Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Life and Business I learned As a SEAL Sniper Instructor: Part I

Whether you want to lose weight, make more money or eliminate a target from 1,000 yards away the fundamentals for performance, and the formula, are all the same.


Setting myself up for failure

In 2008, just three years and 10 months away from retirement, I chose to end my career as a Navy SEAL. Yes I was very close to retirement but my job as a Navy SEAL was standing in the way of two of the most important things in my life. My children and my ability to earn enough money to care for and keep my family safe now and for the rest of their lives. A situation many of us will or have faced.

All four of my children and my wife were used to me being gone, but my oldest was just getting ready to start high school, and already having been gone for huge chunks of her life, I knew it was time for me to be there for her, everyday, just incase she needed her Dad. Besides the threat of High School drama I also had 3 other kids and I really wanted to be a part of their everyday life. Quality is found in quantity kind of stuff. 

In addition to being home for my family I had also figured out how much money one required to truly care for the needs of a family and my Navy salary or retirement didn’t even come close to the small fortune that would need to be amassed. It was time for me to get some!


A Lucky Ass Kicking

I say I got lucky because - and I'm not being sarcastic here - on our about Sept 2008 one of the sharpest economic downturns in our country’s history occurred. I was also lucky because I had just bought two houses right at the peak of Southern California’s real estate bubble and it popped right before I got out.

So there I was... an economy falling apart and, what seemed to be an endless supply of Home Equity income gone in an instant, four kids, two Southern Californian mortgages, and no job waiting for me. Yes it was to be a multiyear ass kicking.

Why do I consider this all lucky? Because without this ass kicking I would have never been able to bridge the gap between what I learned from the SEAL teams into my life as a business professional. Without these series of fortunate events I would have gone ahead with my original plan which consisted of literally just being a former Navy SEAL and to figure it all out. The pure definition of arrogance.

SEAL's are not known for their humility nor their lack of confidence.  It's one of the drawbacks of training someone to such a high level. I call it the "Superman" complex.  When the government trains you to do anything you start to believe that you can actually do anything and succeeding in life and business was know different. It’s much like people who graduated college used to think.

I considered myself lucky because there were no inflated markets to fool me into a false sense of security. I had met many a business person who thought they knew what they were doing because they did really well during a booming economy. Since the economy tanked there were no “bubbles” to float on so anything I was to produce would be the direct result of sound fundamentals and hard work. Something many “Bubble Riders” knew little about.


Why Super Heroes Can Let Us Down

 “We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training."

The very first slide of the very first class on the very first day of Sniper school had this quote on it. “We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training." A timeless, and now a countercultural quote written by a Greek lyric poet named Archilochus

We put this quote front and center to remind the SEALs we were training that they were not super heroes and were still susceptible to failure. A hard lesson learned for many a SEAL who attempted to become a SEAL sniper.

As a society we’ve become enamored with heroes and superheroes because of their perceived ability to overcome any and all odds to win the day. My favorite part is when they do it all in just a couple of days. We all love a Superhero but it’s not just because he or she can rise to any occasion and win, we love them so much because they allow us to believe that we can too. A tempting, and very dangerous way to live life if you don’t understand the underpinnings of real performance.

The simplistic beauty of Special Forces training is that it can’t be organized around fantasy, fiction, arrogance or any other kind of Bull Shit. Archilochus's quote was important because many SEALs didn’t make it through our Sniper course and we wanted to make sure they knew that their chances of success were dismal right upfront. None of that “You can do it” crap. We just gave it to them straight. Super heroes on TV can rise to the occasion, but around here, you’ll have to train for it.

We wanted to make sure that they understood that this was a new and different space. There was no entitlement to success just because they had already become a Navy SEAL. It was going to take training, a lot of it, and when we tested them there would be no room to just "show up" and make it no matter how cool, good looking, or educated they were. Their ability to succeed would be based on pure performance rather than past accomplishments. Sniper school and today's global economy are very much a like.

Michelangelo said it best: “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.” Becoming a SEAL Sniper is a dirty, sweaty and thankless job. It’s really 93% hard work and only about 7% talent. No different than anything else in life worth doing. Super Heroes need not apply.

  • Bad news: You'll probably have to always work hard. 
  • Good news: The playing field has been leveled. 


Expert at Making Experts at Becoming Experts

In the SEAL teams you spend most of your time training. A realistic job description for a Navy SEAL would simply read “Expert at becoming an expert”. As a Sniper instructor I not only had the opportunity to train the finest men on the planet, but I also had the opportunity to become an expert in human performance. I got really good at getting other people really good.

SEAL Sniper school is known to be one of the most difficult military courses in the world.  Men whom are already Navy SEAL's would often say that they would rather repeat SEAL training rather than trying to get through Sniper School again. I know this is true for me as I’m not sure I would be lucky enough to pass Sniper School twice.

When I got there the failure rate ranged from something like 25% to sometimes 33% for any given class. Meaning up to a third of the best warriors on the planet were not good enough to make it through Sniper School?  This made no sense.  Their best should have been good enough.  By the time I left the attrition rate was down into the single digits with no reduction in the required standards of performance. Their best was good enough we just had to find a way to get them to their best faster.

I didn't know it at the time; but, I had transcended my own personal ability of being an expert at becoming an expert and had become an expert at developing others to become experts at becoming experts. It would be years later before I realized this and years more before I developed a formula that would allow me to apply this knowledge in business and in life.

It was only after I started performing at the top of the marketplace, and began teaching others to do the same, that I realized that everything I ever needed to know about life and business I had learned as a Sniper instructor.


The formula was developed out of three simple things. LOVE - LEADERSHIP and how to STALK prey on the Sniper field.

Hit the comment section below and let me know your questions or thoughts and / or let me know how I can be of the most value to you. 

After that jump to PART II to learn the formula I developed and now teach to all of my students and readers. 

Eric Davis

Eric Davis served our country as a U.S. Navy SEAL and decorated veteran of the Global War on Terror. Eric has been recognized as one of the premier sniper instructors in the U.S. military and has served as a Master Training Specialist at the SEAL sniper school in Coronado, CA.

He is an expert of technical and physical surveillance and was part of an elite group hand-selected to perform intelligence collection in denied areas around the world.

Eric has spent years developing, writing and executing curriculum for the SEAL Teams. By leveraging his expertise in the development of systems, structures, processes and practices Eric was instrumental in significantly reducing the failure rate, of Naval Special Warfare’s internationally recognized Sniper course. 

Since departing from the SEAL teams, Eric has worked in corporate performance, sales and leadership training bringing an unprecedented amount of innovation, efficiency and structure to the domain of business and performance.