If you were in the Navy SEALs or in the military, the one thing that you learned is to never give up. You need mental fortitude, not just on the battlefield, but also in everyday life. If you are struggling to achieve your goal, don’t give up. Instead, create little micro goals that will help you on your road to success. You are never too old to give up and learn something new. Join Glenn Bill as he talks to entrepreneur, Navy SEAL, comedian, author, and much more, Jonathan Cleck. Listen to Jonathan’s story about becoming a SEAL and what he learned from it. Learn how to have a SEAL mindset in everything you do and how to stop making excuses for your failures. Find out how to deal with childhood trauma and how you can help others who are suffering. Start having the right attitude today!
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Adopting The Navy SEAL Mindset Everyday With Jonathan Cleck – Entrepreneur | Navy SEAL | Speaker | Comedian | Podcaster | Author | Waxer Of Things Philosophics
We are in season three. Our theme is Carry the Light. We have a fantastic opportunity to learn from Mr. Jonathan Cleck. Jonathan is a serial entrepreneur. He is a speaker, standup comedian, author, a waxer of all things philosophic, a husband, and a dad, and that list is in the order of what pays his accounts to what drains his accounts. Perhaps one of the most wonderful things about Jonathan is he is a years-long veteran of the Navy SEALs Teams, Director at Greencastle Consulting, a 100% veteran-operated consulting firm, and CXO at Concihairge. Let’s bring up our Navy SEALs. A general do-gooder found my card on the floor of a TGI Friday’s and said, “I think this is yours.” We became friends. He’s a speaker, and he carries the light. Jonathan Cleck, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Glenn. It’s good to connect with you again. It is a funny story about how we met. I just happened to be leaving Dallas Airport. I saw the credit card on the floor and was like, “Brother.” You’re like, “Yeah,” and a friendship was born. It was meant to be.
There’s no doubt. I’m happy and honored that you’re on here. I always like to open our interviews, as I’m sure you know, because you sound like you’ve watched a few of ours. What’s your definition of attitude? Who is your first attitude coach? I also want to ask a third question of you. What’s your definition of attitude as a civilian? Did your definition of attitude change when you were in Navy SEAL operations?
That’s an interesting thing. I’ll answer the second question first. No, it doesn’t change. What’s been embedded in you in the SEAL Teams, you just don’t turn that off. Not only it makes you successful in the SEAL Teams, but when you carry it out into the civilian world, it’s what allows us to be pretty successful. That’s where I’m going with the story. I had lunch with a couple of SEAL buddies the other day. We were jokingly talking about how coming out of the Teams sets you up for absolute frustration in the civilian world because you’re surrounded by otherwise good people who haven’t been blessed with the same exposure to what we’re all made of.
When you get out there, people are running around with their hair on fire. People are throwing up their hands, saying, “We can’t solve this,” and the rest of us are looking around and being like, “I don’t even know what I can’t means.” That’s never been in the SEAL mantra. It’s, “I can. I will. I’ll figure it out. Some way, by God, we will get this done.” That’s the definition of attitude. It’s a very specific niche definition but specific to the SEAL culture. Any of your readers can go and google Navy SEAL ethos. It’s 5 or 6 paragraphs. It’s the Bible by which we make decisions, judge our own actions, and judge our teammate’s actions. It’s the standard to which we hold ourselves and our teammates accountable.
It’s all about attitude. It doesn’t say like, “I’m going to pump weights more than my adversary. I’m going to study harder.” It simply says, “I will get it done in the face of adversity. I will never surrender. I’ll simply find a way to keep pushing.” That’s the definition of attitude that I’ve carried and been so lucky to have found way back many years ago when I joined the Navy.Attitude is about getting things done and finding ways to keep pushing in the face of adversity. Click To Tweet
Are you a retired Navy SEAL or an active SEAL?
I am a reserve SEAL. I’m at the twilight of my career. In the last few years, I’ve said it’s a young man’s game. I’m not such a young man anymore, so I will be retiring soon, but I still got a little bit left in the tank.
