Train for Excellence

Navy Seal adage – “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion; you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train for excellence.”

This was in a Harvard Business Review article and was debating the business merits of training versus education. The failure of so many smart and talented organizations to innovate and adapt under pressure can be a result of being overeducated and undertrained.

I have seen that in my business career several times. The failure of strategies developed by the high priced consultant or based on the theory from top business schools are blamed on the lack of execution and talent of the personnel, when it really is the lack of training.

Businesses tend to train for competence, not excellence. They show employees what tasks they are required to do and how to do them, but fall short of training at the optimum level.

I have also seen the outcome of this precept with the high school football players that I coach. When it’s late in the game players are tired and under pressure to perform. It’s when mistakes are more noticeable and likely. Young male athletes believe they will rise to the occasion: “trust me coach, I’ll make that play”. However, it’s the players that have trained at the peak level that deliver. High school football players don’t train for excellence, they believe they can get by on talent.

Coaches invest a lot of time on game planning and the education part of preparation, but can lose sight of the need for high levels of training – a stress-induced ‘game-like’ atmosphere used to challenge the basic fundamentals for their players.

Faith training

Where it isn’t quite obvious that the lack of training will cause issues under pressure is with our faith.

How many of us train for excellence in regards to executing our faith, such that, when we are placed in a stressful situation, or temptation catches us off guard, we are able to rise to the occasion?

Jesus spent hours in prayer as his training for excellence. He spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted in preparation for his calling.

My bad, Coach

I shared this concept with the football team this past weekend when a player came off the field after making a big mental mistake and said, “My bad, coach”. My reply was along the lines of, “No, it is not simply your bad.”

If we train for excellence we’ll begin to recognize the overall outcome not the individual action. Due to his mental mistake on 4th and long, we did not get off the field and they scored. He undid the efforts of his teammates on that play and the prior three. It was more than “his bad”. A Navy Seal who makes a mistake may cost a buddy his life. A husband who strays sinks to a level defined by his lack of training that might cost him his marriage and negatively impact his kids – much more than a “my bad” situation.

And what about the person who is saved and accepts Christ, as if that then becomes the final act needed? It is quite the opposite. Recognizing the God-given faith inside of us is just the beginning. We become enlightened and educated. But do we fail to follow through with the training?

Another sports analogy: Consider the athlete having surgery to repair a torn ligament, but then doesn’t follow through with physical rehab. The surgery healed the issue, but the athlete won’t ever get to the level of performance required without the rehab, ie: the training.

Good enough isn’t good enough

Training for excellence is about transformation, not just incremental improvement. Don’t settle for being good enough or getting slightly better. Set the highest standard for yourself and train to reach that goal.

It takes discipline to train for excellence and you won’t see results in a day. It will be when it matters most – and maybe when least expected – that you will bear the fruits of your efforts.

About the Author

Bob Mahr answered a calling to combine his experiences as a business leader, a volunteer football coach and a father with his faith to champion and enrich today’s youth.  Bob is a Director of a multi-million dollar division for a National Supply Chain partner; a Volunteer High School Football; an active member of the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a Board Member, Campus Huddle Coach and Character Coach; as well as a father of three daughters all becoming citizens in today’s society.  Bob takes his purpose from Luke 12:48 – to whom much has been given, much is expected.