Flip the Switch Episode 17: Mark Divine Part 1
SOPHIA: Today on Flip the Switch we have the opportunity to sit down with Commander Mark Divine, a retired Navy SEAL and currently leadership development expert who trains thousands of individuals out of the San Diego area. He met with us to share insight on his background and what you can do to overcome mental blocks and the hindrance of internal fear to accomplish your personal goals.
Let’s get into it.
00:49 AUSTIN: Welcome to Flip the Switch, presented by Power Digital Marketing. We are very excited to welcome you to a very big episode and interview.
00:57 PAT: Yeah, so we interviewed Mark Divine. He’s an absolutely outstanding individual. He has an economics degree, MBA. He’s a CPA.
And then the interesting stuff. He’s a double black belt. He’s a Navy SEAL. He’s certified in SCARS or Scars hand-to-hand combat. And he’s also a yoga teacher, which I found very interesting.
01:18 AUSTIN: Yeah, and practices his own type of yoga, Kokoro yoga–which is gonna be very, very exciting to learn about. You know, the thing that we’re really fascinated with is his ability to teach others how to strengthen their mind, body and spirit. And that was the general conversation that we had. That was the discussion at hand. And it ran pretty long, so we split it up into 2 parts.
This first one is going to be the introduction side of it. And he gets into a lot of the stuff in the 2nd part–will just be a continuation of that conversation.
01:48 PAT: And the reason that we thought it was important to split it up for you guys is there’s so much good content here that we didn’t edit anything out, right? So right off the bat he talks to us about his philosophy. About mental toughness, best practices, the art of visualization, right?
And this is all super-important stuff that he actually specializes in training people in. He has 2 different programs. One called SEALFIT, one called Unbeatable Mind that both teach that mind/body/spirit training philosophy.
It was super-exciting to get to know the guy. He’s extremely down-to-earth. A genuinely good person. And I know that all of us in this room got a ton out of it. So without further ado, here’s part 1 of our interview with Commander Mark Divine.
02:29 AUSTIN: All right. So with us today is Mark Divine. It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you very much for joining us.
02:34 MARK: Thanks Austin. Appreciate it.
02:35 AUSTIN: Yeah. So just to fire off real quick, can we get a little background on who you are, where you came from and what you’re all about?
02:42 MARK: (laughing) How much time do we have?
02:44 AUSTIN: We’re going to go for a while. We’re going to get a lot of information out of you that we’re really excited about.
02:48 MARK: Yeah, well thanks for having me here.
So, gosh, I mean I was born at a very young age, in a very small town in upstate New York. Population 375, called Barneveld, New York. Actually, when I was born it was called Oldenbarnevelt. It was Dutch. Interesting.
So it was a land grant that was given to one of the mercenaries? Who helped the colonists overthrow our, you know, forefathers. The Brits.
At any rate, that has nothing to do with your question…
03:24 AUSTIN: But still interesting…
03:25 MARK: It is pretty interesting.
And so how did I become a Navy SEAL and end up in California? That was a long and circuitous journey. But it did start there. In that little tiny town.
So I grew up there, went to college in upstate New York. About 40 minutes from that little place.
And the college was a small town college called “Colgate University.” And it’s associated with the toothpaste company. I used to screw on the caps in my spare time as a job–part-time job.
03:57 AUSTIN: Mm-hmm. Is that a joke?
I was like, “Wait a second. This guy’s totally pulling our leg right now.” You did have me. I was thinking maybe that was a class that you took there as part of the Colgate program.
04:12 MARK: Toothpaste cap screwing class.
No, nothing to do with the toothpaste. Although many people think it is.
So Colgate was a small, liberal arts school about 4000 people. And I got recruited to swim. I was a competitive swimmer in high school and very athletic. There wasn’t a whole lot else to do.
Think about this, guys. Pre-Internet. I know you guys can’t imagine what that was like…
04:32 AUSTIN: Yeah, that’s our life, so…
04:34 MARK: It’s like, “Whoa.” That’s the Dark Ages…
04:37 PAT: All of us out of a job…
04:38 MARK: If you go to watch like, “Outlander,” or some TV show like that. You know, like a PBS special and just imagine what my life was like in upstate New York without Internet, without cell phone. In a town of 375 people.
04:50 AUSTIN: Probably a little cold…
04:51 MARK: Yeah. We did not have horses, although my car was not much better than a horse and buggy. And it was about as cold as one.
You could start my car with a screwdriver, by the way. Which was a big boon for my fraternity brothers at Colgate, because I’d be walking down the road, and all of a sudden I hear this, “Whoo-hoo!” And there goes my car. Just flying down the road.
And I’m like, “Damn, there they go again and stole my car.
Anyways, so I swam competitively at Colgate, and I happened to have a swim coach there who was at the forefront of sports psychology. And he taught me an important skill, which is been fundamental to my life and one of the things… core in my teachings and that was how to visualize.
Up until then, I would say, I was a good fantasizer. Most people are. But he took that ability to fantasize and he focused it like a laser-beam. And so we’d visualized my stroke–which is the breast-stroke–and my event was the 200 meter breast-stroke.
Anyways, that played in later on, because that ability to create and hold an image in my head and concentrate upon it for a long period of time was instrumental once I figure out what to concentrate on. So I was able to do that for the swimming and it had a profound effect on my swim performance times.
But then I kind of like just let it go. I didn’t really know what else to concentrate on. I did use it a little bit when I got into martial arts training.
So I went from Colgate down to New York. Without much of a plan. So my family had a business, that’s over 100 years old. And it was in Utica, New York. Which is the biggest town close to Barneveld. Utica, when I grew up, had about 100,000 people. Now it’s got about 40. Headed in the wrong direction fast.
At any rate, my dad runs a business there, still does. My brothers are now part of it. And it’s called “Divine Brothers.” Imagine that.
Not named after my brothers, but my grandfather and his brother who started it.
So I was always kind of like tagged to be the guy who was going to come back and run the business. That was the story that I bought into. Which is not uncommon. To really kind of adopt the story that your parents have for you.
So I was an Econ major at Colgate. That was kind of by default. It’s a different story… it would take us down a little rabbit hole if I told you that I went as a pre-med and became an Econ major my very first semester.
07:29 AUSTIN: That sounds like a lot of college students their very first semester. They come in with the idea that they’re going to be something quite different than what they turn out to be.
07:35 MARK: It was interesting… mine wasn’t because of lack of interest, it was because of lack of confidence. So I went pre-med… And I will tell the story as quickly as I can. And I was taking Chemistry and Physics and I think Calculus and English. And I loved the Physics class, but the Physics class was one of those classes that had too many people in it. It was a requisite for all these Science people. And it was being taught be an Iranian guy. And he just wanted to call his class.
But the class didn’t have any quizzes, just had a mid-term and a final. So I made it all the way to mid-term and I took the mid-term. And I just bombed it. I got like a 40 or something like that.
Now mind you, I went to a small, public high school. And future farmers of America was the biggest club in the high school.
08:25 AUSTIN: Wow.
08:26 MARK: Yeah. So 4 of us… out of my class… 4 of us went on to college.
08:31 PAT: Really?
08:32 MARK: Yeah. I was one of them.
And so we had no AP classes and to say that I breezed through this public high school is an understatement. Like literally breezed… straight As and didn’t really do… didn’t have to study much so I didn’t really learn how to study.
So now I go to Colgate University–which is like really academically challenging. It’s a top northeastern university. And I’m in this physics class and a pre-med program and I’m just getting… I’m thinking I’m getting trounced. But I’m interested in the subject matter. So I take this test. I get a 40. I’ve never gotten below at least a B+, maybe an A-…
09:07 PAT: Right. Probably a little bit jarring to see that…
09:09 MARK: It was very jarring. And completely destroyed my bubble of confidence. And went to see the freshman Dean. He was brand-new. He had no idea what was going on.
And he said, “You probably should drop the class.”
09:20 PAT: Good motivation.
09:22 MARK: (laughing) Yeah, it was very motivating. It was like, “You suck. You need to drop the class. You’re definitely not doctor material.”
So I drop the class… check this out… I drop the class. Transferred into the easiest program which was Economics at Colgate. And I found out at the end of the semester one of my fraternity… we were being recruited at this fraternity. Beta-Theta-Potata.
09:48 AUSTIN: Agriculture joke.
09:49 MARK: (laughing) Exactly. Related to upstate New York.
We… one of my buddies Chris was also pre-med. Was in the same class. I was like, “Man, whatever happened in that Physics class? How did you do? I completely trounced that mid-term.”
He goes, “Yeah, me too. I got a 20 on it. But I ended up with a B+ in the class.”
And my jaw just hit the deck. I’m like, “What the ‘bleep’?”
10:13 AUSTIN: You’re looking at a 100% if you’d kept…
10:15 MARK: I probably had one of the highest grades in the class. And nobody thought to say, “Hey Mark, he’ll probably curve it.” I’d never heard of the curve. I was such an idiot.
10:26 AUSTIN: Well that was a pretty good life lesson to learn right off the bat at college I’d say.
10:30 MARK: Yeah, that I wasn’t that stupid. I was just marginally… I was stupid not to do my research… but I actually was a smart guy.
10:37 AUSTIN: Yeah, turns out it’s what you know that’s going to get you through life.
10:41 MARK: Yeah. But, you know, everything happens for a reason. I was not meant to be a doctor. Although I did consider it later on in life, for a different reason. That’s a different story, so we won’t go there.
But yeah so… Colgate was about just parties and my fraternity and swimming and women and, you know, I was still pretty unfocused. So by the time senior year came around, it was like, “Okay. What now? Okay, let’s get a job.”
And these big companies were coming by and Colgate grads were pretty attractive recruits. And so a lot of my friends were getting jobs at investment banks, and trading and whatnot.
And I had an interest in that, but this one opportunity came along for a big CPA firm, and they were going to send us to NYU. I had to get into NYU on my own and all that, but bottom-line is I followed up on it. I got the job with Coopers and Lybrand. They sent me into NYU.
So it was a summer program where I went to school full-time. We went into the office on Fridays to start to learn how to audit and basically learn the culture. And then September would roll around…
Back up a little bit… I graduated from Colgate in, I think, June. Is when we usually graduate. And I was in school 2 weeks later in my MBA program. It was kind of crazy.
12:04 PAT: Yeah.
12:05 MARK: Anyway… So I went and I did fairly well in that program. It was Masters in accounting. I pushed that to an MBA in Finance, so I didn’t take the Masters in Accounting, I just converted to an MBA in Finance. And during this time period… it was a 3 year time period… I also studied for the CPA exam. So I became a Certified Public Accountant.
So here I was. MBA and CPA and I’m off to the races.
12:31 PAT: Right, yeah. Sounds like a pretty nice combination, there. Just get into the professional workforce. Maybe settle into a firm that you like, and a good job. But that’s not exactly how it went.
12:40 MARK: And if I had stayed there I’d be worth 20 million dollars like all my peers. And most people are thinking, “Why didn’t you?”
12:47 AUSTIN: So I’m assuming pretty quickly you figured out that, hey, this isn’t for you. And maybe your life is supposed to be about something else. Am I right?
12:55 MARK: Right.
Yeah, and that process… I wrote actually a book about that. A good chunk of the book I explained what happened during those 4 years. While I was getting my MBA/CPA. I was really focused, but because I was so laser focused on also on staying in physical shape. Like one of the things that I would not compromise on was staying in a really high degree of physical fitness, challenging myself and growing.
And I had committed to that. I was always going to be growing and doing work on myself. Now my corporate job didn’t allow a lot of time, and so I had to get up early in the morning and I would go for a 6 mile run. 5 in the morning. Then suit up and go to work. And when everyone at the office would go out to their little lunch, I would go to the gym. And then afterwards, I joined a martial arts program–traditional karate–and this is really what cracked me wide open.
So it was actually my first exposure to meditation. And the instructor, or the founder of the program was a Zen master. And he was kind of teaching his Zen through the martial arts. It’s kind of hard to find that these days. Right, to find people who really understand the integration of the body/mind/spirit and to be able to teach it. And I found it in Tadashi Nakamora. He was my first mentor.
So here I am. I’m getting my MBA at night. I’m working full-time during the day. I’m studying for the CPA exam. Doing all that. While I’m also running in the morning, going to the gym at lunchtime and going to the Dojo in between work and school.
And on Thursday nights, I would also join a meditation class. I would go to school late. I’d joined a meditation class where we’d meditate for 45 minutes. And then have a little talk after the end of it. And I was so inspired by the changes I was seeing in meditation that I also went to the semi-annual to the Zen mountain monastery where we’d meditate and do karate for several days on end.
And I took up a personal practice of meditating for 20 minutes. I added that. I just got up a little bit earlier, and every morning I’d do 20 minutes.
At any rate… this is interesting… so what happened was… and especially since I was so young… I was 20-ish when I graduated from college. I think I turned 21 the summer I graduated. And, you know, guys brains don’t fully develop until they’re 24 or 25. The neo-cortex.
And we know that now. No one ever told us that back then. So can you imagine taking up a practice of meditation and visualization–these things that are really developmental, really have a strong neural-plastic effect on your brain–at that age. It was amazing.
15:54 AUSTIN: Very formative experience, I’m sure.
15:56 MARK: Definitely. It literally changed the way my brain worked and changed the way I think. And it was those changes which caused me to be able to see the misalignment. So it wasn’t like, “I hate what I’m doing.” No. Actually, everything I was doing, I was doing really well at. And there were tremendous indicators of success. Right?
Financial success. The MBA/CPA. The social approval–family approval was big for me back then. And yet every time I sat down on the meditation bench, I felt a discordant reality. And the more effective I got at meditating–learning how to concentrate and then learning how to drop into what I call the “Sacred Silence.” The more effective I got at that, the more I was able to tap into my intuitive nature. Which was sending me signals that said not only is that wrong for you, but it’s so far off. Know what I mean?
16:54 JOE: Do you think if that would have happened a few years later, after that, do you think it would have had the same effect as when it did happen to you?
17:00 MARK: I don’t know. That’s a really good question, because of the neural-plastic effect and the change… I don’t think so. And for also the added reason that the more entrenched you get, the harder it is to change. And I see that with a lot of my students and clients to this day. If you spend 20 years in a career, or 25 years, and all of a sudden you literally “wake-up.” And realize that you’ve been on the wrong path for all those years. It’s both very… you need to be very motivated to change, but it’s harder to leave that entrenched lifestyle.
17:33 AUSTIN: Right. The practicality of it just might not be… it’s just not as easy to get out if somebody’s been there for like 5, 6 years even.
17:39 MARK: Correct. Right.
So there were 2 key aspects. 1 was learning how to meditate. And actually doing it every day. It’s one thing to say you’re going to do it… it’s another thing to really do it for enough period of time every day that you have demonstrable effect for that day. Plus the change that it does to your mind/body system over time.
And 2nd was the ability to use my mind in an imaging fashion. So there’s 5 basic ways that the brain works… the brain that’s in our head. I’m not talking about the rest of our brains. Cause we now look at the heart as part of our brain system. And the belly. And the entire nervous system.
And that’s distinct from the mind. So I have a book called “Unbeatable Mind.” The mind is something entirely different, right? That’s the sense of consciousness. That’s not just thinking. That’s the totality of your experience is experienced through the mind.
The brain is the executive agent that’s going to control most of your body’s functioning and provide for certain aspects of what we call “thinking.” That includes cognition and rational analysis. And what you consider left-brain thinking if you were to separate it between the left and right hemispheres.
But then you also have this aspect of imagery. The ability to create images to see things that haven’t happened to you or yet in your life. And also to reflect upon things that may have happened to you or others in a past state.
19:23 JOE: So like memories and imagination?
19:24 MARK: Memories is distinct from this. Usually when we access memory, we include imagery. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not the same thing.
So that would be the 3rd… I would say the ability to archive and to access memory is the 3rd way our brain works. So we’ve got cognition…thinking, planning, decision making. You have imagery and visualization. You have the ability to store and access memory.
The 4th is dreaming. Dreaming is distinct. Most people say, “Well, isn’t that visualization?” No. Cause visualization is an active, conscious process. Dreaming is completely… who knows? Spontaneous subconscious.
It’s got a very distinct feeling and essence from visualization or imaging. So it would be in a category in and of itself. And it’s not very well understood.
And then the 5th is what I call, “Direct Perception.” And that is knowing without knowing why or how you know something. You’re not actively thinking, you’re just perceiving something. And so that’s the idea of intuition is when you are able to tap into the perceiving mind. Cause it’s not being clouded out by thinking mind or imaging mind or memory mind. Or dreaming mind. And you’re able to distinctly perceive something.
And so that’s what… the essence of the meditation training was to get me to be able to access the perceiving mind and perceive things that I hadn’t been able to perceive before. And then when those surfaced in my consciousness, then I could work with it. So how would I work with it? Well, I would use my imagery. Or I would use my thinking mind and it because this elaborate process where in silence, my perceiving mind would surface something. And it would either be a sensation or an inspirational flash, which then shows up as an image, but it’s not something I activated or, you know…
In a way, I would say it’s probably more like dreaming, but it’s daytime dreaming.
21:34 JOE: It’s instantaneous…
21:35 MARK: It’s instantaneous, spontaneous. But it’s also… this is where the rest of that brain/mind system gets involved. So some of that can come from the heart/mind. And a lot of it comes from the Belly/mind. Right? You think about the intuitive… things that come to a warrior in the field of battle. Sensing a road-side bomb ahead without any other type of evidence. No rational… that’s that intuition, that’s that perceiving and perception, but it’s being felt in the belly/mind. The belly has like 500 million neurons. It’s called the enteric nervous system. And it doesn’t speak to you in language. It doesn’t say, “Hey Mark, I think there’s a roadside bomb up there. You better stop.”
It says something like, “hmm” and a feeling. It’s like, “hmm.”
That gut feeling.
So the perceiving mind is what allows you to communicate with the rest of your brain/mind system. Pretty interesting, hunh?
22:39 JOE: Yeah, it is.
22:40 MARK: So that is developed through meditation. I know there’s other ways it can be developed. Long periods of time in nature. But you could almost say, that’s like meditation…
22:48 JOE: So with the aspects of the brain that you’re talking about, do you think that supplies a cognitive mind? Or are the two just completely separate? Or is that question just kind of way off?
23:00 MARK: I think that these are… I’m talking about technical ways that your brain works. Then when it’s you… it’s your mind… the experience of that subjectively is what we’ll call your mind, but you know, there’s more to that than just also saying, “Hey, I’m thinking. Now I’m imaging.” Right?