If absolute shit hits the fan and we need a bunch of SEALs, you could be on the list to get into action. Is that possible? Let’s say that things go crazy with Russia, and we commit half a million ground troops. Does that mean you might be back in the game?
It does. Let me say this. For me to be back in the game, it would be in an operations center. Your military readers will laugh. I’m a rear-echelon MFer. I’m the guy sitting at the back trying and work at the op center trying to make sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. I’ve always joked that if the flag goes up and the Pentagon says, “You know who would be critical for this mission? A 47-year-old, part-time, half-broken Navy SEAL,” if that’s the case, the war’s already over. We’ve already lost. I could find myself caught up to at least support the operations.
Were you ever actively engaged in conflict front lines? Were you ever in operations where your life was at stake? Were you always on the back end?
I’ve been deployed to combat zones twice now. In 26 years, you just can’t. Every SEAL starts out active duty and gets at least one deployment, if not multiple deployments, over a career. Full disclosure, not all my deployments were combat zones. In fact, of all the times I’ve been overseas, probably very few of them in scale were in deployment or combat zones. I came in 1996. The first five years in, we weren’t even at war. It was Europe, Africa, and South America. It’s been a good run. Has my life ever been in danger? For sure. Have I ever been on the brink of death? Not in combat.
I was telling the story the other day. There are a lot of SEALs who probably can relate, and military folks. You train for years and years, and that’s where you build that attitude. You build that resilience, tenacity, and ability to believe that you can get through anything. You then deploy for a handful of months, come back, and go back into training. They try to create training environments that are as close to real as you can get, which means that you’re jumping out of planes, diving, going through what we call kill house, where you’re doing like SWAT teamwork. You’re using live ammunition to go down these hallways. A guy has a live gun right behind you. You guys go into the same room and peel off separate ways. You’re both shooting live ammunition.
There are some very hairy situations that guys get in training. I was assigned to our miniature submarine team. We were out over the Atlantic somewhere off the coast of Maine or New Hampshire. We were out and pretty far off the ocean. We were in the water. It was thousands of feet deep. We lost control of our submarine and started sinking toward the bottom. We weren’t in a position to be able to bail out. That’s not a combat situation, but that’s a situation where you’re going, “Is this the one? This is not how I thought it was going to go.” Thankfully, I was with better-trained and smooth-operating SEALs who were able to salvage it and get us back to the surface. Certainly, there’s been a variety of hairy situations.
That is crazy. You were literally a thousand or a couple thousand feet below the surface.
We were just a few meters below the surface. We lost control. We were in a miniature submarine. It’s only a couple dozen feet long, and we lost control of it. The prop got fouled and something, and we lost control of it. One of the air tanks bled out or something. I forget the exact problem. This was back in 1999. We’re in water that is thousands of feet deep. We’re only below the surface. When you start doing this without geeking out in the physics of diving, as you start going down, the air starts compressing. You start descending down into the water. It’s a matter of not being worried about it.
That’s part of that SEAL mindset that they help you harness in the course of training. It’s, “Don’t worry about the fact that you’re plummeting down to the bottom of the ocean. Stay laser-focused on the problem. Your only problem now is not worrying. Your problem is fixing this submarine and getting it back to the surface.” Thankfully, I was lucky to be with smooth-operating SEALs who were able to work through the problem and get us back to the surface.
I love it. When I think about the folks reading this now, they may feel that their life, whether it’s their relationships, business, career, or faith, who knows? They may feel like they’re on a one-way sub down to the abyss. You said, “We needed to focus on the solution.” What would your advice be to those who feel in despair and don’t have the training you have? Do you have an antidote for the people out there reading this now who feel helpless and feel like they’re out of control? If you were one of those people and had the training, what would your steps 1, 2, 3 be to redirect them, redirect their life, get them back on the right path, and get them to bridge the gap?
Let me preface this. I always say this when I give a lot of speeches talking about my SEAL experience and business experience and fusing them all together. I say, “Barring some minor genetic differences, there’s nothing different about me from anybody else in this room.” Sometimes I geek out on the psychology of what makes us successful. Sometimes they say, “You need to develop this if you’re lucky enough to have this character trait.” Certainly, there are some minor elements to that, but by and large, there’s very little difference between you and me or any of the readers. I have just been lucky, and I always use the word find, finding that tenacity, finding that mental fortitude inside you, and finding the ability to persevere because there’s nothing special about me.
Anybody else that had the right mindset could have made it through SEAL training. I happened to be lucky enough in this world to go in there and either bring it in there or discover it inside myself. That’s what I am talking about. The first thing is the attitude that allowed me to make it through SEAL training, any of my comrades, or anybody who makes it through anything very arduous. It’s a matter of somebody else finding that inside them. That is my sincere belief that we all have it inside of us. That’s not a touchy-feely thing. It’s an honest belief that there’s nothing special about me other than I’ve been blessed to be able to find that inside of me.
That’s what I carry into anything I do. Let me bring it back full circle to answer your question. For those who feel like they’re in that submarine plummeting down and there’s no way to blow the tanks and bring it back to the surface, there are two things that I offer when I do some executive coaching or leadership talks. There are two things that come to mind. The first thing is the way we eat an elephant. That’s one bite at a time. If your boss says to you, “I need you to do this project by the end of the month. You need to bring together these 10 divisions that have these 15 components,” you’re going to be overwhelmed trying to do it.
I always use the analogy where I get on a treadmill and run. I hate running on a treadmill. Why? It’s because you’re not getting anywhere. It’s mentally deflating. If I am trying to go for a 5K run, it’s deflating from the minute I get on that treadmill. However, if I try and take a bite-size element of that, and what I mean by it, it’s not just saying, “I’m going to focus on this and this.” It’s something that your readers can start to condition themselves to do now. It’s not something that you can do when you’re in a dire situation. You start to condition yourself now to think about how to set micro goals. I go back to my treadmill analogy.
When I get on a treadmill, I start to run and say, “I’m going to run until the one-minute mark. At the one-minute mark, I’m going to run until the end of this song.” At the end of that song, I look at the wall on the clock, and the second hand is at 45. I’ll say, “I’m going to run until it hits the 60-second mark,” and then, “Now I’m going to run until the little arrow on my treadmill gets to the 1K mark.” I’m now going to set these micro goals. It’s a little bit of a distraction. It allows me to achieve a longer-term goal without feeling overwhelmed. If I get on the treadmill and go, “I’m going to run a 5k,” I’m deflated after five minutes. If I set micro goals and find different ways to allow myself to get through that, that’s one of the ways that your readers can do it.Micro goals help you achieve a longer-term goal without feeling overwhelmed. Click To Tweet
I had been off the treadmill for two weeks. I had a minor surgery, nothing big. They said, “Don’t do anything for two weeks.” I was gripping, going, “I don’t want to do this.” You helped me, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to be thinking of you, Jonathan. That’s good.
A universe has something special in store for us, buddy.
I’m telling you. When we talk about your active service, I always am so intrigued. First of all, you said, “I found it inside myself.” Did somebody bring something out of you? Did you find it in yourself? These could be two different answers. Who brought that out of you? Who was your first attitude coach? Who shaped your attitude before you were a SEAL?
I appreciate you going back to that question because I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to my mom. That’s a very cliché answer. My mom was a Canadian by birth, raised in Montreal, moved down here, and met my dad when he was stationed in the Air Force and had come back from Vietnam. She met him when he was stationed in Upstate New York. He went across the border for a guy’s weekend, met my mom in Montreal, and brought her down to the states. Here she is. She’s an immigrant, not moving across the world, but still in a foreign country. My brothers and I were the perfect nuclear family, cat, dog, everything. My dad, unfortunately, passed away from a heart attack when I was nine years old.
