Check out this exclusive book excerpt from Brandon Webb’s latest book, “Total Focus- Navy SEAL’s guide to making decisions under pressure.” In this book, Brandon Webb takes you though his decision-making process which he used as a Navy SEAL sniper and now as the CEO of Hurricane Group, Inc.
Over his four deployments as a Navy SEAL sniper, Brandon Webb learned all about performing while experiencing heart-pounding stress. After returning to civilian life, he started his first business venture—and failed miserably. He realized that his big mistake was neglecting to apply what he already knew about focus under pressure. By drawing on the lessons of his SEAL training and early business struggles, Webb went on to build a second business, a media network called Hurricane, which today has an audience of millions and a valuation over $100 million.
Now Webb deconstructs the decision-making DNA of the most effective snipers, and shows you how to develop the same mental acuity in civilian life. Drawing on stories from his own experiences to those of other Special Operations warriors and great entrepreneurs, like Solomon Choi of 16 Handles, Matt Meeker of BarkBox, and Betsy Morgan of The Huffington Post and TheBlaze, he teaches you how to have total situational awareness to stay out of danger and adapt to changing circumstances; to avoid the trap of over-analysis; and to understand that pain is temporary and learning is priceless.
By following in the path of a generation of legendary snipers, you’ll find the clarity of mind you need to make key decisions and accomplish your mission, whatever it takes.- Penguin Random House Publishing
Staring through my scope at the man in my crosshairs, I take a slow breath. An Afghan farmer. An Afghan farmer with a rifle slung casually over his shoulder. A farmer who looks a lot like someone trying not to look like someone who’s up to something he shouldn’t be. I feel the pressure of my finger against the metal trigger.
Feel that pressure slowly increase.
January 2002. I’m standing sniper overwatch for my SEAL platoon as they approach a group of villagers in this mountain community in northwest Afghanistan for an exploratory chat. Everything seems cool. Everything looks innocent. Except for that farmer.
Something is off.
The thing is, these are Pashtun people, exactly the kinds of people who, a few years from now and in this same region, will shield Marcus (Lone Survivor) Luttrell from the men trying to kill him. Our goodwill with these folks is a precious commodity, especially because we’re out here in Taliban country. If I shoot this guy and it turns out he is as innocent as he’s trying to appear, we can kiss that goodwill good-bye, and I will have to live with his blood on my hands for the rest of my life. But if I don’t shoot him and it turns out he was up to no good after all, some of our guys could get hurt as a result. Hurt, or dead.
I can’t call this in. There’s no more intel to gather. It is what it is, and it’s up to me.
I have a decision to make. Do I pull the trigger?
I took a deep breath and looked down at my laptop. It was now twelve years later, and I was no longer in the service; I was sitting at the bar of the Jane Hotel in New York City, staring at an e-mail that held an offer to buy my business for $15 million.
Amazing, I thought. Considering that only a few years earlier, I’d been broke. No, worse than broke: with a negative net worth, because I’d owed nearly a hundred grand after my first business venture collapsed around me, taking all my life savings with it. And now here I sat, my new business barely two years old, and this big media company was trying to buy it from me. For $15 million. Amazing, all right. Still . . .
Something was off.
If I said yes, I would be $15 million richer, arguably set for life. It would mean I’d won. Right? But it would also mean the business I’d built with my own hands, for a community I cared about deeply, would no longer be in my control. And the people who’d built it with me: What would happen to them?
I couldn’t call this one in, either. I had all the information I was going to have. There was no more advice to ask for or guidance to seek. It was what it was—and it was my call. I had a decision to make.
Do I pull the trigger?
Do I shoot the farmer?
Do I take the offer?
Both of these are decisions that, once made, can’t be unmade.
There’s a lot of blood involved in one, a lot of money in the other. Both could affect the lives of a lot of other people, to say nothing of my own, for years to come. The two situations are different in a thousand ways, similar in a handful of ways, but identical in one.
They both require total focus.
Before I tell you the outcome of those two scenarios, I should probably give you my résumé. Here’s the two-minute version:
– Tossed out of the house at the age of sixteen.
– Spent the first thirteen years of my adult life in the U.S. Navy, where I served in a SEAL platoon in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11.
– Back in the States, rose through the ranks of SEAL snipers to the top position as course master and helped redesign the entire SEAL sniper training program, the schoolhouse that produced a generation of legendary snipers including Marcus Luttrell, Chris Kyle (American Sniper), and a ton of others you’ve never heard of but who were just as effective on the battlefield.
