Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mills, Be Unstoppable

I have been immersed in the dark side of life of late, watching in bits and pieces the marathon rerun of Breaking Bad and finally reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. It was time for some upbeat pap. Be Unstoppable: The 8 Essential Actions to Succeed at Anything by Alden M. Mills (Cadent Publishing, 2013) filled the bill perfectly. It’s short and has no intellectual or literary pretensions. Written by a former U.S. Navy SEAL platoon commander and co-founder and CEO of Perfect Fitness, it is, as a blurb on the cover says, an “allegory of how to create and pilot your own ship against the inevitable obstacles of life.”

The setting is the town of Uptoyou, where every resident gets an identical boat the day he or she is born and all the townspeople spend their entire lives learning how to captain their boats—boats that can change as their captains grow.

The hero of the allegory is Tim, a kid who had to work hard for everything he got but who had big dreams: he wanted to navigate the high seas. He didn’t want to live his life like a barge captain, “helping other captains fulfill their dreams. He wanted to go after his own dreams, and he was willing to sacrifice everything to live that kind of life.” (p. 30)

Captain Peter became his mentor and explained the eight actions he needed to take to realize his dream. To wit: understand the why, plan in three dimensions, exercise to execute, recognize your reason to believe, survey your habits, improvise to overcome obstacles, seek expert advice, and team up.

Mills intersperses his allegory with insights from his days with the SEALs. Take, for instance, planning. “Training for a SEAL mission and going after your own Milestone Goal both require three-dimensional planning.” Each of the dimensions Mills describes “conveniently” begins with the letter “D”: define it, divide it, and do it daily. The idea is not to create a perfect plan, “because there is no such thing. It’s about creating a plan to succeed no matter what obstacles you encounter.” (p. 54)

So, first define your goal: what are you after and when do you want it? Second, create an action plan, “dividing each action into bite-size daily steps you can take to meet your goal.” Third, work toward your goal every day.

Mills reminds the reader that “a plan is a step in your journey to success; it’s not the destination. Be aware of ‘planning paralysis’—getting so wrapped up in creating the perfect plan that you never take any action toward your goal. … In the SEAL teams, we would say there are two plans: the one you create before a mission, and the one you carry out during the mission. Never forget that the mission is to accomplish your goal, not create a pretty plan for it.” (p. 55)

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