My mom’s down here with 3 boys who are 12, 9, and 7. She’s a stay-at-home mom. My dad had started his own company a year before. Here we are. My mom’s truly in that dire straight situation. She never complained. I’m sure internally, she probably had a lot of turmoil she was dealing with, but we didn’t see it. All we saw was the grind. After she went back to college, she worked odd jobs to help pay the bills. She ended up getting her Master’s. She got a teaching job and spent 25 years teaching.
I was a high school senior. I came home like the typical doofus I was. I came home with C’s and D’s. She was like, “Why are you getting C’s and D’s?” I’m like, “You don’t understand how hard it is in high school. I’m taking AP Bio.” She holds up her transcripts from Penn State. While she was raising three boys and going to college, she got high grades. She’s like, “Don’t ever tell me how hard it is being an eighteen-year-old kid.” That was my first one.
My second attitude coach was my wrestling coach, John Bartnick. He made us t-shirts. He simply said, “No excuses.” I firmly believe that setting that tone and mindset and all my years wrestling in high school set the tone for me to go into the SEAL Teams and go into what we call SEAL training BUD/S, go in there, and not have any excuse for why I couldn’t make it or say, “My ankle was hurt. I was too tired. I didn’t eat enough.” There’s no excuse. It’s like that Yoda saying, “There is no try. There is either do or do not.” I went in and said, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to only try. I’m going to do.” That’s what’s carried me through since.Do not try to make any excuses for why you couldn't achieve something. Do not try, just do. Click To Tweet
What’s your mother’s name?
Joanne, this is for you. Is she still with us?
She is not. She passed away from cancer. She had her fourth bout of cancer. She had a good run. She stuck around to see all of her grandkids born. We’re very thankful for the time we did have with her.
She sounds like a tough lady. I like to go back a generation. Were you exposed to your grandparents? Did you meet her parents? What’s the greatest attitude lesson you got from that generation?
My mom’s mom came over from London when she was a young kid. Her mom went to work in the factory or something. She was left at home alone. She set the tone for my mom. My mom had two brothers and sisters. I don’t know if it’s in my DNA or is what it is, but there are no excuses. She’s going to get through the grind and make it work.
My son was a Division 1 wrestler at Central Michigan. We know this. The boys from Penn are a problem when you draw them. Did you wrestle in Pennsylvania high school wrestling?
I did. I did not know how hard Pennsylvania wrestling was. I knew that it was hard. I didn’t know until we would go to tournaments in other states and be like, “It is a high-caliber state.” Full disclosure, I was a good high school wrestler. I was not of the caliber to wrestle at Central Michigan, Penn State, or any of these other places. I may have been able to make it to a mediocre D3 school. Even though being good in Pennsylvania, there were still kids who were a lot better out there.
Penn State’s doing great stuff. Do you still enjoy watching Penn State and those guys go?
I’m a little biased. I am a Penn State kid. Cael’s doing unbelievable stuff since he came in. I grew up with Wade Schalles and Iowa being the teams to beat Dan Gable, those names. What Cael has done is unbelievable. He has taken that mantra of winning, no excuses, and no quitting. He put it on a different level.
Is Coach Bartnick still coaching? Is he around? Is he alive? Does he ever check in with him? Besides giving you an awesome shirt, what else did he teach you?
It’s that no-excuses mindset. He molded me into a wrestler to become pretty good at the high school ranks. He is still around. He’s still involved in high school wrestling in Central Pennsylvania. He was a guy. He didn’t give a shit about what your problems were or what ails you had. He measured you in the outcome, not in effort. I learned that very early.
That’s cool. You’re the middle of three boys. Siblings have an impact on your attitude. I’d love to know because your bros may be reading this someday. What was the attitude lesson from your older brother? What was the attitude lesson you learned from your younger brother? They had to teach you something.
It’s hard to whittle it down to just one. There are so many. What I learned from both of those guys is so much. It’s humility and finding a passion. My older brother went into the Air Force. My older brother was the smartest guy I’ve ever met in my life. He took a long time to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up because he had this great brain, and everybody would say, “You should be doing this and that.”
