My search for the practical information that I desired ended after reading an incredible book by former Navy Seal: Richard Machowicz. To say that I was overwhelmed when I read Richard Machowicz's book entitled, "Unleashing the Warrior Within" would be a huge understatement. Richard, cuts through all the fluff and delivers the brutal truth on how to get what you want out of life and exactly what it takes.
Richard participated in numerous tactical operations while attached to SEAL Team One and Two. He achieved a certified instructor rating in the Naval Special Warfare Combat Fighting Instructor Course (the U. S. Navy SEAL hand-to-hand combat instructor course).
While at SEAL Team Two he was attached to the training cadre as the Leading Petty Officer of Land, Mountain and Arctic Warfare. There he taught courses on Fire and Movement, Immediate Action Drills, Observation Techniques, Special Reconnaissance, Scout and Sniper Training, Target Analysis and Marksmanship.
He was a certified instructor with Professional Ski Instructors of America and held designated rating as U.S. Navy-wide instructor and curriculum developer. Before leaving the Navy he was assigned to SEAL Team Two's Intelligence Department as the Special Project Coordinator. There he developed a classified database that enhanced the overall readiness of deploying SEAL platoons.
Machowicz has served as a personal protection specialist for high-profile individuals within the political arena, business world and entertainment industry. He is now a member of the Screen Actors Guild and lives in Malibu, CA. I had the pleasure to chat with Richard recently and discuss his winning philosophy for achieving your goals . . .
Mike Mahler: Hi Richard how is it going today?
Richard Machowicz: Mike it is going very well and I am enjoying another beautiful day in Malibu, CA.
MM: Sounds good to me. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview.
RM: No problem. Glad to do it.
MM: Lets start the interview by discussing your Navy Seal background. What motivated you to want to become a Navy Seal in the first place?
RM: I wanted to prove to myself that there was nothing that I could not do. I was actually setting myself to go into the Special Forces: the Green Berets. Unfortunately, that involved a lot of paper workout and time commitment and I decided to explore other options. Thus, I went to the Navy recruiting office and saw a video about the Seals. It looked really cool and I decided to look into it further.
The more I heard about it, the more I realized that it was considered to be the toughest training on Earth. That got me even more committed and I thought to myself, if I can do this, I can do anything! I was also really interested in doing something to protect my country. I always wanted to be a super hero figure.
MM: How long ago was this when you joined the Seals?
RM: This was 1984.
MM: Would you say that you were a really intense person before trying out for the Seals?
RM: I would say that I was a fairly intense person. In fact, even in Seal training, I was referred to as intense person. I am not someone that waivers on things and when I make a decision, I really go for it. I don't make excuses and when I say that I am going to get something done, I get it done. That's how I felt about BUDS and going into Seal team. I had a do or die attitude about doing it.
MM: Having become a Navy Seal and looking back at the experience, is there anything that you could have done to prepare yourself?
RM: Absolutely! Before I went in, I heard that they were going to literally try to kill me there. Thus, I made a commitment to myself that I was either going to make it, or die there. I trained that way in many ways to prepare myself. I was in Great Lakes, Illinois when I went through boot camp. Then I was assigned a job there in the Navy. I started training by running a great deal in these boon docker Navy boots in the snow in the middle of winter. I heard that the training was going to involve being colder than I had ever experienced. Thus, I wanted to learn how to push myself in the cold. For two years getting ready, I never took a hot shower even when it was -86 degrees outside.
MM: Was this effective in helping you adapt to the cold experiences in BUDS?
RM: You really cannot say to yourself that you are going to get used to being cold. However, you can get used to the shock and the conversation that goes with it to yourself. I wanted to prepare myself so I could beat the conversation.
RM: We all have conversations with ourselves all the time and they play a tremendous role in what we do. The conversation that one has with him or her self is what kills you. Especially under extremely stressful situations like "hell week" where you are almost up for 110 hours a week!
I had to get myself in the mindset of never giving up no matter what. A buddy of mine gave me a quote which stated, "A man can only be beaten in two ways: if he gives up or he dies." I had that quote in my wallet until the pencil marks rubbed off. I really lived that motto. I decided that if I am not dead, then I cannot quit.
