by Y Combinator7/20/2018
We met up to talk about a new initiative they’ve set up called Overwatch. Overwatch is a talent acquisition firm that matches employers with veterans from special operations forces and combat aviation. You can learn more about Overwatch at EFOverwatch.com.
They’re also hosting an event called the Muster in San Francisco on October 17th and 18th. You can sign up at ExtremeOwnership.com.
If you’d like to hear more from Mike and Jocko, check out Jocko Podcast Episode 134.
00:17 – Intros
4:20 – Mike and Jocko on how they transitioned out
8:50 – How the military prepares people for the private sector
13:00 – What is Overwatch?
22:45 – Preconceptions about veterans
27:37 – Advice for companies looking to hire veterans
33:11 – Mike and Jocko’s working relationship
44:33 – How to set up your team so everyone can contribute
54:15 – What Mike and Jocko are trying to improve about themselves
57:58 – Alex Badalyan asks – What are some military tactics startups could adopt to increase team effectiveness and throughput?
1:00:00 – Allen asks – From your experience as a SEAL and in the business world, do two or more co-founders/leaders have a higher success rate? What are your thoughts on a solo leader/founder with a strong team and culture?
1:06:09 – Armando Neves asks – I liked Jocko’s episode on strategy and the way of the Samurai (The Book of Five Rings), how much of the warrior mindset is he implementing on a day to day basis?
1:10:30 – Ryan Carl Mercer asks – Favorite MRE and thank you for your service sir.
1:14:12 – Spencer Clark asks – Is culture more decided by micro or macro policies & interactions?
Craig Cannon [00:00:00] – Hey, how’s it going? This is Craig Cannon, and you’re listening to Y Combinator’s Podcast. Applications for the Winter 2019 YC Batch are now open. You can learn more at ycombinator.com/apply. Today’s episode is with Jocko Willink and Mike Sarraille. Jocko and Mike served together as Navy SEALS and now work together at Echelon Front, a company Jocko co-founded. We met up to talk about a new initiative they’ve set up called Overwatch. Overwatch is a talent acquisition firm that matches employers with veterans from Special Operation Forces and Combat Aviation. You can learn more about Overwatch at efoverwatch.com. They’re also hosting an event in San Francisco called The Muster on October 17th and 18th. You can sign up at extremeownership.com. All right, here we go. All right guys, well thanks for hosting me. Excited to do the podcast at the Jocko podcast studio. For those of our listeners that don’t know about you guys, I think we should start with some quick intros and then start talking about the new program you’re working on. Jocko, why don’t you start off?
Jocko Willink [00:01:04] – Cool, I was in the military for 20 years and then I retired. When I retired I started working with civilians primarily and teaching them about leadership that I had learned while I was in the military.
Craig Cannon [00:01:16] – And that culminated in a book and now another.
Jocko Willink [00:01:19] – That ended up kind of morphing into a book called Extreme Ownership. That book came out and that book’s done pretty well. That kind of morphed into a podcast, so I have a podcast called Jocko Podcast where I really talk about human nature through the lens of leadership and war and general atrocities and struggle that human beings go through. It’s a little bit of a rough podcast to listen to from time to time, but there’s a lot of lessons in it.
Craig Cannon [00:01:53] – It really contrasts from the average podcast in the sense that it’s sort of like you reading a book every single week, or every other week, and just going through, giving notes. Giving notes based on your experience.
Jocko Willink [00:02:06] – It’s interesting too because I get most of the books that I try and use are first person accounts of these situations. Whether it’s war, whether it’s some kind of atrocity, it’s a first person account. It’s someone that was actually there. It’s not an interpretation. It’s not what someone else thought that person thought. It’s what that person thought. That has the ability to take you into the minds of and see some of that stuff through a better perspective. The more different perspectives you can get other than your own, the better you’re going to understand things.
Craig Cannon [00:02:37] – I’ve been blown away by the legs the podcast has. When you started off I was, like, “I don’t know if he’s going to be able to find 50 books,” and now–
Jocko Willink [00:02:45] – Well, I thought that too. Because when I started, there was a few books, you know, About Face by Hackworth, there was three or four books that I knew I could cover that really had a big impact on me. Then I reached a little bit and I said, “Well, you know, I can do this one too.” When I started reading with the thought that, what can I learn from this, not just, what do I understand about it, but what can I actually learn from this, then I started pulling out all these old books that I had read with the old breed. Just books that are incredible books. And as I pulled those out, and now I realize the actual problem isn’t that there aren’t enough books. The actual problem is that there’s no possible way I can cover all the books that exist that we can learn from and that I can learn from. The problem ended up not being the problem I thought it initially was. There was a lot of incredible books out there.
Craig Cannon [00:03:34] – Well you’re doing a great job.
Jocko Willink [00:03:36] – Thank you.
Craig Cannon [00:03:36] – Mike, what’s your story?
Mike Sarraille [00:03:39] – Much along the same lines. First off, thanks for having me on. Y Combinator’s dear to my heart because I was born and raised in Silicon Valley. Much like Jocko, I did something uncharacteristic to a kid coming out of Atherton, California. I enlisted in the Marine Corp and then eventually became a SEAL and finished up and retired after 20 years. I was one of Jocko’s guys in the book, Extreme Ownership. It’s all about the Battle of Ramadi. I was one of those guys that worked for Jocko and hence how we’ve known each other for so long. I did not write a book, because I believe in Extreme Ownership. You can’t replicate what is already working. But really, I finished my MBA at the University of Texas right before I retired and I just got into facilitating successful veteran transitions. When I say successful, a lot of the time that is not setting the expectation on the corporate side. That is actually setting the expectation side. Or setting the expectations on the veterans’ side and getting their heads right. It’s not a easy thing to hear after 20 years in the military that you are a new guy again, but you are. You may have some great leadership tenets and foundational aspects of leadership, but when you step into a different industry, you step into a different industry and it takes time. You got to roll your sleeves up, you’ve got to get to work, and you’ve got to prove your worth. Sometimes that’s a lot tougher for veterans than the general public may know.
Craig Cannon [00:05:09] – That’s really at the core of what we were going to talk about today. And so, how did that process go for both of you? I mean, Mike, you got VETTED going while you were still active, right?
Mike Sarraille [00:05:18] – I did. I still don’t know if that was the right decision. When you’re not coming from a totally stable financial position and you’re still active duty, starting a company, even though this was a social venture, may have been, the timing might not have been right. But in retrospect it is a organization that’s going to do a lot of good for veterans. I focused my MBA, and let me say this. When I stepped into the MBA program, I thought I was going and doing investment banking. And I realized really quickly that that did not play to my strengths, and that I like to create things in front of me and I like to see the value proposition as I stand it up. And quickly transitioned to focusing, because there was a lot of teammates calling me, that were like, “Mike, dude, we know you have connections in Silicon Valley. Can you help me get a job?” And I’m, like, “Dude, what is going on here?” I’m, like, these are, Jocko knows a lot of these guys, are like amazing, amazing leaders. What is the major disconnect? And that’s when I got Admiral McRaven and involved and we discussed the systemic challenges facing veterans and really started the foundation of what VETTED came from, which was a research project into those challenges facing veterans. And then the so what, how do we solve it? And that’s when we got Wharton, UT McCombs, and Texas A&M Mays Business School involved, and hence we created what Huffington Post has called the most comprehensive veteran transition program in the nation.
Craig Cannon [00:06:47] – And now you guys are starting it here, to some extent.
Mike Sarraille [00:06:50] – Yes, we basically, we did the social side, and Jocko and Leif have been involved in VETTED. Now it’s all those lessons learned from standing that up, and we’re capitalizing it. We live in a capitalistic society. We can do a lot more good on the for-profit side than we can on the non-profit side. We didn’t want to let those valuable lessons from standing this thing up just go to waste when we knew we could actually shake a lot more cages and rattle things loose in the for-profit realm.
Craig Cannon [00:07:20] – Because your story, Jocko, when you transitioned out, is that when Echelon Front began, or did you think about finding a job somewhere?
Jocko Willink [00:07:28] – No, so about six months before I retired, and my last job in the Navy was running the training for the West Coast SEAL teams, and really what I was doing was simulating combat and then putting leaders through leadership training. That’s what it was. About six months prior to retiring, a guy that I knew asked me to come and talk to his executive team about combat leadership. And I thought, “Okay, cool, I’ll go do that.” And he said, “I’ll give you some money,” and I said, “Well, that makes it even a little bit cooler.” I went up and I talked. I don’t know what he expected me to talk about, but I basically gave the same brief that I would give the young junior officers when they were entering the SEAL teams. When they had graduated the basic SEAL training, I would give them a brief. I basically gave that same leadership brief to these executives. When I got done, the CEO came up to me and said, “Hey, I want you to do this for every division in my company.” I said, “Well, you know, I’m retiring in six months and I’m not really looking to do anything like that.” He says, “I’ll give you money.” I said, “Well okay, let’s talk about that then.” Then he ended up paying me. And at one of those divisional meetings, the CEO of the parent company was there. When I got done, the CEO of the parent company came up to me and he said, “Hey, I want you to do this for all my CEOs. I want you to come talk to all my CEOs,” and they owned 45 or 50 companies at the time. I did an event with 45 to 50 CEOs and got done with that.
Jocko Willink [00:08:48] – And a bunch of those CEOs came up and said to me, “Hey, can you come and talk to my company?” That was where it started. It didn’t take very long for me to be stacked up with work. At the same time, Leif, who wrote the book with me and who was also in Ramadi, you know, my dear friend and brother, he was still in the Navy and he had met with a company that had come to do like a tour of the SEAL team, and they kind of were interested as well and he kind of talked about leadership with them. And as soon as he was getting ready to get out, he got out at 13 years, I think, I said, “Hey man, I need some fire support over here.” So that’s where it started. And then, like you said, as we would go out and work with these companies they’d say, “Hey do you guys have this stuff written down anywhere? Do you have a document you can give us or a manual you can give us?” Eventually, we wrote this stuff down more specifically and that’s what turned into the book.
Craig Cannon [00:09:41] – Okay, so I think we should explain basically how the transitioning process works from the SEALs or the Navy or more broadly. I didn’t fully understand the amount of training or the lack of amount of training that you got. Most of our listeners don’t know either. Can you walk through what… You announce you’re retiring. What happens?
Jocko Willink [00:10:05] – I don’t think I’m really a great example. Mike would be better because I told my chain of command that I was retiring and I had great relationships up my chain of command and it was a very hard decision to make. But I told them I was retiring and then I finished out my work, and then I went to the civilian sector. I didn’t even go to the, there’s a class called TAP, I didn’t even go to that. I went to zero. I didn’t do anything. I wouldn’t recommend that. I know there’s a lot of good information. By the time I was retiring I was pretty much just good to go and on another path, moving down this road, and didn’t need to do anything else. What I needed to do was go forward and continue to work with civilian leaders and expand working with more companies. That’s what I did. I’m not a great example of how to set yourself up for retirement or how the Navy transitions you for retirement.
Mike Sarraille [00:11:01] – I could actually provide some context for that. For your average, when mean average, it’s not average.. Just your general soldier, airman, sailor, marine, when you make the decision to get out, the military starts you on a process. Unfortunately you’re pretty much focused on your work almost up to the day you get out. That’s just how the military is raised. Because you want to do such a good job and you want to pass off a good product to whoever’s coming behind you to ensure their success, that’s what vets do. You focus very little on your actual transition and all of a sudden you get a exiting document from the military, and you’re, like, “What do I do now?” The military does a really good job of training people on the front end. For the SEAL community, we’ll use that as an example. You go through basically two years of training before you even show up to a SEAL team. You know very specifically how to do your job. You know the science of it. You course over the, the course of your SEAL career, you hone the art. The military doesn’t do a great job of transitioning people out and preparing them for success. What they did was outsource the process to the Department of Labor, hence this transition assistance program called TAPS. It’s a one-week course. Even though TAPS are run by awesome, awesome Americans, this is the way I put it. We have people in the Department of Labor running those programs that have very little private sector time themselves. They’re federal government employees. Federal government employees should not be preparing
Mike Sarraille [00:12:36] – veterans for jobs in the private sector. That’s why we stood up VETTED. TAPS is a basically cursory program that covers all your VA benefits, here are some sources for how to do resume, this is how you should interview, but it’s very quick. The Department of Labor does very well with the problems that they were handed. It just, as a whole, we’re underserving our veterans in preparing them for successful transitions. That’s why we need to rely more on the private sector to get involved and actually solve it for the government. At the end of the day, the military needs to focus on what’s important, and that is winning wars. If we want the military to get good at transitioning veterans out, that draws resources from elsewhere, which means we’re sending less prepared soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors, overseas to face the threats they have to face. Again, people think, “Well, the military should do a better job of this.” It’s not all on the military.
Jocko Willink [00:13:32] – Yeah, I know. The military has their job, the real job, which is to defend this country, and to take folks away from that it’s not the right thing to do.
Craig Cannon [00:13:43] – You’re stepping in and trying to solve this mismatch of education between the private market and the military. What does the current program look like for you guys?
Mike Sarraille [00:13:53] – The name of the company that we unveiled on July 4th is Echelon Front Overwatch. We call it Overwatch for short. Again, it’s very niche, it’s a white-glove premium service. We focus specifically on the special operations forces. That is your Green Berets, your Navy SEALs, your MARSOC Raiders, Air Force PJs, Pararescue command and CCT, and then combat aviators. We had to start with a small group, nail that market, and then maybe we can expand down the road to all veterans, because we’re not saying that soft and combat aviators are, the only ones that are going to be successful in the private sector. There’s a lot of cases that actually defy that. We focus on those groups, we do a lot of preparation on the front side, preparing our candidates, one, the vetting process. Jocko and I are going to tell you our industry and the military’s is much like any industry. You have high performers, those middle of the road performers, and then the substandard performers. Echelon Front Overwatch will not place anyone that is substandard in any company, because we, at the end of the day, are concerned about our credibility in the private sector. We put a lot of diligence into preparing and vetting the candidates that we present to our clients. Now, we are industry agnostic. It could be investment banking, it could be tech, it could be healthcare. Ultimately vets know or think they know what they want to do when they get out. That’s why we’ll place them in any industry. But we do have a throughout process to vet them and prepare them. We do put a lot of the work on veterans.
Mike Sarraille [00:15:24] – Our golden rule on the website is, no one will own your transition for you, not even us. We shouldn’t. You have to own this. We are not going to completely do your resume for you. We’ll revise it, but if you’re not willing to roll your sleeves up, and especially, here’s the key, not willing to be humble and not willing to work hard, then this is not for you. Every candidate we produce is going to be a, one, established leader in the military, he’s humble, is ready to work, they’re ready to listen to somebody in that industry and learn the tools of the trade, and then apply the leadership they learned in the military to succeed.
Craig Cannon [00:16:01] – And are you applying any particular educational regimen for them?
Mike Sarraille [00:16:05] – We are. Actually I’m pretty proud of the career resources page on the Echelon Front Overwatch. If you go to EFOverwatch.com, under the career resources tab, we’ve laid out a six-step process for veterans to follow. It starts with Know Thyself. A lot of personal assessments. We always talk about Echelon Front’s brutal self-assessments to know your strengths, know your weaknesses, specifically to play to your strengths and know how to augment your weaknesses. Then it goes from there, of reeducating yourself. One, doing a lot of career and industry research to identify if a certain industry or company is a right fit, that’s on them. Then education and retraining. There’s a lot of great programs out there. VETTED, the Veteran Accelerated Management Program, Stanford Ignite, right in your backyard, Dartmouth Next Step, Bethany Coates with BreakLine. I mean, there’s a lot of great programs. Don’t go through one of them, go through as many as you can. The one thing about vets is, we do lack a business acumen. We come from a different industry where we have a completely different set of tools. And for, you know, if I took a CEO from a tech company, Silicon Valley, they would be blown away watching us go through the military decision making process and how diligent it is. For vets, they have to learn the hard skills in the new industry they’re stepping into. That’s one of the things when working with clients and we place a candidate into that company, is we will lay out all the steps they need to retrain themselves to learn those tools.
Mike Sarraille [00:17:37] – If they’re stepping into digital marketing, we’re going to lay out a number of digital marketing courses that they can take when they step into the job so it’s on the job training. And again, that Overwatch phase of maintaining contact with candidate and client. The one thing, Simply Learn in your backyard, in August, we are unveiling the corporate skills apprenticeship program for veterans. It’s Simply Learn and Echelon Front Overwatch are spearheading this. It’ll include digital marketing, digital selling, PMP, Lean Six Sigma, so process improvement, agile, and then also business analyst certifications. It is tough. It is long. But we got a great discount for veterans. If someone goes through the program, there is no doubt that their starting salary with all those certifications will go up. It’s just, hey, here’s the thing. You have to be willing to sit down and do the work and get through that corporate skills apprenticeship program. But it’s worthwhile. We’re happy about that.
Craig Cannon [00:18:40] – I can imagine it’s tough. Guys are coming out at what? 40? When did you guys get out?
Jocko Willink [00:18:46] – Yeah, I was 38.
Craig Cannon [00:18:48] – 38.
Mike Sarraille [00:18:49] – You were 38? No kidding. I was–
Jocko Willink [00:18:52] – Well, I enlisted when I was 18.
Craig Cannon [00:18:54] – 18? Yeah.
Jocko Willink [00:18:55] – I was 19 when I enlisted. I got out at– Actually no, I was 39. I just turned 39. Because I did a little bit over 20 years.
Mike Sarraille [00:19:06] – I got out at 40. Enlisted when I was 19. But I mean, we have veterans getting out at all stages, guys in their young 20s that just do four to six years, and then guys that do more than us, getting out in their 50s. And guess what, they want to get after it in the private sector.
Craig Cannon [00:19:22] – Oh yeah, I’m sure. I mean, they have a whole life ahead of them.