He wasn’t content where he was. He found his way into law enforcement after 9/11. He got laid off from US Airways when the furloughs happened after the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He said, “This is time to hit the reset button.” He went and became a cop. Here it is now, many years later, he’s still a cop. He found his way back into the Air Force. He is an Air Force reservist. He’s a firefighter in the Air Force and a cop in his day job. He’s a cop and a fighter. He’s every kid’s dream of what they say they want to be when they grow up.
He is like a superhero. That’s freaking awesome. What’s his name?
My older brother is Jason. I got to give a shout-out. Probably one of the cool lessons is you’re never too old to learn something new. He went back. He has four kids. He left the Air Force and was working in the civilian world. He always wanted to go back. He always wanted to finish his time and service. His wife’s busy working. He was going for his PhD. He had all kinds of other things going on. Finally, at 43, he said, “I’m going back.”
Most guys at 43 are either retiring out. If you have a dream, you’re never too old to do it. The other thing was the humility that came with it. He went back into the Air Force at 43 years old when other guys had reached the end of their careers at his age. He’s going back, and the Air Force said, “We’re not bringing you in at a senior rank. You’re coming into junior ranks.” I appreciate the humility that he brought to that to say, “I didn’t earn a higher rank.”
He made it at 43 years old as a junior enlisted guy, and now he’s a senior guy seven years later. He has worked his way up with a pretty mediocre ride, but he’s got his Doctorate. He’s experienced. He’s got many years of life lessons in the workforce behind him. He is doing great things as an Air Force reservist now. There is one of the lessons that has stuck with me from my younger brother. He was in the Air Force and became a local police officer. He joined the Air Marshal Service. He did that for ten years. They pay you pretty well in the federal system.
For a cop’s salary, it’s pretty good pay. At one point, my younger brother said, “None of it is worth it because it’s not where my passion is. It’s not where my heart lies.” He left a good-paying job to go back to become a local cop. He had to start at a junior level. It’s that humility, taking the risk, and leaving a good-paying job to set a good example for your kids. It’s not just about the money in the world. It’s not about fame or status. It’s about going to work every day and finding a job you love, where you feel a sense of meaning and purpose. My younger brother is still a local cop doing great things in York, PA. Shout out to Brad and Jason, both of you, for sharing those and parting those lessons with me when you didn’t even know it.
That’s so cool. For all of our readers, there’s no doubt. Seventy percent of our workforce is disenchanted with what they’re doing. When we talk about bridging the gap from who you are to who you want to become, those are two real stories from Jonathan Cleck about his brothers. It’s heartbreaking to think about, especially the older one when your father dies at such a young age and the burdens that set. I’m guessing you guys were pretty close. What was that like to lose a parent and fight through that? Maybe there are people reading that are going through this, “I lost both my parents. We are both now orphans together. We have that in common as well.”
If you can go back to that time, think about that, and speak to somebody who went through that earlier that maybe hasn’t reconciled that, or maybe somebody who has a nephew, niece, or whatever. What does that like? What did you learn about it? How to push on from that? Any antidotes that somebody helped you with to say, “This is probably the worst thing that could happen to three young boys?” What was the solution or the answer to that?
With the timing of this question, the universe seems to have a plan in place for you and me, Glenn. If you had asked me a year ago, maybe even two years ago, I would not have had the same clarity of thought I do now. What I mean by that is I went to see a counselor a few years ago. I went back and had been going on and off to clear my head. I was talking about being a dad. I have three kids on my own. We’re talking about the struggles of being a parent nowadays and trying to do what’s right, when you allow them on social media, when not to, when how to counsel them, and how to let them free, but not too free, and how to trust their decision making.
