A special ACL mindset lesson from a high-level Navy Seal.
What’s up guys, and welcome back to another episode on the ACL Athlete Podcast. Today is a short one and we’re talking mindset in ACL rehab kind of day. This was one that I got a lot of questions about from athletes on mindset, especially with the ACL rehab process, with how long it is and how hard it is, with everything that has to be done for such a long period of time and all the work that goes into it. It can weigh on us from a mental aspect, from a physical aspect, emotional.
Today, I just wanted to talk about the mental aspect and mindset. And the title for today is called, “Quit Tomorrow.” And I got this from a podcast that I just recently listened to with my wife, where it was Megan Kelly interviewing Rob O’Neill. And if you guys do not know who Rob O’Neill is, he is a guy on the SEAL Team Six from the U.S. He was a part of the rescue mission for Captain Phillips, which is the guy that was on the boat, that was taken hostage by Somali pirates. I am the captain, anyone, any takers—he was a part of that mission. And Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor, he was a part of that mission to help rescue the lone survivor. He is the guy who killed Osama Bin Laden. This guy’s pretty legit. He’s got a pretty crazy background and he’s a big war hero for us in the U.S.
This podcast episode is focused on his background of mainly killing Osama Bin Laden, but also the events leading up to that. He talked about the other missions and also his background in training to go into the Navy to become a Navy Seal, which is just people who are complete badasses. There’s a lot of respect here with all the training that goes on, not to mention the unique path he’s had himself.
You’re probably wondering how this has anything to do with ACL rehab. Just stay with me guys. On this podcast, Rob O’Neill talks about his process of getting into the Navy—which side fact (he did not know how to swim) until he knew he needed to go to the Navy. He learned how to swim five months before that. It’s pretty crazy. Anyways, he finishes up his boot camp for getting into the Navy, and then he wants to make his way to Navy SEAL training, which for those of you who do not know, is just the top of the top for the Navy. Is this a very small group of people who go through some extensive training to be able to be a part of this group of humans who are just really badasses.
And so this Navy SEAL training, as he mentioned, was broken up into phases, for eight months. He mentioned that 75% to 80% of people typically don’t make it, which is a huge number. And during that time, there wasn’t as much structure that they knew about. Sure, the instructors and everything knew what was going on. But in SEAL training, he said that they didn’t know as much. They were kind of following more blindly day-to-day. And he talked about how it started out with just a ton of physical training, the brutal stuff that you hear about, a thousand reps of pushups, pullups, log carries, boat carries.
He mentioned having to run six miles just to get back to the cafeteria to be able to eat. He said it was just ridiculous stuff. It’s stuff that really tests you physically, and mentally. It’s usually the mental piece that he said really gets people to quit, including the hell week that they have where it includes they cannot sleep from Sunday to Saturday. So think about that. It’s really crazy. You have to think it takes some crazy mental fortitude and mindset to be able to make it through that. I feel like a complete mess now if I don’t have seven hours of sleep. I can’t even imagine being up for five days without sleeping.
But one of the things he mentioned in this podcast was this mindset and the guidance given by the instructor of their Navy SEAL training. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said, “You guys have probably read a lot of books, and seen a lot of movies on this stuff. SEAL training is not impossible. You see me here, I’m living proof of it, so nothing is impossible. But I am going to ask you to do some really hard things and then some other really hard things, and then some other really hard things, and it’s going to happen for a very long time.” Day after day after day for eight straight months, sound familiar to anyone?
ACL rehab possibly up to 9 months to 12 months, obviously not SEAL training, but it’s definitely our own long and hard battle. But the instructor goes on to say, “It sounds like a lot to get to eight months from now. But don’t think about it that way because that’s not how you achieve a long-term goal.” Do it like this instead, wake up in the morning on time, make your bed the right way, then brush your teeth. Start off the day with three little victories. Make it to the 5:00 AM workouts on time. When we’re beating you up, don’t concentrate on the pain.
Think about your next goal in lifewhich is breakfast; after breakfast is lunch; after that, make it to dinner; after dinner, do whatever you need to do to make it back into that perfect bed you made. And because you took the time to make your perfect bed the right way. Regardless of how bad today was, it will be bad. Tomorrow is a clean slate; tomorrow is a fresh start. When you feel like quitting, which you will, do not quit right now because that’s your emotion; quit tomorrow. If you can keep quitting tomorrow, you could do anything in life. Keep moving forward.
