Site icon High-Trust Leadership & Teamwork

A Test of Character: face your next challenge or crisis like a Navy SEAL

Had a tough week? A “week from hell?”

Did you leverage the adversity to intentionally build your character?

A Navy SEAL describes the culmination of SEAL training: “Hell Week:”


…Every man has a different story of Hell Week; he remembers particular classmates and instructors, his own most difficult moments. But every Hell Week story is also the same: A man enters a new world aiming to become something greater, and having subjected himself to the hardest tests of his life, he has either passed or failed.

What kind of man makes it through Hell Week? That’s hard to say. But I do know —generally — who won’t make it. There are a dozen types that fail: the weight-lifting meatheads who think that the size of their biceps is an indication of their strength, the kids covered in tattoos announcing to the world how tough they are, the preening leaders who don’t want to get dirty, and the look-at-me former athletes who have always been told they are stars but have never have been pushed beyond the envelope of their talent to the core of their character. In short, those who fail are the ones who focus on show. The vicious beauty of Hell Week is that you either survive or fail, you endure or you quit, you do— or you do not.

Some men who seemed impossibly weak at the beginning of SEAL training — men who puked on runs and had trouble with pull-ups — made it. Some men who were skinny and short and whose teeth chattered just looking at the ocean also made it. Some men who were visibly afraid, sometimes to the point of shaking, made it too. Almost all the men who survived possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the “fist” of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose.

— From LCDR Greitens, a SEAL in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the author of “The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL.”


How will you respond when the next storm hits, your version of Hell Week?

Can you see it for what it is? a chance to test yourself, to check your character, to identify gaps for continued training.

“Become something greater” by viewing the next big crisis or the next big assignment as your personal character test.

If need be, schedule your own Hell Week: sign-up to run a marathon, take charge of a charity fund-raiser, take responsibility for a project gone sour.

Hell Week doesn’t build character, it reveals it.

Low-trust leaders avoid the test, afraid of facing the results.


Be a High-Trust Leader: push beyond the envelope of your talent to the core of your character. Then go to work on the gaps that are revealed.


P.S. A few months ago, the son of a close friend who was training to be a SEAL was scheduled to begin Hell Week the following Monday. I called an old friend, a former SEAL who commanded the SEAL training center, and asked him what advice he’d give to my friend’s son. He had a message similar to the one above, “When the going gets tough, focus on your teammates. Help them get through it and you won’t be thinking about yourself and your pain and discomfort.” He did and he made it.

Exit mobile version