Alden Mills “Unstoppable Teams” | Talks at Google


[MUSIC PLAYING] ALDEN MILLS: Thank you for
sharing your lunch with us. SPEAKER: Good to have y’all. ALDEN MILLS: Thank you, Austin. SPEAKER: So listening to
that, I had CEO, entrepreneur, inventor, Navy SEAL, author,
father of three, four– ALDEN MILLS: Four. SPEAKER: Four. Where does it end? Are you a software
engineer, too? ALDEN MILLS: Two dogs. Two dogs. No, I am not a
software engineer. That’s too hard. SPEAKER: I have a
hard time believing– ALDEN MILLS: No,
that one’s hard. SPEAKER: You’d be surprised. You could do it. So we’re here to
talk about your book. You just wrote
“Unstoppable Teams.” I’m proud to say, I
read the whole thing. Thanks. ALDEN MILLS: Thank
you for doing that. SPEAKER: Yeah. Well, I thought it
was funny because I read nothing but sci-fi. That’s the only thing I read. And I’ve never finished a
serious book in my life. And I was reading
that on a plane and it was motivating
me to finish reading it. So I thought that was really
funny, because I otherwise don’t read a whole
lot of non-fiction. ALDEN MILLS: You know what? I could use an Amazon
review just like that. The fact that it motivated
you to go from one chapter to the next, that’s
a great compliment. SPEAKER: Great. Yeah, I’ll put it on– ALDEN MILLS: Thank
you for reading it. SPEAKER: You’re welcome. I’ll put it on
Google Play, though. ALDEN MILLS: Good. Google Play. Better. SPEAKER: So what inspired
you to write this book? ALDEN MILLS: I had written
my first book called “Be Unstoppable,” and it
took me 10 years to do it. And the trigger for writing
that book was in SEAL Team make you write a
just in case letter before you go off on a mission. And the idea behind
the just in case letter is you kind of get
out all your regrets, all your thanks,
all your gratitudes, so you can go in with an
open heart and a clear mind into a mission. And should you come back paying
the ultimate sacrifice and they would hand a flag and a
letter to your next of kin. And it took me so long to
write that because I really wanted the just in case
letter to be for my four boys. And one of my buddies did
come back on his shield. And I knew he had to write this
letter to an 18-month-old son. And I kept wondering, OK,
what do you write to a child in knowing that you’re not going
to be in that child’s life? So what could that be? And after 10 years, “Be
Unstoppable” came out. And it was really a
parable with nonfiction at the end of each of them. But the whole focus was
about leading yourself. And about leading yourself
was about how to persist, how to get up every
time you failed. And Anna read a whole bunch
of wonderful accolades, but the fact of
the matter is I’ve failed way more than
I’ve ever succeeded. And I wanted to pass that
along to my four boys that it’s all about persisting. And at the end of
that last chapter, I talk about teaming up. But it was just 10, 15 pages. But there’s so much more
to it because in the end, being able to lead
yourself is just the beginning to teaming
up with other people and doing something far
beyond what you originally thought you could achieve. And so this was the intent was
to pick up where I left off. SPEAKER: So you kind
of switched gears, whereas this one talks
in the first third or so about leading yourself and
the rest is about teamwork, the other one’s
all about yourself. And then the last
section’s about you. ALDEN MILLS: Right. You know, the
first one is really about dealing with the internal
struggles that somebody has and deciding what
they can or can’t do. SPEAKER: Cool. Well, I understand you
have in the first chapter– so you have a story, something
about a monster from the Black Lagoon and a man– there’s no two ways about it. He has half a butt. ALDEN MILLS: Yeah. SPEAKER: I was wondering if you
could maybe tell us that story. ALDEN MILLS: OK. SPEAKER: Mind if I step
back and give you– ALDEN MILLS: Sure. So Austin is referring
to this character. And this character is the
Creature from the Black Lagoon. And this is what you see when
you walk through the entrance into SEAL training
in the compound. You walk through the front
gates after they give you permission to come in. And you turn to the right
and the creature’s there. And it stands about
five feet tall. It’s got that wooden plaque
around his neck that says, so you want to be a frog man? Frog man’s a World War II
term for a Navy SEAL today. And SEAL, by the
way, is an acronym for Sleep Eat And Lounge. That’s what my wife would say. Sea, Air, And Land. And when you get to see that,
it takes about two years to see the creature. And you have to do this simple
little physical training exercise of push ups, pull ups,
sit ups, a run, and a swim. It’s condensed, but if you
train for it, you can pass that. And on average, you have
to have done that three times before you get
to see the creature. And then even after you
get to see the creature, you don’t actually get
to start SEAL training. They put you in this pre-phase
training for about seven weeks. And at the end of
the seventh week, right before you were
to start SEAL training, they make you do that
test one more time. But this time around, they
bring in this character, which I’ll bring to life the
story in the first chapter, which I talk about. And he was missing
his left butt cheek thanks to a rocket
propelled grenade from his time in Vietnam. And he had this deep
Southern accent. And he walks with a limp. And he walks in front
of the creature. And we got about
122 of us there. And he says, class
181, gather round here. I want to let you in
on a little secret. You all interested to
