Put More Effort Into Your Career Goal Questions - And Do NOT Ask These Questions Anymore...
Time to Grow Up & Get to Work
Answering questions is something I have been doing for decades now. I get hundreds of them a day through email and social media messages. I have written over 1000 articles (easily found) based on these questions received over the years. So, I appreciate your questions. However, I see some questions consistently year after year as a new group of people ages into and chooses to serve in the military, police, firefighter, and special ops programs.
Even though an abundance of information is being shared throughout all media and the internet, most may not specifically answer your questions. Learning to ask more specific questions may make your information quest less time-consuming. I put together the top ten questions below that you do not have to ask anymore – because here are the answers.
These are some recommendations when it comes to getting the information you seek. Consider the following with your communications if asking a person or using a search engine:
Put Some Effort into Your Question (Use Complete Sentences and Punctuation at a minimum) – Not many people enjoy deciphering text language, reading a non-punctuated paragraph, or having poor grammar, but nearly half of the questions I receive have little to no effort put into them. If you are asking a human an important question (to you) put some effort into asking it IF you want an honest and thorough answer. You do not need to write a book, but damn...make it easier on the reader if you want an answer.
Add Context to Your Question – Put in helpful information such as age, athletic history, training you are currently doing, height/weight, training/career goals, and recent injuries, even current PT test scores. These will help the person answering the question be more specific as often the answer to specific questions DEPENDS on any of the above details. If you want a generic answer – ask a generic question, or you will likely get an answer that starts with IT DEPENDS.
Top Ten Questions Not to Ask Anymore
Most of these questions are easily found on the official web pages of the tactical job you are seeking. Researching independently has never been easier, so there’s no excuse to find most of your answers without asking. This is not the first time I have written about this topic – in fact, you can read more at Great Question – How to NOT Ask Stupid Questions and Other Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Success.
After some research – then ask a more specific question. You may find you get a better answer. But there is no need to ask these questions:
1 - What are the MINIMUM STANDARDS for ________ fitness test? First, you can find them on official web pages with a thorough read of those pages. Second – Exceeding the standard – IS the standard. Do not go through life capping out at the minimum standards.
2 - Do you have any Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to getting through ________? (Spec ops training) Do not ask for tips, tricks, or secrets for passing BUD/S, special ops training, or any training in that manner. This is just a lazy question, as I will answer, SURE, I have tons of tips - books full of them. See my list of tips and tricks!
3 - How do I learn to swim without a pool or place to swim? I do not know, to be honest. I have never improved my swimming without water. The only answer may be a Vasa-Swim Trainer you might find in a gym. I have only seen them on a pool deck used for dry land coaching specifics. If you do not know how to swim, take lessons. Even though you may be working toward a combat swimmer stroke test, learn how to do the freestyle and breaststroke from a professional swim teacher/coach.
Go to my Instagram REELS and TIKTOK for hundreds of CSS swim video critiques.
4 - What kind of timeline should I give myself to train for ______? Do not give yourself an arbitrary date to talk to a recruiter. Instead, set a performance starting line by actually assessing yourself.
My advice is ALWAYS do not even talk to a Spec Ops recruiter until you are crushing the fitness test (IF you are serious about getting TO and THROUGH selection).
I have seen less than 6 months from a multi-sport athlete and more than 2 years from someone who needed to lose weight, learn to swim, and had injuries to deal with before starting.
5 - I am crushing the PST and have six more months before I ship – What should I focus on? This is awesome. Having 4-6 months to focus on any weaknesses you may have should be the focus. Don’t know of any weaknesses – then assess yourself using this Assessment Tool. The answer could be treading, swimming with fins, longer runs / rucks, load-bearing skills, or strength in general. Acing the PT test is great to get TO the training, but the training to get THROUGH selection will differ and depends on your follow-on training (boot camp, basic training, academy, or spec ops selection).
6 – Should I add lifting to my PT Test Prep Program? I do not recommend it. Be patient and work on your muscle stamina and endurance/pace to ace a fitness test focused on running, swimming, and calisthenics. Adding heavy lifting into this training type is unsuitable for the lifting or pacing skills and muscle endurance you are trying to build. You will likely not improve (at either) if you add heavy weight to a calisthenics and cardio cycle. This is why the Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization system works with Cals/Cardio cycles to build stamina and endurance and strength cycles to build mass and strength.
