The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine Book Summary and PDF

The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine [Book Summary & PDF]

The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine identifies a number of skills that you can build on and develop. These skills align with the Seals way of life and will enable you to think and act like an ‘elite warrior'. These lessons in leadership and life are applicable to business, personal life and any challenges you may face. Mark Divine has a series of exercises and questions that will help you to develop the necessary skills. The Way of the Seal is an enjoyable and educational read for anyone looking to develop their leadership skills.





Who is this summary for?

The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine identifies a number of skills that you can build on and develop. These skills align with the Seals way of life and will enable you to think and act like an ‘elite warrior'. These lessons in leadership and life are applicable to business, personal life and any challenges you may face. Mark Divine has a series of exercises and questions that will help you to develop the necessary skills. The Way of the Seal is an enjoyable and educational read for anyone looking to develop their leadership skills.

About the author

Mark Divine was an active SEAL for nine years, he followed this with a further eleven years on the reserves before retiring in 2011. He portrayed some of the most impressive leadership skills during his time as a SEAL and was encouraged to develop a training program for SEAL trainees which has proven an improvement in the quality of new recruits. Mark has since enjoyed teaching and numerous entrepreneurial endeavours including writing this book, SEALFIT and most recently developing the Unbeatable Mind Academy. Mark now resides in California with his family and continues his journey to train, learn and teach.

In this summary

This summary will take us through the eight key principles that Divine covers in his book. Principle one covers establishing your set point. The second principle discusses developing front sight focus and the third principle covers bulletproofing your mission. The fourth and Fifth principles are about doing things that others won’t and encouraging your own mental toughness. Principle six is called breaking things and principle seven focuses on building your own intuition. Finally, principle eight emphasises the importance of thinking offense all of the time.



Divine explains that leadership is not an expression of an organisation or power system, rather, leadership is something that needs to come from the heart of an individual. This individual needs to be someone who is capable of leading a team from the front and also pushing the team from behind. A genuine leader will take risks to ensure that their team is cohesive and working together. Divine believes that organisations need to take more responsibility when it comes to individual leaders. Organisations need to encourage potential leaders by providing development opportunities and promoting real-life learning.


”By defining your stand and purpose, you will be able to use them as an internal GPS. When the winds of pain and pleasure blow, you won’t change course.”

Defining your stand

Divine explains that in order to truly lead from the field, it is critical that you understand who you are as a person, what makes you tick and what drives you. If you do not understand yourself, how are you going to understand your team? Divine explains that this awareness allows you to be courageous in times of fear. He explains that fear is something too many people shrink away from or do their best to avoid. However, a true leader shouldn’t shy away from fear. Leaders understand that fear is perfectly natural and they are capable of acting in the appropriate way for both themselves and their teams when facing times of fear.

Divine explains that when defining your stand it’s important that you acknowledge all of the important character traits that you want to clearly express. Even the ones that you aren’t completely on top of yet, include these in your embodiment as you will get there soon.

Define your purpose

By defining your stand you are essentially answering what you would do in any given situation, prompted by who you are and your characteristics. However, your purpose is slightly different. Your purpose is about why you are here.

”Clarify your values so you can become the kind of person who can stand his or her ground every day. Values answer the question What do I want more of or less of in my life?”


Divine explains that in the SEAL world there are two different types of goals. The first type is large, long-term goals. These goals are designed to define your end state. Secondly, you’ll have subgoals or short-term goals. These goals are there to outline how you plan to get to the long-term goals, your path.

Divine explains that a mission may have multiple different targets to be reached in order to achieve the end goal. However, the mission is still completed as one. He explains that SEALs are trained to work through one mission at a time, see it through till completion before they move on to another.

Divine outlines four strategies you can use when facing challenges and obstacles. We’ll explain these in more detail below.

Prepare the mind

The first step when trying to prepare your mind ready for a challenge is to calm down. A racing mind is going to be unhelpful in stressful situations. Divine recommends using controlled, deep breaths to slow your mind and your body to gain back control.

He explains that by controlling your breath you are able to bring your focus into the present moment or what Divine calls ‘front sight’. By doing this you will essentially settle your mind down which will quieten all that background noise you are used it. Focusing on your breathing will also allow you to prevent your mind from wandering and will improve your self-control.

