FROM X TO WHY: STRATEGY FOR ESCAPING LIFE'S AMBUSHES WITH STRENGTH AND RESOLVE – Q&A with Jason Rredman
In an interview with Automotive Recycling magazine, January-February 2020, retired Navy Seal Jason Redman reveals more on his journey to overcome life’s ambushes and how others can do the same.
ARA 76th Annual Convention & Expo Keynote speaker Jason Redman is a retired Navy Lieutenant who spent eleven years as an enlisted Navy SEAL and almost ten years as a SEAL officer. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, five Navy Achievement Medals, Two Combat Action Ribbons and the U.S. Army Ranger Tab. In 2007, he encountered an enemy ambush in Iraq that left him with critical injuries fighting for his life and questioning if he had what it takes to go on.
"The interesting thing about failure – you don’t have to work hard to achieve it."
Excerpt from Automotive Recycling Magazine // January-February 2020
Interview by Caryn Smith, Editor
To read the full Jason Redman's soldier story, check out the January-February 2020 issue of Automotive Recycling magazine.
Editor's Note: When this story ran in the first issue of 2020, it was right after the ARA 76th Annual Convention and Expo. The industry was experiencing some good wind in its sails. Some automotive recyclers even were reporting that they were on track for their best year ever. Little did we know at this time that the COVID-19 virus would shut down the world, and put the industry on an X. The timing of Redman's speech to ARA convention attendees, and this interview, was right to help people move forward from this adversity. Enjoy the interview ... and GET OFF THE X! ~Caryn Smith
Automotive Recycling: What led you from wounded Navy SEAL to author and speaker?
Jason Redman: It definitely wasn’t a planned path, and don’t get me wrong, I have always liked to write, but never once thought it was on my bucket list that I would like to write two books. In some ways my first book wrote itself, because when I was injured, I had a tracheotomy for seven months and two days, so in the beginning I was unable to talk. The only way I could communicate was by writing.
Everyone wanted to know what happened, so it got to the point I finally just wrote out step by step the events of the firefight. As people would ask questions, I would hand that to them. I then started reflecting on some of the other missions and began writing about those. Recovering over several years and 40 surgeries gave me a lot of time to write.
I was still active duty military at the time. I went to my commander, showed him my writing, and said some people thought there might be something to my story.
He really liked the humble nature and felt like it was a good leadership story and he gave me the go ahead to pursue. I brought in a cowriter who gave the story some structure. From there I started speaking to groups, like the wounded warriors and trauma victims. I enjoy speaking as it has a cathartic side to tell my story and to help others overcome.
AR: What does your basic message of “overcoming” mean to you?
JR: Everyone will encounter life storms. Most people average 5 major life ambushes. Most people waste a lot of time focusing on the past and what they have lost, the pain, what caused it, who they can blame, instead of moving forward out of it.
For me, it was my trident leadership failure, the enemy ambush on the battlefield in Iraq, and later, after I had left the military, the ambush came through a frivolous business lawsuit against a former business I owned. My levels of anxiety and stress, feeling overwhelmed, constant anxiety, I understand what you’re dealing with and the major life disruption it causes. I applied the principles I’ve described in the book Overcome where I teach people a step-by-step process – something I call the REACT Methodology. With my system, someone can immediately start looking forward and start focusing on how they get out of that storm.
The REACT Methodology for success is:
R – Recognize your reality: you are in a crisis. Admit it. This is the most important and hardest part.
E – Evaluate your assets. Education or technology are examples of assets. Look at what you have and gain the knowledge you need and do it quickly. Don’t hesitate.
A – Access possible assets. If I use my assets, how will it unfold. Don’t take the easy route. Plan for the long-term.
C – Choose direction and communication. Most of the time you are not the only one on the X. Who else is being affected? Communicate the plan and bring them along with you on the way.
T – Take action and execute. Make a decision and do it.
I believe we need to be proactive for future life ambushes; whereas most people are reactive. We all procrastinate or flat out ignore immediate needs to take care of ourselves or to create a balance in family life. When a crisis-point comes, you’d better be prepared.
The first thing in the REACT Method is that you've got to recognize you’re in a crisis. This is probably the one thing that most people delay the longest. No one wants to admit it. As a matter of fact, as human beings we have this natural desire to just kind of wish it'll go away on its own.
Many in the automotive recycling industry are in real firefights. Recyclers should be embracing technology and staying current on trends and techniques. If they don’t know how, then seek out a mentor who can help. Yet, people hunker down and just stick their head in the sand hoping that, you know, with a little bit of time this crisis will just go away on its own. Well, that virtually never happens. Too often, it actually grows and gets worse and people live in denial. As humans looking to avoid the pain, we also have a tendency to self-medicate, with alcohol being one of the biggest problems, and some go even further into drugs and other risky behavior. The reality is they never address the real problem in the beginning.
Business owners tend to avoid acknowledging that there is a problem or bring their teams in to say, “Hey guys, we are in crisis mode, let’s work together to figure it out.” So, the most critical thing is getting people to recognize that they are in a crisis to get moving forward. The other steps are vitally important, but I would definitely say the ability to quickly recognize the crisis has the greatest impact to get off the X.
AR: What does it mean to “Get Off the X?”
