When a young person, say 18 years old, enters the volunteer military, be it the Army, the Marines, the Navy or the Air Force, they are signing up for reprogramming. It’s called basic training. When I turned 18 in the throes of the undeclared Vietnam War, the draft was still in force and to make it “fair,” each date of the year was inscribed on individual ping pong balls. I like to say that the Secretary of Defense personally picked out each ball and made the list of those to be sent to the jungles of Vietnam. But I am sure I am wrong. However, my number was 110 and only those within the first 100 were conscripted. It seemed a little bit shameful to me that this was televised but that is the way it went down. I got lucky. 

Those who served were defending America from Communism, which is a form of dictatorship where the State controls life in all aspects and individual freedoms are limited. The ideals of our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence are mostly unheard or completely unknown in many parts of the world. Fascist and Communist governments don’t trust their citizens with such concepts as freedom of thought, freedom to speak, freedom to associate. This is why at a swearing in ceremony to become a US citizen, usually there are at least 500 people adopting the United States as their own. We’ve got something special as imperfect as it may be. We are forming “a more perfect union.” Yes, the framers really knew something. 

I lost the theme I was going for. Sorry. 

Reprogramming is the art and science of changing habits. You get a nifty hair cut and everyone is demoted to the base state of joining a new tribe. Your peers become the great motivators. Yes, the drill sergeant yells at you like you are sub-human, beats down any resistance and then you are going to do fifty push ups just like the guy next to you. 

You are deprived of sleep while you wallow in the mud. It’s only after you’ve lost all sense of self that you graduate from basic and a pin is given or a stripe is added to your sleeve. At this point, you and your buddies have made it through. You are congratulated and given rewards and responsibilities commensurate to your abilities. “If you can survive this, then we can trust you with that.” And you know what? 

It works. I’ve been told that anyone who served will never forget the name of the drill sergeant who reprogrammed your mind. Who taught you how to make a bed, how to shine your shoes and how to pass inspection. This six weeks becomes the turning point in life and from there you can make of it what you will. There are warriors who having passed not just basic but then went for further reprogramming. Let’s use a more visible example. Ten or fifteen years ago no one had heard of the Navy Seals. BUD/s is their basic training that last six months. It’s the ultimate beat down. There are training organizations that are now employed to prepare applicants to help qualified navy specialists get through BUD/s. You have to go for training to get through training. Of course there are further training programs to get a Navy Seal to pass the requirements and “retraining” needed if you want to be on one of the elite Seal Teams like Six. 

Besides the hard work it takes, there is the MIND – Body aspects. You can’t do what they do without sufficient training of the mind. That is reprogramming the meaning of things. Reprogramming the way you breath. Navy Seals learn box breathing to calm the Vagus nerve and move from a state of hyper adrenaline, like jumping out of an airplane doing a HALO drop (high altitude low opening) then stealthily move to the target and effect a rescue from a terrorist camp. You can’t do this while being in a hyped up state. If you notice when you see them on film (which should have never happened), Seals move slowly, they don’t rush. Every move is practiced and calculated. 

What does this mean to you and me? 

If we need to change a habit or reach an “unreachable” goal, like “lose 20 lbs.” How can we accomplish this? It’s may be hard to change eating habits, but as you well know, it can be done. But you do need a plan. We need to follow a successful methodology. We have to do a beat down on the old crap thinking and replace it with some better, clean thinking. Then the meaning of things change. I am not saying you can trade in french fries for kale overnight without reprogramming but it is happening everyday. It’s happened to me. I love kale having never ate a vegetable that didn’t come out of a can while growing up.

This article is too long already, so I’ll cut it off here and give you Admiral McRaven whose commencement speech is one of the most remembered for its message on how to change the world. I remember it from “if you want to change the world, start by making your bed.” 


Six Minute Version

Twenty Minute Version


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