know how to make it through Navy SEAL training? We’re like, yeah. We want some of that. We were like kids to a
campfire around this creature. Yeah, I figured as much. You see, it ain’t complicated. You just have to decide how
much you’re willing to pay. Now, here’s the rub. I know for a fact 80%
of you ain’t going to be willing to pay the price. You know why? Because you all want to
be a SEAL on a sunny day. And that’s a problem. You see, your country, she
don’t need SEALs on sunny days. She needs them on scary days
when it’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s wet. And that crack over your
head, that ain’t thunder. That’s somebody
wanting you dead. How bad you want to
be a SEAL on that day? Well, that’s my job. You see, it’s my job to create
a conversation between here and here. A conversation
that’s going to drive you to make a decision on how
much you’re willing to pay. Oh, how am I going to do that? Well, I’m going to do it
just like those Japanese do making a samurai sword. You know how they do that? They take out the medal and they
heat it up and they pound on it and they stick it in cold water. You know how many times
they have to do that? I don’t want to know
that answer, right? About 2,000 times. That’s what I figure
I’m going to do to you just in my phase alone. My crucible right here. What’s this crucible? A large piece of
broken up asphalt with little white
flippers painted on it, some pull up bars
and some dip bars. That’s it. There is nothing
sophisticated there. And oh, the cold
water, well that’s 49 seconds sprint from here. Mother Nature is going
to provide that right in the Pacific Ocean. And while he’s talking, these 26
instructors come up behind him. He goes, oh yeah, and
my hammers, well, that’s these guys right here. And they’re all
standing there smiling. It’s not a drill sergeant
approach in SEAL team. It’s more like a Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde kind of thing. So do yourself a favor. You think real hard before you
start this training on how much you want to be here and how
much you’re willing to pay. And while you do, enjoy
the sunny San Diego day. Bye now. That was instructor Memphis. I talk about that. And it really is the scene that
sets the beginning of the book. And I wanted to include that as
the opening salvo to the book because it’s that
conversation between what I call the head and the heart. Now, you may think
of it as can’t, can. I call it the whiner
and the whisperer. And we all know the whiner. You don’t have to go
through SEAL training to be introduced to our whiner. We all have it. You know how hard
that’s going to be? We’d have to recode that? Oh my god, it’s going
to take forever. How do you know we can
even get it done on time. That’s an unrealistic deadline. It can’t happen. We haven’t even created
the technology yet. And then there’s that whisperer. Wouldn’t it be
cool if we did it? How would we get it done? Hey, let’s try it this way. The point of the fact that
I use a couple of Navy SEAL stories in the book isn’t
to try and convince people to be a Navy SEAL. It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with,
hey, some of the same things they taught us being
in the SEAL are exactly the same things we all use to
overcome any obstacle there is. And that conversation of
learning to lead inside yourself, which is really
the first chunk of the book, is a very important
start to leading a team, because the team becomes a
direct reflection of you. And how you deal with that
conversation internally will also be how you deal with the
conversation that other people on your team are having, as
well, dealing with the doubts, dealing with the I can’ts,
and flipping the conversation to get them to
focus on the I can. Let’s do it. SPEAKER: That was a great story. ALDEN MILLS: So there’s a story. SPEAKER: That was awesome. Thank you. ALDEN MILLS: You’re welcome. SPEAKER: Well, you talked
about the head and the heart, I’m kind of curious– so I have an example of my
life where I don’t necessarily have the motivation I need
to get something done. So when I go solo hunting,
no one is depending on me. No one cares other than
myself if I finish the mission and actually go several
miles or just go 20 feet in– ALDEN MILLS: And eat
some Snicker bars. SPEAKER: And head back out. I mean, if anything my
wife openly advocates for me to come back sooner. So I’m curious– but
I still kind want to complete that goal. I want to go out and be
serious and camp by myself. How do I motivate
myself and kind of fight that conflict between my heart,
which says you can do it. It’d be awesome if you did this. Versus my head, which
is kind of freaking out. ALDEN MILLS: We
humans have something that, as far as we all
know, no other animal has capability to do. That’s called transcendence. Transcendence is nothing more
than a psychological term for our ability to
envision something. We can envision a future. We can envision
somebody’s feelings. That’s called empathy. We can envision an outcome. And I certainly didn’t
know the term transcendence when I was going
through SEAL team or when I was
looking at bankruptcy in developing my
first set of products, realizing they were
just not going to work. But I kept going through
the suffering phase because I would
think about, hey, what would this feel like
if I got to the other side? And how cool would this be– and sometimes, like in
the case of SEAL training, I got to a point where I was the
only officer left in Hell Week and I seriously
considered quitting. And the reason I started
considering quitting is that– I didn’t finish off that
story with Instructor Memphis. We started with 122,