Visualise the end goal

”Front-sight focus, especially when backed up by a powerful and clear set point, can propel you toward each target on your way to mission success. “

Divine emphasises the importance of visualising the end goal. He explains that the end goal may be the goal of the overall mission or just a target that needs to be reached along the way. By using mental projection, you will be setting yourself up for success.

Divine explains that the concept of visualisation is designed to ‘plant a seed’ in your subconscious mind. It enables you to picture what the success will look like and therefore enable you to do whatever it takes to get there. Divine use the example of visualising becoming the CEO of your company. If you can truly visualise this, then you will be more capable of identifying the necessary steps you’ll need to take to get the job.

”As you take action in the “real world,” the new inner vision will align your heart and mind with your actions and support your efforts to achieve that desired state.”

Understand the mission

Divine emphasises the importance of defining the mission before you begin. It’s an extremely important step that cannot be missed. You need to consider what the expectations are and ensure that these are clearly outlined so that everyone understands.

If you can have a clear plan in the beginning, you will be better prepared to avoid any undesirable consequences. You’ll have the foresight to identify any possible issues that could interfere with your plan and come up with strategies to avoid these.


SEALs use the term ‘simplify the battlefield’ to describe the act of eliminating all distractions. Distractions can be found not only on the battlefield but also in the real world. Distractions have the ability to draw our focus away from the end goal and result in time-wasting and other issues. By eliminating all distractions you clear the path and allow yourself to see the plan and the desired results ahead of you.

There are a few steps you can take in the road of eliminating distractions. First, Divine recommends you delegate any tasks to other team members that you can. This means that as a leader, your jobs are decluttered and you only have to focus on the bare minimum. He explains that if you are bogged down with little tasks, your focus won’t be on the mission and you’ll leave space for errors.


”There is a reason more than 95 percent of new business ventures fail within five years: Folks don’t have the skills to eliminate uncertainty and mitigate risk.”

Below we’ll discuss some strategies Divine suggests you implement to avoid making costly mistakes.

Choose the right targets

Divine emphasises the importance of selecting the right targets from the get-go. More specifically, high-value targets. By doing this you’ll be setting yourself up to bulletproof your mission by ensuring that you can allocate resources to the right places.

Divine outlines the FITS (Fit, Importance, Timing, Simplicity) process as a way to ensure you are selecting the right targets and that why align with your mission. In order to follow the FITS process, you need to examine each potential target and consider the following points:

  • Do you and your team have the right skills to reach this potential target?
  • Is there a good return on investment?
  • In the scope of having a successful mission, how important is this target?
  • Can this target fit in with the prescribed time frame?
  • Is the proposed target simple, clear and easy to understand?
”It takes discipline to focus only on high-value targets instead of giving in to the temptation of the low-hanging fruit life serves up daily.”Click To Tweet

There are always multiple options

Divine explains that you should never settle for the first option. Even though you may think it is the best way forward, it’s important to always explore your options. There is rarely only ever one way of reaching goals and it’s important that you proceed with the best one.

Divine identifies the PROP process as the best way to explore multiple options and decide on the most fitting one. The PROP process involves assessing the following questions:

  • What are your current priorities?
  • Explain the realities of the current situation.
  • What options does do your targets suggest?
  • Which path forward will you select?


Divine emphasises the importance of clearly communicating the mission. You need to ensure that everyone on the team, as well as any potential partners/investors/supporters, understand the ins and outs of the mission and the end goal. Without clear communication, you may not get the support that you require. It’s not only important to communicate what you plan to do but it’s also important to make clear why you’re doing it. Divine explains that this is also your chance to outline what resources you will need to proceed and who are the leaders.

”The process of framing your mission as a story creates a visual mosaic of the mission plan, which is easy to digest for the team and others who need to be in the know, such as logistical partners and higher-up decision makers.”

Dirt-dive the mission

Once the mission has been defined and clearly communicated, Divine explains that you need to reconnect with the mission viscerally. It’s important to go over it every morning on an individual basis and again with the entire team at a weekly meeting. This is to ensure that you and your team are up-to-date and have a comprehensive overall understanding of the task at hand.

”Ideally, you will want to include both mental and physical components when you dirt-dive your mission. However, sometimes a physical rehearsal may not make sense or be possible. At minimum, it’s always a good idea to dirt-dive through a mental rehearsal.”

Divine explains that the benefit of regularly revisiting the mission allows you and the team to identify any potential problems that could arise and come up with strategies to combat these. You also continue to familiarise yourself with the mission so when it comes time to act, you are comfortable and always know what the next step will encounter.


“You guys are capable of at least twenty times what you think you are.”Click To Tweet

Divine truly believes that character is built through hard work. If you live a soft life, your character will weaken. As he explains, living a comfortable life isn’t as good as it sounds. What it really means is that you are trapped in the same situation which is usually the fear of suffering. It’s a natural instinct to avoid anything that may hurt us. However, Divine explains that in doing this we are avoiding living our best life. It’s imperative that we understand what our comfort zone is and avoid staying there. This is where Divines 20x factor comes in. He truly believes that everyone has the ability to do or achieve 20x more than they might think. Sticking in your comfort zone is never going to let you figure out exactly what you can do.

Embracing the suck

Divine explains that there’s a common phrase among the SEALs; “pain is weakness leaving the body.” He explains that using this as a metaphor helps when it comes to understanding why pain induced in training can be transformed into confidence whether this is physical or mental. By doing something that is painful or scary, you are actually working on building up your confidence and improving your success rate for next time.

Also called, embracing the suck, Divine emphasises the importance of facing the fear of suffering, stop avoiding it all together otherwise you’ll never make any progress. Pain, whether physical or mental, is simply a response from your body warning you that you are facing a threat. However, the pain is always only temporary and always result in personal growth. Consider two different scenarios; a tough workout might be physically painful, but it’ll be over in an hour, and you’ll experience an increase in physical strength. On the other side of the spectrum, making an extremely difficult phone call might be painful to do mentally, but once it’s done, you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction and be better prepared for the next time.

”One simple technique for embracing the suck of any painful situation is to change your state by immediately focusing on something else that is positive . . . and then smiling or even laughing.”

Three Ds (Discipline, Drive, and Determination)

”Our habits define us: Solid character habits define a solid character. Start putting your mind to developing the character habits of discipline, drive, and determination.”

  1. DISCIPLINE. This is the driving force behind any habit. Without discipline, there will be no energy to keep a habit moving forward. Divine explains that discipline isn’t something you simply have. It’s something that needs to be built on over time.
  2. DRIVE. Another fitting word for drive is Motivation. Drive is the motivation that prompts your actions and your habits. Divine explains that in order to build drive, you should find a connection between a key life interest and your purpose. From here, you can clearly map out a mission.
  3. DETERMINATION. Without determination, there is no commitment or accountability to the mission or habit. Divine explains that those who have determination are the ones who stick around for an hour after work, developing a new skill or studying up on something new.


Divine outlines just how important it is to make excellence a habit. By doing this, you will be sure to lead a more fulfilling life. However, you’re going to need some mental toughness to ensure that you can make this habit long-lasting, even when everyone else has given up.


It’s important that you have control over your responses to situations. Sometimes, when faced with something difficult, your immediate response may not be the best one. Divine explains that by taking a few deep breaths, you’ll be able to shut-down the stress trigger and maintain your focus. You’ll be left better prepared and able to respond in a more effective way.


Something else you’ll need to learn to control is your attention. Divine explains that in the SEAL world, they use controlling their attention as a way of implementing positive self-talk. You need to learn how to move your attention away from anything negative and learn to shift it towards positive thinking. Many authors, including Divine, discuss the concept that whatever you spend your time thinking about and focusing on, is likely to become your reality. This swings both ways. If you are predisposed to thinking negatively, then you’re likely to self-destruct and be more likely to face failure. However, focusing on the positive is more likely to lead you in the right direction and reach success.

”The art of positive self-talk is simply paying attention to your inner dialogue and directing it toward positive, performance-based language.”


Divine stresses the importance of developing your emotional resilience. This is a crucial element of developing your mental toughness. Emotional resilience means that you are able to bounce back after you’ve face setbacks or failure. Without emotional resilience, you are more likely to dwell on the negative and prevent progress.

”One must speak, visualise, and feel positively in order to be aligned in positivity. Otherwise, the emotional states counteract the positive self-talk and imagery, leading to weak results. The starting point is emotional awareness: Are you emotionally positive or negative?”


Not only must you set goals, you need to ensure that they are effective goals. Divine explains that goals are another critical component in developing your mental toughness as they trigger the why. They give you something to focus on and something to strive for. Divine explains that by reaching goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement and success that will increase your confidence. This confidence will then be able to be passed on to the next mission and will continue to increase.