I love this a lot and it really speaks to honestly anything in life. But two big things that I took away from this is that, if you can stack these habits and these small little wins that we talk about and these victories in your day, then you can continue to keep achieving those things and move on to the next thing. And he kind of breaks this up of like, “Okay, let’s make it to breakfast and lunch and dinner.” While our days are not that extreme, we can still break them up into thirds or fourths.
James Clear has this really cool strategy with his habit training where he talks about there’s a morning, a mid-morning, afternoon, and an evening, where he talks about, instead of thinking the day’s a wash and you have, let’s say, a bad morning, then you still have the afternoon and the evening to still win it. I’m almost breaking it up into four different quarters, instead of making it feel like the whole day’s a wash. Stacking these little victories and making it to that next milestone, if you will, can be very helpful.
One of the things that I want to draw on is even stacking certain victories, like, “Okay, let’s get three things from my ACL rehab done today. If we’re talking about the early phases, maybe we’re talking about, I’m going to get one thing from my range of motion done today, I’m going to work on my quadriceps, I’m going to work on my gait. If I can at least do one of each of those every day, for let’s say, the first four to six weeks, eight weeks, then we’re on the right track. And those victories that compound of doing that work daily will end up reaping its benefits to get you to that nine-month end goal. Or, for him, it was like, ” All right, let’s get to the eight-month mark where we could be done with all of this.”
The other piece to “Quit Tomorrow,” is he talked about taking the emotion piece out of it. If you quit today, you could be moving on emotions that you’re currently feeling. Think about any type of big argument or fight that you’ve gotten into with someone that you’re close to and you end up getting really angry and furious and upset. You might even say something or do something that you’re just out of character because it’s emotional. And as human beings, we move quicker on emotions than we do logic. But what happens if you kind of just step away and give it a little bit of time, a little bit of time to cool down, get the emotions out of the way, and think about it, you end up realizing what you did or said was not something that you would normally do.
I love this piece because it can translate over to ACL rehab a lot. Because I talk to a lot of athletes who “quit” and it’s because they get frustrated or they get upset, or a lot of times it’s lack of guidance or insurance, but we’re not going to talk about that. But we’re talking about quitting because mentally is just getting too hard. This whole concept of quitting tomorrow, if you can just make it to the end of the day, get those little victories, make it to the next morning, are you going to want to quit tomorrow morning? If that’s the case, you’ve taken the emotional piece out of it potentially. Then “Hey, maybe you do need to decide to take a break or something in that regard.” But most of the time, if you can make it to tomorrow, it’s typically a clean slate and you can move forward. Taking it day by day instead of looking at it in the grand scheme of everything, because that can get really exhausting when we’re talking about 9 to 12 months.
And I really do think that in order for us to learn and to grow and to have useful tactics, we need to learn from those who have gone through hard stuff or have failed or have had a lot of difficulties. I think that this is a really great lesson for people in ACL rehab because the mindset is so important. I know from my two ACL surgeries, it had a huge impact on me. With the athletes that I work with and the ones that I talk to, it’s something that really impacts them and it’s really hard for other people to see. That is why I hope that today you were able to take something away from this, in terms of even shifting that mindset a little bit of taking those small victories and winning each day and quitting tomorrow. Take the emotions out of it. Don’t quit today, quit tomorrow!
So that’s it for today, guys, just a casual lesson from the guy who killed Osama Bin Laden. You’re welcome. But that’ll wrap things up for today. Thank you all so much for listening. This is your host, Ravi Patel, signing up.
Subscribe and leave The ACL Podcast a review – this helps us spread the word and continue to reach more ACLers, healthcare professionals, and more. The goal is to redefine ACL rehab and elevate the standard of care.
- Check out our free ebooks on our Resources page
- Sign up for The ACL Athlete – VALUE Newsletter – an exclusive newsletter packed with value – ACL advice, go-to exercises, ACL research reviews, athlete wins, frameworks we use, mindset coaching, blog articles, podcast episodes, and pre-launch access to some exciting projects we have lined up
- 1-on-1 Remote ACL Coaching – Objective testing. An individualized game plan. Endless support and guidance. From anywhere in the world.
- More podcasts? Check out our archives