How Bad Do You Want to Succeed? (One Navy SEAL Died to Prove It)

Navy Seals Hell Week Life Lessons

During five days of Hell week, they only get four hours of sleep.

How bad do you want to create the life you want?  How hard would you push yourself? Would you push yourself to actual death only to be revived?

Sometimes it’s good to put into perspective what some have to go through to achieve their life’s dream.

It makes what we possibly have to go through seem not as bad.

The toughest training in the world

That’s what sailors put themselves through when they have a goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. It’s 25 weeks of training to test their endurance and will.

Cold, miserable, and tired are three words that sum up the experience.

Master Chief Information Systems Technician Dennis Wilbanks, head SEAL recruiter said, “You have to want the program. And mentally, never give yourself the option to quit.”

70% drop out within the first few weeks. That number is pretty high considering sailors know what they are signing up for.

They want them to be able to work flawlessly under intense mental and physical exhaustion. Why? As one instructor put it, “Mistakes made when working with explosives only happen once.”

He makes a good point.

Navy SEALs raided Bin Laden’s compound last year. I read an article in Esquire magazine about the man who actually shot Bin Laden. A fascinating firsthand account of what it was like inside.

One story in the Esquire article really stood out to me. It really put in perspective how badly some of these guys want to become Navy SEALs.

One test during Basic Underwater Demolition School/SEAL (BUD/S) he describes, but I bet words can’t begin to show how grueling it really is.

They break them down and see how physically and mentally tough they are. It sometimes reaches the point of death and resurrection.

“One of the tests is they make you dive to the bottom of a pool and tie five knots,” the Shooter says. “One guy got to the fifth knot and blacked out underwater. We pulled him up he was, like, dead. They made the class face the fence while they tried to resuscitate him. The first words as he spit out water were ‘Did I pass? Did I tie the fifth knot?’ The instructor told him, ‘We didn’t want to find out if you could tie the knots, you asshole, we wanted to know how hard you’d push yourself. You killed yourself. You passed.”


But that’s what it takes to become a Navy SEAL. Unrelenting drive and a willingness to not quit.

Isn’t that what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary amongst us as well? The ones who have success in life act like the guy who tried to tie that fifth knot.

Life is a bunch of tests

We all start kicking and screaming when we come into this world. We are trainees and we want to get to an elite level. As we go through life, we have to respond to different tests thrown our way.

As we get older, the tests get more intense. It might feel like Hell Week at times.

What’s Hell Week exactly?

That’s when sailors are subjected to a series of mentally and physically crushing workouts. They must swim dozens of miles in freezing, rough surf, and then run and roll in the sand and mud – all in full gear.

Sand burns their eyes and makes their skin raw. They consume 7,000 calories a day and still lose weight. Over the entire five days, they are only allowed four hours of sleep.


This is when the majority of the trainees quit, and even the act of quitting is painful. They must ring a brass bell to signal they don’t have what it takes to be a SEAL. The whole camp can hear them ring that bell.

Despite being physically exhausting, the reason many quit is their inner voice telling them to.

“The belief that BUD/S is about physical strength is a common misconception. Actually, it’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” said a BUD/S instructor at the San Diego facility. “(Students) just decide that they are too cold, too sandy, too sore or too wet to go on. It’s their minds that give up on them, not their bodies.”

They know all they have to do is ring that bell and they don’t have to endure it anymore. They can be taking a hot shower and sleeping in a warm bed, while the rest are still out there going through hell.

Have you rung that bell?

I know whatever challenge you’re going through is more mental than anything else. When the first sign of trouble comes, you want to ring that bell. It’s much easier to do that.

Have you decided to not pursue your dreams and sit on the couch instead watching your fifth hour of television, rather than writing that book, creating a business plan, or doing anything on your life’s to-do list?

If so, you’ve let your inner voice get the better of you. You’ve given up way too easily. The ones you are jealous of have survived Hell Week. In fact, they may have gone through a dozen hell weeks in their lives.

Yet, they never rang that bell.

Since they faced those challenges, they’re more strong and confident because of them. They’ve won some and lost some, but they’re better off for trying. Any problem that comes along doesn’t scare them. Ringing that bell is not an option. They don’t think “I can’.t” Instead they think, “How can I?”

You might see their lives and think “It must be nice. They’re just lucky.” If you think that, that’s why you’re where you are and they aren’t.