64 passed that test. Six weeks later, we’re
at 34 starting Hell Week. And Hell Week is this– probably the
greatest conversation that you have in at least
first phase of SEAL training. And they take you from a Sunday
evening to a Friday afternoon and they give you a total of
about 3 and 1/2 hours of sleep. And if anybody’s spent
multiple days without sleep, you know what happens
around day 72 hours into it. You start hallucinating. Your brain is no longer helpful. You start running
totally on your heart and what’s important to you. And during those darkest
moments where I started thinking of quitting– and the way I was
thinking and quitting is that they were coming to me going– and they’d be
whispering in my ear– sir, how do you
think you’re going to be able to lead a
platoon when you’re already down to 18 people in Hell Week? And this is only six weeks in. You’re a terrible leader. You shouldn’t be here. You can’t lead. Do you see this? And it was a real
bruise to the ego because we had lost
that many people. And I was really
like, wow, he’s right. We’re 17 enlisted and me. And he got me doubting myself. And just when I would think
about these darkest moments, I would flip the switch
and think about, OK, well, what would the outcome be? Because I knew that I
wanted to be a father somewhere down that road. What’s my conversation
with my child going to be like 20 years from now
when I say to him or her, don’t do what Dad did. Stick it out. Keep going. Don’t quit. Because the only
reason I’d be doing is that I just lost
faith in myself. SPEAKER: That’d be a hard
conversation with a child. ALDEN MILLS: That’s
a hard conversation. And it was those
moments, those moments of focusing on an outcome
where I was focusing on the impact of how
somebody else would feel that was really
important to me, that made the difference. So I bring it full
circle to you, sneaking around trying to
shoot an elk or a deer. Perhaps you want
to have children. And perhaps you
want those children to go out and hunt
with you at some point. Well, boy, wouldn’t it be cool
to teach your child how to get that first hunt together? And how are you going to
do that if you’re just chickening out and sitting
in a pile of rhododendrons eating Snickers bars? SPEAKER: Yeah. So that transcendence, then,
I guess I can use that. ALDEN MILLS: So there you go. SPEAKER: It’s good. ALDEN MILLS: It’s a long
winded answer, but– SPEAKER: Well, that’s
very related to your book. And one thing I
thought was interesting is I don’t remember a
single time in the book where you mentioned that
anyone can be a leader. In fact, you, in the
first few sections, ask the readers to
kind of introspect, ask people around them to find
out what their skill set is. So if someone’s not– their skill set isn’t
prone to leadership, should they just
set the book down? Like, what’s their MO
for reading this book? ALDEN MILLS: So what he’s
referring to is triangulation. And how do you find
your superpower? What I do say is leaders,
maybe they’re born. But everybody’s a leader. Every single person is a leader. Now, you may say, like,
well, that’s not true. OK, do you drink Mountain Dew? Well, yeah. Do you have a couple
of friends that go drink Mountain Dew with you
over in those swinging chairs. Well, yeah, I do. Well, guess what? You just led your
friends to go have some Mountain Dew with you. Now, other people are
smokers or coffee drinkers. You know, the only way
that you’re not a leader is if you don’t have a follower. But even then, you’re
leading yourself. So the idea that you can only be
born with a certain leadership gene, that’s not what
that chapter is about. That chapter is about, hey,
what’s your superpower? Because all of us, when
you’re building a team, it’s like taking a whole
series of puzzle pieces and trying to figure out
how these pieces are going to go together to go in
a direction to accomplish something bigger than yourself. The hardest thing for
the leader is going, well, I’ve been
ordained as the leader, therefore they must follow and
do exactly what I say to do. That is not going to work. SPEAKER: Right. Yeah. And that’s a theme that I’ve
pulled out of your book, as well as many other
readings I’ve done– fictional readings,
of course, because– ALDEN MILLS: Of course. But there’s a lot of great
leadership in science fiction. SPEAKER: Yeah, there is. ALDEN MILLS: “Ender’s
Game,” you read that, right? SPEAKER: My favorite book. ALDEN MILLS: There you go. Marine Corps reads that book. SPEAKER: Really? Very interesting. So out of that, I was noting
that humility as a leader was really important. Can you speak to
that a little bit? Because you bring
it up in your book. I’ve read it in a
lot of other places. And it seems like leadership
isn’t, as you write it, about showing how
awesome you are, but instead showing how
awesome all your teammates are all the time. So can you talk about humility? ALDEN MILLS: The best way
I can describe humility is if it becomes all
about you all the time, there’s no room
for anybody else. It becomes this–
it’s all about me, therefore you’re
here to work– and I am a real stickler
with the teams that I’ve built when people
say, well, yeah, Alden, I got this team and I have
10 people working for me. I can’t stand that
preposition “for.” No, it’s “with.” Every team,
including what we had in SEAL team, this company,
an entrepreneurial adventure– they’re all volunteers. And they’re all
volunteering to decide, hey, I want to work because
I think this would be an interesting place to
take my energy and my efforts and do something greater
than I could do by myself. It will be one of the
biggest challenges that all of us leaders
