thing about failure –
you don’t have to work
hard to achieve it.”
Jason Redman has encountered extreme adversity throughout his military and business career. His advice to anyone experiencing a business or life “ambush” is to get off the “X” and find your why in five key areas of your life. Here’s how to be proactive and ready for the storms, instead of reactive.
By Caryn Smith. Article appeared in the Automotive Recycling magazine / January-February 2020 Convention Wrap-Up Issue for the Automotive Recyclers Association. Retired Navy Lieutenant Jason Redman, an ex-navy seal wounded in Iraq, was the Keynote Speaker.
In almost any situation – business or life, you can expect certain challenges and plan for the usual worst case scenarios. In the business of automotive recycling, possibly you’ve built an emergency fund, updated your business plan, created a strategy for achievement, worked with mentors or joined a buying group. You are ready for things like a computer hack, a key employee’s departure, rigorous OSHA inspections, a cash-flow crunch, or loss of a contract. You think you’ve got it going on. In fact, you are sure you are on the right path.
One day while you are doing business as usual … boom. It hits. The thing you never thought would happen to you, and its huge. It is an all-out ambush and you are in the fight of your life. A recession hits. A flood wipes out inventory. Someone close is diagnosed with terminal cancer. You get sued.
A fire consumes buildings and the business is without adequate insurance. An employee is seriously hurt or killed on the job. You are staring down hard at ultimate closure or bankruptcy.
According to Jason Redman, keynote speaker at the Automotive Recyclers Association’s 76th Annual Convention and Expo, in Charlotte, an ambush will interrupt everything. It jumps to the front line of your priorities.
It shakes you to your core and threatens everything you’ve built and everything you believed. It will make you question everything. What you do, where you turn, and how you respond is crucial.
He Should Know
Jason Redman is a retired Navy Lieutenant who spent eleven years as an enlisted Navy SEAL and almost ten years as a SEAL officer. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, five Navy Achievement Medals, Two Combat Action Ribbons and the U.S. Army Ranger Tab.
Yet, these prestigious medals came with high price tags.
In 2005, he made a bad leadership decision – one he confesses was based on his large ego – that almost cost his team their lives. He found himself facing demotion as an officer with possibility of being expelled from the SEALs altogether. He had a choice to endure the hardest physical and ego-busting training in the military … or go home. He chose the training and it changed his career.
Then in 2007, he encountered an enemy ambush in Iraq that left him with critical injuries fighting for his life and questioning if he had what it takes to go on.
And yet, after being severely wounded, Redman returned to active duty before retiring in 2013, launching SOF Spoken LLC, a speaking and consulting company which uses his extreme experiences to focus on leadership, teamwork and the “Overcome Mindset” to help individuals, companies and teams to “GET OFF THE X™” from “Life Ambushes” through his unique training and Overcome Army™ group coaching programs.
He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir The Trident, along with his new book Overcome which released in December 2019. (See box at end.)
When Everything Changes
Redman isn’t afraid to share his flaws. In fact, he uses them to help others see their own. He readily shares he suffered from “ego arrogance” that led to his first “life ambush.” He was pinned as a Navy SEAL at 19 and later went into officer training. Ten years into his career, he lost his mindset for the job. Solo ego and the SEAL tribal community don’t mesh well, added to the fact that Redman was numbing his personal pain with alcohol.
He didn’t really know how to reach out for help for much of anything. He calls it the “perfect storm” of what was to happen next.
In Afghanistan in 2005, he made a critical ego-based tactical error that left his team under enemy fire. His commanding officer was able to get them out of harm’s way. Redman says, “I made that tactical decision because I wanted to be in the field,” and putting himself before the team almost cost him his career. He was called in immediately by his commander who questioned his leadership, tactics and operational abilities. He was to report back in the morning.
At that moment, he thought, “I’m done, this is it. My life is over. It is the end.” It took four years for Redman to earn his officer Trident, the pin that identifies U.S. Navy SEALs who have completed the grueling Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and SEAL Qualification Training, where about 1 in 4 candidates succeed. “I started with 140 guys, and there were 19 of us left at the end of training.”
He thought about ending it all. “In the turmoil of sitting in my room, thinking about what I did and what to do, a photo of my wife and three kids stopped me from ending it all. I sought out help from the base chaplain.” Then, he started to think there could be a different way. “For every moment that you think is the end,” Redman says, “it could be a new beginning. … If you are willing
to seek out the ways.”