– After leaving the service, traded my sniper rifle for a MacBook Air, signed up for a new career as an entrepreneur, spent the next few years going through business training in the school of hard knocks— years that were nearly as brutal as my time going through BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training) and the rest of SEAL training. Maybe more so. Raised millions of dollars and lost it all, my brainchild beaten to death by nuisance lawsuits in the California courts. Sat in my car on the La Jolla coast, staring out at the Pacific Ocean, and made the phone call to my lawyer that killed the business for good.
–Soon after which my wife filed for divorce. Full stop.
# End of first minute #
–After getting my teeth kicked in, forced to regroup and reinvent myself. Took a corporate job as an executive with a defense/ aerospace company, where I was put in charge of $40 million in business related to a classified communications program. A cherry post, but with the blood of entrepreneurship coursing through my veins, I felt like a caged rat.
–To feed my creative side, accepted a writing job for a military web site where I ended up running and hosting one of its most successful blogs, with millions of monthly viewers. Noticed that when it came to Special Operations content, there was a gaping hole on the Internet. You could read a book or watch a movie about Spec Ops, but there was no solid, legitimate source of information online. At least not until February 2012, when I left that post and founded SOFREP.com, a veteran-run Special Operations news site.
–Leveraging SOFREP’s rapidly growing following, acquired and/or created additional sites and built these digital properties into Hurricane Group, Inc., which today is the fastest-growing military and outdoor content network on the Internet, reaching tens of millions of people monthly in over 220 countries through its Web sites, online TV, Internet radio, earned media partners that syndicate our content and link back to us, and our e-commerce clubs business.
–In the spring of 2014, received an unsolicited acquisition offer from Scout Media, backed by MTV founder Bob Pittman’s private equity company, the Pilot Group, to purchase Hurricane for $15 million in stock and cash.
# End of résumé #
In the course of these two careers, I’ve realized something: the core principles it takes to achieve excellence in Special Operations are the same fundamental principles it takes to accomplish great things in business. Or for that matter in life.
It might surprise you to see a former Navy SEAL sniper writing a book on business. But it makes sense. The training, mind-set, and experience that go into building a Special Operations warrior are perfectly attuned to the sensibilities it takes to be an accomplished business owner and entrepreneur. In the SEAL teams, we’re not taught simply to obey orders, as in other more conventional units. We’re put into “kentuv brutal training environments” that force us to fail, learn, adapt, and overcome, and in the process teach us to accomplish the mission, whatever it takes. We focus not on obstacles but on blowing through them with creative solutions. We are groomed to think fast, think for ourselves, and think unconventionally.
To make impossible decisions under insane pressure.
If soldiers and sailors are the military’s version of a solid corporate workforce, we in Spec Ops are its entrepreneurs, innovators, and misfits. And the training we receive is powerfully effective, once translated and adapted for the business world rather than armed conflict.
There’s something about SEALs and other Spec Ops operators that leads a substantial number of us to start highly successful businesses. It’s almost as if it were in our DNA.
In Total Focus, I’m going to deconstruct that DNA and show you how you can develop it, too. In these pages, I’ll describe a blueprint for success built on seven hard-won lessons learned from the crucible of war and relearned on the battlefields of business. You might think of them as “ The 7 Deadly Habits of Highly Successful People.”
Each chapter illustrates one of these insights with experiences from my time with the SEALs, side by side with examples of how I’ve seen and experienced that same principle play out in the world of business. I’ll also illustrate each with a profile of one exceptional entrepreneur from the circle of business professionals I’ve gotten to know in the last few years—people I’ve come to think of as “the Spec Ops warriors of the business world.”
You’re probably wondering, how did those two high-pressure decisions turn out?
I did not shoot the farmer. I reasoned that the risks of damage in taking the shot were higher than those in holding fire. The man likely never knew how close he was to death that day. Moments after I eased my finger on the trigger, I caught a glimpse of some character in Arab dress, out behind the village, hoofing it out of there and up a little goat trail, making his way for the Pakistan border as fast as his jihadist legs could take him. Damn. I’d been right. That farmer wasn’t just an innocent dude, standing around; he was standing sentry, hiding the guy who escaped into the hills.
Had I made the right decision? Impossible to know, but I knew this for sure: all my guys were still alive.
And the $15 million offer? I turned it down. Sitting at the bar at the Jane in Manhattan, I typed out an e-mail that said, in essence, thanks . . . but no thanks. Two years later, I heard that a group of Russian investors had executed a hostile takeover of that same media group. A ton of the company’s Web site producers resigned in protest, and a dozen tech people walked. It was a bloodbath.
I still have my company.
“Total Focus” by Brandon Webb is available for pre-order now on Amazon.