Retired Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink said that the type of young man drawn to the Navy SEALs is aggressive and independent. It's through the discipline of the SEALs that these traits can be honed constructively, rather than leading to trouble.
Jocko Willink wanted to serve in the military ever since he could remember.
As a child, Willink played with ornate miniature toy soldiers and wore Army-Navy gear everywhere he went, the retired Navy SEAL commander told Business Insider's Rich Feloni on an episode of the podcast "Success! How I Did It." Despite his grandfather serving in the Army for 20 years, Willink said there was just something inside him that wanted to fight as a Navy SEAL. He went on to have a 20-year career in the SEALs, and served as the commander of SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War.
"I guess there are some people who say, 'I want to be a businessman,' and there are some people who say, 'I want to be a rock star,' and there are some people who say, 'I want to be a car mechanic,' and I wanted to be a machine gunner in a SEAL platoon, you know?" Willink said.
He went through a six-month training process that weeded out 80% of the people who signed up. Willink said you have to consider the job you're getting into, without the romantic frills that movies can sugarcoat: "You're going to be risking your life; you're going to be shooting guns; your job is to kill people ... And your job is to take the risk of being killed."
Willink said there are people who decide to take that route and become criminals. The key with the military path is that it takes those impulses and refines them through discipline.
One major misconception about military personalities is unquestioningly taking orders — which is a complete fallacy, Willink said. He said young SEALS, including himself at the beginning of his career, "get in trouble all the time" (getting into a bar fight, for example) because of their aggressive, independent personalities.
"We constantly have to rein guys in. And those are the kind of guys you want. There's nothing wrong with those guys. But, you know, they're born to do something," Willink said. Getting older and growing with the SEALS steered him and his team in the right direction, he said.
"I just grew up. And I mean, sure people would say stuff along the way, but nothing that was so impactful, nothing that was remotely as impactful as just getting older," Willink said. "You start to see, well, 'What do I want to do? And where do I want to go?' And you need to put yourself on the right path."