Getting a second chance in the SEAL program is rare, but Redman was offered an opportunity to redeem himself being sent to U.S. Army Ranger School. It is the most difficult 62-day leadership training program in the military with 24/7 rigorous drills, sleep deprivation, imposed stress, and more, all designed to motivate people to think positively through chaos – directly related to units whose mission is to engage the enemy in close combat and direct fire battles.
“I told myself to step up, because ultimately I had nowhere else to go,” says Redman, “and at Ranger School I learned the three rules to trust and credibility: Lead Yourself, Lead Others, Lead Always. Credibility is the currency of leadership, and I knew I had to earn back that trust.”
Fast forward to Iraq in 2007, Redman was given a command role in a unit, and ultimately led a mission that resulted in his second life ambush. This time it was major. It happened on September 13, 2007 outside of Fallujah, Iraq, and he was one week from going home. The mission was a kill or capture mission, a common tactic in the war to go after high level Al Qaeda. Lt. Redman’s Assault Team came under heavy machine gun and small arms fire. Redman was caught in the crossfire … and then it happened.
The moment that changed everything.
He was severely wounded in the ensuing firefight, when a bullet entered the back side of his head and exited through his nose area. “I felt overwhelming feelings of being trapped,” Redman recalls. “I wanted to call a time out, but life doesn’t work like that. Within 4 days, I was back in the United States at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, overwhelmed, and wanting to just get out of this situation. I thought it was the end. I thought, ‘how will I move forward?’”
“Here again, I was experiencing another moment of a new beginning, new opportunity,” says Redman. “I was on the ‘X,’ the point of ambush, and I had to get off of it.”
Redman spent a grueling time enduring 40 surgeries to recover from this major life ambush. He had the choice to throw a pity party and play the victim, yet instead he chose positivity. He even placed a manifesto-style letter on his hospital door warning any negative people to stay out of his room nor anyone to talk negatively about his situation.
His letter (see end of article) was posted on social media by hospital attendees and it went viral. Once he was healed enough, he returned to active duty until 2013, when he retired to pursue other endeavors. He has since used his life lessons to help others, including other injured soldiers, to get off the X.
The X Message
“Ultimately,” he says, “I have found that in life there are three kinds of life ambushes. A major ambush involves the mental, emotional and physical self, and leaves behind big scars, such as how I found myself injured in a mission. A mini ambush is a schedule disruptor and creates a negative twist in your mindset, such as my being called out and sent to Ranger school. A micro-ambush is where you question your abilities, you are on the ‘X’ more so in your mind and have feelings of low self-worth or an inability to see a way out. This happens more often to most of us. From my experience, in all of these cases you must remember there is always a way out.”
As a result of his experiences, Redman developed a system that helps any person get out of a life storm with strength and resolve. He doesn’t promise anyone a miracle, but instead he offers hope and a strategy that is life-changing if used wisely. The best advice he offers is to be prepared. “I believe the average person faces 5 major ambushes in their life,” Redman says. “Be proactive and ready for them – because they will come – instead of being reactive and blindsided in a weak state.”
“It is never too late to get off the X,” says Redman.
Q&A with Jason Redman
By Caryn Smith
In an interview with Automotive Recycling magazine, Jason Redman reveals more on his journey to overcome life’s ambushes and how others can do the same.
Automotive Recycling: What led you from wounded Navy SEAL to author and speaker?
Jason Redman: It definitely wasn’t a planned path, and don’t get me wrong, I have always liked to write, but never once thought it was on my bucket list that I would like to write two books. In some ways my first book wrote itself, because when I was injured, I had a tracheotomy for seven months and two days, so in the beginning I was unable to talk. The only way I could communicate was by writing.
Everyone wanted to know what happened, so it got to the point I finally just wrote out step by step the events of the firefight. As people would ask questions, I would hand that to them. I then started reflecting on some of the other missions and began writing about those. Recovering over several years and 40 surgeries gave me a lot of time to write.
I was still active duty military at the time. I went to my commander, showed him my writing, and said some people thought there might be something to my story.
He really liked the humble nature and felt like it was a good leadership story and he gave me the go ahead to pursue. I brought in a cowriter who gave the story some structure. From there I started speaking to groups, like the wounded warriors and trauma victims. I enjoy speaking as it has a cathartic side to tell my story and to help others overcome.