will face in the future as the gig economy
continues to grow, people get more and more
power to individually go, you know what? The heck with it. I’m going to drive
Uber or Lyft and I’m going to rent my sofas out
in my apartment and voila. I’m a new entrepreneur. But the real exciting thing is
when people go, you know what? I tried that for a little
while and the gig economy it’s not really all
it’s cracked up to be. I really want to go
solve a big problem and I can’t do it by myself. And if you only have somebody
out there thumping their chest saying no, no, no, no,
you’re here to work for me, that pushes people away. But if the person then
says, I’m here to help you. I’m here to help you. I’m here to help all of
us move in this direction to create something
greater than any of us could ever imagine to do,
well, that’s an attraction. And all of us have
pride and ego. And we also have a fair
amount of insecurity. It can be very difficult
for us to set aside all those different things
to then say, you know what? You’re awesome at coding. I suck at coding. I need your help. You are fantastic
at communication. And we need somebody
to communicate this to the other silos in Google. And when those sorts
of acknowledgments, which is the humility
piece, calling it right out, this is what I’m terrible at. I really need this help. People will more
often than not– and because this is actually a
proven scientific thing now– is we reciprocate with care. Unless you’re a psychopath
where the amygdala is no longer firing and you don’t get
an emotional connection, the large majority of
us, our amygdalas fire. And when somebody holds a
door open for somebody else, you typically turn
back and say, oh, I’m going to hold the door
open for– is there somebody behind me? Should I hold the
door open for them? That’s the same thing
that I’m referring to when it comes to humility,
and most importantly, the care framework that we talk
about in the book, is that the more you start
to show how much you care authentically for your team,
the more they will care back and eventually start
to dare because they won’t be worried about
their own selfish desires. They’ll be moving to
a selfless desires of what the team stands for. SPEAKER: Cool. Thank you. And you said the word CARE. That’s a big acronym, right? ALDEN MILLS: Yes. SPEAKER: You have a lot
of acronyms your book. Not as many as there are
at Google, certainly, but– ALDEN MILLS: Yeah, that is one
thing software and military have in common– acronyms. I try to make mine really
super simple because I’m terrible at memorizing things,
so I made it out of CARE, because that’s the main
thesis of the book is what I call care-based leading. And the more that
you can build care based connections
with your team– and that is emotionally– the more they will mentally
be triggered to say, hey, I’m going to go all in. Because the hardest thing is
getting somebody to go from, yeah, I’m engaged. It’s cool. I’m doing my work. I’m here 9:00 to 5:00. But I’m not thinking
about the team problem in the
middle of the night when I go to the bathroom. The people on my teams,
I want you thinking. I want to engage. I want you to own this. And how do you get people to
make that jump from only being selfish about them to, like, oh
no, we have to make this work. And that takes an
emotional connection. SPEAKER: So can you tell us
what the CARE framework is, kind of break it down for us and
maybe give us a story about it? ALDEN MILLS: Yes. I can do all of that. SPEAKER: Excellent. ALDEN MILLS: Let me
think about that. Let me see the best
way– so we had a couple of slides that we put together. And that first one
was the creature. Oh, yeah. Now we’re here. So I’m going to bring
this slide up to you. And this slide was my
greatest invention. I was going to solve the
world body fat problems. It’s the world’s
greatest body fat device. It’s called the rotating
weight system, otherwise known as a body ref. Do you know what it does? No, super cool, though. It’s rotating. It’s got weight in it. Move it all around. No, that was a problem, right? I didn’t really
get that message. Nobody really understood
that I don’t understand why something I hold my hands
is going to burn fat in my butt. It didn’t make sense to them. And I raised a million and
a half dollars to do that. And I did it through
37 friends and family. And I had this small
team that was with me throughout the whole adventure. And they were buying
what we were selling. And that is four years of work. And eventually what
happened is I got brought in to a small group
of investors who said, newsflash, you don’t
have enough money left, because I’d learned
$1,475,000 worth of ways not to launch a product. I’m down to my last
$25,000 and they’re like, you don’t have enough money
to pay the manufacturers, the lawyers, the accountants. It’s over. You’re embarrassing yourself. Go get a job. And that was one of the first
big civilian moments for me, because I’d gone to
the Naval Academy and then I’d gone to SEAL team. So my first real job,
actually, was in software. And then I started
this business. And I heard Instructor Memphis
and a few other instructors going, you know, how much
are you willing to pay? And it was only because we had
built such strong relationships with everybody on the team
and they worked for months without pay that– and I was introducing these
other people, these investors, to this next product. And that was this. And this, the perfect
push up, was three months from never existing. And it was because
the people on the team had cared so much about– we weren’t a fitness company. We were a company that was going