Jocko Willink [00:19:24] – Yeah, and the thing is, as Mike was talking about, like, sure, there’s skills that you have to learn for these specific industries. And quite honestly, that’s the easy part. If you blow it off, it’ll crush you. But if you are attentive to it, you address it, you’ll get those skills. But the hard part that people need and what makes this program great is that you got people that have experience in leadership and experience leading other human beings to accomplish very challenging missions over short periods of time and over long periods of time, and that is what is challenging. And it’s much harder to train someone to be a leader than it is to train someone about some technical aspect of a job, or even the background of a job. It takes much more time. It takes years, it takes dozens of years. And that’s what we’ve got in this situation. We’ve got people that have not only learned those leadership skills and they’ve applied those leadership skills over and over again in high-stress environments. There’s no better way we could prepare people for leadership in the civilian sector than have them serve in the military and be in leadership positions. And then you take ’em out, you polish ’em up with the industry knowledge, which again, hey, I’m not taking anything away from the industry knowledge. It’s important and it’s hard to learn. But the level that a leader needs to learn isn’t the same level that the group troop needs to know it. They acquire the skillset and then they apply what they’ve got from the military
Jocko Willink [00:20:52] – and what they’ve got from their leadership experience, and you got a winner right there.
Craig Cannon [00:20:55] – Well, it’s as Mike said before. It’s just practiced experience as compared to an MBA. Two months into your MBA, you’re looking for your internship, which hopefully is your next job. I agree with you guys.
Mike Sarraille [00:21:09] – The thing about leadership and the executive development industry is the year over your growth is amazing, because companies realize they have to train their internal talent, they have to build talent from within. At the end of the day, the US military, and we talked about this before, is the preeminent leadership training platform in the world because we have the resources and the time to do it. If you step into the military, whether you’re enlisted or an officer, you’re going through an initial three months, 24/7, restructuring program and training program to get you ready for the rigors of the military and want to lead. Officer candidate school and boot camps, there’s a methodology to the design. We talked about this yesterday. The Marine Corps is probably the best at putting people through Marine bootcamp and turning young girls and boys into men and women. It’s amazing. That process has just not been replicated by anyone.
Jocko Willink [00:22:10] – The whole thing with leadership is that it takes time. It takes time to develop those skills. The other thing is, it’s hard. It’s hard to do. You’ve got all these crazy people that work for you. Regardless of what situation you’re in. That’s one thing, one of the myths about the military is, “Oh, everyone in the military is just, they’re like robots and they’ll just listen to what everyone says.” Well, the fact of the matter is, that’s not true. Even inside the SEAL teams, everyone thinks, “Oh, these guys are just so motivated and they’ll do whatever you say.” That’s completely untrue. The guys in the SEAL teams, you’ve got all kinds of, just like any other group of people, you got egos, you got personalities, you got different motivations that are driving people, you got people that get wrapped around their own plan that they come up with and they don’t want to listen to anyone else. It’s, you have to work through all those problems. People that have experience doing that over time, you can’t buy that experience. You can’t go to school for that experience. Even the fact that the military takes people and puts you through leadership training, that right there alone isn’t enough. What really makes the people in the military become good leaders is that they lead. They lead. They succeed sometimes and they fail sometimes. If they go through your career, they learn from those failures and they become better and they don’t make those mistakes again. By the time they’re getting ready to move on, they know what they’re doing.
Craig Cannon [00:23:35] – I think many people, actually, given the success of your podcast, think that when someone comes out of SEALs, like, “Oh, it’s a Jocko,” or, “Oh, it’s a Mike,” like, “Oh, we just get one of those guys.” That’s not always the case. And I think because, so as a percentage of the population, so few people know any of these elite members of the service, there are these preconceptions that people get in their head. Now is a good time to just, like, dispel those and honestly explain what people are expecting. When you guys are talking to an employer, what are you coaching them with? How are you instructing them to,”This is what’s reality and this is what you may think?” What comes up?
Jocko Willink [00:24:14] – Well, you got individuals, first of all. Just like any group of people, it’s a bell curve, right? Just like Mike just talked about, you got people behind the bell curve, you got people at the low end of the bell curve, got got a bunch of people in the middle of the bell curve. And our job before we place someone is to make sure that they’re behind the bell curve, because you’re 100% right. We’ll talk about SEALs, for example. As far as someone that’s in the civilian sector, a SEAL is a SEAL is a SEAL is a SEAL. If you were in the SEAL teams, you’re good to go. You’re just a perfect leader and you got a great way to deal with stress and you can overcome all these problems. That’s actually not true. There’s a lot of great guys in the SEAL teams and there’s some spectacular individuals in the SEAL teams. There’s also guys, there’s a bunch of people in the middle that do their job and they do a great job, and then there’s people on the low end of the spectrum that they don’t do a good job. They manage to stay in. This is true with the Marine Corps, it’s true with the Army, it’s true with Special Forces, it’s true with everyone. Every group has their bottom feeders in there. What we do is make sure that none of those bottom feeders get placed by us because it’s very hard for a civilian to tell the difference between… I always ask employers this, “Have you ever interviewed somebody and you thought, ‘I’m about to hire the biggest stud who’s going to crush this and I’m set for life because I’ve got this guy come on my team,
Jocko Willink [00:25:38] – or I’ve got this girl coming on my team?’ And then how often does that person turn out to be horrible?” You know, okay, let’s say you’re pretty good. Even if you’re pretty good at judging those situations, you’re still probably only batting like 70 or 80% at best. 20% of the time, you’re hiring someone that is a disaster. People learn to interview well. Some people can interview very well. Some people are great workers, but they interview horribly. And you can’t tell from looking at their resume, when you’re sitting, talking to you, “I don’t see this guy or girl working out.” It’s the same thing with the SEAL teams. It’s the same thing with any group, any group. It’s not just the SEAL teams, any group. What we’re doing is taking a look at these people, we’re vetting them, we’re making sure that we’re screening them properly and know and understand their reputation through our connections, and then train them and test them and make sure that they are on board and think the way we think and are going to be a good fit for where we’re placing them.
Mike Sarraille [00:26:35] – Jocko pretty much summarized that pretty well. We do get a lot of preconceived notions. Naturally people’s perceptions of the military come out of the books and the movies, primarily movies. A lot of people will think we just run around the bases, singing cadences 24/7.
Craig Cannon [00:26:55] – Use terry logs all day?
Mike Sarraille [00:26:56] – Yeah, not the case. These guys are personally authentic. They’re usually of high emotional intelligence, they’re highly capable. They have the character, the aptitude. If they don’t even within our respective communities, again we’re using the SEAL community, we tend to minimize those bottom feeders, as Jocko referred to them. If they are bipolar and just have low emotional intelligence, we’re, like, “Okay, yes. We’re going to shift you over to this job here because you can do this job well and it’s not on the front line and it won’t have any major consequences.” That happens within our community as well. We know, and here’s the great thing about the Special Operations community and the combat aviators, is, we can reach back to our respective colleagues that are still in the community and say, “Hey, John Doe, thumbs up, thumbs down?” “Oh yeah, absolutely thumbs up.” Or, “Hey, here thumbs down and here’s why,” and we can validate that pretty, pretty quickly. At the end of the day, I tell a lot of employers, we don’t even charge a retainer, like a lot of recruiting firms, we just want promised interviews. If a company comes to us, we’re not going to charge it for a retainer fee. Just give us three promised interviews and we want the dates and times. And we’ll put our candidates in front of you, and then they impress them. Like, “Oh wow, totally demystified what I thought about veterans.” “Yeah, we know. We know.” That changes a lot of perceptions. You just got to talk to ’em and you recognize, “Hey, these are people, too.”
Craig Cannon [00:28:28] – For those who aren’t fortunate enough to work with you guys, do you have some advice for companies interviewing veterans or looking to interview veterans?
Jocko Willink [00:28:37] – This is a question that comes up all the time. It comes up from every company I work with, and it came up in the SEAL teams, and you’ve probably heard me talk about this. It’s, like, “Guess what? It’s really hard to judge people. It’s really hard to judge people. IIt’s really hard to judge a book by the cover.” You watch people go into the basic SEAL training course, and you look at a group of 10 people and you’re not going to know who’s going to make it through and who’s not going to make it through. That’s the way it is. The only way to figure out who’s going to make it through is to put them through it. That’s the only way. What I recommend to companies all the time is, yes, you want to do a thorough interview, yes, you want to give them scenarios, yes, you want to put some pressure on them and figure out where they’re coming from. But what you really want to do is say, “Look, we’re going to bring you on as a contractor for 90 days and see what you’re like.” See what you’re like and see if you can really do what it is you say you can do and see if you’re going to lose your temper and see if you’re going to get crazy on some minute thing that doesn’t really matter and see if you’re going to work hard. Like, all those things are things that you need to explore when you’re dealing with a hiring situation.
Craig Cannon [00:29:44] – Yeah. So standard best practices? Treat them like anyone else.
Jocko Willink [00:29:48] – Standard best practices.
Craig Cannon [00:29:49] – Cool.
Jocko Willink [00:29:49] – Standard practices. I mean, the only thing I’d say is, when you do have a veteran and/or you’re looking to hire a veteran, again, going back to the technical skills that they may or may not have, that’s okay. Take a look at their technical skills and say, “You know what? Are they in the ballpark and can we give them a little bit of leniency because we know that they’ve got some experience and some leadership skills that we can bring to the table, and they’ve got some discipline, and they’ve got some people skills that they can bring to the table?” All those are good things.
Mike Sarraille [00:30:18] – One of the services, it’s worth mentioning that basically this test drive before you make a final offer, we actually will work with companies to set up a veteran fellowship for recently separated veterans. They get this great veteran for anywhere from six months to 12 years at a industry standard salary as a fellowship, working in there, and then they get to make that final determination at the end of the six months or 12 months, of, “Yes, this is a good candidate for this company. We want to make a final offer.” Then what it allows veterans do to as well, sort of the altruism side of the company is, you’re giving them great industry experience where they can come back to us and we can find another company that is a right culture fit. It really benefits both parties.