AR: What does your basic message of “overcoming” mean to you?
JR: Everyone will encounter life storms. Most people average 5 major life ambushes. Most people waste a lot of time focusing on the past and what they have lost, the pain, what caused it, who they can blame, instead of moving forward out of it.
For me, it was my trident leadership failure, the enemy ambush on the battlefield in Iraq, and later, after I had left the military, the ambush came through a frivolous business lawsuit against a former business I owned. My levels of anxiety and stress, feeling overwhelmed, constant anxiety, I understand what you’re dealing with and the major life disruption it causes. I applied the principles I’ve described in the book Overcome where I teach people a step-by-step process – something I call the REACT Methodology. With my system, someone can immediately start looking forward and start focusing on how they get out of that storm.
The REACT Methodology for success is:
R – Recognize your reality: you are in a crisis. Admit it. This is the most important and hardest part.
E – Evaluate your assets. Education or technology are examples of assets. Look at what you have and gain the knowledge you need and do it quickly. Don’t hesitate.
A – Access possible assets. If I use my assets, how will it unfold. Don’t take the easy route. Plan for the long-term.
C – Choose direction and communication. Most of the time you are not the only one on the X. Who else is being affected? Communicate the plan and bring them along with you on the way.
T – Take action and execute. Make a decision and do it.
I believe we need to be proactive for future life ambushes; whereas most people are reactive. We all procrastinate or flat out ignore immediate needs to take care of ourselves or to create a balance in family life. When a crisis-point comes, you’d better be prepared.
The first thing in the REACT Method is that you’ve got to recognize you’re in a crisis. This is probably the one thing that most people delay the longest. No one wants to admit it. As a matter of fact, as human beings we have this natural desire to just kind of wish it’ll go away on its own.
Many in the automotive recycling industry are in real firefights. Recyclers should be embracing technology and staying current on trends and techniques. If they don’t know how, then seek out a mentor who can help. Yet, people hunker down and just stick their head in the sand hoping that, you know, with a little bit of time this crisis will just go away on its own. Well, that virtually never happens. Too often, it actually grows and gets worse and people live in denial. As humans looking to avoid the pain, we also have a tendency to self-medicate, with alcohol being one of the biggest problems, and some go even further into drugs and other risky behavior. The reality is they never address the real problem in the beginning.
Business owners tend to avoid acknowledging that there is a problem or bring their teams in to say, “Hey guys, we are in crisis mode, let’s work together to figure it out.” So, the most critical thing is getting people to recognize that they are in a crisis to get moving forward. The other steps are vitally important, but I would definitely say the ability to quickly recognize the crisis has the greatest impact to get off the X.
AR: What does it mean to “Get Off the X?”
JR: Getting off the X is a military term; the “X” is the point of attack, where you are receiving gunfire and explosions. An “X” in life is the point of an incident – divorce, sickness, lawsuit, accident, trauma, bankruptcy – you are on the X in that moment.
To survive, you have to move. In the military, we call it “immediate action principles:” I am going to do option B to counteract bad thing A. Develop the mindset that you need to get off X immediately and start moving forward as quickly as possible, even if it is painful. We have a saying in the military that “those individuals who get off the X the fastest not only survive, they thrive,” and even achieve elite status.
AR: The automotive recycling industry is in a bit of chaos right now, and some business owners feel stuck, don’t know what to do, or are really feeling alone. What is your advice?
JR: Build yourself up in key areas, what I call the “Pentagon of Peak Performance,” to be ready for any ambush or life challenge: Emotional, Spiritual, Mental, Physical, Social. There are no excuses. Refuse to have the pity party, and be the victor not the victim. These 5 key areas can help to find that balance in the middle of chaos.
It’s much better to be proactive and balanced for the ambushes that come; yet, understand and recognize when you are in a crisis it is not the time to be working on these key areas.
The Pentagon includes leadership in the following areas:
- Physical – get in shape, get good sleep, watch what you eat and drink. This is always a good thing.
- Mental – educating ourselves, pushing outside of our comfort zone, finding a good mentor, looking for positivity in the face of negativity.
- Social – who do we surround ourselves with? The goal is to build our social circle and teams before the crisis to seek guidance in the crisis … but it is never too late. No man is an island, and you are not unique. Many times, people isolate because they think their crisis is unique. The reality is that many people you know have experienced the same thing.