How about giving yourself a real chance at a life you desire? We’ve only got one shot at this life. How terrifying can it be to take risks and see what happens?

In the end, we all die anyway.

However, some die knowing they had a good life, while many die wondering what type of life it could have been.

If you tried your damn hardest and failed, it’s not the end of the world. Failure doesn’t have to be such a negative event. Many people have found success despite many failures. Failure is only a failure if you don’t learn something from it.

Tell your inner voice to SHUT UP

At times you’re not going to want to keep trying. That inner voice is going to think, “This is stupid. Is all this work really worth it? You’re going to fail anyway, so quit now!” 

You question when you will start seeing results. You wonder if life will get better than it is now.

That’s the moment when you have a choice. You can ring that bell or push even harder. You have to decide to ignore that stupid voice in your head.

Don’t think about “what if.” I doubt that guy who went down to tie that fifth knot wondered what would happen if he tried. He just knew it had to be done. His reward for attempting was he died momentarily yet his first words were, “Did I pass? Did I tie the fifth knot?”

You must decide to tie that fifth knot. You’re not going to come close to dying, I promise that. You just need that attitude. Prove it to yourself how bad you want it.

The pain you feel will be temporary, but the pain of quitting lasts forever.

I know you want to do more in life. That’s why you’re at my blog. You didn’t come here for help growing tomatoes. You’re here cause you want live a more exciting life. I’m here to push you into that water and you get you to tie that fifth knot.

You’ll thank yourself you tried hard. The memories you’ll smile back on are the ones where you had to overcome adversity, and triumphed.

Sailor or Navy SEAL?

Moving forward, when you start to have doubts, don’t imagine the worst case scenario. You’re only going to convince yourself that it’s not worth trying.

Instead, imagine what it’s like when you do achieve your goal. Think about how your life would be, how awesome you’ll feel, and how exciting life finally is.

To achieve that, you’re not going to have to actually crawl under barbed wire while covering your ears during simulated explosions, or nearly die from trying to tie a fifth knot, unless you do want to become a Navy SEAL. But it’s going to feel like Hell Week sometimes.

You have to want the challenges in order to get the rewards in life.

So take the attitude of a Navy Seal who doesn’t know the meaning of quitting. The ones who do quit don’t get the distinction of being called a SEAL. The ones who quit are just known as sailors.

What about you?

Do you want to be known as extraordinary or just ordinary?

Never ring that bell. 


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Photo by tomsaint

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27 responses to How Bad Do You Want to Succeed? (One Navy SEAL Died to Prove It)

  1. Great article Benny. I get the feeling that people get lost along the way with all the current stress and forget that they need to pursue their passion for their own happiness. Just like on the plane when the attendant says put your mask on first before you can help others. People often forget that when they have success and are doing their dream how many people around them can be affected both by your success and you being a happy person to be around. I often have said that there are zombie eyes in the workplace of the people of forgotten dreams. These people need a shot passion and to make the decision to chase the dream and make it a reality.
    Just like you Benny the inspiration you provide to the readers is the fact that you are working another job to make your dream come true but have found balance by making time for both your wife and fun along the way. I’m often blown away by the fact that when I ask people what their dream is that they have no answer. Fortune Favors the Bold. Face the fear and find the freedom and passion that make life wonderful. Thanks again for the inspiring post brother!

  2. Hey Benny,

    Been a reader for a long time and finally decided to chime in and tell you that I really appreciate your writing. Keep it up!

  3. Hey Benny,

    This is a fantastic story and ridiculous inspiring article man.

    Just wanted to say “thanks” as I am trying to not ring that bell… it’s been very hard to overcome my inner fears but I know there’s light at the end of the tunnel.


    • Thanks Sergio! It needed this reminder as well. I thought if I did, others would too. I have big goals for this year, but doubt likes to creep into my mind. I definitely don’t want to ring that bell. It’s not an option for me. Just need this reminder as well when I start to have those thoughts.

  4. Hey Benny,

    This week has been tough, as 2 weeks of efforts in my business has not yielded considerable results. And it felt like: “lets ring that bell”

    However after reading your article, it has given me fresh breath, fresh fuel to carry on!

    Because the end result will be worth it!

    Thanks a ton

    • You’re welcome! Like I said, everyone has Hell Weeks. Sometimes a dozen times in their lives. If we give it all we’ve got, no matter the outcome, we can be happy with that at least when we look back.

