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Operators Are Not Imposters

My friend Austin, our new – and amazing – Editor at ETR said that Operators focus on their identity, not their goals.

As Austin said to me, “Craig, I am a huge believer in goal setting, but goals are just benchmarks that track your progress. They aren’t a tool for lasting change.”

A goal is an outcome. It’s not a behavior. It’s not a characteristic.

For example, when he was a young man, Mark Ford the founder of ETR and my biggest mentor in life, made getting rich his #1 goal in life.

But in order to do that, Mark had to change his identity first, then his actions, and those moved him towards his benchmark.

So you can see, it’s deep work done daily, and done first, that move you to mission finish line.

Just as Marcus knew, I’m a SEAL, I don’t quit, I’m an Operator, now whats the mission? I’ll go finish it.

And this pattern holds true regardless of what your specific goal is.

During my time as a fitness guru, I saw this over and over again…

You might set the goal to lose 30 lbs of body fat in the next 6 months. You diet, train hard, prioritize your recovery, and after the 6 months BOOM! You’ve lost the weight.

However, as the next 6 months start to pass, you begin to overeat, skip workouts, and stay up late skimming social media instead of getting adequate rest.

Before you know it, you’ve gained all of the weight back and then some. You focused on changing an outcome (your body composition) instead of your identity (becoming a healthy person).

However, if you were to flip the script and focus all of your energy on building a rock solid identity as a healthy person – and slowly developing all of the habits that a healthy person has – you will slowly but surely begin to make progress until the weight loss takes care of itself.

When you change your identity first, the results tend to follow.

When you focus only on the results, you might achieve them for a little while, but you’ll eventually slip back into your old habits because you did not build an identity congruent with the outcomes you desire.

This is the first lesson you must learn to become a true Operator.

Rip Your Labels Off Like an Old Bandaid

I want you to do a quick exercise. I promise it won’t take long.

Pull out a sheet of paper, grab a pen, and write down ALL of the ways that you’ve labeled yourself over the past few years that aren’t serving you.

For example, you might say things like:

  • “I’m always late.”
  • “I’m not a reader.”
  • “I’m not good at sales.”
  • “I’m too busy to eat healthy and can’t lose weight.”
  • “I’m not a good writer”
  • “I’m an introvert”
  • “I’m bad with money”

Whatever labels and identities you’ve created for yourself that aren’t serving you, get them out of your head and write them down.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

… Are you finished? Great!

Now, I want you to take that piece of paper and fold it over 4 times. Got it?

Ok… Now tear that paper into pieces and throw it in the garbage can…

Some of my clients even set it on fire… In a safe setting! And felt incredibly liberated upon doing so.

Everything that you just wrote down is b.s. fake news. They are the lies that you’ve conditioned yourself to believe and, as a result, live out in your daily life.

In order to develop your Operator Mindset, you must first identify the b.s. stories that are holding you back from what you desire. Only then can you can pick up the pen of your life and write a new story.

Developing Your Operator Mindset and Bulletproof Identity

One of my coaches is a man named Sean Stephenson, appropriately named “The Three Foot Giant”.

Sean was born with a rare condition called osteogenesis that stunted his physical growth and caused his bones to become so brittle that even sneezing could lead to a fractured rib (he’s broken more than 280 bones in his lifetime).

With his condition, Sean could easily have hidden away from the world, played small, and used his birth “defects” as an excuse for mediocrity.

But he didn’t…

Today, Sean is a best selling author, world renowned speaker, millionaire coach, Ph.D.,and all around badbutt. Oh, and I forgot to mention that he married the woman of his dreams.

He’s inspired individuals like Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, and The 14th Dalai Lama.

Sean is the quintessential Operator.

He refuses to allow any excuse or setback to hold him back and stop him from living the life he wants.

He gets the job done, no matter what. No excuses.

My father was another example of an operator. As a farm owner he worked every single day, rain, shine, snow, in sickness, in health … and most often, due to his drinking problem, while hungover. It didn’t matter.

He fed the cows at 6 a.m. every single morning no matter what.

When you own a farm, you have no other choice. The animals and plants don’t take a day off because they don’t “feel” like working… And neither can you. You plan to work, then show up and Do. The. Work. Don’t whine or make excuses because the train broke down and you couldn’t get to work on time.

To an operator, there are no excuses. There is only the mission.

You show up every time on time and you get the job done, NO MATTER WHAT.

Take all of the excuses that you wrote down from the previous section and ask yourself a simple question.

“Has someone in my situation or worse achieved success despite their excuses?”

If the answer is “Yes” then your excuse is no longer valid.

If the answer is “No”, guess what? Your excuse is still invalid.

For an Operator, there is always a way to achieve the mission.

You might have to crawl through miles of enemy territory with a broken back, several gunshot wounds, and pieces of shrapnel stuck in your spine (like Marcus Luttrell), but you WILL accomplish the mission no matter what.

If the door is shut, kick it in. If it won’t budge, blow it up. If that doesn’t work then dig under it, climb over it, or keep on bashing the darn thing until you get where you want to go.

Not because you feel like it. But because that’s who you are.

Say the Operator Code with me…

I am UNSTOPPABLE.
I am an OPERATOR.
I will get it done.
No excuses.

It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a morning person, aren’t good at networking, or don’t like sales.

You’ll get up and accomplish the mission because it’s who you are not just what you do.

Becoming an operator isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.