There’s also will-power and intentionality and directionality of your focus. So I think the mind is way more elaborate and complicated than anybody would ever give it credit for. Especially Ray Kurzweil and his crowd who are trying to like create a mind with Artificial intelligence.
The mind is not the brain. The mind also you could say is the energy of your body… the intelligence that comes through life-force and ether. Probably has some connection with this concept of “soul.” Or primal intelligence that is what makes us all different.
24:06 JOE: Right. Less tangible than maybe the technical aspects that you were just talking about…
24:06 MARK: Right. Let’s say we just printed one of us as a human being, and then said, “turn us on.’ And because our brain works a certain way, all of a sudden we’re going to have this experience of life. That’s kind of what we’re trying to do with artificial intelligence.
It’s not that way, because all of our experiences of life are radically different–even if we’re experiencing the same thing. So what is that primal force? The spiritual traditions call it “soul.”
24:34 JOE: Yeah, recreating that is going to be extremely difficult. Can you even do that?
24:39 MARK: Can you do that? And we’re getting a little sidetracked here, but it’s kind of fun.
24:42 PAT: No, this is all really good stuff.
24:43 AUSTIN: We’re loving this. So we did have…
24:47 MARK: (laughing) We were back in upstate New York still…
24:48 AUSTIN: We want to do one more connecting piece before we move into your philosophy and all these amazing things you’re talking about. And we want to learn a little bit more about the impact your life as a Navy SEAL has on today. Who you’ve become. And that’s an amazing and very influential part of your life.
25:04 MARK: Well let me tell the rest of that story, then. While I was sitting on the meditation bench and all this was happening. Everything we just talked about was happening. That’s where I developed this sense that there was a big gap between who I was and what I was doing now versus who I was meant to be. And what I should be doing.
25:23 AUSTIN: Purpose versus practice.
25:24 MARK: Right, exactly. And so then I had to kind of like unravel that and come up with kind of the “who am I?” answer. And through that process I broke it down into 3 key elements. What am I passionate about?
And when I started to look at what I was passionate about, I realized that I wasn’t passionate about most of the things that I was doing except for the things that I was filling around the cracks to try to maintain some sense of meaning. So I was passionate about fitness. I was passionate about my development. And mediation, visualization and performance.
I was passionate about things that I’d done as a kid that brought me peace. Like spending time in nature. Long hikes. Being in an around the water. Interesting. You see a theme starting to evolve here?
I was really passionate about those things, but certainly not passionate about corporate life, the office environment, putting my suit on every day. Wasn’t passionate about numbers and bean counting and I wasn’t passionate about making money either.
And so I said, “Okay. There’s this gap between what I’m passionate about and what I’m doing. So there’s something to pay attention to.”
Then I say, “Okay, what am I principled about? What are the things that really…? That I’m going to say that I will literally make a stand for… take a stand for in life?”
And when I started to look at that, things like “I’m not really… It’s not a principle of mine to spend so much time just focusing on developing personal wealth.”
I think wealth should come from service and it’ll trail you doing valuable work. But yet there, I was spending most of my time along with all my peers really focused more on my paycheck and that type of stuff. And so when I started to realize or write down and think deeply about what are the things that I’m principled about, that also exposed the gaps, right?
And all this is pointing me in a new direction. The things that I was principled about and the things I was passionate about were pointing me toward something. And so then I asked, “Okay, knowing those 2 things, what would I… how could I articulate an emergent purpose?”
And so that became my 3rd deep question to ask. And I would literally ask these not just rhetorically going through my day, but very specifically when I went into my meditative practice, I would ask these. And I would journal. And also before I went to bed. And so I was kind of tapping into the age-old idea of getting information when you get into a state of acceptance. Your brain is in an Alpha state and you’re very, very open to that perceiving mind.
And so the purpose question was really the one that cracked me open. What kept coming up to me was “warrior.” “Warrior/leader.” Those two words. And I wasn’t able to fulfill that in my current trajectory.
So now I had the 3 puzzle pieces. My purpose is to be a warrior/leader, I’m passionate about adventure and fitness and discipline and leadership. And my principles are not money but service. And a bunch of other things.
And I said, “Holy shit,” you know? I’m a complete misfit here in this business world. I need to go fast in the other direction. And it was then that the synchronicity happened. So when you get clear is when… in my opinion anyways… the universe starts to provide opportunities for you to go through the door. And so that was when I literally… the SEALs as a possibility for me to fulfill that emergent idea of my purpose, passion and principle. That presented itself literally on a walk home from work. I walked by this recruiting office. Boom. Stopped dead in my tracks because there’s this recruiting poster. Across the top it said, “Be Someone Special.” And it had imagery of SEALs doing cool SEAL stuff. And I was like, “That’s it. Holy shit.”