to create a next generation health care company,
that we were going to help people understand
that the best health was taking care of each other
and themselves. So I bring those two
pieces up because that was the trigger that took the CARE. And fellas, if you can bring
me to the first step of team actions on the PowerPoint? SPEAKER: You could also
click through here, I think. ALDEN MILLS: I didn’t want
to ruin one slide that’s hidden in there. I can jump forward. [INTERPOSING VOICES] –what they were doing there. SPEAKER: I’ve heard
of the second product. I have not heard of the first. ALDEN MILLS: Yeah. Four years of work right there,
and the second product, boom, took off. So in a nutshell, those
are the team actions. And I’m happy to go through
them in a lot of detail. But I want you to think
of it like a flywheel. It’s Connect, Achieve,
Respect, Empower. And when you look at each
of those different actions, you may say, well, it
doesn’t go exactly like that. Think of it from just
the beginning stages of, OK, we have to assemble a team
to create a new microservice. Who do I need on that team? Well, I need A, B, C,
D, E, F, and G, right? What’s the very
first thing you do when you’re creating that team? You want to connect with them. You want to make a
connection to say, hey, this is where we’re going. This is what we’re all about. And how do you connect? And what’s the purpose of
connecting with somebody? And is it just send
an email, or is it having that human moment
together, like you and I did earlier this week when
we got on Zoom together and we saw each other’s
facial expressions and shared some
stories together. Right? I break it down
into what connect, which is through communication
credibility and commitment. Communication, by the way,
as you may or may not know, 55% of our communication
is broken down into how we move our body. It’s all body gestures. And then 38% is our tone. How important is this? Or not? And the last 7%
becomes the words. That’s what they say. But all of those pieces
come into deciding in a very quick period of
time inside your brain, hey, do I trust this person? Is this worth trying? Because the whole idea of
connection is to build trust. And as you build trust,
as you go out to achieve– because achieving is
what a team does– is to set direction. And in setting direction,
there’s a whole series– and depending how long our
fictitious micro webservice team has to go go
to work, let’s say they’ve got to take two
years to build their thing. There’s going to be a series
of achieving that’s going on where you’re aspiring. You’re assuming that they’re
doing the right things. At the same time, you’re
also setting up assessments to check on people. You’re assuring them
and you’re appreciating the efforts that are going
in and the perspective of what they’ve been doing. If you’ll notice, I did
C’s, A’s, R’s, and E’s, because again, that’s my
way to remember things. So thankfully, in
the English language you can describe lots
of different ways in the same words. And then from achieve
it comes to respect. And respect is one
of the areas where I think you’ll find a lot of
people make some mistakes, that a lot of people
go, I’m the team leader, therefore I have the authority. You must respect my authority. Even in the military
in the SEAL team, I was the young lieutenant going
off to do my first deployment. Yet, the large majority
of everybody on my team had multiple years
of deployments underneath them, multiple
more combat missions than I ever had. So if I walked into a
platoon going, well, I’m the senior guy here,
pay attention to me, that would have lasted
all of about 10 seconds. And by the way, they
could have fired me. ALDEN MILLS: Oh, really? SPEAKER: No. So the way you get respect
is either through authority or through actions. And that’s what
respect’s all about. And by the way, what’s the
point of even having respect? Why do you want it? Anybody? SPEAKER: Yeah, you
can shout it out. AUDIENCE: Get things done. SPEAKER: Get things
done, he said. Contribution. Exactly. You want to create
an environment where everybody’s point of
view is respected enough that you may go, hey,
I have a new idea, and you’re not worried about
somebody laughing at you going, that’s the dumbest
thing I’ve ever heard. No. Mutual respect is about
getting different points of view that diversity of
thought, which, to me, is what diversity is really
all about, is you want diversity of thought,
not diversity of heart. And the great thing about
multiple different cultures is that you get the
different points of view that can give you the
different opportunities. But if you don’t create a
mutually respectful workplace, then the great ideas
won’t percolate. And then that brings
you to empowerment, which is about educate,
enable, and engage. SPEAKER: So we actually
care a lot about inclusion hear, diversity and
inclusion at Google. And it sounds like respect
really goes in line with that, with making sure
voices are heard. I think you had a story about
someone when you were going to Bosnia who had an idea– it was a laptop? ALDEN MILLS: Yeah. SPEAKER: Maybe
you can tell that? ALDEN MILLS: You want
to hear that story? SPEAKER: Yeah, it’s a good one. ALDEN MILLS: Well,
you got to promise me you’re going to read the book
if I tell all these stories out here. He’s referring to a mission. And I don’t talk a
lot about missions. But there is one mission I talk
at the highest level about, and that’s in Bosnia. And we were hunting a person
indicted for a war crime. And these people,
there were 88 of them, and I think ours was number
two or three on the list. It was nicknamed Dr. Death. And to really
