How I Stumbled into a 26 Week Veteran’s Day Challenge


It’s funny how sometimes, without any planning, things just fall into place and you end up doing something really awesome.

It all started  a couple weeks ago when I recorded a bunch of movies off a free preview weekend for one of those premium movie channels on cable that I’m too cheap to actually pay for.  Last week, I decided to watch one of them – American Sniper.  I loved it!  In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I decided to pick up the book and read it.  Mrs. Pennypacker can attest to how rarely a movie motivates me to read the book.

In case you haven’t seen the Academy Award nominated movie or read the best-selling autobiography, American Sniper is about the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle who ends up becoming the most successful sniper in US Military history.  You learn how he grows up and what he goes through to get to that pinnacle.  I gleaned from Kyle’s story three guiding principals that I think can apply to almost anything anyone is trying to accomplish in life.

1. Give yourself the best chance to succeed

During a couple of his deployments in Iraq, Chris Kyle was assigned to be the sniper for teams of Marines assigned to go door to door looking for the enemy.  It was a dangerous job. He could see that the Marines were getting hit almost every time they stormed a building. Kyle felt like the Marines would be more successful if he could accompany them on the ground and teach them some of the advanced building clearing techniques that he learned as a SEAL.  So he left the relative safety of his sniper’s hide and helped the Marines.  Others feared that his superiors would pull him right out of the fight if they knew what he was doing.  But, Kyle didn’t care.  He knew that what he was doing gave those Marines (and himself) the best chance to succeed.

2. Love what you do

Kyle truly believed in what he was doing and loved doing it. He was born to help people, to protect people from evil. As Chris’s father put it in the movie, there are three kinds of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Chris, of course, was a sheepdog watching over his fellow soldiers and the American people, protecting them from the wolves.  In his mind, it wasn’t so much that he was taking lives as a sniper, but it was more that his actions were saving the lives of his fellow soldiers.

3. Seek out tough challenges

Chris Kyle joined the Navy so he could be a SEAL – one of the most difficult and demanding jobs in the military. Only 20% (sometimes less) of the prospective SEAL candidates that get into BUD/S actually make it through and become a SEAL. That was just the kind of nearly impossible challenge he was looking for.

How often do most of us face challenges in our lives? I mean difficult challenges.  Challenges that most people fail at.  Probably not all that often.  We generally like easy cake-walks that come complete with the promise of guaranteed success.  But, if we were to run a marathon, climb a tall mountain, or maybe take on a project at work that most people aren’t able or willing to do, we might see things a little differently. These are the kind of difficult challenges that, when completed, can give you some of the best satisfaction ever.

My 26 Week Challenge

So, Monday I started a 26 week physical fitness program geared towards preparing for BUD/S. This fitness program involves mostly push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, running, and swimming – ratcheting up the distance, intensity, and reps of each as the weeks progress. Since my toe is still questionable, I’m substituting biking for running and since I don’t like swimming, I’m hitting the rowing machine instead.  My goal is to experience what it takes to meet the physical fitness demands of a SEAL.  Since I’m not actually going through BUD/S, I’ll miss out on some of the mental challenges SEAL candidates face such as having a fire hose sprayed in their faces, getting yelled at and berated by their instructors, and the non-stop torture that is Hell Week.

Fast forward to today and lo and behold it’s Veteran’s Day.  I didn’t really plan this, but all these events just kind of worked out as a great way to honor our military veterans.

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