MM: How much does team camaraderie come into play in making it through BUDS?
RM: I think that the team accountability plays a huge role. We are taught that our team matters and that it is important to work together as a team. That said, I did get more of that camaraderie feeling when I was in a unit.
In BUDS, we are taught what we can do together and as a team. In BUDS, you learn that nothing else exists but your teammates. In BUDS, you cannot do anything without your team and learn how to count on each other and trust each other. Once you prove to people that you can get things done, camaraderie comes from there.
MM: Obviously you have to be in incredible shape to become a Navy Seal. However, how much of becoming a Seal is mental? And how much is physical?
RM: It is interesting. There were some guys in BUDS that were in great shape and did not make it to the end. Then there were guys who could barely swim when they got to training and finished. You are not going to have world record times going through BUDS. Yet, you will have a guy that will not quit when the shit hits the fan. BUDS develops an athlete that will not quit; it develops an athlete with heart. If you do not have heart, you could be the greatest athlete in the world. However you are going to cave when the pressure comes. You have to have the guts to finish what you start.
When I work with my clients now I tell them that if they can say yes to the following three questions, they have the guts to finish anything:
- Are you willing to make a choice? Very rarely do people make choices that fundamentally effect their lives. For example, changing channels on the TV is not something that fundamentally effects your life. You have to step up to the plate and make a fundamental life changing choice.
- Do you have the courage to start now? We get people that make choices but do not do anything to get started. Half the people that made a choice drop out at this stage. They do not take the first step to move in the direction that they want.
- Do you have the commitment to finish? You can start, but can you finish? This is where most people disappear. Very few people finish. People can start things, but can they see it through the end? Can they be there when it matters?
MM: Why do you think that so many people drop off at that point?
RM: Fear, fear is a very subtle thing. It starts off very mild in the form of anxiety and being uncomfortable. Then it goes all the way to major anxiety and terror. Finally it goes to despair. Literally, there is a whole set of fears and conversations associated to those fears that diminish the quality of whom you are capable of being. They do not want to believe it and they do not want to be responsible for what they get done. It is a lot easier to not be responsible then to do what you say that you are going to do.
MM: Sure and there are many people that will act as "dream stealers" to avoid addressing their own insecurities.
RM: Absolutely! There is a whole culture that will support you. They will buy into it, because they do not want to be responsible for what they are saying that they are going to do. You have to say to yourself that your life matters and that what you do is important; what I say I am is important! How I show up in the world is important. I think that many people would rather not be responsible for that and have a conversations with themselves that are filled with fear. This causes them to shutdown big time.
MM: The fear prevents one from achieving their goals.
RM: There are only two things that stop you from accomplishing whatever it is that you want to do. The first one is knowledge and the other is fear. I had a client that was afraid to go up a ladder. She kept saying to herself that she could not do it.
However, when I got her to change the conversation with herself, she was up the ladder without any problems. You have to be aware of the conversations that you are having with yourself and what you are telling yourself that you cannot do.
MM: Very interesting. One thing that I have realized over the past is that the best way to handle any fear is to take action.
MM: If I am too busy taking action, I do not have time to have any worries or fears. Moreover, what I need to do gets accomplished a lot faster.
Recently, I got laid off from a job that I hated. I decided that I am never going to do anything like that again and that I am going to do what I really want in life. I decided that one of the things that I wanted to do was become a free lane journalist in the health and nutrition field. I started writing articles and interviewing people such as: Frank Shamrock, best selling authors, and fitness experts.
Some of my friends are just astonished and wonder how I got things going so fast. My only response is that I decided what I really wanted to do and just went for it. People tell me that they would like to do what I do, but are too worried about rejection and things not working out.
RM: Exactly, and it is a conversation with oneself that states that it is always going to go bad. They stop themselves before they even have a chance to do it. I define focus as when clarity, concentration, and action converge to create a specific result in the present. When you put the three together with a clearly defined purpose, the odds of failing are almost impossible.