7 – How do I build Mental Toughness? You will not get mentally tougher by reading an answer to that question. You will get mentally more demanding by physically pushing yourself when you no longer feel like moving – but you do it anyway. Consistently moving is your first step, even when you are not motivated. You have just taken motivation and evolved it into discipline. Keep pushing; discipline will evolve to mental toughness through consistent training/recovery behaviors. See several articles and podcasts on the topic and get tougher. Check this out:
8 - How do I get better at Running and Swimming? These are common, and though you may assume I think you are talking about the Navy PST, I coach and write about all fitness tests and events, so be specific in your questions. Do you mean timed runs/swims? With fins or without? Longer runs? Marathons or BUDS weekly 4-mile timed runs? All will get a different answer. But check these articles:
Where You Can Find More About the CSS (FREE)
9 - When will I know if I am ready to go to ______(selection)? At some point, you will say you are ready. Being ready to bring your game face to challenging events is what you must be able to do each day. You will continue to have doubts and wonder if you did enough to prepare - that is natural. But, knowing when you need to bring your A-Game to the party is part of being mentally ready for any event in your future. After a lifetime of work and "preparation," you will be ready for these moments as you have built up self-confidence and the ability to remember WHY you started this journey in the first place. Quick answer - assess yourself against these scores (typical scores of graduates). It will come down to - how bad do you want it?
10 - The Stupidest Questions - Don't Ask These - I define a stupid question as lacking all initiative posted by someone too lazy to look it up before asking it on Google. Some classic examples:
- How many yards are in a 50m pool? Answer - do the math.
- How many weeks in boot camp? Answer - Go to Google.
- How long is SEAL training? Go to the SEAL website - www.sealswcc.com
- What do I need on the ASVAB? PST to contract? Eyesight? - If Navy Spec War - go to www.sealswcc.com
Conflicting Information vs. No Information
Yes, if you do your research you may see conflicting information on the internet on max / minimum PT scores, medical waivers, ASVAB point waivers, moral waivers, age waivers, MOS / job availability, processes in training, and much more. The conflicting information is a good question to ask. But to be honest, the problem is not typically the vast information you may find on the internet, it is the recruit/candidate doing so very little research that they allow themselves to be put into a system at the "needs of the military" service you select. This is a crap shoot with your future, and maybe the difference between you enjoying the next 4+ years absolutely hating them. Be a better recruit. Show some initiative and figure some things out on your own - then verify the information.
Try it....It Works
The number one reason why YOU need to be a better recruit and do your research is that you may be told a variety of things that get you into the military when you are either not physically ready, not doing a job you are interested in, or being told something wrong or untrue about your journey. The less prepared you are, the more likely you will not qualify for the job you want and be more likely to join HOPE to get to your first choice one day. Depending on your research knowledge and pre-military preparation, that may or may not happen.
These questions give me ideas to write about, and very often (more than 50%) of the time, I reply to someone with an article link that has become a frequently asked question over the years. THIS IS WHAT I DO. But I also want to be the guy who tells you to -
Take the Initiative!
The definition of initiative is: The act of taking the first step. The ability to think and act without being told what or how to do it.
The reason I am telling you to take, use, or seize the initiative is that no one has ever told you to do so. There is a short story called Message to Garcia , the first thing I ever read when I joined the Naval Academy. It is about a young officer given a message by the President of the United States and delivers it to General Garcia of Cuba. That was the mission. Travel, lodging, food, location, ALL THE DETAILS had to be figured out by young LT Rowan. He has become the epitome of 'taking the initiative' in the military and business.
BIGGEST Mistake Recruits Make: “Not Researching MEPS Requirements, Training Options, ASVAB Scores Needed, Physical Demands, etc.…."
"The administrative process to join the military can be a long one full of medical waivers, ASVAB test taking, medical exams, and supplying the documentation to be able to join. "
This last one is the easiest to avoid but the most common that people manage to screw up (sometimes no fault of their own). But most can be avoidable with some practice tests and organizational skills. More Mistakes to Avoid Seen Here
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Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, Podcaster: I'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession. See More at StewSmithFitness.com
Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs
When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model. I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.
These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)
Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
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These programs will walk you through 4 cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs.
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Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness store if you're looking to start a workout program to get you TO and THROUGH any tactical fitness training program OR create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.