Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot)Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot) © Copyright

SAS for the everyman

In a combat zone, the British Special Forces are the best of the best, an elite unit who have passed 'selection' a grueling six-month trial under exteme conditinos that seperates the really good from the very best.

But operating in the SAS (Special Air Service) or SBS (Special Boat Service) isn’t purely about strength or unflinching bravery. Instead, the chops required to succeed at the top end of military life include humility, attention to detail, the ability to operate effectively under pressure, positivity, passion, and lateral thinking. You need mental smarts to match the rippling six pack. 

The good news is that many of these attributes can be taken on board to varying degrees, and we spoke to a few of the SAS’ finest to find out just how their training and knowledge can apply to Joe Bloggs. 

Follow their tips closely and you too can function under pressure in a civilian setting. Just don’t
use camouflage cream when you step into the office... 

‘OLLIE’ 

Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot)


Completed SAS selection in 1994; served on global operations 

‘FOXY’

Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot)


Joined the Royal Marines and served multiple tours in Afghanistan 

‘ANT’ 

Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot)


Passed Selection in 2000 and served with the SBS 

ALWAYS STOP TO THINK

Many people think that operating in the SAS involves brute force and aggression. And they’re right. But that’s only part of it. The job also requires smart thinking and emotional control, and a Special Forces operative will plan their way around a battlefield, using a dossier of battle-hardened techniques to overcome fatigue, pressure and mental exhaustion. 


Matthew 'Ollie' Ollerton -

HOW NOT TO QUIT: “Before the end of a gruelling mission, see beyond the finishing line. Rather than picturing the moment we had neutralised a mobile missile launcher, I’d imagine a point afterwards: a night out with mates, an embrace from my girlfriend. Add plenty of emotion to that picture, too. It creates the extra incentive required to get the job done.” 

Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot)



Jason 'Foxy' Fox - 

THE 40% THEORY:
“The US Marines believe that when the body thinks it’s at its lowest ebb – when we’re completely knackered – it’s really only 60% done. It’s a defence mechanism, the brain is giving the body an easier ride. But remember that fact, and you can dig deep to find an extra reserve of energy.” 


Anthony 'Ant' Middleton -

TIGHTEN YOUR ADMIN:
“We have a saying in the SAS – ‘my weapon, my kit, myself.’ If your weapon isn’t clean, it’ll jam at the wrong moment. If your camp kit isn’t packed away properly, it could reveal your position in the jungle. Failing to care for your body might lead to rot. Think of the weapon as your most valuable work tool; your kit as your working surroundings; and yourself as your state of mind.” 

THE REAL LIFE BIT

So you may not neutralise a mobile missile launcher in your everyday life, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need to ‘dig in’ occasionally whether it’s at work or in the gym. Thinking about loved ones or that well-earned pint can often see you over the line whether it’s that last set of reps or just a rapidly approaching deadline. And, as Ant says, your body is your greatest weapon, so make sure it’s in decent shape for you to perform – perhaps getting smashed the night before that essay was due in wasn’t the best idea. We’re all human, but there’s a time and a place for all that stuff. It’s next Tuesday at the King’s Arms... not really. 

SURVIVING CONFLICT

We come into conflict every day in life: meetings that descend into argument, disputes that spiral out of control, or aggressive plays from business rivals. When working in a conflict situation, the ideal outcome for a Special Forces soldier is one where a bullet isn’t fired. Operating calmly and effectively while working in the heat of a gunfight is vital when securing results.


Ollie - 

BREATHE, RECALIBRATE, EXECUTE
: “When life gets noisy – in a military sense, that means gunfire, but for civilians, it can be a crisis situation – follow this SAS technique: breathe deeply for two seconds to slow the situation down and calm the mind; recalibrate your thinking, assess the situation and picture the best action; then deliver to the best of your ability.”

Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot)



Ant -

LEAVING A MAN BEHIND:
“We lose colleagues in different ways. In the military, it’s to death or serious injury. In civilian life, we might lose a colleague to redundancy, but the mindset should be no different in either scenario. In a warzone, there’s no time to grieve. The Special Forces place an injured soldier into cover, treat him quickly if possible, then push on with the mission, not thinking of that person again until the job is done. The same should apply to you if a colleague leaves his position at work, or a teammate in your football team is injured for the season. It’s cold, but stripping out emotion means we can deal with the job in hand more effectively.” 


Foxy -

MAKING THE MOST OF VICTORY:
“It’s easy to get carried away when an operation runs smoothly and a victory has been won. We might look for extra intel, or hang around a compound for too long. Complacency creeps in, and seconds later, we’ve been ambushed. In civilian terms, it could be that we’ve nailed a tricky work brief with ease, then we ask for a pay rise prematurely, or we get ahead of ourselves in some other way. Instead, we should take stock, remind ourselves of the dangers of complacency, and be sure to stay in control.” 

THE REAL LIFE BIT 

As Foxy says, staying professional until the very end is essential whether you’ve just defeated your enemy or started celebrating a goal before you’ve actually tapped the ball into the empty net. Either way, the job is not done yet, and the potential for egg on your face is huge if you don’t stay focused until you’ve completed your job. A recent study showed that the majority of gym injuries took place very close to the end of the workout. So never leave halfway through the last rep. 

Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot)


TEAMWORK

In the Special Forces, teamwork is key, but soldiers aren’t ‘grunts’ who merely follow orders. Each member of the SAS or SBS is a leader, able to step up should his unit commander become incapacitated. Such is their training and mutual understanding that teams can operate effectively in darkness, or underwater, with no communication. 

Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot)



Ollie -

USE THE MISSION SUCCESS CYCLE:
“Every operation in the Special Forces follows the Mission Success Cycle. It’s a simple process that is designed to process vast amounts of complex data and it goes like this: 1) Plan – before an operation we assess all the intel and work out a course of action;  2) Brief – we tell our team exactly what’s happening, and present a pack of easy-to-understand instructions and details; 3) Deliver – we execute the mission; 4) Debrief – our results are broken down afterwards, regardless of success or failure. Because of this process, every soldier knows exactly what they’re doing on a mission.” 


Foxy -

FORGET RANK:
“Anyone can spot a vital piece of intel or come up with a brilliant plan, regardless of rank or position. In the Special Forces, the hierarchy structure within the unit is completely stripped away. Everybody is considered equal. It encourages individuals to speak up.” 


Ant -

THE PRAYERS MEETING:
“At the end of every day on Selection – the gruelling process every soldier has to pass if they’re to join the Special Forces – the assessment staff hold a ‘Prayers Meeting’. This is basically a gathering where everybody delivers their intel on each individual on the course. It helps to create a 360-degree portrait of an individual. It can work when focused on a civilian team setting, operational practices, or on a project too.” 

THE REAL LIFE BIT 

Being part of a team can occasionally be challenging, whether it’s your Sunday football outfit or the people on your shift at the bar you work in at the weekend, but pulling together leads to success. Talking to each other and planning together is key to the smooth execution of whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. As Foxy says, if everyone is treated equally, then they are more likely to speak up and air a potentially crucial view or piece of information. So make sure your team gets together and talks as much as possible with a proper structure if you want to increase your chances of success. 

Life lessons from the SAS (PR shot)


For more techniques and tricks, pick up a copy of 
SAS: Who Dares Wins: Leadership Secrets From The Special Forces (Headline, £20)

Want more life lessons from the best? Check out our exclusive interview with Anthony Joshua

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