She asked me a very poignant question that caught me off guard. She said, “Where did you learn to be a dad?” It was such a profound question for me that I never stopped to think about it. I said, “I don’t know.” I stumbled over my words like that. She said, “Think back.” Most young men would say that they emulated what their dad was doing. She’s like, “You didn’t have that. Your mom never remarried, so where did you learn to be a dad?” That’s profound. I said, “I don’t know.” She goes, “Maybe you didn’t actually learn. Maybe you can give yourself a little bit of a hall pass because you didn’t have the benefit of what other people had.”
I share that story with other folks because I say, “That’s something that they could learn as imparting those lessons and little bits of wisdom to them.” The other thing I would share is that we got right back into life. I didn’t know that this was happening to them or me. This was something I discovered through therapy. My therapist says, “Tell me about the grieving process when your dad died.” We reconstructed these scenes in my head, and none of them involved grieving. My dad passed away on a Saturday, and I was off from school that week. I went back to school the following Monday, and we got right back into it.
What are you going to do? My mom can’t be like, “I’m not going to grocery shop for a month while we grieve.” My mom was like, “There’s my life insurance. My kids are in sports. I can’t just be like, ‘Sorry, my kids aren’t doing anything this season.'” She tried to create some normalcy. We tried to get back into normalcy. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-40s that she said, “Have you ever grieved about the loss of your dad?” I was like, “I don’t know.” We talked through that. When I think about how other people are losing a parent or a loved one or something, we often jump right back into it because that’s the demands of life. Life doesn’t allow us the time to process sadness and stuff like that.
If one of your readers could do one thing for somebody experiencing that and maybe have a conversation and draw out those tears, let them talk through the emotions. Not that everybody’s me. I went 35 years without doing that and not even knowing that. The waterworks came out in my mid-40s when she asked me to start describing the loss of my dad. I’m bawling. I’m like, “I guess this had been bottled up for 35 years, and I didn’t know it.” Something that I’ve only been sharing in the last few years is, “I didn’t even know the demands of life put me right back into the grind, but if I can offer a tidbit for somebody else, maybe somebody else is dealing with that, and maybe the best thing you could offer them is an opportunity to process the grief.”
That’s so good. Everybody that’s reading this has suffered the loss. I would say 90% of people who suffer loss don’t necessarily deal with it because they don’t seek a therapist or counselor to help them. They just get back in and go. That was pure gold, Jonathan. That was vulnerable and good. That is going to help us get people from where they are to where they want to be. There’s no doubt about it. I know that you’re on the speaking trail. What do you love to do your keynotes on? What are your main points of the keynotes? Have you written a book too? Is that available?
I wrote a children’s book years ago. I did not have the right attitude about it because I let it sit on the shelf until my wife helped stick that attitude back in. She’s like, “What are you doing? You took all this time to write it. You got an illustrator.” I am in the process now of self-publishing that. It is out there. I’m finishing my own Doctorate. I have started converting my dissertation, which is not good reading. It’s 150 pages of want to hang yourself. It’s not to the Wilmington professors. It’s nothing but pure gold. I’m in the process of converting that and the lessons from that into a book on leadership.
I’m super excited about it because it’s about leadership and using humor. That’s what my dissertation is for, as also in my Doctorate. It’s about how organizational leaders use humor to address sensitive subjects. It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to talk about. How do organizational leaders use humor to do that? I’m in the midst of doing my study now. I’m able to take my dissertation. The goal is to take it and turn it into some tangible real-world lessons that leaders can look and go, “I’ve always said humor is the most underrated and underutilized skillset of a leader. It can level the playing field. It can diminish tensions. It is such an awesome tactic to use to be able to talk to people.”Humor is the most underrated and underutilized skill set of a leader. Click To Tweet
That’s one thing. That’s a good segue. What do I talk about in my speeches? I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about mental fortitude, persistence, grit, tenacity, persistence, and perseverance through tough times. I’m drawing on a lot of the lessons that I’ve been so fortunate to experience and learn from the SEAL Teams. I’ve been both an observer of mental fortitude. I’ve experienced mental fortitude. I’ve struggled with mental fortitude, and now I’m lucky to share the lessons of mental fortitude with audiences.