understand Bosnia is to understand how awful the
human race can actually go. Thanks to the internet
today, everyone’s got to see how awful it can
be most recently with some of the issues we’ve been
dealing with over in Syria and in the ISIS caliphate. But all of that was
happening in Bosnia. And we were on a mission to hunt
this person down, but capture them and bring them
live to the Hague to be tried for war crimes. And the challenge
was that they wanted us to hunt this person
but take a picture where another team could go in and
take the person with a series of armored vehicles and stuff. We were going to do
these ambush roadblocks, because believe it
or not, we weren’t allowed to be offensive. They had to be defensive. And I got presented with the
first generation digital SLR camera. It had a Kodak body
and a Nikon lens on it. It was valued at
$34,000 dollars, and I know that because
I was making $32,000 and the colonel was laughing
at me that I just signed away a year’s worth of salary
for this digital piece of equipment. And we had a Toshiba
laptop, protege laptop. And we were going out into these
thick woods of northern Bosnia and set up shop around– there were a bunch of
troops cruising around. And we were trying
to take this picture. And it turned out
very early on that the Nikon lens and the
autofocus couldn’t keep up with the caravan that would come
by every once in a blue moon. And we got the word that
this thing, this mission is going to get canceled. And I asked the Colonel
Isaacs, Colonel can you– talking radio talk, you know– request 24 hours, over. And he came back
and “Roger that.” It turns out, he’s a
deep Southern guy, too. And we’re all sitting
around– there’s five of us huddled, and
there’s enemy in the area. And we’re like, what
are we going to do? How are we going to do this? And my youngest, newest member
of the team raises his hand– and you’ve got to imagine,
like, we’re under– we’re all camied and we
get sticks all over us and we’re in this hide. And he says, (WHISPERING) sir,
I think we should dig potholes. Potholes? (NORMAL VOICE) Of
course, we were thinking about cutting
trees down and felling them over different ways. And we were going to create all
these obstacles for these cars to slow down, because we had
to get the car slowed down. And sure enough, his
idea was the simplest. And we went to work with
our night vision goggles and we had IR lights. And your had to set
up– because you had to evade the
enemy while we’re out in the middle of the
night with one e-tool chopping away at the road
making a pothole that would be big enough to make this
Mercedes caravan slow down so we could get the picture
with our first generation SLR camera. That’s part one of this story. We got the picture. But part two is, you
always do a debrief. And I lead the debrief,
being the platoon commander. When you come back to
the team and they say, OK, give us a debrief of
all the different missions, what did you learn? And all the new guys– because you’re constantly
bringing in new people– they’re sitting in there. And I call out the
new guy who was on our team, who’s no longer
a new guy, because he’s done one full deployment. I’m like, and that
gentleman over there came up with a
mission-saving idea. And that’s what it was. And I bring that kind of
full story to the circle– full circle to the story–
because after that, you saw these other kids
standing up like, oh, you mean I can participate
in coming up with a good idea on a mission? And that’s exactly what
they want to have happen. They want to close the distance
between the new person who shows up on the team and
the most experienced person. So that’s the
punchline to the story. SPEAKER: That’s a good story. Sorry to try to spoil
the book for everyone. ALDEN MILLS: No. SPEAKER: There’s a lot more
stories than that, though. So I think you had a story
about an individual relating to the CARE circle there
that you wanted to tell? ALDEN MILLS: I do. Could you gentlemen pull up the
soldier slide up there please? SPEAKER: Appreciate all
the hard work in the back. ALDEN MILLS: So people
often ask me, well, you know, CARE is great and all,
but what does that really mean? And how far is somebody going
to really care for the team? And I can’t think of a
better, more selfless story as an example than
Michael Monsoor. Michael Monsoor is a Petty
Officer, second class. It was September 2006. He was working in Ramadi. He was not in my platoon. He was years after I
came out of SEAL team. But I knew Michael. I knew lots of Michaels. And Michael was on a
routine training mission through Ramadi with a
couple of other SEAL snipers and a handful of
Iraqi combatants that were getting trained
up to start taking over defensive positions
for their city. And while they were
going through it– and Michael is what’s called an
SSR, Sniper Support Rifleman– they come under unexpected
enemy engagement. Michael finds, along with
two other SEAL snipers, a low rooftop second story of– open story of a building. And they set up shop. And Michael’s main job is
to be the peripheral vision for a sniper. So snipers can go to work in
a very close, confined area with that scope. And he’s also the one
responsible for calling in support and for
guarding the exit and entrance onto the
rooftop and getting the Iraqis out of the way. He calls up, hey, we know
we’re under enemy fire. I need some help. Sorry, assets are other places. Over about an hour
or so, Michael ends up yelling the
word that you never want to hear, certainly
in a closed space– grenade! Combatant had thrown a
grenade up, hit his chest, and the grenade rolled by