Craig Cannon [00:31:06] – Great. Let’s go a little bit broader. Jocko, you’ve been on a warpath, writing in the past couple years. I’m curious about the next book. Dichotomy of Leadership?
Jocko Willink [00:31:19] – Dichotomy of Leadership. This is another one I’m writing with, or, well, we actually wrote it. It’s with Leif once again. The title is Dichotomy of Leadership, which is actually chapter 12 in Extreme Ownership is called The Dichotomy of Leadership. The reason for that is, the reason that we ended up writing a whole book about it now is, as we work with companies over the past years and we’d look and see what problems were they having, where were the issues that they were having, and it was always trying to find this balance in the various dichotomies of leadership, of which there is an infinite number. For instance, as a leader, if you go too far in one direction you become a micromanager. Now your people lose any initiative and they stop taking charge of things and they stop moving forward without your permission. You’re micromanaging them too much and that’s bad. You go too far in the other direction, where now they don’t even know what your strategy is, you don’t communicate with them enough, they don’t know which direction they’re supposed to be heading in, they’re all kind of wandering around, that’s bad. What you have to do is, you have to balance those two. Is it possible for a leader to be too close to your people? Where all of a sudden you develop these close relationships where they stop listening to you because now you become more of a friend than a leader? That’s bad. Or you go too far in the other direction, where you don’t know who anyone is and you don’t know what’s going on with their family life and you can’t relate to them at all,
Jocko Willink [00:32:48] – well, then that’s bad as well. There’s all these dichotomies that you as a leader have to balance. It’s the hardest thing to do as a leader because the reason is because both answers are right. Is it right to be close to your people? Yeah, absolutely. You should be close to htem. But is it right to have enough distance that they still? Yes, that’s right, too. Every direction is the right answer. But what you have to do is balance them. That’s why we wrote this entire book about all, well, many of these dichotomies that exist. Then once you recognize that there are dichotomies, then you can start seeing them in everything. There’s the ones that we didn’t write in the book that we still, we mention in the book, we didn’t write whole chapters about them. But is it possible to be too direct in communicating with someone? Well, yes it is because you can be offensive to them. Is it possible to not be direct enough? Yes it is because now they don’t really understand what it is you want. These dichotomies exist everywhere as a leader. As we dealt with companies and we saw where the friction points were, it was always because they were getting off, they were losing the balance in various categories of leadership. That’s why we wrote the whole book about it.
Craig Cannon [00:34:01] – What are the dichotomies you guys deal with in managing each other and working together?
Jocko Willink [00:34:05] – In all of us working together?
Craig Cannon [00:34:06] – You two.
Jocko Willink [00:34:09] – Well, I would say that the biggest thing for me is, I’m pretty hands-off. I give intent on how things are supposed to go, so I lean towards being a little bit too hands-off. Mike leans towards being a little bit too aggressive. It’s fine, but occasionally I look up and I see where Mike is and I’m, like, “Hey Mike, come back, brother. Come back.” That’s the way it is. But, you know, I mean, we’ve been working together for a long time and known each other for a long time. And that’s the way in our whole company of Echelon Front. It’s all, that’s the way we operate. We know each other very well. It makes our lot easier, that we don’t have to build relationships. The relationships are already there. We already know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Whether it’s strengths and weaknesses or just, I know Mike’s going to be aggressive, I know if I put Mike in a room with, a shovel and a match, I’m going to come back two weeks later and he’s going to have dug through the ground and built a fire and we’re creating some business around whatever, right? That’s what’s going to happen. And that’s fine. I just need to be aware of that. Then he knows me, like, he knows me. I’ll be, like, “Yeah, go get some,” like, “Go.” And then occasionally he goes, “Oh, you know what? I should probably tell Jocko that I’m about to make this major move right now.” It’s the same thing, you know, throughout the whole crew.
Craig Cannon [00:35:37] – Mike, I’m curious about your answer, but I have another question for you. Because this is how it works with most startups. All right, you and Leif start Echelon Front, right? And then you hire one buddy. And then you hire two buddies. Before you know it you’re at 10 and you’ve maybe run out of buddies you want to hire. What happens if Echelon Front goes to 100 people? Or will you cap it before that happens?
Jocko Willink [00:35:58] – No, we won’t cap it. We’ll hire the right people. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll hire the right people. Most important, well, there’s a bunch of things that are equally important. Number one, we’ll hire the right people. Number two, when people come on board, before they come on board, we’ll make sure that they understand where we’re coming from. Once they’re on board, we’ll make it really, really clear how we roll, right? Okay, how we roll. How do they say that in the business world? They say, “our culture,” right? They say, “This is our culture,” like, that’s how you would say it. I’d say, like, “This is how we roll. This is who we are.” This is what we do. When people get onboard and they recognize that this, like, this is not a game. This is actually what we do and this is how we roll. Then people will either get on board with the program or they won’t. People that don’t get on board with the program, that’s okay. I don’t dislike people that don’t get on board with the program, but I’m not going to work with them. I’m not going to work with them. There’s plenty of people out there that want to work hard and want to get after it. There’s plenty of people out there.
Jocko Willink [00:37:02] – There’s also plenty of people that don’t. And that’s okay. We’ll bring people onboard that want to get after it.
Craig Cannon [00:37:07] – Right. Well, there’s also different styles of getting after it.
Jocko Willink [00:37:10] – Okay, explain those to me.
Craig Cannon [00:37:13] – I often break it down into personality types, right? I’m generally maybe skewing towards Mike’s direction in terms of really getting into something and then putting my head down and just doing it solo. I generally don’t require input from other people once I know it’s, like, “All right. This is what’s happening. I’m doing it.” I prefer to work alone on this project and I can get this shit done.
Jocko Willink [00:37:42] – Check, yeah, you’re right.
Craig Cannon [00:37:43] – Other people need to be affirmed the whole way. Those styles don’t necessarily align perfectly, if you build that whole team.
Jocko Willink [00:37:50] – Yeah, you’re going to end up with different types of people on every team, just like I said earlier. And you are right. I didn’t really understand what you were saying. But yeah, there’s people that move forward in different ways. And that’s one thing, like for instance, with span of control. You know there’s a number for span of control. In combat, it’s four or five people, in the business world it’s seven or eight people. Generally those are the numbers that get thrown around. However, if you’re in control, or if you’re running a team and everyone on the team is A players, guess what? You can control more of them, because you don’t have to give them as much direction. If you have a bunch of substandard players on your team, and guess what? They’re going to need more direction. Guess what, in your average team, some of them are. It’s a bell curve. There’s some people that you don’t have to give much attention to. You’re a guy that puts, “Craig, get this project done,” you’re going to get this project done, you put your head down and you’re going to get after it, and I know it’s taken care of. Bill over here, “Oh Bill, can you get this project done?” “Well, yeah, okay,” and I know that Bill’s going to need a little followup, nothing major, but I’m going to have to give him a little pat on the back, a little nudge to make sure he’s getting his job done. Yeah, absolutely, you have to modulate your leadership depending on the people you’re dealing with. Now, this doesn’t mean that you change your personality.
Jocko Willink [00:39:07] – This doesn’t mean you’re a different human being. It doesn’t mean you’re two-faced in any sense. But you have to modulate your interaction with different people depending on the type of person that you’re dealing with.
Craig Cannon [00:39:16] – In my experience, that’s been one of the hardest leadership problems. Like, not problems but challenges. Just getting used to dealing with different types of people and recognizing that, like, “I’m in a heads-down mode right now, but Jocko needs a lot of help right now.” Unfortunately I have to give him time.
Jocko Willink [00:39:32] – And again, that’s one of the best things about what we’re doing now, is bringing people that have dealt with all these situations and dealt with all these different types of people, and they have learned to recognize these things. Now we give them some technical skills, we get ’em out in the field, and they crush it.
Craig Cannon [00:39:46] – Man, I’m going to have to compete with these guys. All right. Mike, what are the dichotomies that you think you deal with with Jocko? Let me go back to it.
Mike Sarraille [00:39:56] – This is easy and Jocko alluded to it. We’ve built trust and credibility in Jocko’s eyes since 2006. What I view Echelon Front as is basically Task Unit Bruiser from the Battle of Ramadi, rebranded. When you just talked about who we are and how we roll, when Jocko and Leif came to me, they’re, like, “Come onboard,” it’s, like, okay. I already know who you are and how we roll. I mean, they threw me into the mix pretty quick. I did one event with Jocko, one event with Leif, and they’re, like, “Go forth now and perform.” And with Jocko, and, you know, Jocko was, again, the tasking commander to us all, a mentor to us all, it’s easy. And with Jocko it’s one thing to perform, do your job and do it well. I know you have the capability, do it, and utilize the principles of extreme ownership and the laws of combat and you will succeed. It doesn’t mean we will not, I mean, we will fail here and there. But the great thing about, like, Jocko and Task Unit Bruiser is, there was no zero defect mentality, as I like to call it. We are not perfect. We are flawed like every other human. We will fail. Then we will sit down, we’ll learn from it. Then we will never make that mistake again. One of the best, the best military unit I ever worked for, bar none, was Task Unit Bruiser. And I never saw a level of humility within the military like Task Unit Bruiser ever again. And that was really my military career. When I was eight years into the military at that point.
