Fast forward a few decades—from 1977 to 2011. Ensign McRaven is now Admiral McRaven.
He’s no longer trying to make it through training. He’s now leading the hunt for Osama bin Laden and directing the covert initiative he dubbed Operation Neptune’s Spear.
After months of planning and weeks of training rehearsals, it’s time for the final mission briefing before the SEALs would engage in the mission.
McRaven tells us: “At the end of the briefing, I stood up from my folding chair and faced the gathering of SEALs and helo crews.
‘I think most of you know that I am a basketball fan.’
Some in the crowd smiled, having played pickup ball with me on several occasions.
‘There is a great scene in the movie Hoosiers,’ I said, waiting a second to let it sink in.
‘Hoosiers is the story of a small-town basketball team in Indiana that reaches the high school state championship in 1954. They travel to Indianapolis to play a team from the big city. Most of these small-town kids have never been to a city and the stadium in Indianapolis is huge.’
I moved away from my chair and drew closer to the men.
‘At one point, the coach, played by Gene Hackman, realizes the boys on the team are intimidated by the size of the stadium and the fact that they will be playing on the big stage in front of thousands of people. Hackman grabs one of the players and hands him a tape measure. ‘Measure the height of the basket,’ he tells the player.
‘Reeling out the tape measure, the player announces, ‘Ten feet.’
‘Hackman grabs another player and tells him to pace off the length of the court. The player does so and tells Hackman that it’s ninety-four feet.’
Some in the audience were starting to get my point.
‘Hackman tells his team that the court is exactly the size of the court at home. That the basket is exactly the height of the one at home.’
Now heads were nodding.
‘Gentlemen, each of you has done hundreds of missions just like this one. The mission is no different. The court is exactly like the one you’ve played on for the past ten years. There is no need to do anything differently. Just play your game like you always have and we will be successful.’
I thanked them and started to leave. Those sitting stood up, and a few shook my hand as I departed. I would see the SEALs and helo crews off before they launched. I walked out of the warehouse and into the warm night air. It was five hours until showtime.”
Of course, the SEALs successfully completed their mission. McRaven went on to become a Four-Star Admiral and his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces.
Not too long ago, I mentioned a Mental Performance Working Group discussion I was invited to—led by former Navy SEAL, Captain Bob Schoultz.
We had a great discussion on virtue, culture, and peak performance. It was fantastic. And, it was incredibly inspiring to connect with an amazing group of aspiring, current and former SEALs—along with a number of Chaplains and mindfulness coaches.
One of the guys in the group is an elite Olympic swim coach. We talked about how to prepare his swimmers for the unique experience of swimming in front of 15,000 people—something most of them have rarely, if ever, experienced.
I shared McRaven’s Hoosiers story.
Their pool? 50 meters long. Just like the pool at home they’ve been in thousands of times. The starting block? We can measure it and find that it’s the same exact number of inches off the water. Just like the home pool.
We talked about the power of “normalizing” extraordinary moments—reminding ourselves that we’ve been here and done that many many times. Then we flip the switch, get our Presence power poses on and focus on what needs to get done.
That’s Today’s +1.
Facing an extraordinary challenge?
How can you normalize the experience as you apply some of that peak performance wisdom?
Bust out your tape measure.
That conference room? Same size as other rooms you’ve presented in before. That Zoom talk? Same size screen as always.
Whatever else you’re up to?
Measure it. Normalize it. Remind yourself you’ve been here and done that.
Then let’s go give the world all we’ve got.
Just like we always do.
(P.S. You can watch that Hoosiers scene here.)