It’s not enough making billions of dollars and being masters of the universe.
Today’s business leaders and hedge-fund gods want to get even better.
So many of them are now spending their weekends at a Navy SEAL-training camp.
You’re probably envisioning a bunch of alpha Type A hedge funders being really intense in military gear on a deserted beach for a weekend. And you’re right! But that’s not all it’s about.
While there’s definitely a physical aspect, SEAL training for civilians has a heavy focus on leadership, team building, and communication. It’s an incredible bonding experience where folks take lessons from the battlefield and bring them back to the boardroom.
Last weekend, 24 guys from the business and finance communities, including Pershing Square Capital’s CEO, Bill Ackman, and Kase Capital’s Whitney Tilson, got a taste of the infamous six-month BUD/S course that aspiring Navy SEALS go through.
The group participated in the “Leadership Under Fire” program. It’s hosted by San Diego-based award-winning leadership and team-building company Special Operations Training Group, or SOT-G. It was founded in 2005 by former Navy SEAL Rob Roy and author of the upcoming book “The Navy SEAL Art of War.”
Roy, who was a member of SEAL Team Six, said the program is about personal growth.
“What you are going to take away is who you are as an individual,” Roy told Business Insider. “If you don’t know who you are when you get there, you will when you leave.”
He explained that the physical stuff wears off and that it’s the lessons of humour, creativity, teamwork, decision-making, planning, communication, and mental toughness that participants take home.
Roy added that the program aims to instill four pillars of leadership: inspiration, direction, guidance, and hope.
About 99% of the participants are company executives. A large contingency comes from New York and the hedge funds based there.
Apparently the program was a huge success for this past weekend’s group with Ackman and Tilson.
“Overall, it was an incredible experience,” Tilson wrote in a group email seen by Business Insider.
He wrote: “Over 2½ days (~4pm Thursday to ~6am Sunday), we swam nearly two miles in the ocean in the middle of the night in 59-degree water (with wetsuits, thankfully!), paddled 6-person inflatable dinghies through the surf again and again during one day and for many miles during another night, crept (stumbled?) around in the dark for an hour preparing to assault a ‘terrorist camp’, lifted, carried, curled and ran with nearly 200-lb. logs for a couple of hours, slept for two night in cots in tents on a beach, did more running, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, bear-crawls, crab-walks, wheelbarrow races, fireman’s carries, etc. than we’d ever done before, crawled in the sand until our knees and elbows looked like a belt sander had worked on them, learned self-defence techniques, how to walk patrol, respond as a team to being shot at, raid a room and building, etc.”
That sounds intense, but it wasn’t the hardest part, according to Tilson.
“The worst drill was called the “whistle drill”: on one whistle, you dropped down onto your belly in the sand; when you heard two whistles, you started crawling toward the instructor; and three meant you leapt to your feet. After the first whistle, he [our instructor] mostly just kept blowing two whistles over and over — and moving backwards to keep just out of reach, up the beach, down the beach, around in circles, etc. Just when the fast guys had reached the front, he liked to walk around in a circle and go in the other direction, so the slow guys were now in front and the fast guys were stuck in the back of a scrum of sweating, miserable humanity. (Have you ever seen lots of baby turtles crawling out of the ocean, up the beach, leaving tracks? It was sort of like that.) If you lifted your butt or tried to crawl on your hands and knees, they screamed “you cheater”! Within a minute or two, your elbows and knees started to chafe badly — and it progressed from there to pure torture.”
Being able to put yourself through a regimen this intense would require months of preparation. Roy told us that participants have to train well in advance.
Tilson said he began training six months ago. As a result, he’s now in the best shape of his life.
Still, the SEAL training was intense.
“I could barely walk on Sunday as I was feeling acute pain in muscles I never knew I had!”
The pain was clearly worth it, though.
“Every one of us pushed ourselves harder physically and perhaps also mentally than we ever had before, learned a lot about leadership and teamwork — and about ourselves and each other. It was an intense bonding experience and an outside-the-box, once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it was just really cool hanging out with the SEALs and seeing how they operate,” Tilson wrote.
It sounds awesome.
You can watch a promo video of the “Leadership Under Fire” program below: