When Going Through Hell, Stop and Smile

There’s a 6-hour Discovery Channel documentary back from 2000 following a class of 80 Navy SEAL candidates through BUD/S training. All the parts are on YouTube, here’s one of the parts that looks at “Hell Week”:

I’ve watched it before I started jiu jitsu, but I’m rewatching it now with a whole new perspective. Here are some lessons I draw from it:


Certain challenges are made easier with a tight-nit team. Most of these challenges are of mental nature. It seems that surviving extreme cold, sleep deprivation, or physical exhaustion is somehow made easier in a group of brothers. This mental aspect of team members carrying and supporting each other applies to jiu jitsu. Though ultimately you are alone out there on the mat against your opponent, the process of the grind is made easier with a strong support group.

The Reason for Quitting

This may be obvious to people that have gone through a difficult challenge for which they volunteered, but ultimately if you quit it’s because you ask yourself the question: “Why am I doing this?” It’s an interesting question, because it doesn’t have a good answer when you’re suffering. Any challenge we take on voluntarily can seem stupid and pointless when looked at “rationally”. And when your body is going through hell, that stupid kid inside that just wanted to overcome a difficult challenge is suddenly silenced, and the rational old man starts chiming in. So in a way, one of the things you have to be ready for when facing a difficult task is to silence that “rational quitter”. Basically, you have to be rational on a full stomach, and when you start getting hungry, follow the plan and don’t think too much. The rational brain can in fact get in the way of success.

Smile when the pain comes

One of the most impressive people in this class was Travis Lively. No matter how tough things got he looked like he was almost laughing at how easy it all was, like he was chilling at a backyard barbecue with his drinking buddies. It didn’t look like he was in the best shape physically, even had a little fat on him. But he was having fun, and even at the worst of times was able to summon a smile or a lighthearted comment. There’s something to that. Over and over I see the baddest dudes out there are the ones that are having fun in the heat of battle. That’s the ultimate goal. Do whatever it takes to put yourself in the mindset that’s laughing at misery your body is going through.

Overall, the guys that pass this training are straight-up badasses. There is no way around it. They’re not flashy. They’re not dramatic. They just get the job done, with respect, and without any excuses.

0 thoughts on “When Going Through Hell, Stop and Smile

  1. Josh Vogel

    Good post, about a year ago I was consumed with reading about “hell week” and the marines. I was amazed that they were able, some of them, to volunteer and follow through with such….hell. I wondered if there was any chance that I would make it through something like that and I quickly came to the conclusion that besides the fact that I ask myself “why am I even doing this” even about things that I enjoy, I would lose my shit the second that I started missing sleep. I would suffer from “Marine bitch assness” without a doubt.

    However, having survived many many hours of watching “Real Housewives of everywhere” on the days my wife controls the remote, I feel I’ve developed some mental toughness…maybe it would take me a while to ring that bell, lol

    1. Lex Post author

      That’s what I also wonder about whether I can survive Real Housewives when someone else has the remote, or put in a broader way, survive when the only alternative is death.

      Basically, I’m thinking about those movies where a plane crashes and you have to go walk through the cold or desert with a slim hope of being found or making it to a source of food/water. Many people quit even then, even when quitting means death. I wonder if my “rational” brain will start asking “What’s the point” even in that situation.


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