Tag Archives: Special Forces


Bob Mayer is a US Army West Point graduate, Green Beret Special Forces veteran, and a prolific writer, publisher, and teacher. He’s also a down-to-earth guy who’s mission is to help others succeed. Thanks, Bob, for sharing your experience about preparing for chaos.

Bob1Catastrophe planning in the civilian world is primarily the province of engineers and management. The problem with that is engineers and management are trained for, plan for, and work in a controlled environment (what they think is a controlled environment). So delusion events are outside their comfort zone; aberrations.

In fact, engineers and managers are often trained to be blind to cascade events. Their training and work environment normally does not reward focusing on cascade events, but rather punishes it.

Bob3West Point is an extraordinarily controlled environment. Things run almost perfectly there; so much so that graduates often have problems adjusting to the ‘real’ Army they go into. But West Point also has over 200 years of experience training leaders and preparing soldiers for war. This accumulation of institutional knowledge is inculcated in cadets in a high-pressure cauldron of mental, physical, and emotional stress for four years.

Of course, sometimes it doesn’t take, as you’d see in one of the events I cover in Shit Doesn’t Just Happen – The Gift of Failure. This book focuses on a number of colossal failures, including West Point’s most notorious graduate – Breverant Colonel George Armstrong Custer.

Bob4Special Operations soldiers train for war. War is called controlled chaos; an incessant series of cascade events. War might be considered the ultimate catastrophe and combat a final event. In order to prepare for this final event, Special Operations soldiers train for, plan for, and work in a chaotic environment every day.

Mentally, the most difficult training I went through was Robin Sage, the final exercise in the Special Forces Qualification Course. Robin Sage is where a team of students is sent into isolation, and then infiltrates into the North Carolina countryside to conduct a guerilla warfare exercise. A critical component of Robin Sage is to put prospective Green Berets in lose-lose scenarios. This is a training scenario where there is no ‘right’ solution. Rigid minds are often unable to think creatively while under stress and lose-lose training quickly determines someone’s capabilities.

Thinking outside of the immediate situation is important in preparing for and averting catastrophes.

Do you remember in the Star Trek movie (Wrath of Khan) when Captain Kirk talks about being at Star Fleet Academy and being the only officer to have passed the Kobayashi Maru simulator program?

Bob5The basic problem and the opening of the movie was set up this way: A Star Fleet ship which the student commands is patrolling near the neutral zone. A distress call is received from a disabled Federation vessel inside the neutral zone. An enemy warship is approaching from the other side. It’s a vessel more powerful than the one the student commands. The choices seem obvious: ignore the distress call (which violates the law of space) or go to its aid (violating the neutral zone) and face almost certain destruction from the enemy vessel. As you can see, both choices are bad.

Bob6What Kirk did was sneak into the computer center the night before he was scheduled to go through the simulation and change the parameters so that he could successfully save the vessel without getting destroyed. Would you have thought of that? Was it cheating? If you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying. It’s not cheating when it succeeds.

A key to lose-lose training is you get to see how someone reacts when they are wrong or fail. Lose-lose training is a good way to put people in a crisis. Frustration can often lead to anger, which can lead to failure or enlightenment.

If a catastrophe struck, whom would you want at your side helping you?

Bob8A doctor? Lawyer? Engineer? MBA? Teacher? While they all have special skills, I submit that the overwhelming choice might well be a US Special Forces Green Beret or, the best in the business – a British 22SAS. Someone trained in survival, medicine, weapons, tactics, communications, engineering, counter-terrorism, tactical and strategic intelligence, and with the capability to be a force multiplier.

Most important, you want someone who has been handpicked, survived rigorous training, and has the positive mental outlook to not only survive, but thrive in chaos, and knows how to be part of a team. Green Berets have been called Masters of Chaos. They don’t manage. They lead.

The key to dealing with catastrophes is leadership, not management.

Bob8AOften, in order to deal with a cascade event, leadership and courage are needed to go against a culture of complacency and fear. In every catastrophe, fear is a factor in at least one, if not more, cascade events. This fear runs the gamut from physical fear, to job security fear, to social fear, to physical fear. Few people want to be the ‘boy who cries wolf’ even when they see a pack of wolves. What’s even harder is when we’re the only one who sees the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Bob9I’ve written Shit Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure to help individuals and organizations avoid catastrophes, but I come at it from a different direction as a former Special Operations soldier. In the Special Forces (Green Berets) the key to our successful missions was the planning. The preparation. In isolation, we war-gamed as many possible catastrophe situations we could imagine for any upcoming mission and prepared as well as we could for them. In fact, we expected things to go wrong, a very different mindset from that of engineers and management.

We were firm believers in Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will. In other words: Shit doesn’t just happen. It will happen.

Our job was to deal with it.

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Bob Mayer Bob10is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret (including commanding an A-Team) and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus.

Bob11Bob’s had over 60 books published including the #1 series Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having travelled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at Write on the River, TN.

Bob12Thanks, Bob. You’re a great writer, a great teacher, and great pathfinder in the publishing business. Like some guys that we know say – “Who Dares Wins“.

