Achieve elite status

By Kevin Breard, CPA

Mark Divine was a driven, accomplished Manhattan CPA when he shifted into his second career as a Navy SEAL. In his Wall Street Journal best-seller The Way of the SEAL, Divine shares lessons and insights from his distinctive viewpoint as a businessman, trainer, and former commander on SEAL Team One. Following are 10 principles firms can apply toward building a winning team:

Find your 20X factor. We drastically sell ourselves short on what we can achieve in a single day, Divine says. It was during repeated bouts of bone-chilling surf torture in his early SEAL training that his instructor initiated him into the 20X worldview: You are capable of at least 20 times what you think you are. Challenge yourself to up your game and start breaking free of perceived limitations.

Strive with an uncommon desire to succeed. The game is won or lost before it begins, Divine says, and by aligning yourself with this component of the SEAL ethos—a SEAL is a common man with an uncommon desire to succeed—you will ignite the team into a state of thought and action that will not be denied.

Always think offense. Playing defense—or passively hoping for the best outcome—is antithetical to the SEAL mindset. Instead, scan the field, prepare contingency plans, then take action at the first sign of opportunity. Bring it on!

Breathe like a warrior. Operating at peak levels in high-stress environments is crucial to the successful warrior, whether on the battlefield or in the workplace. Box breathing, writes Divine, will help you stay calm and focused. A few minutes of deeply inhaling to a four count and exhaling to a four count releases tension, engenders emotional control, and rivets you powerfully into the present moment.

Simplify the battlefield. Eliminate distractions and open your vision to simple solutions. By simplifying the battlefield, you control where, when, and how you make an impact. How? Start by decluttering physical surroundings, prioritizing commitments, dealing with emotional baggage, and smartly delegating to others.

Develop a “me and team” attitude. SEALs can act as lone wolves, and so can your team members. You must maintain the discipline to work on yourself while working on the team.

Mix the ingredients of an elite team. Focus equally among three main components of an elite team: individual self-mastery, team culture and spirit, and organization structure and support. With practice, you will see how the three interweave.

Embrace SEAL values and traits. SEALs expect to lead and be led. They demand uncompromising integrity, discipline, and innovation, and their training is never complete.

Forge grit. Surprisingly, applicants who survive the 80% attrition rate of the uncompromising SEAL training program are not necessarily the best athletes. They are the ones who never surrender. Develop five skills to forge mental toughness: controlling your response, controlling attention, developing emotional resilience, setting effective goals, and visualizing powerfully.

Target big payoffs. SEALs select high-value targets and remain laser-focused on their mission. Your team must always analyze which targets fit the mission. Avoid wasting time and energy chasing the wrong goals.

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By Kevin Breard, CPA (, managing partner of Breard & Associates in Northridge, Calif.


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