I teach people that there is no real thing called focus. Really what they are describing is an event that has already passed. Our lives are a success of moments of now. The moment you go back to describe it, you are reporting an event that has already taken place. Focus is a state of being.
Focus is a description for a connection to a target. What it is that you are trying to accomplish. I have a combat commandment: In a fully focused mind, fear has no room for growth.
MM: Well stated. I did an interview with UFC champ Frank Shamrock recently and I asked him if he gets scared before fighting a tough opponent. He told me that for him it is exhilaration and that he thrives on the challenge. He goes through every fight in his head and is so focused on winning that the fear is not there at all.
RM: I hear that. However, what is even more important is that Frank is thinking about what he is going to do to them, rather then what they are going to do to him. It is all about where you put your mind. The difference between a champion and a loser is that the champion focuses exactly on what they are going to get done. They have made decisions.
MM: And with that decision comes a great deal of self-responsibility.
RM: Exactly, you have to be responsible. You cannot be a victim and achieve your goals. Which one is better, being a victim or a champion. When you turn on the news all you hear about is people being victims. I hate to use the word, but it is very disempowering. It disables what you are truly capable of being.
Think about the most sensational moment that you have ever had in your life and ask yourself, where was your doubt? This whole conversation about what you cannot be is gone. You have walked away because you were connected to the event.
MM: Kind of like the concept of being in the "zone." Everything is blocked out of your mind and you are focused on the moment.
RM: It is not even blocked out. It is just not there. Blocking out takes a lot of work and energy. If I tell you not to think about pink elephants, then it is going to be the first thing that comes to your head. You do not need to block anything out, because you have let it go.
MM: How has what you have learned from your Navy Seal experience carried over into other areas of your life?
RM: It has helped me a lot and I have had a chance to do a lot of really cool things. It was instrumental in me being able to write a book. Not so much in writing it but in being able to represent myself in front of seven major publishers to get a book done. It has helped me work with some very successful clients. It has taught me that I have the ability to show up and get things done.
MM: Do you feel that becoming a Seal was such a brutal experience that everything else in life is a cakewalk?
RM: In some ways the experience was brutal and tough. Yet, in other ways it was liberating. It was also alive! It was also challenging! It was deeply rewarding and I felt that what I was doing mattered and made a difference.
Although, it may seem brutal and tough, it is also a measure of who you are and what you are capable of doing. What I learned is always there now and it is the foundation upon which I can build anything. It has given me the know how that I can do anything. For example, right now I am in training to become a Zen Buddhist priest.
MM: You are kidding?
RM: I am serious and I am training to eventually be able to receive what is called Dharma transmission. The ability to transfer Dharma that is linked all the way back to the Buddha himself. The level of accountability in this experience is immense. I have to be totally responsible for my experiences and my experiences with others. This is really the essence of Zen training.
My Seal training taught me that if I give my best effort, I will always finish the race and do a great job. It has taught me that there are no limits. I mean I am not going to be able to fly like a bird. However, I know how to get in an airplane and fly in a plane. There is nothing that you cannot do. What is the limit? Do we really know?
MM: People are constantly breaking through barriers and setting new standards.
RM: Ya, look at the 4-minute mile. People are breaking the 4-minute mile. You don't see horses doing that. A horses running time has not changed radically in the last 100 years. Because they do not have the concept. They just do what they do. We have the capacity to realize that we can blow through barriers and that maybe there really are not any barriers.
Is there really a barrier that states someone must starve so that another can eat? Is it really necessary for 20 million people to starve every year? It is just a question? I don't know. What if we just question the very fundamental nature if what we think our are fundamental beliefs. Imagine the clarity that we could see.
MM: Very true. I think that it is important to question what we think we know and be open to other possibilities.
MM: Lets get into your book. How is your book different from other goal setting books out there?
RM: I think that the fundamental difference is that there is physical discipline associated with my book. Combat is an incredibly intense microcosm of life. In a space of a few seconds you can run the entire gambit of promotions: from fear to hate from loss to triumph. To me it is an extremely powerful metaphor. Literally using combat as this place where truth is the most important thing, not my opinion, not my ideology, but literally what makes performance more successful.
