Thinking like a Navy Seal Sourcer

100712-N-3154P-022 ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 12, 2010) Sgt. Shane Worley and Boatswain's Mate Seaman Nathaniel Bracewell play chess on the mess decks of the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15). Ponce is underway conducting a training exercise to prepare for an upcoming deployment scheduled for later this year. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Scott Pittman/Released)

Does the idea of making cold calls give you a pit in the bottom of your stomach give you the chills? Do you worry about how people will react if you email them at work? How do you motivate yourself to do some of the things that you might not want to do?

If you think making cold calls is difficult how would you motivate yourself to do something as extreme as training to become a Navy Seal? I read an article about Navy Seal training. They were researching when and why people quit. They discovered that most trainees don’t quit during a run or when they are in the mud. They quit at breakfast.

According to the article, “Most quit over breakfast or lunch. They quit in anticipation of the difficult conditions to come. They self-eliminated, not because they didn’t have the abilities to perform the tasks, but because they feared that the next challenges would be too difficult and they would then fail (and fail in front of their classmates).”

Does any of that sound familiar? I have heard recruiters say they don’t like contacting people at work. It isn’t that they are afraid; they don’t want to upset someone. What I hear is someone quitting at breakfast.

Too often we quit before we try. I wonder at this mindset. As sourcers and recruiters we get to offer people new opportunities. 80 to 90 % of people want to hear about new jobs. Why do we allow the possible irritation of 10% of the population stop us from reaching out to the other 90% to offer them something of value?

If I may, I’d like to share a relevant story from when I was a new recruiter in a staffing agency. I was making my required 50 dials per day. I was cold calling into Deloitte. At the time I worked for a two billion dollar, publicly traded company. Unknown to me, one day, I called the partner at Deloitte who was responsible for our audit. After I spoke with him, he hung up the phone and called our CEO directly. He asked for all recruitment from Deloitte stop immediately, and he demanded that I be terminated immediately.

So what happened to me? Nothing happened. After a brief conversation about being careful, I went back to recruiting, and our company kept recruiting from Deloitte. I bring this up as I can’t imagine a worse person to cold call and upset. However, aside from having a good story nothing happened to me. It is worse in your mind than it is in reality. Don’t quit at breakfast!

So fine, nothing bad happens it still can be intimidating. So how do you get yourself do the hard things? What does it take to get over the fear and stay focused and motivated? When it comes to overcoming the doubt, I reflected back on the article I had read about Navy Seal training.

The article presented another interesting finding of the recruits that did pass training.

Are you ready to learn what more Navy Seals have in common than any other attribute? They play chess. In fact, they found that someone who played chess was three times more likely to complete training than a recruit that did not play chess.

What does playing chess have to do with the ability to face an extreme challenge or even real physical danger? The answer, a chess player, thinks three steps ahead. A chess player has a single, focused goal. The goal is to checkmate your opponent as quickly as possible.

The Navy Seal isn’t thinking about running in the mud or the cold; they aren’t even thinking about becoming a Seal. The Navy Seal chess player thinks this is a pawn sacrifice to become an Admiral so that I can be one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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They don’t quit at breakfast, and they do the hard thing because they have a long-term goal that this activity, this suffering, doing this hard thing is a price they have to pay to become what they want to become.

As a sourcer, I would challenge you to think big. If you want to have the energy to pick up the phone 30, 40, 100 times, to do the research needed to find that perfect niche talent and to not quit before breakfast you have to know where you are going.

Make it something big and important. Like, in my career it will be an opportunity to connect 1000 people with better jobs that they would have never known about if it wasn’t for me. I’m going to invent a solution that finds the best way to talk to a passive candidate, or I’m going to automate sourcing so that recruiters can spend all of their time speaking to people rather than so much time spending finding someone to talk to.

I don’t know what it is for you. Maybe you want to become the director of talent acquisition for a fortune 100 firm? Whatever your dream is, dream it big. If you want to be a Navy Seal or a Navy Seal of sourcing you have to think like a chess player. If you do that and the phone will seem lighter in your hand than it has ever felt before. Go ahead; I dare you to do something amazing. And maybe, just maybe take up chess.