There are 3 questions that make their way to my inbox on a regular basis. First, I get a lot of questions from Nukes who have had drug/crime/bad conduct problems and they want to know how they can get a job with that on their record (trust me, life is not over for you). Second, I get the should I reenlist for shore duty so that I can have time to do a proper job search before I get out (I don’t think it’s necessary). And third, I get tons of questions from younger Nukes asking what they can do to be a better Nuke.
How to Be A Better Nuke – the fufu version
This article will probably not be what you expected when you read the question in that email.
One of the greatest skills any Nuke can have (or any person for that matter) is the ability to manage stress. And specifically the ability to dump stress. I believe your ability to manage/dump stress is directly proportional to your level of physical fitness. I’m not a doctor and I only took Psych 101 in college, but my experience is that when I am physically in shape, I’m more likely to be in a good mood and ready for anything life can throw at me.
I have believed for a long time…strong body, strong mind, which is why my most successful periods in my life have always been accompanied by a rigorous physical fitness program. Hey, if it’s good enough for the SEALs, then it’s good enough for the Nukes. So whenever anyone asks me how to be better at anything, my knee jerk response is always to tell them to focus on getting physically stronger and more physically fit.
What Does this Have to Do With Being a Navy Nuke?
I read… a lot. I’m usually reading 2-3 books at any given time. I read a lot of stuff like Game of Thrones, stuff about the Oil Business like The Big Rich, a ton of military history stuff, and an insane amount of self-help / entrepreneur stuff like the books pictured below
I also read a lot of Navy SEAL/Special Forces biographies. In all of these books about successful people, I look for commonalities. One common thread is that each of these successful people stress the importance of physical fitness in their life.
T. Boone Pickens, the 85 year old Oil Billionaire talks in his book about waking up at 6:00 AM every day to train with his personal trainer. Purposeful physical exertion has a way of renewing my mind, almost like an intense form of meditation.
And I have found that in training my body to overcome limitations, there is also a lot of carryover to my mental attitude. Whenever I get depressed (yes even me), I find that it can be difficult, or even impossible, to just “mentally” change my thought patterns and attitude. However, it is much easier to just do something with my body…like lift weights.
And it is engaging in this (seemingly meaningless) action that slowly starts to kick my mind into gear again. Of course, I’m a Kool Aid drinking fanatic at this point in my life, but whenever I’m having a bad day, or when the stress of life gets me down, I just try to focus on doing one positive thing. More often than not, that positive thing is some form of physical training.
Learn Faster, Learn Better
As a Navy Nuke, your time in the Program will be judged by your ability to learn fast and to learn accurately. Furthermore, when you enter the civilian workforce, it is this quality that will set you apart from your peers. You must have a clear and energetic mind to maximize your learning effectiveness. To do this, you must dump stress and clear your mind of useless distractions. Physical training is probably the greatest way to dump stress.
Stress is a killer. The opposite of stress is called “eustress.” Tim Ferris talks about this extensively in his book The Four Hour Work Week. Eustress literally means “good stress.” Whereas stressing out about your relationship with your boss or the fact that you suck at your job, breaks down your mind, body, and spirit, applying good stress (like physical training) to your body builds up your mind, body, and spirit.
This is why I’m fond of saying “healthy body, healthy mind,” and it’s also why I believe that consistently engaging in some form of healthy physical training increases our ability to focus our mind on the task at hand.
Youth is truly wasted on the young. In my late 30s I now see the absolute truth of that statement. Just as my mind is hitting its stride, the rest of my body is slowing down. I think the best way to stay young for as long as possible is to become dedicated to an increased level of fitness. It’s never too late to start, but the earlier you start, the easier it is to see life long results.
There are medical advances on the horizon that will probably change everything we currently believe about getting older, but until that time comes, consistent physical training is the closest thing to the fountain of youth. Healthy body, healthy mind.
Make More Money
Have you ever heard of “the halo effect?” It is a terrible truth about the human condition. Pretty people make more money. Period.
Tall people make more money than short people. Thin people make more money than fat people. And pretty people make more money than ugly people.
Well unfortunately, I’m 5’6″ and not getting any taller. I can’t do anything about the whole pretty/ugly thing either. So I’m hanging everything I got on doing my best to not be overweight. I didn’t invent the halo effect. I don’t agree with the halo effect. But if someone chooses to hire me or promote me over the overweight M.I.T. grad, I won’t protest.
All things being equal, the halo effect says that you are more likely to get the job (or promotion) if you are physically fit. And regardless of your qualifications, people are more likely to “like” you if you are physically fit. Which is probably more important because every dollar you will ever earn has to come from people. Just about everything important in your life is going to come from…people. And people do business with / hire / promote…the people they “like.” Life is truly more like high school than college.