Jocko Willink [00:41:33] – Yeah, and that’s one thing I did want to bring up a little bit, was when we were talking earlier about screening people, and basically I was saying, like, “Hey, we’re going to screen people and make sure that they’re on board.” It makes me sound like I’m sitting here, saying, “We are the judge of everyone that’s in the military.” That’s absolutely not true. There’s so many people in the military that are far superior in every skillset that I have ever had, even at my absolute prime, there’s 1,000s and 1,000s and 1,000s of people that are far superior to me in every way. I’m stoked that I will have the opportunity to give those people out to companies where they will go and crush it. Because believe me, in the civilian sector, I meet leaders all the time in the civilian sector that are unbelievably awesome leaders. Guess what they want? They want more good people. They want more good people. For me to have this opportunity, really, not as a judge, and I apologize for coming off like, “Hey, I’m judging, or we’re judging, or we’re screening.” Like, no. Actually, we’re looking for people that are better than us. And I know them. I know them, I know people that are better than all of us. Those are the people we’re going to bring in and turn them loose with these companies, again, with companies in the civilian sector that are incredible companies with incredible leadership that want more good people. There’s companies in the civilian sector that maybe they have some leadership issues. This is something that I saw a lot when I was running training.
Jocko Willink [00:43:10] – You have a SEAL platoon or you have a SEAL task unit. When I first started running the training, I wanted the platoon commander and the platoon chief to be the leaders. I was, like, “These guys.” If they weren’t the leaders, I thought it was wrong. And it didn’t take me long to get to a point where, it’s hard to find good leaders. To have two good leaders in a SEAL platoon and to have them actually be the platoon commander and the platoon chief actually ended up being very, very rare. And I realized that it didn’t matter that much. It was optimal. But what I really wanted was a couple really solid leaders in the team. I didn’t care where they were in the team. They could be the lowest ranking guy, they could be in the middle somewhere. They needed to be good, solid leadership. And if you had one or two, if you had two, really, you need two good leaders. If you had two good leaders in a SEAL platoon, the SEAL platoon was going to do awesome. And it didn’t matter where they were. If they happened to be the platoon commander, great. If they happened to be the platoon chief, great. If they happened to be the leading petty officer, great. That was super. If it happened to be a E5 that had done two deployments to Afghanistan or Iraq and had a lot of experience and had stepped up and got after it and was a good leader, he would make things happen. He would do it in such a way where he wasn’t stepping on people’s toes, but he would still get the respect of the boys. It was awesome to see. And so when we go to companies now,
Jocko Willink [00:44:30] – like, people always say, “Well, the CEOs messed up,” or, “my leaders messed up.” It’s, like, that’s okay. You are going to work for people that aren’t necessarily the best leaders in the world, that’s fine. People ask me, “What do you do when you have a weak leader?” I’m, like, “I’m happy.” If my leader’s weak, I’m stoked. I’m going, “Hey, boss, I got this. Thanks for your support, we’re going to keep moving. We’re going to be over here, doing what we do. I’ll let you know if we need anything. We really appreciate it. Here’s the credit on the last things we did. Here, you take it, go make yourself look great. That’s what I’m here for.” And you build that relationship and you go get the mission done. That’s what you do. Again, I just want to make sure that we’re not sounding like, “Hey, we’re the supreme judges of the world,” because we’re absolutely not. We do happen to be lucky enough to have contacts in the military community and now contacts in the civilian community, and we just want to help those two great groups of people get together and kick ass.
Craig Cannon [00:45:23] – Man, I think it’s so great. How do you recommend that companies set up their structures such that the intern that just started, if they have a great idea, let’s ship it, it’s happening? Do you have advice on that?
Jocko Willink [00:45:35] – That’s called decentralized command. It’s called humility, right? So decentralized command, extreme ownership, this is the fundamental concept of, “Hey, we’re going to listen up and down the chain of command. We’re going to let our front line people…” who knows better? If Mike’s in the field with his platoon and I’m back in the forward operating base somewhere and he needs to make a decision, who knows to make the better decisions? Is it me or is it him? It’s him 99.9% of the time. There is that small percentage of the time where I happen to know because I’m in a further away position that there’s enemy moving in or that there’s a support element coming to them, and I can say, “Mike, don’t go west, hold what you got. There’s a support element coming your direction right now.” And he goes, “Oh, okay, thank you.” But most of the time, he’s in the field and he says, “Hey, this is what I see, this is what I’m going to do,” and I say, “Awesome, do it. “Let me know how we can support you.” Or, “Here’s some elements I’m going to move to support you.” That’s decentralized command. The biggest hindrance to decentralized command is ego, is me going, “You shut up, Mike, and do what I tell you to do. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re junior to me, you haven’t been as long as me. You haven’t been in as long as me. You need to listen to me.” It’s, like, no. Actually, I’m stoked when one of my subordinate leaders comes up with a great plan. That makes me eminently happy because now I can say, “Oh Mike, that’s a great plan. You know what?
Jocko Willink [00:47:01] – I couldn’t have come up with that plan. You run and execute it.” Now who has ownership of that plan? It’s all Mike. He’s going to run with that plan and he’s going to make it work, he’s going to overcome any obstacles. That’s what’s going to happen. Why? Because he created the plan, it’s his plan. As opposed to me dictating a plan to him and saying, “This is the way you will do it and you won’t deviate from what I’ve told you do to.” Well, then how’s, what’s he going to do when he gets out in the field and hits an obstacle? He’s going to go, “Oh, you know what? Jocko’s plan sucked and we’re not going to go that way.”
Mike Sarraille [00:47:29] – You know, you set up a culture like that, where even the new guy, where his or her opinion matters, then you set up a culture for success. I’ll tell you why in a minute. Refer back to the Task Unit Bruiser. They said upfront that, “Hey, even if you’re a new guy, you lead.” And if everyone’s leading, we win. And then you fast forward through the one year of training that we had leading up to the Battle of Ramadi, the new guys on their first deployment within Task Unit Bruiser were some of the high performing individuals within that task unit. The accolades that came out of it… Unfortunately, we lost some new guys. Michael Monsoor, who made the most selfless sacrifice, by jumping on a grenade to save three other SEALs, brand new guy. Ryan Job, laying down cover fire for his team to move, brand new guy. Marc Lee, killed during a firefight, again covering his brothers. And then I can say Johnny Kim because he’s in the public now, but Jonny Kim, now a NASA astronaut, was a brand new guy who was awarded the Silver Star during that deployment. Why? Because they set the culture upfront that, “Lead. Speak up and lead. We’re listening.”
Jocko Willink [00:48:49] – No doubt about it. If you think that me, okay, because I was in charge of Task Unit Bruiser, if you think that I can sit there in any combat situation and control like a puppet master the elements that are out on the battlefield, it’s literally impossible to do. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care how good you are. You don’t have the cognitive capacity to do that. It happens in businesses. Again, we see this all the time in businesses. As the businesses grow. You talked about going from 10 people to 100 people. Well, if you got a CEO that’s a good, solid leader and he likes to control things, with 10 people, he can pull it off.
Craig Cannon [00:49:30] – For sure.
Jocko Willink [00:49:30] – With 10 people, he can pull it off. He’s a workaholic, he’s working 22 hours a day, 20 hours a day, 18 hours a day, he’s on, he’s in every meeting, he can pull that off. When he gets to 100 people, you can’t pull that off anymore. It’s physically, humanly, cognitively impossible to do that. If he hasn’t, or she hasn’t, set up the culture strong enough that people understand how they’re supposed to operate, then they’re not going to operate properly. You know, that’s real commander’s intent. And it is, it’s culture. Commander’s intent is, or culture is almost like a broad commander’s intent that overlays the entire group of individuals that you work with. Everybody knows, “This is what we’re moving towards.”
Craig Cannon [00:50:23] – With this new book, are you referencing stories from Echelon Front? Because I’ve kind of been wondering if the podcast is now going to create a feedback loop. Maybe not this book, but maybe the next book is actually not even your stories, but it’s stories from Vietnam, World War II.
Jocko Willink [00:50:42] – The next book, Dichotomy of Leadership, is still stories from our military career, from our combat experiences, and from the training that we went through. And it also does still include stories from Echelon Front, from all the companies that we work with. Down the line, yeah, there’ll be other books that address other things learned that I’ve learned from the podcast, yeah. I’ve got that book probably coming out about a year after this one. I’ve already done that deal.
Craig Cannon [00:51:14] – Dude! How many hours a day do you write?
Jocko Willink [00:51:17] – I write, I write an hour a day when it’s on. I write about 1,000 words an hour and I sit down and write for an hour and I’ve got 1,000 words. For the kids’ book, they’re about 25 or 30,000 words, so that’s 30 days, 25 or 30 days worth of writing.
Craig Cannon [00:51:35] – 1,000 words that you keep every day?
Jocko Willink [00:51:38] – Yeah. I do pretty decent out of the gate.
Craig Cannon [00:51:42] – Dude, nice.