29:11 AUSTIN: You had a little bit of an “a-ha” moment.
29:12 MARK: I had an “a-ha” moment.
29:13 AUSTIN: Do you remember what that felt like? Was there a physical sensation?
29:17 MARK: Literally, like I said, I was stunned into silence. And I just stood there for a while looking at that poster. Cause it all kind of cascaded into view and I was like, “Wow. That’s the answer. Right there. That I’ve been looking for.”
29:27 AUSTIN: I like your imagery of saying that you “cracked wide open,” and the universe become clear. I think to some degree everyone can relate where they have a moment where if you haven’t found your passion yet, but maybe there’s something in your life that’s defined a direction that you’re heading. You can feel it go through your entire body and maybe there’s this sensation of the connection with everything that’s around you.
29:49 MARK: Yeah. I agree with that. And what was so cool for me was here I was at 24 years-old… about to turn 25… and I was having all these really cool experiences but I was still… like, most people think when you’re going to get a Navy SEAL… talk to a Navy SEAL it’s going to be like, “Be disciplined! Don’t be a pussy! Be tough!” You know? “Be a bad-ass. Everyone can be a bad-ass!”
30:12 PAT: (laughing) Like “Full-Metal Jacket.”
30:15 MARK: Exactly. And I’ve got a lot of SEAL buddies who are out there spreading that message. And it’s really… it’s valuable. And I was a bad-ass. I was tough. I was disciplined and all that. But all these experiences have softened me and also kind of made me appreciate that there was more going on than just guttin’ through things.
And so anyways… accelerate. Fast forward. I decided to go toward the SEALs. I used all the skills that I had to prepare to do what I call winning in my mind before I step foot on the battlefield.
I still did all my physical training, and I made sure that I could dominate the standards. But I spent more time now meditating and visualizing success. Now very specifically directed at this objective or this target of mine of getting through Navy SEAL training and becoming a warrior/leader in the SEALs. As an officer.
And so my visualization skills, my concentration skills… everything came into play that I’d been learning through Zen and that I had learned through my swim coach.
31:24 PAT: Yeah, I was going to say… that goes back to what you had done before where you almost have something specific. You had one stroke, one event. You know how it goes. You have some past experiences to base that premonition or imagery and visualization off of. And then it sounded like for a little bit you didn’t really know how to apply it, because you weren’t clear on what exactly it was you were supposed to be visualizing. What was the end goal?
31:44 MARK: This is exactly like a key tenet of my teaching, is that there are times where you don’t know what to focus on. And that’s time to slow down and to go into receive mode. So your meditative practice is all about receiving information, parsing through the junk, and finding clarity again.
And then when you have the clarity… now this could be at any point. Changing careers, even if you’re an entrepreneur… whether to launch the new product, or business or a podcast or something. Get the clarity first, so it’s 100% certain that this is it. And then that’s when you pull out the Navy SEAL tools of “burn your boats” commitment, courageously moving forward, iron-clad disciplined execution. And all the stuff that you know is going to work, once you hit the practical ground running.
But my experience was that all of that was easy if you had the internal clarity and you won in your mind first. And so I spent almost a year… because it took that long for me to get into the SEAL program itself… I found a year visualizing and meditating on it and winning in my mind. And I had a very distinct experience of a shift where this idea of me being a Navy SEAL went from, “Hey, this is a cool wish or desire of mine.” To, like, “This is No Shit, going to happen.”
33:09 AUSTIN: Right. It’s a matter of when, it’s not an “if”…
33:10 MARK: Yeah, it’s a “when.” And it’s just a matter of me going through the wickets. And as soon as that happened like a week later my recruiter called me… another one of those synchronous moments… and said, “Mark, congratulations. You got one of the 2 billets this year…” 2 job openings this year for SEAL candidates out of the civilian world. Through officer candidate school.
And I was off to the races. I went to OCS and I went to BUD/S. I used every trick that I had in my both physical discipline book, but also my mental toolkit. And ended up graduating as the Honor Man in my SEAL training class…
33:49 AUSTIN: Which is incredible…
33:50 MARK: We had 185 there started. We have 19 graduated. And I really had… I tell people I had a lot of fun because I was able to manage my mental processing and my emotional control throughout this so I could focus on… now it wasn’t so much focusing on “Hey, I want to be a Navy SEAL.” It was focusing on, “What do I need to do right now to get through this evolution? And how do I support my teammates? And let’s take this one day at a time.”
34:13 PAT: Yeah, you’re able to focus on the present a little bit more and go step-by-step.
