From the Mission That Killed Bin Laden to Launching a New Business, How Rob O'Neill Uses a Military Mindset to Find Success

Former Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill explains how the lessons he learned in battle can translate to any aspect of life.
From the Mission That Killed Bin Laden to Launching a New Business, How Rob O'Neill Uses a Military Mindset to Find Success
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Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor
Combat Veteran & Freelance Journalist
5 min read
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Highly-decorated Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill received global attention due to his role in the incredible mission to find and kill terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.

Since that fateful day in 2011, Rob has retired from the SEALs and began a new career as a motivational speaker, author and contributor for FOX News. 

I recently spoke with Rob (you can watch the full video here) and over the course of our conversation, Rob shared his experience as a US Navy SEAL veteran as well as an entrepreneur, and how he uses the military mindset to achieve success. 

Related: A Navy SEAL's Guide to Thriving in Close Quarters

The night of the mission

Rob talked about what it was like to be a part of the team that took Bin Laden out and dried the ink on their names in the history books. The success in the operation, he said, was all due to teamwork.

“They picked the best guys. It was an honor to be a part of the team,” Rob says. 

Before the mission, he says, the team members all imagined what would transpire should one of them come face to face with their target. Later, as they went up the stairs inside Bin Laden’s home, Rob recalled that he was at the back of some of his brave companions. As their paths split, Rob went right and was faced with the opportunity to finish their mission. Bin Laden was right in front of him. 

It took five seconds for the situation to fully register in Rob’s mind. And being the leader of SEAL Team 6, he knew what must be done for the safety of not only the United States but that of other countries as well. 

“It was the best and worst thing I’ve ever done. I still haven’t gotten away from being 'the guy who killed Bin Laden’ but I am proud to be a part of modern history and work with some great people,” he said.

Using what he learned from the service

With years and experience in his arsenal, the former US Navy SEAL utilized what he learned from his military training to his time in service into how he goes about life and business at present. 

One notable lesson or mindset that he developed from military training is how to ask questions. 

“The first thing I thought when I got to boot camp was ‘What horrible decision in life did I make to get to this point?’ Then I learned that no one’s ever going to volunteer to show you everything,” the former Navy SEAL said. 

Related: How the Memory of His Fallen Brothers Powers Dakota Meyer's Passion

In learning how to ask questions, Rob also learned the major role that effective communication plays. 

“You need to communicate with people. Make sure that your people know what they’re doing and why,” he added. 

Another thing that Rob learned is to keep his sense of humor, for his own sanity and for the sake of morale. "If the people you’re working with want to be there, they’re going to work harder; there’s a reason for them to be there,” he says. 

Most importantly, Rob encourages a never quit mindset and thinking about long-term goals as a series of short-term goals. He used this similar approach when he was training to be a Navy SEAL officer. 

Knowing that he had to go through rigorous training, Rob set out small goals for him to get him through the day. This would include getting to breakfast or making it on time for the morning exercise. After accomplishing this, he would then set his next goal for lunch or making it through the day to come back to his perfectly made bed. 

Related: Military Service Is the Ultimate Training Ground for Entrepreneurship

Although small, these goals have helped Rob get through tough days until he reached his long-term goal of making it to nine months and even longer without quitting. And should a day turn out to be bad, he looks forward to the clean slate of tomorrow where he can make the most out of the day. 

“When you feel like quitting, don’t quit now — quit tomorrow,” he concluded. 

Normalizing failure

In life, Rob said that he has never met an entrepreneur — or anyone for the matter — who hasn’t failed. 

“You will rarely learn from success but you will learn from failure. The important thing is to think ‘I’ve never lost: I either won or learned,'” he advised. 

Regardless of who a person is, failure is inevitable but being able to bounce back and learn from mistakes and incidents is how people improve and be more capable to climb the ladder of success.

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