
Recognize your reality.
Evaluate your assets.
Assess your options and their possible outcomes.
Choose and communicate.
It was the same default mindset that had kept me alive on the battlefield until the medics took over. If you have been following this series, you’re up to speed with REACT; if not, this article will make more sense to you after reading Parts 1 – 4:
Part 1: Adapting Quickly As a Leadership Skill includes an introduction to life ambushes and my REACT Methodology.
Part 2: Recognizing Your Reality includes signs you’re in a life ambush and REACT Methodology’s first action step: “R.”
Part 3: In the Face of Adversity, Evaluate Your Assets, REACT Methodology’s action step two: “E.”
Part 4: Assess Your Options and Outcomes, REACT Methodology’s action step “A.”
There in that hospital room, it was “C” time again for me …
Choose a Direction and Communicate It
Alone in that hospital bed, haunted by groans, unknowns and nightmare zones, I couldn’t predict the future. But I knew what I wanted, and I knew my mission. I chose my direction forward and wrote my plan across bright-orange poster board. My wife, Erica, helped me communicate it to my new “team,” plus anyone else who cared, by hanging it on my hospital-room door. What has since become famous as “The Sign on the Door” clearly proclaimed the following:
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 I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country 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 regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, GO ELSEWHERE.
From: The Management
(Signed copies of my Sign on the Door poster are available here for $8.99.)
It’s “C” Time for You
As isolated as you might feel during a life ambush of your own, you’re never “on the X” alone. This fact has both an upside and a potential downside: Positively speaking, you do have a team. The potential downside is that your situation will impact others. To what degree? That will depend largely on your next moves.
After you have assessed your options and their possible outcomes (REACT’s action step “A”), it’s decision-making time. You need to lead yourself off the X with your team’s understanding of what’s happening.
Choose your best option for moving forward off the X and out of the direct line of fire. The option you choose need not be an ongoing one; you can always reassess once you’ve broken away from the impact or inaction. But even a small step forward is a victory if it conquers the obstacles of apathy and paralysis.
Once you’ve identified your path off X, plan your course of action and communicate it clearly and succinctly to your team. Do your best to help them understand the gravity of your situation, the importance of your decision and the direction you’ve chosen. Include:
- What is my plan? (Where are you going, why, and how will you get there?)
- Who is on the X with me?
- Who is my accountability partner?
Some of your people may be surprised by all of this, or even in denial themselves, but don’t let that dissuade you. Remember, your job is to lead yourself ASAP out of what you know for sure is harm’s way. There is no negotiating that option, regardless of how much or little anyone else might grasp. Focus most on those you can depend on to support your decision, your objective and your plan. Erica has proven for 20 years to be not only a loving and faithful marital partner, but also a strong and supportive life partner through the good times and the tough ones, including ambushes that neither one of us had ever anticipated. (Members of the Overcome Army find this online group-coaching forum a great resource.) In times of crisis, you need a team working with you, not against you and not in your way, to get off X.
If you’re on or near X now, read this series for help off the X. (Or get help with my Pointman for Life program, Pointman Planner or 72 Hours to Peak Performance or How to Build the Overcome Mindset online courses.) If you’re not on the X today, I recommend you read and apply the principles in advance to begin preparing for the future. Either way, think, strategize, and then return for the next post on my REACT action step “T.”
Until then …
“Lead Always and Overcome All,”
Since retiring in 2013 from my 21-year U.S. Navy SEAL career, I’ve made it my mission to transfer my military leadership training, experience and skills to helping individuals and organizations to lead and launch themselves and their teams to elite performance. I accomplish this through an array of speaking topics, courses, books and coaching programs I’ve developed based largely upon proven SEAL and special-operations mission-centric and leadership techniques.
How can I be of service to you or your organization?
For information about my speaking offerings, visit www.jasonredman.com
Nearly all the topics covered in this series are also currently or soon-to-be available in an array of coaching programs, online courses and books, including bestsellers “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader,” “Overcome: Crush Adversity With the Leadership Techniques of America’s Toughest Warriors” and the new Pointman Planner. Visit: www.getoffx.com