the exit of the building. You got about a
second, maybe two, to figure out what to
do with that grenade. And Michael did what we
would all talk about, but you don’t get
trained for that. And he covered his
body over that grenade. And what makes somebody do that? You don’t get a bonus
for jumping on a grenade. Like, there’s no standard
operating procedure for, hey, today is practice
jump on grenade day. There’s no medal that’s like,
gee, if I jump on the grenade, everybody in my family
is going to be taken care of for the rest of my life. I get a bigger life
insurance policy. There’s no monetary gain. And I bring that example
up because Michael did pay the ultimate sacrifice. He did posthumously
receive the Medal of Honor. And most recently, there
is a ship in his name that was just commissioned
in San Diego in January called the USS Monsoor. I invite you to look it up. It’s a super cool-looking ship. It’s a destroyer. Reverse bough and everything. He’d be very proud of it. But the point of that
selflessness was he cared so much about his team. I know everyone’s
thinking, gee, you can’t wait to die
for your country. But believe it or not, we’re
not really that fired up to die for our country. The country is a
big, amorphous thing. Like, yes, we’re very patriotic. No doubt about it. Several of us have tattoos
of the American flag on us. But what we really love
are the people we’re with. And the idea of letting down
somebody else on that team becomes worse to us than dying. And that is an extreme example. I totally admit that. But that’s how
far, when you start thinking of building
care-based teams, how far those extents will be. You’ll never, thankfully,
have to jump on a grenade. The grenades are different in
the workplace as a civilian. The grenades are,
oh, I’ve got to deal with a tough personality
today or I’ve got to deal with a client,
or we’ve got to figure out, this one’s going to cause me
to work through the weekend kind of grenade. But if everybody
on the team feels that there is a
shared responsibility and accountability
for that, then that’s where the magic
occurs to take you from being selfish
to selfless and being really an unstoppable team. SPEAKER: Wow. That’s a really powerful story. Thank you for sharing it. Appreciate yours
and his service. ALDEN MILLS: Yeah. Michael. That’s Michael Monsoor. SPEAKER: Thank you. So near the end of the
book you get into this idea called a 10 times advantage. Could you explain what that is? ALDEN MILLS: So
you built a team. We built our fictitious
micro webservices team. And we are going to go out and
conquer a new category, right? And the easiest way to
consider your team is a through f or however many
people you’ve got, right? Let’s call it it’s
a 12 person team. But there are a whole bunch of
other contributors to your team that are actually important
to helping your team succeed. Now, for some of
you, you may laugh. But it may be– maybe
it’s your personal trainer that’s helping a couple
of you three times a week stay healthy
enough and strong enough and have enough stamina
to work through a weekend or pull that 24 hour when you
got to meet that deadline. Maybe it has something to do
with a team that’s sitting over in India that’s supplying some–
checking your code for you. And it’s always
within the community that you’re supplying
or trying to succeed in. What I find is a lot of
people like, I got my team. We’re super CARE-based. We’re doing great. I’m like, great, how
have you involved your external teammates? And I break the
external teammates into what I call the
three C’s of the Customer, the Contributor,
and the Community? And I give a creative
parable in there and give a lot of different
examples of corporations. I think Google is on a path of
doing some of that where they involve the community in and
let them become part of the team in helping build and
giving that feedback. SPEAKER: Yeah, we hope so. So the 10 times advantage
is about extending that CARE-based framework beyond
just your immediate team, then. ALDEN MILLS: Right. And I came up with the term
10x because that is actually how military strategists
look at a special operations. And I say special operations
because it’s not just SEAL. It could be Green Beret. It could be forced recon. It could be Air Force CCT. Like, there’s a whole bunch of
different special operations. They look at special operations
as a 10x force multiplier on the battlefield. Now, that’s great. There’s 16 SEAL platoon
or a 10 person ODA team. And I actually don’t give a
SEAL example on this story. I give the story of “12
Strong,” the movie, ODA, 595. That is a perfect
example of what I’m talking about for how
they did the 10x advantage. Their whole job wasn’t about–
they couldn’t fight off 10 times their force. But what they could do
is build relationships with the Northern Alliance,
which was totally fractured, and take on something which was
50,000 Taliban much smaller– or much larger– than the 500
US troops that were in there. And so 500 US troops,
total, took on 50,000. And how they did
that was extending the team-based
relationship building to a series of
different contributor and communal groups. SPEAKER: Great. Well, thank you very much. I think that’s all the
questions I have for you. We’ll open it up for
questions to the audience in a second, and– ALDEN MILLS: I’d
love some questions. SPEAKER: Really thank
you for coming out. Thanks. ALDEN MILLS: Thank you. SPEAKER: Matt, would you mind
tossing around the mic for us? AUDIENCE: Thanks so much. SPEAKER: You’re welcome. AUDIENCE: I’m on, oh great. So LJ Irwin from Google
Cloud for Startups. My question is, have you found
