How Stressful Situations Bring Out Certain Characteristics of Success

There are certain times that people get put under immense pressure and they discover something new about themselves. Whether it’s pushing past physical boundaries, mental boundaries, or handling unexpected situations with grace, they can learn something new about themselves in these scenarios. What exactly are these characteristics that are coming out within the pressure? Are they skills? Can you learn them?  

Explore the idea of skills and attributes with Rich Diviney, a Navy Seal Officer, and a leadership consultant, who joins us on this episode of Making Bank. Being a 20-year officer, Rich went through Seal training and eventually became a leader in his program. During this tough and rigorous time, he became interested in human behavior, specifically the correlation between skills, attributes, and success. Learn how he took his Seal background, training, and observations and applied it to leadership and entrepreneurship.  


Being Pushed to the Limits  

Rich didn’t always know that he wanted to be involved in leadership and entrepreneurship. He started as a Navy SEAL. “Really what struck me about getting to Seal training was that you know, we started with about 160 odd students, and graduated with 38. And you look around and I know I was looking around, I was like, how the heck did I end up with all these rock stars?” This story might start off sounding like the furthest thing from business, but it was one of the first times he learned about leadership and other skills.  

To Rich, the people that he made the team with seemed better than him. After reflecting with the team, he realized that everyone in that spot thought the same thing. There was a commonality in which they always searched to surround themselves with people better than them so that they could learn and grow from those people. During that period, Rich started reflected on what drives human behavior, what drives performance, and what causes people to succeed in specific environments. 

During training, they taught Rich how to hold he breathe underwater for minutes at a time, along with carrying a pole on his back for miles. He trained to carry boats on his head, and after all that training, he never found himself once doing any of it. This made him realize the deeper level of human behavior that was beyond just practicing. “It wasn’t that they were training me to do anything. What they were doing was they were teasing out certain innate qualities. They were forcing us into situations that asked the question, a fairly singular question, not whether you could do the job or not, not whether you knew how to do the job, but whether you could do the job right.”  

It was beyond just doing the tasks but knowing how to do them and handle them the correct way. It required all the skills, not just one or two, and when everything went badly, could you handle that pressure to make it alright? That’s where the innate qualities and attributions kicked in, and those things were what interested Rich the most.  


The Difference Between Skills and Attributes  

During these high-stress times in training, Rich saw certain qualities come out of himself and his teammates. He started to see similarities in the guys that made it farther with him and saw commonalities of the people that were failing.  

This led him to think about skills differently. “We learn how to do things like ride a bike, throw a ball or drive a car. We’re not born with the ability to do those things. We can also learn skills peripherally…that’s what a skill is. Skill is direct behavior…therefore they can be very easily assessed, measured, and seen. This is why most selection processes, or when people put together dream teams, are based upon skills.”  

When it comes to skills, they are measurable. You can see the guys who have the top sales of the week, or the person who has the most artistic skill when creating graphic design content. The best of the best are usually defined by how good they are at their skills. But the problem is, skills don’t necessarily dictate how a business is going to operate. When placed in a stressful, unusual environment, attributes come into play.  

These attributes are inherently gained, things that you’re born with. They get developed over time and inform behavior rather than dictate behavior. They are hidden in the background, not as obvious as skills, and are hard to measure. They often are only visible during times of stress or challenge, even in times of uncertainty.  

So I am certain that there are so many facets in life where attributes are much more prominent in the entrepreneur field, which you are steeped in. The entrepreneurial field is steeped with uncertainty. You are running through a pathway of the unknown, which means this is why startups…are so fast and furious because they’re running on attributes the whole time.”  

Getting a company started and built is based on these attribute qualities is a crazy time. There is a high level of stress, and not everyone can handle that. Just like Seals have certain attributes that allow them to continue going and stay strong, successful people have these attributes that grow and help them develop into the leader that they are. 

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