So Divine has made it pretty clear why reaching your goals is so important. And to ensure that you reach your goals, you need to make sure that the goals you have set are achievable.

Here are a few of Divine’s tips for setting effective goals:

  • Be precise.
  • Have a positive goal.
  • Write down your goals.
  • Ensure that your goal is measurable.
  • Apply an appropriate timeframe.
  • Make sure you have the potential to achieve the goal. (Consider resources and skills available)

Divines tips all line up with the common acronym SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely.





There’s a common assumption that by being committed to a task, you should already know exactly how it’s going to play out and how you are going to achieve it. However, Divine explains that this is not always the case. He explains that in the SEALs, they had a motto: “find a way or make a way.” Essentially, they believe in committing to something first, and figuring out how to do it second.

”Since no challenge is completely new or unique, to break the mould of current thinking, you’ll want to meld ideas from the past with informed predictions about the future to come up with new solutions for the present.”


Divine explains that failure is inevitable, and in many cases, you’re likely to fail more often that you will ever succeed. There are a few reasons for this, and one of them is that by not avoiding risk and remaining in your comfort zone, you are setting yourself up for bigger risks and potential failure. But this is the way of the SEAL, a SEAL will never shy away from risk.

Divine points out that failure was once seen as a bit of an embarrassment, but nowadays it’s more common and not nearly as shameful. People lose their jobs every day and businesses go bankrupt. But that’s not to say they need to be embarrassed. Often, these failures are just the beginning of a new venture.

Divine explains that we live in an ever-changing world, everything happens a lot quicker than it used to. Divine believes that in adjusting your perspective to accept and even expect failure, you will get further in life. There is a lot of growth that can be done from failure, both personal and professional. Failing gives you a welcomed opportunity to learn something new and adapt for the next time.

”You need to get comfortable with a “good enough” plan and develop conviction in the belief that your decisions will improve as you fail forward fast and tap into your resources.”

Divine outlines the process of failure and how it can be viewed as a learning process:

  1. Give something new a try.
  2. Fail.
  3. Assess why you failed and what you learned from it.
  4. Decide how you can adjust your actions and prevent the same failure next time.
  5. Change your approach.
  6. Implement your changes in your next approach.
  7. You may need to repeat these steps until you find your desired success.


”You can’t allow a fear of failure to keep you from ever starting! Let your intuition guide you.'Click To Tweet

Divine explains that failure is an opportunity for learning and growth, but it’s not the only opportunity you will find. As an effective leader, you need to be always on the lookout for opportunities. These opportunities will often be in the form of breaking something, in order to remake and improve.

Divine believes that the technological advancement that we are constantly facing opens up plenty of new opportunities. It’s important to pay attention to things such as transition periods and identify the gaps you can jump on.

”You can’t allow a fear of failure to keep you from ever starting! Let your intuition guide you. Your perspective will shift as you act, which is a good thing, and you’ll tighten things up as you go. So, after taking a moment to assess the situation, make a decision, use the tools and take action as soon as possible.”


Divine explains that your own subconscious mind is a wealth of information, and from here can stem your best ideas and your most creative concepts. The key to unleashing your ideas is learning how to tap into the subconscious mind, expanding your awareness and opening yourself up to your inner wisdom.


It’s so important to learn how to expand your awareness. Divine defines awareness as having the capability of paying close attention to all parts of a situation as well as the situation as a whole. It means having the ability to have a clear ‘full picture’ while also being able to pay attention to the little details.

By expanding your awareness, you will improve your ability to access your subconscious mind and your intuition will continue to develop. Divine explains that awareness is something that develops naturally as your life experiences increases. The more you age, travel and experience, the better your awareness will be. However, you can always work on this and work on deepening your connection to your subconscious mind and your senses.

”The art of using your intuition is to learn by absorbing more information and then accessing it in a sensible form. This skill can help us make better decisions and avoid danger or problems, especially on the fly or in chaotic situations.”


Divine explains the importance of strengthening your own sensory perception. He explains that you can do this by tuning into your own senses and turning them on. Slowing down is a critical step when it comes to engaging your senses and is closely related to mindfulness.

”Mindfulness is a practice that leads to a deeper connection with your inner self, a more present state of awareness through which your wisdom can flow. To facilitate this, you want to develop your sensory perception, which means that you take in more information through each of your senses.”