But the question still remains…

Beyond my motivational (and slightly esoteric) rant, what are the tactical steps you can take to cultivate your operator mentality? What are the tangible action steps that you can use to start thinking, acting, and achieving like an operator?

Glad you asked.

How to Become an Operator in 3 Steps

Before the Operator Mindset becomes an automatic and unbreakable part of your identity as a high performer, you must first build the habits that reflect an operator mentality.

You need set-in-stone routines that eliminate the guesswork and help make your decision making automatic.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  1. Start with Your Personal Rules

The first step you must take to live and act like an Operator is to develop what Steven Pressfield refers to as, your “Warrior’s Ethos”. I call them your personal rules.

Operator’s don’t like indecision. They make moves and they make them fast. To help facilitate this speed and decisiveness, Operators will create a core set of rules and guidelines for their life to help make their decision making automatic.

Take the Paleo diet for example. When someone commits 100% to following the Paleo diet they don’t have to wonder whether or not they can eat that slice of birthday cake at the neighbor’s party, or gorge on that delicious NYC bagel/pizza/pretzel from one of the corner shops.

They have strict rules that make their dietary decisions automatic. While this might sound restrictive, these personal rules will actually create more freedom than you’ve previously experienced.

When you don’t have to think about what to do or when to do it (especially when it comes to the big rocks) everything in your life becomes easier and you have more mental bandwidth to focus on the things that really matter.

To help get the ball rolling, here are a few examples of my personal rules.

  1. I wake up at 3:57 a.m. everyday
  2. I plan my days the night before
  3. I do not swear
  4. I do not check email or social until after I’ve done 90 minutes of writing in the morning

These personal rules are the light that will guide you when the fog of war (aka resistance to doing the work) creeps into your life.

Start small with ONE rule and then slowly layer more and more boundaries into your life to help you accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself.

It might not sound fun, but I promise it’s worth it.

  1. Train the Body and Allow the Mind to Follow

Whenever I start working with a new client, regardless of their income, their status, or their achievements, one of the first things I will ask them is:

“What does your physical training program look like?”

If they don’t have one, then it’s one of the first things that we address.

There is no pursuit I can think of to help you build your Operator Mindset faster than committing to a rigorous training program.

Even if you only have time to go to the gym three times a week (which is more than enough for most people), committing to an exercise routine will help you build the physical and mental toughness required to become an operator.

The strength that you gain from pushing yourself to do just one more rep when your muscles are begging for mercy will translate into the mental strength to truly embody the Operator mentality.

  1. Commit to Your Family and Your Big “Why”

I’m going to make a confession…

I don’t like being disciplined. There, I said it.

Despite the fact that my clients have dubbed me as “The World’s Most Disciplined Man”, I wouldn’t mind sleeping late, watching television, eating pizza every day, and chocolate cake for breakfast.

In fact, that would be the new Perfect Day Formula in an alternate universe.

But I do what needs to be done anyways.

Because being an Operator isn’t about me. It’s about the lives of the people I impact and my future family.

Operators don’t put in the work because they want to be rich, famous, or externally successful.

They do it because they have a mission that is bigger than themselves, they have a compelling reason for getting up and doing the work day in and day out.

So right now, let me ask you… Why must (not should, MUST) you become an Operator?

What’s really at stake here?

If you don’t show up and do the work each day, who is paying the price for your laziness?

Because I can promise that it isn’t just you.

Until you know exactly why you are doing what you’re doing, you’ll never be able to tap into the raw power of the Operator mindset. You’ll be a dabbler.

When things get hard and you want to quit, what will keep you pushing through?

Money, success, and fame are nice. But they aren’t enough.

You must have a compelling reason for why you are doing what you’re doing.

  • Maybe you want to set a good example for your children and ensure that they have the life you never did as a child.
  • Maybe your goal is to provide for your spouse so that they can retire from their soul sucking job and pursue their passions.
  • Maybe you want to impact 1,000,000 lives, build schools all over the world, and help end hunger.

Whatever it is, write it down, put it in your wallet, and look at it daily.

This “why” will be the fuel that pushes you to excel when everything in your mind and body is screaming for you to stop.

When you shift your focus from yourself to others, you’ll no longer be tempted to hit snooze, skip the gym, or take a lazy day off of work. You’ll remain focused, energized, and charged up because you are serving a higher purpose.

Just look at the story of anyone that you consider an Operator… your mom, a Navy SEAL, an Entrepreneur hero, someone that devoted their lives to the ministry and gave up almost every earthly possession…

They were Operators. They made a decision. They changed their identity. And they did the work. Their goal became non-negotiable, and an afterthought… and if you asked them “how can you do this”, just like when people ask me, “Craig, how can you do all of this”, … we simply do NOT understand the question.

So who are you doing this for? Why do you want to be an Operator? Who is counting on you to show up and put in the work?

Keep them in your mind at all times and commit right now to never let them down.

The Operator Mindset Requires You to Do This

  • Make a Promise – Keep a Promise
  • Show Up Early – Not just on time
  • To Do. The. Work. – No excuses
  • To break free – From limiting beliefs
  • To have a Life’s mission about others – Not about you

And the Operator accomplishes EVERYTHING here through extreme preparation and structure.

If you are not an Operator in life, go back and reflect on where your performance is breaking down.

The gaps are caused by not knowing in advance and being ready for each obstacle with multiple solutions.

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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