Jocko Willink [00:51:43] – I do pretty decent out of the gate. As a matter of fact, though, the second warrior kid book… Right when I was about to finish it, I probably had another 5,000 words to finish, and it was just doing the first draft. I had some stuff go on where I just had to finish it, and I submitted it. It was almost good to go with very few edits on the first, literally the first, normally I would have edited it three or four times. I did not edit it. I edited it once it got back, they gave it back to me. Yeah, so I write hard. And yeah, do I throw stuff out sometimes? Absolutely. But even if you write 1,000 words and you throw out 400, guess what, you got 600 words.
Craig Cannon [00:52:28] – Yeah, you’re cooking.
Jocko Willink [00:52:29] – And in two or three months, you got 50 or 60,000 words and you’re done. It’s a good little system. The other thing about it, for anyone that’s interested in writing, probably you aren’t, but if you write every day, you don’t have to go back and read what you wrote the previous day, because you still remember it. For me, if I take two days, so if I write today and then I don’t write tomorrow and then I go to write again, I got to go back and read. That one day is enough for me to forget really where I was at. Whereas if I write today, I write tomorrow, I can literally just start typing again because I know where I was at. If you’re going to do it, that’s the discipline demanded to make it happen.
Craig Cannon [00:53:09] – Maintaining some kind of flow state has always been the challenge for creative projects. I mean, I’m so impressed with you guys, the writing, the podcast, constantly doing these muster events, you just got to stay on it, you got to keep the beat going ’cause it’s so easy to let it slip. “What was that even in New York like? How did that go?”
Jocko Willink [00:53:27] – The other thing is, you have to force. If you don’t force it out of yourself, it’s not going to happen. If you don’t force it out of yourself, not going to happen. The book or the project or the thing that you want to do, the podcast that you’re going to do, if you don’t put discipline around it, it’s not going to happen. I’ve been putting out the podcast for 133 weeks, and I’ve missed one. There’s a lot of pressure, it’s a lot of pressure and you’re reading a book and writing a book and going back, there’s a lot to do. It’s no joke. But if I didn’t have the timeline, then guess what, it’s real easy to say, “You know what, they don’t need… I can push this off.” It’s real easy to do that. It’s real easy to do that with everything in life, whether it’s a workout, whether it’s writing, whether it’s a project you’re supposed to be doing, whether it’s sitting down at a computer screen to do and learn some technical skills that you know is going to make you a better candidate for jobs, all those little things, it’s Discipline Equals Freedom. That’s what it is.
Craig Cannon [00:54:39] – Yeah, 101.
Jocko Willink [00:54:40] – Yeah, Discipline Equals Freedom 101. Are you guys working on something right now? Like, how are you improving yourself? I’m so curious. I read Discipline Equals Freedom on the flight over here. It was, like, “Ah man, this is awesome.” I had read the book, I listen to the podcast. I think I got this. But book is great. But it’s this framework for life, right? So whatever it might be, you just apply it. Are there specific things? Because I think, I’m curious about you guys, just as men, like things that you are personally working on right now.
Mike Sarraille [00:55:11] – I’ll absolutely take the first. I’m working at becoming a better father, quite frankly. People might think that sounds weird, “Well, why aren’t you, like, trying to push your business forward?” Oh, no, no, that is a requirement. We’re working 90 hour to 100 hour weeks, writing, learning more about a talent acquisition, how to solve the systemic challenges. That is going to happen, that’s a requirement. But it’s, how do I balance my time really well to give my kids more of my time? Because, and Jocko and I have talked about this a lot, when you’re in the military, your family comes second. That might sound harsh, but when you have 40 SEALs under your command that are your responsibility to bring home, they usually come first. The families understand that. It’s just, some of the unsung heroes of the military are absolutely the wives and the children. Now that I’m out, I’m trying to achieve that dichotomy within my life to be a better father.
Craig Cannon [00:56:14] – Do you have one?
Jocko Willink [00:56:15] – Do I have one? No.
Craig Cannon [00:56:16] – Do you have–
Jocko Willink [00:56:18] – I’ve go an infinite list of things that I’m trying to get better at all the time. I’m not kidding, an infinite list of things I’m trying to get better at all the time. And that’s just the way it is. I hate sucking at stuff and I suck at all kinds of stuff and I’m trying to get better.
Craig Cannon [00:56:35] – Dude, that’s a podcast. I keep meeting people who are just the top 1% in their field, science, business, whatever it is, and you’re saying, “Um, all right.” That’s a whole lifetime spent learning physics, and just do to the interview take a couple days prep.
Mike Sarraille [00:56:49] – You know it’s a good thing for guys like Jocko and I, and for anyone in any industry that wants to be the best, it’s more about the process. It’s not the end state. I find, and I’m sure you’ll agree, I find very little solace in achieving anything. It’s, like, “Okay, I achieved it.” No celebrating what’s next. I just don’t find any gratification in it. But, you know, if I look back at the process, I’m, like, “Okay, that was pretty badass. That was good. Let’s move on to the next thing.” I find that amongst high performers, high achievers is that they’re just never satisfied with the end state. It’s all about the process.
Jocko Willink [00:57:25] – Yeah, what’s next?
Craig Cannon [00:57:26] – Dude, it’s so important to get good at something, too. Because tying on to that, before I had gotten really, really good at something, I didn’t fully understand that process and what it feels like. Then you just apply it to something else.
Jocko Willink [00:57:38] – What are you really, really good at?
Craig Cannon [00:57:39] – I have a cycling world record. I’m pretty good at riding bikes.
Jocko Willink [00:57:42] – Well, dang.
Craig Cannon [00:57:42] – It was a two days straight climbing up and down a hill, so it’s most elevation in two days. It was the same thing, man. It wrapped up, I’m, like, “Right, dude, isn’t it amazing? That’s so cool, like, you’re in the Guinness Book of World Records. That’s awesome.”
Jocko Willink [00:57:59] – And what will I do in three days?
Craig Cannon [00:58:01] – Exactly, exactly. You know there’s someone chomping at your heels. So yeah. Sure, that’s awesome.
Mike Sarraille [00:58:08] – I’ve got to say, this is why you would love the guys we place in your companies. It’s, like, the one thing about the teams that I loved is, it was the competition made the world go round. If Jocko could shoot a target 10 times within 10 seconds, it was, like, I would be there all day nine seconds. Then he’d hear that I got nine seconds, and it creates this culture of, you know, everyone gets along, they realize the competition makes everyone better, that was the great thing about the SEAL teams.
Jocko Willink [00:58:38] – Yeah, everything’s a competition.
Craig Cannon [00:58:39] – Well, it’s cool that you’re surrounded by them still. Guys, we got a bunch of questions for you from the Internet. Shall we? All right. First question, Alex Badalian asks, “What are some military tactics startups could adopt to increase effectiveness and throughput?” We covered it.
Jocko Willink [00:58:59] – Yeah, I mean, but right there it’s cover and move is the first thing I think about, because if we’re not supporting each other, then we’re not going to be able to get things done that we need to get done. So, work, cover and move means teamwork, work together as a team. I actually just had this with, this discussion with a group, a company. And they had reordered and put simple as the first law of combat. And I kind of joked around. It was the president that had done this. And I joked around with him, I said. He said, “I did it ’cause it looked good on this graphic,” and I go, “It’s cool, I get it, “that looks good on the graphic.” But the reality is, they are in an order of, cover move is number one. And the reason cover and move is number one is ’cause that’s teamwork. If we’re not working together, we’re not moving forward. We’re not going to be effective, we’re not going to be efficient. When you look at what your mission is and you look at your sub-mission that’s nested inside the greater mission, don’t just focus on that. Make sure you look as a company how are we going to help the other elements that are inside of our team? How are we going to help them move forward? Don’t just worry about yourself, worry about everyone. That’s cover and move.
Mike Sarraille [01:00:12] – I would go one further. Take the laws of combat, cover move, simple, prioritize next, decentralized command, and actually post it up on your wall. Basically why I love startups is, it’s the fire team. You have limited resources, you have a small team, everyone has multiple, multiple tasks to do, and you have a burn rate that you have to manage. To increase that throughput and drive revenue as quickly as possible, the laws of combat, if you reinforce this within your company, it will work if you truly understand what they mean as a small team. You implement them, you will succeed.
Craig Cannon [01:00:49] – Right on, next question. All right, Alan asks, “Hey, Jocko, from your experience in SEAL, as a SEAL, and the business world, do two or more cofounders, leaders, have a higher success rate? What are your thoughts on solo founder with a strong team,” rather, “a solo founder creating their own strong team?”
Jocko Willink [01:01:07] – It’s a little strange to think about someone doing something solo and achieving anything really incredible. You’re going to need a team. You’re going to need people. The more you trust your team and the better relationship you have with your team, then the better you’re going to do. The critical thing here is, you have to think about what you’re going to do. You have to think about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to get it done. If you think you can accomplish things by yourself, you’re probably a little bit mistaken. You might even be a lot mistaken. If you think you know everything better than everyone else and that’s why you should control everything, it’s probably going to end up problematic. To have somebody that’s a good sounding board is important. Now, the other thing I would say about this is, it’s also important to find people and work with people that complement who you are, that complement your strengths and your weaknesses. If you’re a person that has great ideas but is bad at execution, you need to find a partner that’s really good at execution. If you go out and find a partner that also has incredible ideas and you two put this company together and it’s filled with a bunch of ideas, guess what, no one’s going to execute those ideas, you’re not going to go anywhere. If you’re a person that can execute well but maybe you don’t have some of those creative thought processes, you find someone that’s got good creative thought processes.