The Best Nuke YOU Can Be
There is a lot that goes into being a “better” Nuke. You have to study all the dang time. You have to be able to perform under pressure. You have to learn to navigate the political landmines that plague the program (they plague every program where people are involved). You have to be really good at passing tests, talking your way through difficult checkout questions. You have to clean all the dang time. You have to be excellent at handling personality conflicts.
And you have to stay sane. I think it’s OK to put most of your focus on the academic requirements like studying all the dang time and reviewing immediate actions during every watch. Look, of course you have to learn your job. And darn it, since you are a Nuke, you should probably go ahead and learn it better than anyone else would ever expect you to learn it. But I also want to swing the pendulum back the other way a bit and ask you to also spend a little time focusing on your own mental and physical health. Dump stress (for the mind) and exercise your body. Get in decent shape so that you are not only a mental juggernaut, but also a literal juggernaut as well. That’s how you become the best Nuke YOU can be.
Suggested Diet Program
I don’t like to tell people to diet, mainly because, I don’t diet. I just try to be reasonable in my food selection and portion control. I hate trying to control my desire for food or trying to restrict myself to only eating “foods that are good for you.” And furthermore, I’m human, it’s not in my nature to deny myself the stuff that I want.
So one thing I do that really helps me to eat healthy is I blend some kind of vegetable and fruit shake for breakfast every morning. I don’t get fancy, I just take my Ninja Blender, throw some fruit in there (like an orange or some grapes, or both), and then I throw some vegetable in there (like spinach, kale, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, or avocado…and sometimes all of the above), and then throw in some water and blend it on high for about a minute.
I drink this healthy drink for breakfast every morning and it just kind of sets my mind in healthy mode and somehow because of this I just end up unconsciously eating healthier all day long. And I usually don’t just have the shake for breakfast, I’ll almost always eat it with something else (like eggs and bacon…or sometimes pizza…whatever).
I think this works for me because: 1) it’s easy (keep it simple), and 2) I’m not denying myself, I’m actually adding something. Try it for a week and see if you don’t get hooked on it.
Other than that, I really don’t want to advise anyone to go on a diet. And I’ll tell you why in the next section.
Suggested Exercise Program
Psychologists know that it is easier to change our behavior than our attitude. Unless you have some super-human mind power, you are not going to change the way you feel about eating, by just thinking about it. This is why diets almost always fail. They go against human nature.
It is much easier to change our behavior (actions) than our attitude. It is much easier to perform 30 minutes (or 10 minutes) of physical activity every day, than it is for you to change your mentally ingrained patterns of eating. But here’s the catch, by changing your behavior, your brain will work with you and begin to conform to its new reality.
Kind of like how its difficult to be sad and smile at the same time. It’s also difficult for your mind to continue to allow you to eat unhealthy food, when you are doing some form of healthy physical activity every day. Change your actions first, and your attitude (about food will follow).
So, my guess is that most of you are kind of in the dark as far as where to start with an exercise program. I say just start where you are comfortable and advance as your body allows you to. If you can jog, then start by just jogging a short distance every day and gradually increase that distance. At some point you may want to start trying to shave seconds off of your time.
If you’d rather swim, then swim. If you’d rather lift weights, then lift weights. The point is to just do something and make it a consistent habit that you can very gradually and very incrementally improve upon for the rest of your life. This isn’t an article to turn you into a fitness model, I’m just trying to convince you that one of the ways to be a better Nuke (and there are many) is to take better care of yourself.
There are always those outliers who insist on being the 4.0 Sailor. Someone is reading this right now and is highly disappointed because I didn’t completely map out a hard core fitness routine that they can dive into and completely dominate quicker than any other Nuke ever has (yes I know Nukes). For those people I recommend this program called Bodyweight Burn Fatloss.
A few times a year I take a break from the weight room and only do body weight exercises. Like sprinting, burpees, push ups, situps, jumping jacks and other stuff that you don’t need any equipment for.
I like Bodyweight Burn because it requires no equipment and it is just made up of quick 21 minute workouts that can be as intense as you want to make them and they work your entire body in a short amount of time.
I use it to kind of recover from all the heavy lifting I do most of the year. It helps me recuperate with out losing much strength and muscle mass (active rest).
But, I have used this kind of training to train my boot camp students and they all respond very well. The program is designed for men and women, and you just regulate it to your desired level of intensity.
If you are a little confused about how to start exercising, and you don’t have access to a gym or you would just rather train in the comfort of your own home, then my suggestion is that you click here to download the Bodyweight Burn Fatloss System.