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Backstage Experts

8 Ways for Actors to Employ a Navy SEAL Mindset

8 Ways for Actors to Employ a Navy SEAL Mindset

I personally believe that as an actor, you have to think like a Navy SEAL. You have to have sharp mental focus and not be knocked off your dreams or your mission by anybody or anything.

Navy SEALs are the most well-trained special force in the world. In order for you to become a Navy SEAL you must endure six months of torturous runs, swims, no sleep, and tremendous amounts of physical and mental harassment around the clock. You are harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL. The fail rate is around 80 percent. 

And while becoming a Navy SEAL may seem completely unrelated to our worlds as actors and artists, the lessons of surviving in an environment of continued stress, chaos, failure, and hardships are related. If we can learn to think like a Navy SEAL when we are faced with obstacles, we too can become extraordinary and accomplish great things. 

Here are eight lessons every SEAL learns in training that can help you in your career.

1. Always make your bed. By making your bed you complete the first task of the day and it gives you confidence to complete another task and another. In acting, especially when we are so often working alone, we need to complete the small tasks in our day to give us confidence and energy to continue with the rest.

2. Always find someone to help you paddle. Navy SEALs are always depending on each other to complete their missions; their lives depend on one and other. If you want to move your goals and career forward, find the right people to help and support you. 

3. Understand that you will always be a sugar cookie. Several times a week during training, Navy SEAL’s uniforms are thoroughly inspected. No matter how hard they try, the instructors inevitably find something wrong and the trainees are made to jump in the sea and roll in the sand, hence the name sugar cookie. They then have to stay like this all day. So remember that no matter how hard you try and prepare for an audition or performance, things will go wrong and when they do, you have to let go and move forward. 

4. Go head first. During training, SEALs are faced with drills that require them to put themselves in danger with the intent of teaching them not to focus on fear and, instead, to believe in themselves. There are times in your acting career when you are going to have to ignore all of your fears. Believe in yourself, go head first, and have a strong knowledge that you will succeed.

5. Don’t be afraid of sharks. During training SEALs are dropped in the ocean to do long swims, they are taught that if a shark begins to circle their position, to stand their ground, not swim away, and to not be afraid. In our acting worlds we will encounter many sharks—stand up and do not be afraid.

6. Stay calm in the darkest moments. SEALs are trained to complete tasks deep underwater with no oxygen support except what is in their lungs while they are being harassed by their instructors. In your darkest moments, you must stay calm and composed in order to summon all your skills and strengths to succeed. 

7. Always have hope. SEALs are put in positions when there just seems to be no way of succeeding and yet they routinely pull through, as a team, and achieve what they thought was impossible. When everything looks like it going completely wrong for you, always know that you will find a way to succeed. 

8. Never ring the bell. A brass bell hangs in the center of their training compound. All they have to do is ring the bell and they can quit—not have to do long runs, freezing swims, and endure all the harassment—but they don’t. No matter how hard things get for you, never ring the bell!

“Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often—take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up.” —Admiral William McRaven 

*Credit for the inspiration for this essay goes to his commencement speech at the University of Texas.

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Douglas Taurel is an actor-producer and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Taurel’s full bio!

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