The other thing that I love to talk about is humor. I love to inject humor. You said during my intro I am an amateur standup comedian. I joke with my wife. Some guys go and play poker on Saturday nights. Some guys are in a bowling league. I go out on Thursday nights and get heckled for fun. It’s a great creative outlet, but it does help me on stage then be a little quicker on my feet and bring some of that comedy to the audiences, so I’m able to inject a little humor while I’m also trying to dispense leadership lessons.
Here’s the last question before we go to Knowledge Through the Decades. I’m going to try to make things happen. I’d like to know a little bit about Greencastle Consulting. Is that still active in your life? Are things still happening? How can people reach you? What is your website?
I’m big on LinkedIn. I have an Instagram. My Instagram is @JLCleck. LinkedIn is the best way to get ahold of me. I’m Jonathan Cleck. I am the only Jonathan Cleck on LinkedIn, so it’s not hard to find. I still am with Greencastle. It is the largest all-veteran company in the country. It’s coincidentally run by the CEO, and the owner is a SEAL. We’ve got Space Force, Coast Guard, Marines, Army, Air Force, and other sailors. It’s a fantastic organization. You can see right there we get stuff done. That’s our secret sauce for why we do things better than the competition. It’s that veteran mindset.
Everything I’ve talked about in the early part of this interview is we simply get it done. When everyone else is running around with their head cut off and doesn’t know how to solve the problems, we’re the ones as the calming beacon, the steadfast light in the room saying, “Nobody’s shooting at us. We got this. We’re going to problem-solve. We’re going to get creative. We’re going to sit down on the whiteboard and come up with some creative solutions. We’re going to make sure that the right people are in the room and that everybody’s voice is heard. We’re going to solve this unsolvable problem.”
That’s so cool. We may need to get that CEO on the show. That would be a good thing. I’ll get with you on that. Let’s go ahead and do Knowledge Through the Decades. If you’ve read a few of mine, you know that I like to take you through your life and get the attitude lessons at certain life events and ages in your life. You’ve had three sons. You may or may not remember being born. When you think about the attitude lesson of being born or a newborn baby, what’s the attitude lesson of birth?
The lesson at birth is adapting to change. They always say that. That’s why we swaddle babies because they are inside the womb and cuddled up, and all of a sudden, they come out, and it’s cold, light, and not warm. It’s not your woobie. Adapting to change is the first thing we and every animal learn when they’re born. It’s adapting to changing environments.
I want to thank everybody. They love Knowledge Through the Decades. The DMs, text, notes, and emails are like, “I love this.” The reason they do is when you look at all of these attitude lessons, they are a step-by-step process to help you bridge the gap from who you are to who you want to be. If you guys want to bridge the gap, being able to adapt to change, like a newborn baby, is good. I want you to go to ten years old now. Do you remember being in 3rd or 4th grade? I’m curious if anything happened to you. What was the attitude lesson? What did you learn at ten years old?
Right after my dad passed away, I was nine, just a few months away from turning ten. It’s tapping into your team, finding your tribe, and using the strengths of your tribe. For me, that was my immediate family. I remember clearly. We were all boys. We wrestled like boys. We fought. We were regular boys, but in the aftermath of my dad’s death, we were a tight-knit group. I still carry that now. That’s why I was drawn to the SEAL Teams because of how tight-knit they are. It became my new tribe. My own family now is my tribe, but I’ve drawn on the strengths of my tribe for such a long time.
That is powerful. Now you’re twenty. You’re in college at Penn State, partying. Who knows what you’re doing at twenty? What was your attitude lesson at twenty?
There are a lot of them there. I wish I could go back and punch that knucklehead in the head and shake some sense into him. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s very cliché. At twenty years old, I went into the SEAL Teams. I left college after my sophomore year because I felt like, “I’ve changed my major twice. I don’t know what I want to do.” I’m glad he did what he did, but if I had to go back and tell him, “You’re nineteen years old, and they’re trying to ask you what you want to do for the rest of your life. If you don’t have a good answer, it’s okay. Don’t sweat it.”