Jocko Willink [01:02:41] – You want to partner with people absolutely, and you want to partner with people that make you better.
Craig Cannon [01:02:47] – Before that, is kind of seeing the world as it is. That’s a problem I see with a lot of solo founders. They’re just, like, “I got this figured out,” and then they’re a little bit delusional.
Mike Sarraille [01:03:00] – We see that in the military all the time, and we call it emotional attachment. You know, I would sit and Jocko would pass, “Hey, we need to execute this mission, go ahead and plan it,” and I’d plan it for three days. During that process, because I think I’m coming up with this great plan that’s going to wow him, and then I present it. I’ve been one inch from viewing the plan for the last three days, and then he comes in from a six-foot view, and he’s, like, “Oh, good plan, but you need to switch this, this and this and, like, this will go wrong if you do it that way.” And then you know what I do? I lash out, I’m, like. Yeah, usually wait for him to leave, and, “That mother,” you know, really. But he’s right. And so the worst thing you can do is become so emotionally attached to your product that you stop listening to who? Your customers. Because in the military we say the enemy has a vote in all plans. So does your customer. And so the second you’ve got everything figured out and you stop listening to your customer, you need to step back, detach emotionally, and reassess.
Craig Cannon [01:04:02] – Do you guys do that by journaling? Just through experience?
Jocko Willink [01:04:06] – Yeah, I can tell you. People ask me about detachment a lot, because I talk about detachment a lot, because detachment is, it’s definitely one of the key technical skills to have as a leader. And as a human being, by the way. There’s all kinds of things. I actually wrote about it in the kid’s book quite a bit. I wrote about how you emotionally detach because the kid loses his temper and gets in trouble and guess what, you’ve got to learn to detach. Well, guess, human beings do that, adults do that all the time. This idea of detaching is something that you absolutely have to focus on. How do you do it? Well, you have to learn to recognize when you are getting emotional, because normally it’s, to detach from the chaotic situation, so there’s a, if you’re on a construction site and something’s going wrong and you step back so that you can fix it, or you’re in a manufacturing plant and something’s going wrong and you step back so you can fix it, you’re stepping away from it physically. That’s good. There’s also situations where you need to step away emotionally. That’s a little bit harder. The examples that I talk about, first of all, if your voice starts getting like this, well, that’s, you need to put yourself in check. You’re obviously getting emotional. You also, if you’re getting ready to send an email and you’re typing really hard on it, that’s probably not a good email to send. You should wait 24 hours before you send that email up the chain of command. Then there’s this part, and this is probably,
Jocko Willink [01:05:35] – this is the one that is most valuable. When you’re looking at a situation and you’re feeling the anger, the frustration, things aren’t going the way they’re supposed to go, much of the time you need to step back and you need to look at yourself and figure out why you were getting emotional. Most of the time, I would venture to guess the reason that you’re getting emotional, the reason that you’re getting mad, is because of your own ego. Someone has done something that’s offended your ego, someone has come up with a plan that’s better than yours, someone has come up with an idea that’s better than yours, someone has dared to confront something that you’ve said, when you should not be questioned. Those ego flare-ups cause all kinds of emotions. If you don’t learn to detach from those and do real assessments and figure out logically, not emotionally, what the problem is, then you will have some significant issues. Learn to detach.
Craig Cannon [01:06:39] – When I was growing up, the people that bugged me the most had a quality that I didn’t have or wanted to have more of. And then it’s, like, “Oh, that guy is more articulate, or he’s stronger,” or whatever it is. And that was it, to a T.
Jocko Willink [01:06:54] – Welcome to my life, Craig.
Craig Cannon [01:06:58] – All right, next question. Let’s see, Armando Nevez asks to Jocko. “I liked your episode Strategy and the Way of the Samurai.” I think that was Tim Ferriss, right?
Jocko Willink [01:07:09] – I did one with Tim Ferriss that was based on the novel Musashi, which is an incredible, incredible novel. It’s historical fiction based on the life of the great Japanese swordsman Musashi. Musashi is the guy that wrote the Book of Five Rings. I covered the Book of Five Rings first, before I did Musashi, just so people would have that background on it before we got into it. But Book of Five Rings is pretty famous. I think that was episode 80, and then the one with Tim was episode 100. And that one is, I think that’s one of the few that’s over four hours long, because when I got done, I was joking with Tim Ferriss. He’s got The Four Hour Work Week and The Four Hour Chef, and I was, like, “Well, there is the four-hour podcast.”
Craig Cannon [01:07:58] – Totally.
Jocko Willink [01:07:59] – And we did it right after he had gotten out of some really psychotic fasting and oath of silence deal. He had been in silence for, I want to say, like, 10 or 15, some long period of time, and it was awesome. It was awesome to cover that. But yeah, so that’s the Musashi.
Craig Cannon [01:08:22] – Okay, great. And then his question is, “How much does the Daily Warrior mindset, how much do you implement on a day-to-day basis?”
Jocko Willink [01:08:31] – I was thinking earlier, when Mike was talking about the TAP program that gets you out of the military, and I was thinking to myself, you take a guy like myself that’s been indoctrinated and then lived and breathed and eaten and slept nothing but military for 20 years, and then you go, “Okay, look, we’re going to send you to this program for a week, and that’ll get you ready.” It’s kind of laughable. It’s a little bit laughable. At least, it’s going to take some more transition. For me to think that I think about the Warrior mindset, I don’t. It’s just my day. It’s just what I’m, I don’t even know other ways to think. I don’t actively engage. What’s the statement about the fish in the water, right?
Craig Cannon [01:09:27] – Oh, the David Foster Wallace talk?
Jocko Willink [01:09:29] – David Foster Wallace.
Craig Cannon [01:09:30] – This is water.
Jocko Willink [01:09:30] – This is water. That’s like me, right? I don’t even know that I’m in this. I’m just swimming in it, and that’s just how. As Echo Charles says, that’s just how, that’s just the way it is. I don’t actively think about it, but all I been doing my whole adult life is this. That’s all I read about, that’s all I write about, that’s all I think about, and that’s all I do.
Craig Cannon [01:09:53] – Are you equally maniacal?
Mike Sarraille [01:09:56] – I think so. You talk about the perception. It is strange. There almost is a negative connotation on being in the military these days. There is, still. You know, it was live in the Vietnam War, you know, it’s, like, “The military is evil.” The military is awesome. It is the foundation of our lives. I was a troublesome kid in Atherton. What they did, like, my father saw it firsthand. He had bad experiences during Vietnam with the Army and absolutely loves the military. We love the military. War is a tragic thing, but it also serves some great purposes. We reference and we make every analogy a military analogy because we saw the good. And actually, the one outcome from Echelon Front and Echelon Front Overwatch is, I hope more kids sign up in the military. I honestly do. It is a great platform to take a young boy or a young girl and turn them into a outstanding leader. But I’m maniacal about my service and the service of our brothers and sisters, man. It was awesome. There’s just so much good they can do outside the military after they’re done, whether it’s six years, 20 years, or 35 years.
Craig Cannon [01:11:14] – Yeah, you’re absolutely right. All right, we got a couple more, just real quick.
Jocko Willink [01:11:20] – Cool.
Craig Cannon [01:11:20] – All right. Ryan Calmer, Carl Mercer asks, hey, Leif isn’t here but I think this is relevant for all, I guess, “What’s your favorite MRE?”
Mike Sarraille [01:11:30] – None. I’ll put it to you this way. MREs are designed to meet your caloric intake in very austere environments. If I had my way, would I take a prime rib, bone in, prime rib, out to the field, cook it, and eat it? Yes, I would. But, you know, Ryan, you don’t see me coming home to my fiancee, Jordan, saying, “Hey, why don’t we cook up some of those MREs?” That does not happen. They are awful, but they are a good tool when you’re in an austere environment.
Jocko Willink [01:12:06] – Yeah, when you get hungry enough, they’re a beautiful thing. They’re unbelievably delicious when you haven’t eaten for a while. There’s people that get really good at, they basically can cook with them. They basically, or not cook, like, they can chef, what is that called? They can create these little mixtures that make things even better–
Craig Cannon [01:12:30] – They doctor them up a little bit?
Jocko Willink [01:12:31] – Yeah, they mix them together in a certain way and they put a certain spices with this or whatever. And so there’s people that get good at that. I was never one of those people. When I was a young enlistee, I was a radioman, so I always carried a wad of weight and I didn’t have room to carry much food. The only thing I would carry from MREs was the main meal, which is one pouch. All the other stuff I didn’t bring because it was just too much stuff. And so I just carried the main meal. And as Mike said, in normal day-to-day life, I would not like one. My first deployment to Iraq, we ate too many MREs and I hated them. We only ate ’em for about a month and then we started getting some better food. So that month I really didn’t like ’em after that time period. But if you’re really hungry, man, they’re a beautiful thing.
Craig Cannon [01:13:20] – Yeah, and to make a second bike reference, there’s a saying from bike touring that’s, hunger is the best seasoning.
