Resource in Resilience – How to Get Through Hard Times: A TED Talk by Former U.S. Navy SEAL Jason Redman
By Maxwell Svec, One Summit Manager, Strategic Programs & Events
On a recent trip to Maine one drizzly, warm afternoon, my wife and I took cover from the rain at a favorite local bookstore. We go into the shop anytime we’re in town—my wife, while a bibliophile herself, usually wanders off in search of the resident cat. I, however, tend to gravitate to the travel books and, more recently, the history and war section. I find myself thumbing the pages of the books there in hopes of stumbling upon one that might provide a deeper understanding of what our Navy SEAL mentors experience in their careers and day-to-day lives.
Our work at One Summit spans two different worlds, that of pediatric cancer patients and their families and that of U.S. Navy SEALs. My entire career has been in pediatric healthcare. I’ve seen that domain firsthand for many years, experiencing plenty of joys and heartaches. However, our mentors are part of a world that I, and most other people, have never experienced, and a lot of their work is done in secret to protect our national security and the integrity of their training. At times I’ve thought maybe my life is so very different than theirs that I can’t relate to them, but I know that’s rudimentary thinking, and I want to dig in and learn more.
So that day, when I picked up The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader by retired U.S. Navy SEAL Jason Redman, I took it to the register. During a mission in Iraq in 2007, Jason’s team was ambushed, and he was shot at close range multiple times, including once in the face, which left him severely injured. Jason wrote The Trident to tell his personal story of adversity and resilience—his SEAL training and experiences in the Teams, his failures as a leader, his career redemption, and his eventual injuries, all interwoven with stories of his personal life and supportive family.
When I got home from the bookstore, I spent some time researching Jason Redman, and during my internet browsing, I found this month’s Resource in Resilience—a TED Talk that he did at TEDxBeaconStreet back in late 2019 called “How to Get Through Hard Times.” In it, Jason tells his story of injury and recovery, including the now-famous sign he penned and posted on his hospital room door proclaiming the positivity and hope one would find within. It reads:
Attention – To all those who enter here
If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20% further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, Go Elsewhere.
From: The Management
Jason wrote that letter after what he calls one of life’s “the end moments,” when something catastrophic happens, and we find ourselves thinking, “This is it. There is nothing else good to come.” These human experience junctures are a significant point in Jason’s TED Talk. He says, “Everyone…has encountered a ‘the end moment’ before. And if you have not, I’ve got bad news. They are coming.”
My prominent “the end moment” came in March 2018 while on a road trip with my wife in the Utah desert. On the road, I received a text from home saying I should call when able to safely pull over. When I did, I heard my mother’s voice telling me that my father had died suddenly and unexpectedly that morning. The air was sucked from my lungs—it was one of the most hopeless moments I’ve ever experienced. Nothing else in my time on earth up until that point had felt more like the end of all things, nor has anything since. My dad had just finished up successful radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Hearing him say, “I have cancer,” had been my last earth-shattering moment, and “the end” was supposed to be behind us. But his ailing heart unfortunately had other intentions. As my mom has always told me, “Life is what happens when you’re planning something else.”
At the heart of Jason’s speech is the phrase “getting off the X.” When we find ourselves stuck at “the point of incident” or what special operations teams call “the X,” how do we move forward and overcome that adversity? When life ambushes us, how can we get off the X? Jason created a framework for facing difficult times and doing the hard work necessary to come out stronger on the other side of tragedy. He breaks down REACT, an acronym for steps to get from accepting your new reality to taking action. He developed this method throughout his own journey and now shares it with others. Jason embodies what he teaches—he now thrives in post-military life as a successful businessman, respected inspirational speaker, and Peak Performance and Mindset coach, having overcome what once seemed impossible odds.
While experiences with tragedy and trauma no doubt look different to each person, be it Navy SEAL, cancer patient, or anyone else, we can all relate to the hardships that inevitably cross our paths. Jason discusses our choices during those moments of despair—we can focus on “the end” or fumble our way through dark, unfamiliar territory to a new beginning. Either way, when we experience something like that, we are never really the same as we were before. Jason says, “I chose to figure out not how I would be the past version of who I was, because the reality is that’s never going to happen. Instead, you have to figure out how to become the best version of your new you—your new 100%.”
Losing my dad has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. Still, through the challenging years since, I’ve gained an acute awareness of the fragility and fleeting nature of our existence. I feel deeply grateful for each joyful moment that finds me every day, no matter how small—none of them are trivial. Our Executive Director Dianne routinely laughs when I sip my morning coffee at the office and immediately follow it with an audible “ahhhh!” of delight. It’s a reflex now—I don’t even realize I’m doing it! I am more grounded, grateful, and appreciative of these moments because our moments aren’t infinite. I honor my father by striving to leave the world a better place than I found it, something he unquestionably did. He is my compass as I embrace this new phase of my life, moving ever further from the X. The past 5 years have been anything but easy—I'm eternally indebted to my community of remarkable friends and family who I've been surrounded by and leaned on heavily during many a dark day. I continue to carry the heavy weight of sorrow and grief, especially during life's peaks and valleys. Still, I’ve embraced the opportunity to be more present, to live my life more fully, patiently, and peacefully and I’ve become a better human being. Our hardships differ from person to person, but as Jason says, “Some of the hardest moments in your life will become some of the greatest opportunities.”
His storytelling covers plenty we prize at One Summit; resilience, posttraumatic growth, and community. We hope you may find his framework and tools helpful as you navigate your own ‘the end moments.’ It is my intention to offer a review of The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader in a future Resource in Resilience once I’ve actually read the book. But such is life—sometimes something unexpected (like a TED Talk) rolls in.
Do you have a great Resource in Resilience that you’d like to share with the One Summit community? Connect with Max at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell him more about it!