Open up to your inner wisdom

Divine explains that it’s important to asses your past and see why some of the beliefs and behaviours you currently have were formed. By doing this, you can identify the ones that may be holding you back. In order to make the best decisions, you need to recap your past and eliminate anything that is affecting your future.

”The next stage of this process is to open up a channel for your subconscious mind to communicate with you more clearly. Providing more detailed information than a simple feeling in your gut, and a tool for clearing out any baggage that clouds your present decision making.”


Divine explains that whether you are at home, at work or out in the field, you need to become offense-oriented if you want to develop your leadership skills. It’s important that you develop an attitude focused on winning.


A truly successful leader will have an unwavering confidence. Divine explains that first, you need to identify what language you use regularly that is perhaps holding you back and being negative. Combat the negativity by practicing new, positive words and a better mind-frame. Do this and your confidence will soar.

”Like a SEAL, you must learn to act aggressively and rapidly when you become aware of the threats facing you. You must also take advantage of opportunities by innovating and adapting, doing the unexpected to keep your competition off balance.”

Do the unexpected

Divine explains that doing the unexpected can be extremely beneficial. If you continue to act as expected, then you are unlikely to discover new ways of doing things or understand different perspectives. By doing something unexpectedly and differently to everyone else, you have an opportunity to perceive something from a different angle and you’ll surprise yourself at what you may learn.

”When you train yourself to see what others don’t see, then you can unlock your innate creativity. People generally expect that others will follow “the rules,” which may literally be rules as in a competition or may be somewhat more abstract as in cultural norms. So, it naturally follows that doing the unexpected often means breaking the rules.”

Velocity and agility

Divine believes that velocity and agility are two pretty important characteristics that you want to adopt. Execution of any mission should be done with both. Divine explains that on a business level, velocity, or speed, is beneficial because it maintains your position as in front of the competition, make sure you are making all of the moves first and they will be left behind. Using the example of Apple and Samsung, Divine points out that in the invention of the iPad, Apple were certainly creative. But Samsung engaged intense velocity and speed by quickly producing a similar tablet to compete with the iPad. Their pace was exceptional.

”You are well aware that the pace of change is accelerating as technology pushes the reaches of globalisation. Remain static and you lose momentum, visibility, and opportunities. Eventually, you become stuck in a cryogenic deep freeze as the world blazes by. Like the SEALs, WOS leaders set the conditions for rapid execution by; rusting those in the field, applying standard operating procedures and utilising a shoot, move, and communicate process”


Key takeaways

  • Set point establishment is defining your purpose and your stand.
  • To develop a front sight focus you need to prepare your mind. Visualise the end goal, understand the mission and eliminate distractions.
  • You should aim to make your mission bulletproof by choosing the right targets, assessing different options, having clear communication and dirt-diving the mission.
  • Doing exactly what others won’t do involves embracing the suck and facing your fears to improve development and confidence. It also involves sticking to the 3 D’s; discipline, drive, and determination.
  • It’s important to work on developing your mental toughness. This can be done by working on how you respond to situations, controlling your attention, developing your emotional resilience and setting effective goals.
  • Divines sixth principle involves ‘breaking things’ and understanding that failure is not an embarrassment, but an opportunity to learn and develop.
  • Building your intuition is important and can be done by expanding your awareness, tuning into your own senses and opening up to your past and your own inner wisdom.
  • Thinking offense all the time involves being confident, doing the unexpected and acting with velocity and agility.

Further reading

If you enjoyed the SEAL perspective in this book then another great read is Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. Another SEAL leader who explains how the lessons he learned in combat are relevant to leaders in any role. The importance of team is emphasised, you are only as good as the men or woman behind you. This book provides fundamental leadership lessons through Willink’s insightful combat experiences and stories. Willink examines a number of leadership concepts that have been proven as effective in both combat and business scenarios.

If you enjoyed this then definitely check out Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. As a leader, it’s important to create a culture that leaves everyone happy and fulfilled, and this is exactly what Simon describes. Simon emphasises that when an environment is built on trust, teams will work together, have each other’s backs, survive and thrive.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a book that aims to help you convince people to share your way of thinking, to avoid arguments and to become more liked.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action Steps

  • Download the complete book on Amazon.
  • Check out Mark Divine’s Unbeatable Mind website to learn more about developing the mental toughness of a SEAL.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.