  5. Benny, that post just had me in tears. I feel like I’m going through my own “Hell Week” right now, meant to test every ounce of my dedication to my writing, my family, and my life. I haven’t *wanted* to ring the bell, but I’ve felt like circumstances are pushing me closer and closer to having no choice.

    This post has reminded me that I have a choice, and I’m strong enough to make it.

    So thank you. You have no idea how much this has helped, and will continue to help me over the coming weeks.

    • I’m happy to hear this post had that sort of impact on you. You’ve made it this far so I know you can keep on pushing forward. That hot shower and warm bed will be waiting for you when you’re done with your Hell Week. 🙂

  6. One of the most inspiring articles I have ever read. Mde me think and realize that I am not pushing anywheer near hard enough to get what I want. Thanks for the kick in the ass wake up call Benny, I really appreciate it.

    • Thanks for that Jason. I wrote this as a wake up call to myself too and a reminder when I would started to get lazy. I figured others needed it as well.

  7. What an awesome testament to the human will, Benny! I love the imagery of ringing the bell or tying the fifth knot. Very powerful. I remember listening to an interview with a Navy SEAL not too long ago. He said exactly what you said here, that the biggest challenge was mental. He talked about the bitter cold of the water that gets down into your bones and doesn’t go away, that it was the cold more than anything that led to some walking away.

    With that kind of mental toughness, that total determination and will to succeed, what could stop you?

    Thanks for this post, Benny. Very inspiring.

    • I knew Hell Week was tough, but while doing more researching about it for this post, I learned how brutal it really is. That cold water feeling sounds so uncomfortable though. What I found interesting was the quit rate was so high even though these sailors know what to expect. I guess they think they can handle it, but it’s more than they imagined.

  8. Wow, I never realized that program was 25 weeks, I assumed it was more like 8. And a whole week of intense training on only ~4 hours of sleep? Jeeze. I wonder how many times they’ve had to replace the bell cause it wore out!

  9. Great post Benny. Also keep in mind that most of us will never need to go thru anywhere near the physical and mental barriers of a Seal to reach our goals.

  10. Wow. I forget who teaches this, but it helps me to be reminded that the nagging, negative voice in my head trying to get me to ring the bell isn’t really me. It’s trying to stop me. To keep me comfortable. To avoid the risk.

    The real me has to learn to beat that guy and punch average in the FACE! hah.

  11. Hi benny
    This is an extreme I know but it does go to show that those who endeavour and are prepared to give 100% to achieve what ever it is in life have a much higher chance of success than those who listen to the nagging doubts in the back of the head and never manage to get outside of their comfort zone and achieve their life goals.

    Very inspiring thanks lee

  12. I had no idea what they went through and can’t imagine how hard it would be to quite the noise in your head that would be telling you to quit. Thanks for an inspirational post. It was a great way to start my day and motivate me to do more.

  13. I remember reading about the training of the Seals after the Bin Laden capture. I came away thinking, ”This is nuts!” But as you said, these guys have decided that they will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal and no sacrifice seems too great for them. I’m sure that no matter what most of us have to go through in order to achieve our goals, we will not have to suffer or sacrifice as much as the Seals so your article puts things in perspective. If they won’t give up, why should we? If you don’t mind me asking Benny, do you have any practical tips for dealing with that inner voice? Because it always seems to be there and even successful people still seem to struggle with it.

    • The inner voice will still be there, but when it enters our minds, we have the power to shut it up. It doesn’t just go on and on unless we give it power. If we give it the attention it craves it grows bigger. What I like to do it when that negative thought comes in, I recognize it, stop it, and replace it with the opposite. That’s what I do.

  14. Benny,
    Commitment is so huge. My goal is always to help people (myself included) grow that commitment. Some are born with the ability to be super committed – it’s in their personality or something. For the rest of us though it is important to figure out how to grow in this. We can learn to not give up. We can learn to hold on. We just need someone to help us learn it. Keep up the good work and keep teaching us!


    • It’s definitely huge! Once we get the ball rolling commitment becomes easier. But it’s hard to stay committed when starting out, so it helps to find people or ways that will help us.

  15. this article would give a person a real insight of what it takes to succeed

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    […] How Bad Do You Want to Succeed? (One Navy SEAL Died to Prove It) I know whatever challenge you’re going through is more mental than anything else. When the first sign of trouble comes, you want to ring that bell. It’s much easier to do that. […]