Strength

Dear Brendan,

Let’s roll up our sleeves and cover down on being as strong as you can be all the time for yourself, your family, your team.  

I’m talking as both a warfighter and as a dad and family man.  

When I would go back home on leave after a deployment or after training, people would ask me all kinds of questions.  

What is it like?

How was it over there?  

How tough was the training?  

What did you do to prepare?  And the list of questions goes on and on.  

I would often give a sarcastic answer and draw some laughs.  Then lay it down in the simplest of terms.  The big secret or mystery is to be functionally strong in all areas.  After true strength it’s basically about cardio and being mobile and agile.  

My experience and that of many others who are warfighters or SOF operators will echo much the same as I’m telling you.  Stronger people do not exhaust themselves or break down like weaker people doing the exact same thing.  The brutal truth is that the stronger man almost always wins.  So forget about all the fairytales you heard growing up.  Remember being stronger means physically, mentally and emotionally.  

I’m sure we have all seen big strong guys break mentally or emotionally.  They simply lack the will to win and give up.  The flip side is that skinny young guy who is maybe 170 pounds soaking wet who will dig deep and carry that so-called 250 pound beast of a football player up the mountain while Mr. Football is crying and whining the entire time like a little school girl who lost her favorite doll.  

So a common trait for those that are successful warfighters or operators is that they are simply stronger across the board than your average person.  Please don’t confuse bigger with stronger.  No, bigger is not the issue or the game changer.  It is strength that trumps all in the end.  It’s about being stronger in everything across the board.  I’m talking about globally stronger.  

Can you throw on 30% of your body weight in the form of your kit (body armor and gear) and pick up your buddy and run in a sprint 500 yards to cover?  

Yes or No?

I don’t care what your marathon time is or how fast you run the 40-yard dash.

So what standard do I hold myself to as well as my teammates?  And this is a standard you should strive for as well.  I’m about 180lbs and I’m looking for about the same in my teammates. A 170-220 pound man with the same level of commitment and heart.  We should always maintain our level of functional fitness as men, protectors, warfighters.  This means we can at a moment’s notice stand and fight the good fight for ourselves, our family, our teammates.  

Training should consist of exercises designed around mission requirements and tasks.  Your cardio should focus on sprints.  Every training session should focus on strength, mobility, flexibility, injury prevention, power and explosiveness.  If any training does not benefit you in these areas you should not waste your time and energy on it.   Everything else is really just Hollywood fads and other BS that you should simply ignore or throw out.  

There’s no need to be cute because you are not training to be an underwear model.  So do not be misled by some knucklehead trainer at the local gym.  Do not fall for the BS pitch about some fancy gym trick or how much a guy can max bench-press.  Nor should you be impressed because some gym rat has crazy cardio or runs super-fast.  Who cares?  Let’s get back on point, on target.  You want to be globally stronger, stronger as a man, stronger as a leader, stronger as a whole person-- physically, mentally, emotionally-- which translates to functional real-world capabilities.  

I don’t give a damn if a teammate of mine, or the dude at the gym, can do some stupid weight lifting trick or a handstand push-up.  Why would I care and why should you care?  I’d say give me a real life example where it matters.  And don’t say because it impresses a girl at the local bar.  To that I say, tell me another story.  

The bottom-line is can you pick me up or your wife and child and run to safety?  If no, then you have some serious training to do and you don’t get a spot on the team till you can.  This is the real world and not everyone gets a trophy.  This is also why I don’t care if you or someone else can bench press 400lbs or run really fast.

The real question remains: how fast can you pick me up and run 200 yards to cover?

If the person can’t do this then tell them to stop with all the BS talk unless they have vetted studies to back up their ridiculous point about gym tricks.  This all comes down to stronger people are harder to kill, period.  So take the time and focus a lot of your energy on becoming as strong as you can be as a person.  You will be far more useful to yourself, your family, your team and be more successful in life and in the fight that matters most.  

Let’s think about fighting and combat for a minute.  The best fighters in the world want to be stronger not just in the beginning of a fight but at the end of the fight.  Hence the saying, finish strong, or it’s not how you start that matters but how you finish.  Here is another way to think about this.  I’m sure you have wrestled with your older brother or father.  How did it feel to wrestle a much stronger person?  

In the end you can always dig deep to find one more step or breath.  In the heat of battle a true warrior can find a few more steps or the ability to make one last sprint.  That is going to be there deep inside you like a burning flame.  But strength is not something you can simply dig deep for when you need it most.

If you can’t lift 225lbs now, what makes you think you can lift 300lbs or more when seconds can mean life or death?

No gym trick is going to help you.  And for all those marathon runners and cardio freaks out there-- If you train to be able to run for your own survival instead of being strong enough to hold the line and finish the fight, well then running away is the only thing you have.  However that is not what we do or who we are as men and leaders for our families and team.   

Another measure of functional strength is not how much weight you can lift, but how many pull-ups, push-ups, dips, and squats you can do.  Keep this in mind that it is not enough to have the supplies you need in case of an emergency or natural disaster, but to also be prepared physically.  Ask yourself, can you truly save or protect yourself and your loved ones in any situation?

I’m hitting you hard but I know you can take it, Brendan, so I’ll let you think about these questions and concepts until my next letter, which will be on a very important topic—Situational Awareness, which means being tuned in to your surroundings as much as possible when it matters the most.

Until then, Brother to Brother, Shield to Shield, Soul to Soul, Iron to Iron.

I’ll be to your left or to your right and we will hold the line.

One Family, One Team, One Fight

Your Friend,

-Travis

"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength."