Paul Smith’s Class of 2018 learns secrets to an amazing life

A group of students from the Paul Smith’s College graduating class of spring 2018 (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

PAUL SMITHS — As the Paul Smith’s College spring class of 2018 sat in a large, white tent on what was supposed to be a thunderous and rainy afternoon, sun gleamed through the plastic windows, and the students listened to retired U.S. Navy SEAL commander Mark Divine divulge his six secrets to an extraordinary life.

“I expect that you’re all stoked to be finished with college,” Divine said, “but also feeling some anxiety and maybe fear as you stare into the abyss of the unknown.”

Divine is also the founder of SEALIFT, a physical, emotional and mental training program heavily inspired by SEAL training; in fact, many participants go on to join the SEALs. What he likes to do with all his trainees is have them take a few deep breaths together. Divine said it gets people synced up and inspired, so he had the Paul Smith’s students try it out.

After three deep inhalations and exhalations in unison, Divine said, “Why do we fear the unknown? Having had my share, I know it brings adventure and growth. A little bit about myself. I’ve driven many submersibles, stealth boats, drones and fast attack dune buggies on secret missions. I’ve been stuck in the escape hatch of a nuclear attack submarine, shot and lost in a dust storm in Iraq. I’ve blown things up, jumped out of perfectly good flying machines and even fallen from one only to be rescued by some unknown force. On my adventures, I have served in war alongside many heroes many of whom gave their lives in service. Later on, I succeeded in business and failed and authored books to pass on some insights. Most impressive, I’ve been married to an amazing woman, Sandy, for 25 years who endured these adventures with a smile and more than a little patience. I’m 54 now, but I feel like I’m 21 just getting warmed up. Hooya.”

That introduction was all in preparation for Divine’s six secrets to living an extraordinary life.

A horse-drawn carriage and the Paul Smith’s College bobcat mascot lead the way to graduation. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

One: Dare to be special.

After graduating from college, Divine worked on Wall Street for a number of years, but it wasn’t for him. He found it meaningless and didn’t know who he was until he saw a military recruitment poster with the words “Be someone special” printed on it.

“Those words struck me as a personal challenge,” he said. “I had chosen to be common, but my higher-self, my heart, saw the truth.”

Two: Know your “why,” and live it with a passion.

Divine had traded in his cushy, white-collar job for thousands of push ups and jumping into the frigid ocean every day. In SEAL training, when a person quits and leaves the camp, their departure is signified by a bell. Divine would ask himself why he didn’t just do the same.

Retired U.S. Navy SEAL commander Mark Divine delivers his commencement speech at the spring 2018 Paul Smith’s College graduation Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

“This time, the answer came immediately, he said, “‘because you are a warrior.’

“Take time to learn yourself, and what is your ‘why.'”

Three: Keep things simple.

As a SEAL, Divine learned many long and short-term strategies. He knows how to travel light and mediated daily. He relieves himself of complexity and hassle.

“Anything that can slow you down,” he said, “can and should be left behind including material possessions, burdensome relationships and non-mission critical commitments.”

Four: Be your own hero.

One time a woman looked at Divine and said, “Hey, you’re that guy who plays Superman.”

He told her it was flattering but wrong; however, he began to think she wasn’t so far from the truth. He explained how positive thinking, projection and habits will eventually turn somebody into the person they always wanted to be. On the other hand, a negative attitude would only lead to a life a person doesn’t want.

“I had to create a strong image in my mind of what I would be like as warrior,” he said, “and I had to visualize it daily for many, many months. This slowly transformed me into a Navy SEAL in my mind.”

Five: Learn to fail well because nobody is perfect.

On one mission during his time in the SEALs, Divine and his unit were dropped off via helicopter in the wrong place, their GPS was busted and the cold weather was exhausting. It reminded him of a military saying his commanding officer would recite: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

It wasn’t that failure wasn’t an option but rather expected. Divine and his fellow SEALs would often have to fail initially to find the right answer to problems.

“There is no such thing as perfection,” he said, “just percent effort.”

Six: Live by a code. It will guide you.

Whether a person works in the military or in an office, Divine said respecting yourself and teammates will only create a good work environment.

“Serve with honor and integrity on and off the battlefield,” he said. “Be ready to lead, ready to follow and never quit.

“Develop the moral courage to stand your ground against evil and mediocrity, and fail forward until victory is yours.”


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