34:17 MARK: Right. Chunk it down into whatever it needs…
34:19 AUSTIN: And BUD/S is notoriously one of the most difficult training both mentally and physical that anybody could possibly go through. And you managed to come out number 1 in your class, which is incredible…
34:28 PAT: Yeah, if that’s not proof positive that that “a-ha” moment actually meant something…
34:32 AUSTIN: Right. So you know, what is it during the difficult times when it was so grueling hard that really set you apart from the pack? And kept you in that positive state of mind and getting you to finish first?
34:45 MARK: You know, the answer is going to be something you could literally apply to anything in life. Because it all came down to my attitude. And to say that is almost too simple… it’s too flippant. Cause attitude is a combination of your internal dialogue, your emotional state, the stories that you tell yourself, and your ability to set any obstacle aside or overcome any obstacle and look at it as, like, an opportunity for growth and development.
As well as… almost a stage of development where you’re not so worried about yourself anymore. You’re willing to like really put a lot on the line because of that “burn your boats,” commitment. And you’re willing to… because of that, you’re not so self-absorbed. You become more other-focused. Because you realize that helping your team is going to help you. And it’s not a Machiavellian thing, it’s a very real thing.
And so my boat crew, I committed to getting my boat crew… or together, us all getting through the SEAL training. And here we are. 7 of the 19 graduates were in my boat crew. We stayed together through the whole thing.
36:10 AUSTIN: That’s awesome. That’s a really interesting concept that I’m thinking about right now. About how you manage to separate yourself from yourself in a sense to be so team-oriented. And having that feeling of the crew is your crew and you are part of the crew. And therefore the crew must succeed.
36:24 MARK: Right. Right. And my crew came together… it’s typical with SEAL training. As people drop-out, they reorganize the boat crews. So when I say I made that commitment it was after my boat crew had kind of… after the whole class had kind of reduced in size to where there were about 40 of us. And there were 40 really solid candidates. And then the 21 who didn’t make it out of those 40 were really injuries or quinjuries that just hadn’t shown up yet. Quinjury is a “quit injury,” so somebody could make it through Hell week but still has a confidence issue with say swimming. Could get caught up in what we call, “pool comp.” There’s a lot of people who don’t make it through that. That’s where they put you in a pool with some dive gear and then the instructors attack you. Underwater.
37:14 AUSTIN: (laughing) Sound great…
37:15 MARK: They rip all your gear off. And you cannot surface until all that gear is back on you and functioning properly.
37:21 AUSTIN: We’ve been speaking about visualization, and I am visualizing that right now…
37:25 PAT: And not liking what I’m seeing…
37:26 MARK: It’s crazy. So you’re underwater for 10 minutes and you gotta hold your breath. But to be fair, you gotta find you rig and sometimes… and they tie it in a big knot. You gotta work the knot until you can get some air out.
You might get a couple bubbles here and there. You just work with what you got, you know what I mean?
But anyways, my point was that all these things came down… kind of came together into what I would call an “attitude.” A winning attitude. And that attitude shows up as someone who to outsiders and, guess what, to the instructors who are… really care, believe it or not. Navy SEAL instructors even though you might think from movies and stuff, they don’t give a shit. They really care about selecting their next teammates.
And so when they’re really on you like white on rice, they’re basically saying, “Are you good enough to be my teammate? Are you gonna have my back when I go into combat?”
38:20 AUSTIN: Are you just going to give up if it’s hard when we’re in combat?
38:21 MARK: Right. And so they really care about you. Now, once you prove that you’re not worthy… they still care about you, but they want you to go do something else. And they say, “Nice try.” You get a huge thumbs up for trying because it’s not easy to even make it to SEAL training. And even though few make it through SEAL training, it’s a huge honor to even try. To give it your best shot.
And so there’s no shame in quitting or failing BUD/S. And I have tons of friends who’ve done that. Gotten injured or whatever. Cause statistically cards are really stacked against you. The fact that you were there speaks volumes and the Navy knows that and so those people then go on to do other incredible jobs in the Navy.
But that whole attitude thing, like I said, is the ability to show up every day with just a really, really pleasing personality in spite of the shit that’s raining down around you. The ability to be really calm and controlled in the chaos. And to be able to not be so self-absorbed but to be able to pause and say, “How can I help my teammates? How can I help everyone find a way through this? And in order to do that, I’ve gotta stay in control. I’ve got to know what to focus on. What’s the number 1 thing right now that I can focus on that’s going to move us toward victory? Move us toward the other side of this chaos?”
“And in order for me to think clearly, I’ve got to be emotionally in control.” Cause emotions will really disrupt your thought patterns.
40:00 AUSTIN: Yeah, they’ll throw you for a loop a little bit…
40:01 MARK: Really throw you for a loop. And so then you have to learn how to be non-reactionary. How to both in the moment and also through the course of 9 months of this training program slash life–where shit’s always coming at you. To be able to stay focused on the long haul but not let the duration of that long haul goal disrupt you from performance today.