anything or experienced– either personally or through
some of your reading, or even from your network
of activities or events for civilians that mimics
some of the training that you went
through in the SEALS, like the physical training,
the mental training, and the skill-based training? ALDEN MILLS: Yes. There is a– he is a
little bit my senior. His name is Mark Devine. Mark Devine runs a Navy SEAL
Hell Week-like experience down in San Diego. He’s written a couple of books. He runs a very professional
outfit down there. Just type in Mark Devine. You’ll see SEALFIT. And you can pay to suffer. You’re welcome. SPEAKER: Great. AUDIENCE: Just kind
of curious, so it seems like real world
challenges, I guess, aren’t as clear cut as, say,
like a military challenge. You know, like the endurance
of doing 600 pull ups versus maybe working overtime
for a month or something. Working overtime for a
month isn’t necessarily maybe the endurance that
we’re supposed to be doing, or a good thing. Do you have any
kind of guidelines for helping to see what
the right choice is? ALDEN MILLS: That
is a great question. And there’s a whole
chapter that I talk about in the story
called X Division. And it’s what makes
SEAL training easier from a leading perspective
than being a civilian. I am not here to say,
hey, just do what SEALs do and you’ll be fine, because
civilians aren’t SEALs, right? That’s the key thing
is to understand, OK, how can you take what
we’ve been talking about and apply it to the civilian? On the lowest common
denominator, we all are human and we all respond with care. But I am not talking about care
as a form of soft and cuddly and let’s give everybody
rose petals every day, and how are we feeling? You need a massage right now? The real care is
much the same way– like somebody asked me before– you know, those
instructors don’t look like they care
too much about you. Actually, they care a whole
hell of a lot about us because they’re going
to rotate out and become part of our platoon again. So they want to make sure
that they are putting people through the process
that are going to be willing to be on that team. So I do want to clarify,
when I talk about care, I’m talking about the
care of helping people become the very best
version of themselves for what the team needs. Second piece is X Division. In SEAL team we
had SEAL training and in teams, if
somebody decides they don’t want to be
there anymore or they quit or they decide from an
attitude perspective this person is not helpful,
they go to X Division. X Division is where
they place everybody that isn’t on the team. And you can’t talk to them. And they can’t talk to you. They’re removed. They don’t want that bad apple
spoils the bunch in there. And attitudally is one
of the big challenges that they look at. We can’t do that as
a civilian, right? You can’t create an X Division
and be like, today you have a bad attitude. You’re in the box. Doesn’t work that way. So the first part is, what’s the
culture of the team that you’re trying to build? When we talk about
triangulation and trying to find people’s
superpowers and I talk about these seven
traits for unstoppables, is first finding the people
that fit the culture of the team that you’re on. More often than not, one
of my first questions when I interview
people, hey, tell me about your greatest failure. Well, you know, I just
succeeded all my life. I’ve just been really
lucky, I guess. You know, that
tells me two things. One, they may not have pushed
themselves out of their comfort zone to really try something. And by the way, we’re trying
to create something new to the world here. We are going to fail. And failure is going
to give us feedback. And we want to fail fast
and get moving, right? And a break, when I
was getting interviewed for the psychological
screening for SEAL team, the very last question
they ask you– and you’re sitting
at this long table and you’ve got this
super intimidating person at the other end, been
a Navy SEAL forever, and he looks at me
and he goes, I’m going to ask you
one last question. And if you take longer
than a second, you’re out. Like OK, I’m ready. It’s like “Family
Feud,” right, going to hit the button or something. What are you most afraid of? Boom. I give him my
answer, which is not 100% appropriate for
being videoed right now. But it was about
losing body parts. And he said, what? And I told him. And I gave him the
whole reason behind it. And he goes, you know how
many people have said failure? And they fail when I hear that. And so SEAL team was trying
to screen people right out of the gate for, if failure
is your biggest obstacle, well, you already have
a cultural problem with what we’re
dealing with, right? So you had that piece of it. And then the final piece
is, we all have bad days. Leading is sausage making. It’s hard. All of us are
different, yet all of us have basic operating systems. We all have different APIs. And the more we can learn
to work with different APIs, the more we can
build great teams. We’re actually limited on
our leadership capabilities by the amount of different
APIs we can interface with. AUDIENCE: That’s a great answer. Thanks. ALDEN MILLS: You’re welcome. Thank you for that question. That’s a great question. So is your other
one, too, by the way. Anybody else? Anybody? I’m happy to sign
books, by the way. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER: –sign some
books, and then we’ll take him out to lunch. So if there’s no more questions,
I guess we’ll end the talk. All right. Thank you very much. ALDEN MILLS: Thank you. Go and make great stuff, Google. [APPLAUSE]

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