JR: Getting off the X is a military term; the “X” is the point of attack, where you are receiving gunfire and explosions. An “X” in life is the point of an incident – divorce, sickness, lawsuit, accident, trauma, bankruptcy – you are on the X in that moment.
To survive, you have to move. In the military, we call it “immediate action principles:” I am going to do option B to counteract bad thing A. Develop the mindset that you need to get off X immediately and start moving forward as quickly as possible, even if it is painful. We have a saying in the military that “those individuals who get off the X the fastest not only survive, they thrive,” and even achieve elite status.
AR: The automotive recycling industry is in a bit of chaos right now, and some business owners feel stuck, don’t know what to do, or are really feeling alone. What is your advice?
JR: Build yourself up in key areas, what I call the “Pentagon of Peak Performance,” to be ready for any ambush or life challenge: Emotional, Spiritual, Mental, Physical, Social. There are no excuses. Refuse to have the pity party, and be the victor not the victim. These 5 key areas can help to find that balance in the middle of chaos.
It’s much better to be proactive and balanced for the ambushes that come; yet, understand and recognize when you are in a crisis it is not the time to be working on these key areas.
The Pentagon includes leadership in the following areas:
AR: Tell us about a pivotal time in your career, other than what we’ve already discussed, that awoke you from flawed thinking and made you change directions.
JR: After my military career, I started a business and found myself in a lawsuit. I wished it would go away, and it didn’t and only got worse. As I dealt with the stress and anxiety, I sat on the X for a little while, looked for others to blame. I wasn’t making healthy choices.
During this time, I went to the doctor and he said I needed to make some major health changes, or I would die of a heart attack. I have a family history of heart disease. It was a real wake up call for me. So, I acknowledged I was on the X. I knew I needed to take care of my health.
I worked my way forward. The lawsuit was frivolous, it was dismissed, but I look back and see there were
mistakes I made and things I procrastinated on and ignored that resulted in the suit. Eighty percent of life ambushes we find ourselves in, we participated in.
We procrastinated; we didn’t deal with something.
The anomalies, of course, are unexpected illness or injury, sexual trauma or loss of life. On all the other levels, there is something we could have done. And that is hard to admit.
Ultimately, I knew I needed to apply the principles I am talking about. Interestingly, I hadn’t quite fully developed all this when this happened, and I was able to document it in the Overcome book.
AR: How does someone identify their weaknesses that hinder professional or personal success?
JR: Go ask other people, ask your friends. Find out in my business, am I a hot head? Am I micromanaging?
Ask people their opinions. Come to grips with who you are and then amplify your strengths. My Overcome book helps people with this. It is human nature that no one wants to acknowledge we have a flaw. Yet, it is our failures that makes who we are, not our successes.
AR: How do you shift from a perceived “my life is over” mentality to a “new beginning” mentality?
JR: Do something differently. Make some changes. Find new things.
For automotive recyclers, technology is driving things in the industry. Embrace technology, collaboration, leverage resources together. It is incredibly difficult to “overcome” all by yourself. I could not have survived the enemy ambush by myself. Tom Brady cannot win a Super Bowl by himself. Leverage technology, leverage people and leverage strategies.
If you focus beyond the storm, you’ll see that there is a way out. It may not be the end state that you thought it would be, and that is where it gets hard, but what is supposed to be will unfold out of the darkness.
AR: During your injury, you posted a proclamation of positivity on the door of your hospital room that went viral on the internet. Do you think it is helpful for people to have some kind of symbolic statement?
JR: I think it is; it is a proclamation of where you are going to go. Those who say, “I am going to be out of business in 5 years,” you will be. You are driving people away saying or thinking that. I personally want to hang out with those guys who are driven to go down fighting. We will do research, figure new ways to do business and create new paths. I call it a “mission statement.” It gives you something to rely on and to focus staying on track on a forward path.
AR: Do you have any final thoughts?
JR: The interesting thing about failure – you don’t have to work hard to achieve it.
Caryn Smith is the editor of Automotive Recycling magazine, and covering the industry for over 20 years.
Who is Jason Redman?
Jason Redman is a retired Navy Lieutenant who spent eleven years as an enlisted Navy SEAL and almost ten years as a SEAL officer. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, five Navy Achievement Medals, Two Combat Action Ribbons and the U.S. Army Ranger Tab.
Yet, these prestigious medals came with high price tags.
In 2005, he made a bad leadership decision – one he confesses was based on his large ego – that almost cost his team their lives. He found himself facing demotion as an officer with possibility of being expelled from the SEALs altogether. He had a choice to endure the hardest physical and ego-busting training in the military … or go home. He chose the training and it changed his career.
Then in 2007, he encountered an enemy ambush in Iraq that left him with critical injuries fighting for his life and questioning if he had what it takes to go on.
And yet, after being severely wounded, Redman returned to active duty before retiring in 2013, launching SOF Spoken LLC, a speaking and consulting company which uses his extreme experiences to focus on leadership, teamwork and the “Overcome Mindset” to help individuals, companies and teams to “GET OFF THE X™” from “Life Ambushes” through his unique training and Overcome Army™ group coaching programs.
He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir The Trident, along with his new book Overcome which released in December 2019.
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