I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep up with my peers who were being successful. They were in nursing programs and engineering, and they knew what they wanted to do and had a laser focus. I’m so fortunate and grateful for the way everything turned out. I left to go into the Navy because I was like, “I don’t know what I want to do. Being a SEAL is what I’ve been called to do.” Maybe that’s a good lesson or not because it worked out in my favor.
You went into the Navy and started your journey as a SEAL at twenty years old. The attitude lesson there is blind faith, blind stupidity, or who knows.
Probably a little bit of both.
The thing is, “No fear. I’m going to go do it,” or don’t worry about what everybody else is doing, or don’t make decisions based on everybody else path, speed, whatever. There are a lot of good lessons in there like you said.
The last one I would add is you miss all the balls you don’t swing at. I was afraid to go to the Navy because what if I fail? There’s a longer story, and I’ll tell you the next time I have you on our show. I got called out by the recruiter and said, “You keep coming back and seeing me. Either shit or get off the pot. You’re either in or you’re out. Stop wasting my time.” That was an awakening for me. It was a seminal moment in my life when he called me out for being a punk about wishy-washy. I went home that night, slept on it, came back the next day, and enlisted in the Navy. He’s right. Either stop being afraid to pull the trigger or don’t. I don’t care. If you’re going to pull the trigger, cowboy up and do it. That’s exactly what I did.
What about the attitude lesson at 30? Do you remember what was going on with you at 30? Do you remember your third birthday attitude lesson there?
I was a young dad at the time. This is a lesson that every dad knows, especially dads who are even older than me. The last thing I’ll impart, especially in the 30 for young dads, is the days are long, but the years are short. You got to embrace those moments. Don’t be too tough to embrace those little baby snuggles. My kids are a little bit older now. I would give anything to go back for those moments. I still try to with my boy, bring him in, and cuddle with him. The years are short, and the days are long, but embrace every moment.
You’ve been so great. I’m not going to do 40 because we’re at a time. We always like to end with your sincere hope and best motivational speech to those people that are reading this. What is your message of hope? What is your message of attitude for those who have sat in on this show? Jonathan, I can’t thank you enough for your time.
Glenn, thank you so much. I’ll close it up by saying we’re coming out of COVID. If you are stressed or worried about how you haven’t navigated COVID correctly or like, “If there are things I could have done differently,” this is a great opportunity in life. This is a perfect moment to give yourself a little bit of grace and hit the reset button now and start with that new attitude starting today.
Jonathan Cleck is a Navy SEAL, a speaker, a comedian, and an author. He’s a pretty damn nice cool dude. Jonathan, thanks for being on the show. We will be back in touch for sure.
Thank you so much.
About Jonathan Cleck
25-year veteran of the Navy SEAL Teams. Director at Greencastle Consulting, a 100% veteran-operated consulting firm. CXO at Concihairge.
I’m not playing bass for the Insane Clown Posse like I thought I’d be at this point in my life, but I am on a slightly better trajectory than the “prison-then-nude model” career path my high school counselor had predicted for me.
Also…Serial entrepreneur. Speaker. Stand-up comedian. Author. Waxer of Things Philosophic. Husband. Dad. That list is in order from what pays my accounts to what drains my accounts.
Obligatory verbiage about what I actually do: Career Navy SEAL officer with small business, government program management, international investigations, and team development experience. Doctoral research in Organizational Leadership & Innovation combined with military special operations leadership provides a foundation for expertise in human performance management focusing on communication, resource alignment, and culture development. Entrepreneurial spirit with a zeal for the challenge of operating in dynamic and fluid environments, promoting a bias for action, and diffusing chaos and ambiguity. Eager to roll up my sleeves (or rip them off Macho Man-style) and get my hands dirty in any role. Excelling in peeling back the layers of onion to get down to the heart of the problem, establishing a team of teams to fix it, then putting the onion back together, which is itself impressive if you’ve ever tried to put an onion back together.