Navy Seal Training: Self-Confidence


The most effective way to engender transformation is by addressing all aspects of our being: physical, mental, and spiritual.  One reason I am drawn to Buddhism is that for 2,500 years, Buddhist monks have been systematically studying the mind and developing a system for transforming consciousness through physical, mental, and ethical steps.  The Buddha’s 8-Fold Path presents specific actions to rewire our brains.


Which leads me to David Rutherford’s book, Navy Seal Training: Self-Confidence. Rutherford is not a Buddhist monk, but he is a Navy Seal, and the Seals have studied the mental aspects of performance with the same focus and determination they bring to combat. They know how to transform a man into an effective warrior, physically and mentally.  Self-Confidence is an enormous key, not only to professional success but to our personal happiness, and Rutherford breaks down how to attain self-confidence through systematic, concrete steps that address everything from your physical body to your emotional, mental, and spiritual being.


Rutherford’s Self-Confidence plan has 8 missions in all, (not unlike the 8 fold path), and is full of clearly defined phrases and ample examples from his personal life to illustrate a chapter’s topic or mission.  At the end of each chapter is an extremely helpful, short, work-book style list of questions. I’m a pretty contemplative person, but these questions helped me consider things which I hadn’t thought of before. Such as, “Who is the most squared away person that you know?” This led me to realize that while I know some very squared away people in their professional lives, many are considerably less squared away in their personal lives. Searching for those role models who have it together both professionally and personally led me to some surprising people.


Another question: “What are your goals for the next five years?” I saw that although I knew my goals, I didn’t have a concrete mission plan for obtaining them, and they aren’t just going to happen on their own.


I found particularly helpful Rutherford’s thoughts on debrief and failure.  Failure will inevitably occur in all our lives with some frequency, especially if we are pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone.  When it does happen, it can be a big blow to our self-confidence.  As a female firefighter working in a male dominated profession, I have at times taken small failures quite hard.  It has taken me a long time to shake some of them off.  Sometimes even minor failures can feel like confirmation that society’s limited view of my potential is accurate.  (It’s not.)  Yet Rutherford sees failure as essential to growth. Through debriefing, he reframes failure from a negative to a positive experience.  By debriefing a failed mission, no matter how small, Rutherford is able to frame failure so that it deepens his self-knowledge and increases his lessons learned thereby strengthening his knowledge base.  Through gaining knowledge about ourselves and what does not work, we actually grow stronger from failure and more resilient, which in turn, increases our self-confidence.


I am giving this book five stars for its depth and accessibility of content. It’s an important book to read especially for anyone in the Fire Service.  However, this book is self-published and it doesn’t have the slickness or professionalism of a major press. Rutherford does have cheerleading tendencies (he would have made a good one), and there are definitely a lot of Hooyahs! here.  But this is the most comprehensive, personal, and readable book I have found on Self-Confidence.  I learned a lot about myself and (colleagues) from reading it.  I recommend this book to everyone.  You don’t need to be a Navy Seal of firefighter to benefit from Self-Confidence.  Everyone has dreams, and this book can help you attain them and become the person you have always aspired to be.



  • Kas Thomas says:

    This does sound like a worthwhile book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    He makes a great point that should no got underestimated: Do a post mortem after any failure. This is just as important for organizations as for individuals. In corporate life (at Novell, especially) I found it important to have a post-release meeting (after any software deadline) in which we talked about what we did right BUT ALSO what we didn’t get right. We always found, among the stumbles and slip-ups, things we could do better on next time; and then we did better on those things. In my personal life, this has been just as true. The idea isn’t to avoid making mistakes but to avoid making the same ones a second time.

    Thank you for this post.

    • That’s very interesting, Kas. Especially the part about not avoiding mistakes altogether, just avoiding making the same mistake twice. This, I believe, is what reflects true intelligence. This book really helped me to reframe failure in a more positive way. As Bram Stoker said, “We learn from failure, not from success.”

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