40:26 AUSTIN: Why do you think people have such a hard time with that? Cause you’ve obviously worked with a lot of people and helped them overcome mental obstacles like that and kind of mental blocks. First of all, I’m interested to hear how you go about trying to achieve that with them. And second of all, why do you think it’s the case that that block exists in the first place?
40:43 MARK: I think it goes back to how we learn how to use our minds. And if you haven’t trained your mind, then you tend to linger either in the future or the past mostly. And so you could tell by people’s dialogue which one they are. By the words they use. And so most people spend all of their time, most of their time in the future–dreaming, wishing–wishing things were different. Wanting to be somewhere or further along. Or have more money. Or have the house. Or have a different job. Or have a different girlfriend. Or all this type of things.
Or they spend all their time in the past state. With the “coulda, shoulda, woulda”s. And some sort of regret.
And so the training starting with Zen and now what I teach in Unbeatable Mind allows you to or helps you to really organize the future and the past states or experiences that we have. So that you–I’ll use it metaphorically–past state regrets and coulda, shoulda wouldas are like a rubber band. That are holding you back. Or some sort of energy that’s pulling you back. You crawl forward and snap back.
And by learning how to manage the past and recreate memories so that they’re supportive instead of debilitating, severs that kind of rubber band. So that all that energy there is kind of like a wind at your back, instead of a rubber band pulling you back.
And then the way we use our mind to experience a future state is like creating a memory of a future event that hasn’t happened yet. That draws you toward it like an attractive force.
So now you’ve got the attractive force in front of you–pulling you forward–and you’ve got the wind at your back. And you’ve trained yourself now to be able to switch back and forth. So when I say you curate the experience of the future and the past, it all happens in the present. So that when you’re executing… when you’re not thinking, planning about the future or doing some work to clear up the past stuff, then you’re right here, right now. You’re executing in the time… in the present moment. And in the present moment you’ve got all that energy. Because you’ve curated yourself of those experiences effectively and properly.
And so like when I went through SEAL training, I had a clear image… I’ll just describe how this worked… I had a very clear image in my mind of where I was going. So that I didn’t need to think about it. It was always there. It was like a little image in the back of my head. I could just look up and there it was. There’s the trident. There’s me graduating. And it was like an energetic force and my mantra around that was, “they’re going to have to kill me to get me out of this place.” Right?
Day by day, in every way, I’m moving closer and closer to that goal. But today is what I need to focus on. And then when today… today’s going to be hard. Right? I gotta show up with 100% of myself today. Physically, mentally, emotionally. Energetically. And then it’s going to get hard.
And when it gets hard that’s the only think I gotta focus on is that hard moment. Is getting through that hard moment. And so you just chunk it, chunk it, chunk it, chunk it down. And you just ratchet yourself toward success. And you consider every day was a victory. Every evolution of every day was a victory. And pretty soon you have so many victories and you’ve acknowledged those victories and they feel really good to you. You’re building just tremendous momentum.
And then it’s really hard to fail when you have that kind of momentum behind you. Pulling you forward.
44:20 AUSTIN: All right, we hope you enjoyed Part 1 of the interview with Mark Divine. I know we got a lot out of that one. And are very excited to bring you Part 2.
44:27 PAT: Yeah, absolutely. He really kind of opened my–I guess, my train of thought on a lot of the whole mental strength things. Because there’s everybody and their mom nowadays seems like that they’re social media, lifestyle coach… trying to teach you to be mentally tough.
But with Commander Divine, it really seemed like… he’s able to put these things into practice. And he has so much experience doing that that we had a really enjoyable conversation with him.
And like we said… it ran really long. Which I think speaks for itself.
44:56 AUSTIN: Yeah, and his presence… the way that he brings himself into attention and the way he talks is very apparent that he is very in tune with who he is as an individual. And a lot of that information of how that can apply to your life came out in the second part of the interview.
Which… please tune in. It’s going to be very applicable. Especially coming into the New Year.
45:15 PAT: Yeah, so in Part 2 we really prodded Mark to get into how we can set goals effectively. How we can make sure that we achieve those goals by using some of these mental toughness techniques. And that mind/body/spirit training philosophy. He talks about the benefits of practicing meditation and yoga. Which I know is something that a lot of successful entrepreneurs and businessmen alike all do.
So it was a really, really good piece of content. We can’t wait to bring that to you guys. In our next episode.
So that just about wraps things up for us here. Thank you again so much for tuning in. We can’t wait to bring you Part 2. But until then, this has been Pat Kriedler, Austin Mahaffy, John Saunders and Joe Hollerup signing off.