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Two Danger Signs That Affect Special Ops Candidate Success

Stew Smith

What are two DANGER signs that affect special ops candidate's success?

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Nearly 80% of candidates get this wrong!

Some Special Ops instructors claim they can tell who will make it or not in the first week.  How do they know this? Experience and observation skills:  Both personal experience as a student as well as experience as an instructor.  They also a keen understanding of what it means to be physically capable and that can be observed quickly after a long day of spec ops testing and evaluation.  However, watching how students get along with their classmates is also a sign.  Are they good team players? Are they stressed out or having fun and laughing when the day is done?

Not surprisingly, the two biggest danger signs
that lead to failure are: 
Over-Confidence and Under-Confidence. 

Where are you on the confidence spectrum?

Having a healthy dose of confidence is critical and is 100% a product of your preparation, attitude, and your WHY and WILL. Being mature and humble enough to admit weaknesses along your journey and the ability and time investment to properly address them is a start to this healthy confidence that you need to succeed.  Assess Yourself With This Tool To Get To and Through Selection. 

Over-Confidence - Call it arrogance, cocky, self-assured, often it is anything but self-confidence. They are quite often insecure and tend to cover up these insecurities by bragging, putting others down, and actually do not make good team mates - especially when things get tough and uncomfortable. At the first sign of negative feedback from instructors, they like the under-confident tend to be the first to break. Often these are very capable human performers and probably have never really failed anything in their lives. Failing something or not being the best at something can be the straw to break the camel's back for the over-confident individual as training starts to become more difficult.  Usually the only way to deal with over-confidence is pain and failure and that dose of reality will either make you better or break you completely. 

NOTE:  We all have had some form of this during our journey. Think of the time when you were a freshman in high school / college and the change you had by the time you were a senior (a bit on the over-confident side?). Or from the pre-hellweek student to the 3rd phase student at BUDS - we all pushed the confidence / over-confidence border a bit, but soon realized at SQT, then at the SEAL Teams, you were just another new guy again and it all starts over for you and it is time to be humble, stay in receive mode, and learn your job from the veterans you now serve with.  Stay humble - always be the new guy wanting to learn something every day and teach what you know to those coming after you. 

Confidence is a great thing. It allows us to get past our doubts and take action. So why is slightly too much of it so bad? Weakness of Over-Confidence (article from

Under-Confidence - Call it unsure, anxious, or undecided, under-confidence is crushing to any goal.  If you add maturity and time to under-confidence, you can assess yourself honestly and realize you have things to work on during your journey toward your future aspirations.  But under-confidence is purely a product of your mindset, preparation, and to be honest your lack of life experiences (aka immaturity). Under-confidence makes you constantly challenge your WHY to the point of lack of self-worth to be part of the group you strive to become.

My Personal Experience with the Confidence Spectrum 

The good news is that under-confidence can be built into confidence by persistently working on your weaknesses and turning them into new strengths.  This takes a strong WHY you want to do  (blank) and a time investment that is consistent in order to achieve the results you seek. 

One of my favorite stories is the young man who could not swim.  After some coaching, lots of practice, he got across a swimming pool (25m) once for the first time. Was swimming a weakness? Yes?  Water confidence a weakness - yes! But you know what? Two years later that guy became a Navy SEAL. True Story because I was his coach! 

My over-confident story is my own:  I showed up to Naval Academy at 18 years old "ready to crush it".  My over-confidence led to a year of pain and misery until I figured out how to get THROUGH the place and it required me to up my game to a level that I had never even considered just in order to graduate. To get a BUDS billet after graduation was also three years of pain and failure. Being last on runs with other candidates and not meeting the standard of officer candidates from the Naval Academy - until one day I did. Let's just say I was never over-confident again, but found a healthy dose of confidence by hard work, dedication to a goal, and being surrounded by good teammates - and working hard to be a good teammate to them. 

That is how you avoid the two ends of the spectrum that lead to failure. 

 Which Program is Right For Me?
It Depends...
- Special Ops Candidates


Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT

Navy SEAL Weight Training Book
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book

The Pipeline of Training Options: 


It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  

Navy SEAL Weight Training - This is part two (winter lifting phase) of my SEAL Prep program. If you have done the Navy SEAL Fitness (12 weeks to BUDS) program a few times and need a break, this is the next program that integrates lifting with the Navy SEAL Prep training. This is ideal for people who have come from an endurance athlete background.  Athletes like swimmers and runners will also require some strength training as you will be exposed to challenges under logs and boats during the first phase and many miles of rucking 50+ lbs of backpacks and gear in 2nd and 3rd phases of BUDS.  

Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

Phase 2 and 3 of the Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver program is about the same level of intensity as Navy SEAL Fitness and is also a good follow-up plan after Phase 1

Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

Other EBOOKS (Military, Police, Fire Fighter, Special Ops, General Fitness– Most of my programs tend to focus on getting TO and THROUGH a specific tactical training program.  So you may see a mix of all the seasons in some of these books, but if you are training long term, you can take advantage of Seasonal Periodization and save yourself some of the over-use, long term pains that tend to follow many of the tactical preparations - especially on the spec ops level of training. 

Start training today with workouts that focus on the specifics of getting to and through tactical profession training from firefighter, police, swat, military to special ops. We have programs to help you get TO and THROUGH training. We also have training programs to help you with training as you age in these professions (Tactical Fitness 40+ series).


Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

The Warrior Workout Series - If you are solid with making your own workouts, but need some ideas.  This three part series has 300 workouts (100 / book) to pick from focusing on all the elements of fitness and training programs. Each book is organized with periodization cycles in mind along with calisthenics only, weights / calisthenics mix, cardio options and more. Warrior Workout 1   -  Warrior Workout 2  -   Warrior Workout 3. 

Personalized Training Programs
There are many more options as well as 
personalized training programs member's only program and the new :


Try Our Stew Smith Fitness Members Only Club - #1 Best Selling Tactical Fitness Programs

Questions?  Just email me at

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