That is the difference in the book. Nothing else matters. It is a philosophy of performance, not of ideology. It is simply the way that things are. How do I know? I can prove it in the physical universe. I can prove it and people can learn it, not only from reading and listening to it, but kinesthetically they can take it on in a cellular membrane.
MM: True, it really does get to you on a deep level.
RM: When I wrote it in the book at least it comes from that experience as it enters the page. What I tried to do in the book is really keep it as simple as I could. Keep it as simple as possible.
Why? Because combat is pain; it is pressure; it is fear; and it is doubt and insecurity. If you cannot keep it simple, you have no chance of making it work. Thus, the strength of this book is that it is simple. Thus, when you are under stress; when you are in pain; when you are tired; what is the one thing that you can focus on? It all comes back to your target.
MM: That is what I really liked about your book is that it is very real, applicable, and simple. You get the point quickly and it all makes sense. It is really an excellent book.
RM: Thanks I really appreciate that and it means a lot to me.
MM: Your welcome. Now Richard, since this interview is for a hardcore fitness magazine, lets get into your workout routine a little bit. What do you do to stay in shape?
RM: I do a variety of activities including: running, gymnastics, and a lot of Seal conditioning exercises.
MM: Lot of calisthenics?
RM: Yes, a lot of bodyweight exercises. I really do not do too much weight training. What I am after is a mastery of my bodyweight. Look at a guy like Hershel Walker. Hershel never lifted weights and he had a phenomenal physique.
MM: Right, he did a lot of pushups and could hit like a train.
RM: Exactly and he did bodyweight squats like he was out of his mind. What I like about bodyweight exercises is that you do not get the wear and tear on your joints. Moreover, you get body familiarity; where your body is in space and time. Thus, I really like drills that challenge that. For cardio, I do a lot of kicking and heavy bag work. I also like the kicking for developing agility and coordination.
MM: Can you give us an example of your routine?
RM: Well I do a lot of things to keep from getting bored. For example, one day I will do 500 bodyweight squats in a row. Sometimes in my classes we do circuit training and will start with 100 pushups and then do 100 squats, then 100 sit-ups, then we go down to 90, then 80 and so forth until we get down to 10. This is a great way to wear people out and get them in great shape.
MM: You would love a book by Matt Furey entitled Combat Conditioning.
RM: Oh ya I have heard of that guy!
MM: Matt goes over dozens of great bodyweight exercises and it is an outstanding book. I wrote an article about a year ago when I was doing Matt's stuff exclusively to stay in shape. I was doing a lot of Hindu Squats, handstand pushups, reverse pushups, etc.
RM: There you go, that is what I am talking about.
MM: It is great stuff and I literally did hundreds of reps and got to over 1000 reps on the squats. I actually teach a lot of this stuff to firefighters and Police officers now and combine it with kettlebell training that I learned from Pavel Tsatsouline.
RM: Sure, I have heard of Pavel, that is great.
MM: I think that you would like the high rep kettlebell drills that I teach. They are awesome for muscular endurance.
RM: Doesn't one of the safeties for the LA. Rams, Adam Archuleta do that stuff?
MM: I am not sure if Adam uses kettlebells. However, a guy named Coach John Davies trains a lot of NFL players and he incorporates kettlebells into a lot of his programs. I do like the bodyweight drills though and feel that they are an important part of being in overall shape. I have seen many bodybuilders that can squat 400lbs, but could not do a one legged squat to save their lives.
RM: Right, they do not have the body awareness that I teach. I do like some of the weight stuff and have incorporated some of the drills that I have seen Archuleta do.
MM: Some of the stuff that Adam does is insane such as dropping 500lbs from the top position of the bench press and then exploding it back up.
RM: Totally unreal! I have incorporated the hamstring exercise that he does with my group.
MM: The glute hamstring raise?
RM: That's it! Adam does it with 45lbs. However, we are just trying to get to the point in which we can do it without any weight (laughing)
MM: (laughing) That is a very tough drill and I am working on it myself!
Richard, thanks a lot for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do the interview and I will be in touch.
RM: Mike it has been a real pleasure and I look forward to hearing from you.