Jocko Willink [01:13:27] – Yeah, well, that’s great. I always talk about, you know, water. If you’ve ever been thirsty before, then you remember how amazing water is. Water is beautiful. The only thing that hurts worse than lack of water is lack of air. And lack of air doesn’t last very long, but that feeling is the worst, followed by water. And I’ve never gone hungry more than four or five days. I’m pretty lucky in that regard. But reading about some of the people that suffer without food for extended periods of time and they’re talking to some of the guys that were in the Hanoi Hilton, living on a ball of rice, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, for six years and losing 100 pounds per person, it just unbelievable. It’s also unbelievable how those guys in that austere situation would sit there and talk about food for hours and hours and hours. Captain Charlie Plumb was on the podcast and just, to hear him talk about it, you can still see a little light in his eyes when you talk about good food. And same with Bill Reeder, who was in horrible situation as well and ended up in Hanoi Hilton. But to see those guys, and, you know, you go talk to those guys and you really get to appreciate the incredible blessings that we have and how freaking easy our life is.
Craig Cannon [01:14:59] – And you realize how much you can suffer through.
Jocko Willink [01:15:02] – Indeed.
Craig Cannon [01:15:03] – All right, next question. Spencer Clark asks, “Is culture more decided by micro or macro policies and interactions?”
Jocko Willink [01:15:10] – I don’t think that’s a question that, I don’t think it’s one or the other. I think if you’re behaving on a macro level one way and then on the micro level, you’re not reflecting that, that’s not going to wash out correctly. And the opposite is true. You have to husband both of those, macro and micro cultures, equally and they’re both equally important. If you’re a guy that treats everyone at a macro level one way and then on the frontlines you treat them a different way, guess what, guess what your culture is? It’s actually even worse. It’d be better just to have a hard attitude that everyone just knew where you came from. But to be two-faced is actually worse. So got to treat them equally. Everything matters. If you’re in a leadership position, everyone’s watching you, every little statement that you make. You walk down and you look at someone’s plan or you come down and you look at a new task that’s come down and you go, “Oh, this is bunch of crap,” guess what everyone now thinks? They’re 100% think it’s a bunch of crap. If you come down and say, “Hey look, this is going to be challenging. I think we can knock this out of the park,” and then people go, “Oh yeah, we’re going to knock this out of the park.” The way you act on the macro level, the way you act on the micro level as a leader is going to create the culture that you’re going to live with.
Craig Cannon [01:16:31] – Mike approves. All right, let’s wrap up. I want to hear about the muster in San Francisco. We have a lot of Bay Area listeners. You guys are doing another run. What’s the deal?
Jocko Willink [01:16:40] – Yeah, so, we started doing the musters a few years ago. Basically what happened was as demand increased for Echelon Front services, the price point went up and it continued to go up through the years, until it got to a point where people that were in small to mid-size businesses really couldn’t afford to bring us in because it just cost too much money, and we couldn’t afford to do it because we had too much stuff on our plate. So there was a lot of demands for, “Hey, can you just do, how can we get you, how can we do this? How can we make this work?” What we ended up doing, kind of, I wouldn’t say as a whim, but we definitely made an aggressive decision, I think it was in July when it was, “Okay, you know what, let’s have an event that people can come to, and we’ll do it in San Diego,” and that’s what we did. We called it The Muster. It’s a two-day leadership event. I said to Leif, and Jamie Cochran, who’s our ops director, who’s a incredible asset and incredible person. But she had done some event management before, and it was, “Hey, I don’t know,” there was definitely concern. And I said, “You know what, let’s go for it. Let’s go for it.” Here’s a worst case scenario. “The worst case scenario, 33 people show up, we lose some money, we make a great event for them, we learn from it, and maybe we adjust it and get better in the future. But worst case scenario, we lose a little bit of money, no factor, and we’ll move forward.” We said, “Okay, we’ll go for it.”
Jocko Willink [01:18:16] – We booked a place and we put it out there and we sold it out. The first Muster was 350 people in San Diego, and then from there, we went to New York, we went to Austin, we came back to San Diego, we went to Washington, D.C., we sold out every event, and they’re awesome. They’re intense leadership, pragmatic leadership information on how to become a better leader. We’re doing this one October 17th and 18th in San Francisco, California. Obviously we got clients up there that, it makes it easy for them. It also makes it easy for people that might not be able to afford the Echelon Front full package services, which, the primary line of operation for Echelon Front is, we do long-range leadership alignment programs with companies. We go in for three months, six months, a year in some cases, and we get entire leadership teams aligned and working together well and overcoming their problems and their issues, which, by the way, every single problem that companies face, every single problem that companies face is a leadership problem. If you can come up with an example, if someone wants to text me or hit me up on Twitter with an example that’s not a leadership problem, like, “Oh, we have a problem on our manufacturing line,” guess what, the leader has not set up that manufacturing line correctly. Guess what, we’re not going to meet our numbers. Guess what, there’s a leader that isn’t driving his team in the correct manner. We aren’t hiring the right people. Well, guess what, we aren’t leading correctly to get the right people in the door.
Jocko Willink [01:19:57] – Every problem that a company has is a leadership program. And that’s a hard statement for people to stomach because what that means when you’re in a leadership position is, “Wait, Jocko’s saying this is my fault.” I am saying it’s your fault. But the good thing is, it also puts it in your hands to control. It puts it into your hands to change and lead correctly from the top, from the middle, from the front, and make things happen. That’s the title of the book Extreme Ownership. When you recognize that hey, when you stop saying, “Hey, you know what, it’s the market and it’s these other people, it’s the competitors did this and we didn’t expect that..” The minute you stop blaming everyone else and everything else and you say, “Okay, this is mine. I’m going to fix it, here we go,” the moment that you say that is the moment you start to win.
Mike Sarraille [01:20:43] – I got to tell you, my first muster was in May in D.C. I had not experience with events like this, with Jocko. I got to see how this sort of rolls out. At the conclusion of it, I came home and went to my fiancee and I’m, like, “Dude. These guys are changing lives.” And just, like, you would see the eyes open during the two days. And actually funny enough, I live in Austin. Saw a guy that works out at my gym that owns a supplement company in Austin. “Okay, you’re from Austin,” we started talking, I’m, like, “Well, dude, have a great time in the muster,” and lo and behold, I run into him at the gym probably like four weeks after the D.C. muster and he’s, like, “Dude, that has changed our entire management philosophy, “and now we’re in theprocess of filtering it down all the way to the frontline. But it’s, like, we’ve rethought how we lead.” How is that relevant to Silicon Valley? Dude, I couldn’t think of a better program for a startup team to attend, and you will see the eyes open. And they’ll be, like, “Okay, we’re doing some things wrong. “We’re doing some things really wrong. “But we’re doing a lot of things the wrong way.” You talked about sort of the question from Alex, it will increase your effectiveness. It will increase your throughput. So I’m telling you, I’m a believer, 100%.
Craig Cannon [01:22:10] – Wow. Is it weird having all these fanboys now?
Jocko Willink [01:22:14] – I don’t think I really have, like, fanboys or whatever. I think what’s cool about, you know, even going to the muster, like, we are there. You know, you hear me talk about the muster. There’s no backstage, there’s no green room. We’re out there. We literally sit with the audience and talk with the audience the whole entire time. It turns into so it’s not really an audience. It’s just a big group. And do we present? We absolutely present. Do we get feedback? Yes. Do we do Q&A? I don’t really think that we have fanboys. We have people that are on the same train with us and we’re all going in the same direction. And is it cool to be with a group of people that want to go and get after it? Yeah, you know what, it’s awesome. It’s awesome. I’m stoked that this whole thing has turned out this way. And it’s awesome to meet people all over the world, I mean, people who come from all over the world to come to the muster, and it’s awesome to meet people from foreign countries, from America, from every corner of this country that are in the game, they want to crush it, and they show up and they teach us and we teach them and we all move forward together. It’s awesome.
Craig Cannon [01:23:26] – Where can I find out more?
Jocko Willink [01:23:27] – The muster is ExtremeOwnership.com, that’s where you register. There is only one more we’re doing this year. And yeah, that’s it, ExtremeOwnership.com. Echelon Front is EchelonFront.com. Jocko Podcast is JockoPodcast.com. That’s it. That’s it. Mike, you on Twitter?
Mike Sarraille [01:23:46] – I’m on Twitter, @MJSarraille. Reach out.
Craig Cannon [01:23:51] – Right on.
Jocko Willink [01:23:52] – Love the conversations that go on on Twitter, specially this guy and Marc Andreessen.
Craig Cannon [01:23:57] – Man, I love the Jocko picture with the hair that I saw floating around. Dude, that was awesome.
Jocko Willink [01:24:03] – Yeah, that’s from the 90s. Yeah, from the 90s. Long hair, that was the cool SEAL back then. That was when I was younger and thought, “Hey man, this is how I should be.”
Craig Cannon [01:24:16] – That’s a look.
Jocko Willink [01:24:19] – What can I say?
Craig Cannon [01:24:20] – Eh, it wasn’t that bad. All right, thanks, guys, thank you so much.
Jocko Willink [01:24:22] – Thanks for having us on.
Mike Sarraille [01:24:23] – Appreciate it, Craig. Thanks man.
Craig Cannon [01:24:25] – All right, thanks for listening. As always, you can find the transcript and video at Blog.ycombinator.com. If you have a second, it would be awesome to give us a rating and review wherever you find your podcasts. See you next time.
Y Combinator created a new model for funding early stage startups. Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($150k) in a large number of startups (recently 200). The startups move to Silicon