- Emotional – clean up your emotional garbage. Don’t let past disappointments hold you back. Let them go so you can move forward.
- Spiritual – focus on something that is outside of you. A faith, a charity. Many people have bigger problems than you. Helping them makes you feel better.
AR: Tell us about a pivotal time in your career, other than what we’ve already discussed, that awoke you from flawed thinking and made you change directions.
JR: After my military career, I started a business and found myself in a lawsuit. I wished it would go away, and it didn’t and only got worse. As I dealt with the stress and anxiety, I sat on the X for a little while, looked for others to blame. I wasn’t making healthy choices.
During this time, I went to the doctor and he said I needed to make some major health changes, or I would die of a heart attack. I have a family history of heart disease. It was a real wake up call for me. So, I acknowledged I was on the X. I knew I needed to take care of my health.
I worked my way forward. The lawsuit was frivolous, it was dismissed, but I look back and see there were mistakes I made and things I procrastinated on and ignored that resulted in the suit. Eighty percent of life ambushes we find ourselves in, we participated in.
We procrastinated; we didn’t deal with something. The anomalies, of course, are unexpected illness or injury, sexual trauma or loss of life. On all the other levels, there is something we could have done. And that is hard to admit.
Ultimately, I knew I needed to apply the principles I am talking about. Interestingly, I hadn’t quite fully developed all this when this happened, and I was able to document it in the Overcome book.
AR: How does someone identify their weaknesses that hinder professional or personal success?
JR: Go ask other people, ask your friends. Find out in my business, am I a hot head? Am I micromanaging? Ask people their opinions. Come to grips with who you are and then amplify your strengths. My Overcome book helps people with this.
It is human nature that no one wants to acknowledge we have a flaw. Yet, it is our failures that makes who we are, not our successes.
AR: How do you shift from a perceived “my life is over” mentality to a “new beginning” mentality?
JR: Do something differently. Make some changes. Find new things. For automotive recyclers, technology is driving things in the industry. Embrace technology, collaboration, leverage resources together. It is incredibly difficult to “overcome” all by yourself. I could not have survived the enemy ambush by myself. Tom Brady cannot win a Super Bowl by himself. Leverage technology, leverage people and leverage strategies.
If you focus beyond the storm, you’ll see that there is a way out. It may not be the end state that you thought it would be, and that is where it gets hard, but what is supposed to be will unfold out of the darkness.
AR: During your injury, you posted a proclamation of positivity on the door of your hospital room that went viral on the internet. Do you think it is helpful for people to have some kind of symbolic statement?
JR: I think it is; it is a proclamation of where you are going to go. Those who say, “I am going to be out of business in 5 years,” you will be. You are driving people away saying or thinking that. I personally want to hang out with those guys who are driven to go down fighting. We will do research, figure new ways to do business and create new paths. I call it a “mission statement.” It gives you something to rely on and to focus staying on track on a forward path.
AR: Do you have any final thoughts?
JR: The interesting thing about failure – you don’t have to work hard to achieve it.
Caryn Smith is the editor of Automotive Recycling magazine, and covering the industry for over 20 years.
BOOKS BY JASON REDMAN
Retired Lieutenant Jason Redman spent eleven years as an enlisted Navy SEAL and ten years as a SEAL Officer. On September 13, 2007, outside of Fallujah, Iraq, Lt. Redman’s Assault Team came under heavy machine gun and small arms fire, and he was severely wounded in the ensuing firefight. While recovering at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, LT Redman wrote and hung a bright orange sign on his door, which became a statement and symbol for wounded warriors everywhere.
He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons and the U.S. Army Ranger tab along with numerous other personal and unit awards. Lt. Redman is the author of The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader, which details lessons learned in leadership and overcoming adversity throughout his Navy SEAL career, his service in Afghanistan and Iraq and his personal journey with his wife Erica and their three children.
His new book Overcome: Crush Adversity with the Leadership Techniques of America’s Toughest Warriors was released in December 2019 and divulges how to triumph over adversity using proven Special Operations habits and mindsets.
“From: The Management”
“If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20% further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism and intense rapid re-growth. If you are not prepared for that, go elsewhere. From: The Management”
–Written by Jason Redman and hung on his hospital room door.