Bob runs three websites:




Follow Bob on Twitter @Bob_Mayer

His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/authorbobmayer


I’m honoured to have Stephen Templin guestpost on DyingWords. He’s the author of the NYT BestSelling Seal Team Six and Trident’s First Gleaming. He also survived BUD/S.

SEALSNavy SEALs often talk about “mental toughness” but what is it and how can one use it for writing thrillers?

In Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, after surviving Hell Week, I wanted to know more about this mental toughness in myself and others—use this behavior as a key to unlock the secrets to success in life.

Years later, I discovered Self-Efficacy Theory by Albert Bandura, and wrote my PhD dissertation on it, the closest thing to mental toughness that I could find and the most powerful predictor of human motivation. This theory states that if you strongly believe you can accomplish a task or group of tasks, you are more likely to succeed than if you don’t believe.

Tactic #1

Believe you can accomplish the mission.

SEALS2Some people dismiss this as being too simplistic or basic, but if they take time to seriously think about the strength of their belief in writing a novel, the dismissive folks will probably realize how weak their belief has been. Weak beliefs lead to less effort, focus, and persistence. Failure is already decided. In contrast, strong beliefs lead to increases in these areas. Success is not guaranteed, but the impossibility now becomes a possibility.

Tactic #2

Set specific, challenging goals.

SEALS3SEAL Team Six’s mission in Abbottabad was clear, capture or kill bin Laden. When I signed my first contract for a thriller novel, my publisher, Simon and Schuster, wanted a novel that was at least 75,000 words. So that word-count was my goal.

Tactic #3

Break the goal down into specific, challenging objectives.

111208-N-OX319-045Staring at a blank page and imagining that becoming a 75,000-word novel is like standing at the bottom of Mount Everest and thinking, “How am I ever going to make it to the top?” Being vague about your purpose will lead to disaster. Even with specific objectives, if you climb too quickly, you risk injury. If you climb too slowly, you may run out of supplies or freeze to death before you summit.

You have to pick a pace that is not too easy but not too difficult for you. I chose 2,000 words a day, but even though I wrote full-time—working 9 am to 5 pm was not nearly enough time to reach my daily objective, and I was risking burnout. When faced with a tight deadline, there may not be much choice. When I dictate my own schedule, my objectives are 1,000 words a day, five days a week—I should be able to finish the novel in about 75 working days.

Tactic #4

Create strategies to achieve your goal.

SEALS11When SEAL Team Six raided Osama bin Laden’s headquarters, they used a stealth helicopter—one useful strategy that led to surprising the enemy, aiding the assault.

The business side of writing, like guest posting today, takes time and cuts into novel writing time, but one must be conscious of this and plan accordingly. If I’m launching a new book, my writing takes a back seat, but once that book is out doing its thing, business takes a back seat and writing returns to the forefront. Just say, “no.”

Taking a hint from author Joanna Penn, I highlight each day of my calendar that I succeed at writing 1,000 words. At a glance, the yellow marks give quick performance feedback. I also like to congratulate myself when I reach milestones: 1/3 finished (25,000 words), ½ finished (37,500 words), and 2/3 finished (50,000 words). There are loads of strategies waiting for you to find and invent.

Use what works for you.

Tactic #5

Remember previous successes and know that you can succeed again.

SEALS6The SEALs who raided bin Laden’s compound had succeeded at numerous missions before, and they knew they could succeed again.

As a beginning writer, I wrote English papers in high school and short fiction stories and knew I could do it again, and more. Then I wrote college papers and longer short stories. And I just kept building and building.

These successes, however small, are encouraging. Forgetting them too soon can invite discouragement.

Tactic #6

Get to know others with similar abilities to yourself.

SEALS7Their successes will be almost as valuable as your own because you’ll believe you can succeed in doing what they did.

Numerous researchers have shown these six tactics can lead to increased success in education, business, sports, careers, families, and so on.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to believe you can write a thriller novel.

As always, should you or your team be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. 

Good luck.

SEALS13Stephen Templin is a New York Times BestSelling author. He survived US Navy B/UDS which is the US Navy Seal equivalent of doing the Fan-Dance in the British Army’s 22nd Regiment – the Special Air Service.

SEALS9Stephen is the New York Times BestSelling Author of Seal Team Six. It’s a must-read – not just for thriller fans who want to run with the Special Forces – but for writers who want to know how the secret of why SEALs succeed can apply to their careers. (Spoiler Alert – it’s having the mental toughness to prepare and never, ever quit) I highly endorse Seal Team SixIt’s a superb read! 

Here’s the trailer for Stephen Templin’s new release Trident’s First Gleaming.

SEALS10Former SEAL Chris Paladin leaves SEAL Team Six to become a pastor, but CIA spook Hannah Andrade pulls him back into Special Operations Group, the ultra-secret unit that SEAL Team Six operators and others served under to eliminate bin Laden. Chris and Hannah are joined by Delta Force’s Sonny Cohen to stop a new terrorist threat from launching a deadly cyber-terror against the United States.