The concept of “opening your CAN” (aka “unleashing your potential”) struck me while leading my third platoon at SEAL Team TWO.
Before every mission, my Chief and I conducted thorough gear checks on our team. These inspections were more than just routine; they were vital to ensuring everyone had the essential gear required for the mission ahead. Given that our lives hinged on the equipment we carried, the assurance that everyone was adequately equipped brought an immense sense of security.
At the conclusion of each inspection, my Chief had a signature question, delivered in his usual style: “You’ve got your gear squared away, Mills, but what about your CAN?” The first time he hit me with that question (we’d check each other before the platoon inspection), I gave him a quizzical look, a silent “What on Earth are you talking about, Chief?” He chuckled and explained, “I’m talking about inspecting your CAN of Whoop-Ass, sir!”
Without hesitation, I incorporated his query into every subsequent gear inspection. It turned out to be a brilliant way to infuse some levity into the otherwise intense atmosphere, and the team absolutely loved it. Over time, they would proudly showcase their “CANs” during the inspection, booming out, “My CAN of Whoop-Ass is locked and loaded, and I’ve got extra for my swim buddy!” The energy was infectious, and it never failed to ignite our spirits, aligning us before embarking on a mission.
Releasing Mistakes with the Performance CAN
The tradition I started with my sales teams at Perfect and Implus still holds strong. Even today, I carry it with me when I step onto the stage. As time has passed, the concept of the “CAN” has transformed into the Performance CAN—an acronym that stands for Concentrate, Activate, Narrow. These three letters embody actions crucial for elevating your performance:
Concentrate: Precisely visualize the outcome you desire. Craft mental scenes of your performance ahead of time, replaying them at both regular and accelerated speeds. But don’t just see yourself in action; immerse your senses in the experience.
Activate: Nervousness is a natural facet of peak performance. Your body readies itself by increasing your heart rate, expanding your pupils, and flooding your system with adrenaline. While these responses enhance your reflexes, they can’t dominate your focus. Harness your body’s energy by regulating it through deliberate, deep nasal inhalations and exhalations. This practice will bring you tranquility, cultivate creative avenues, and empower you to channel your nervous energy into your starring role.
Narrow: Streamline your focus and direct your attention to what truly matters. The rest is mere distraction, draining your energy. Immerse yourself fully in the present—everything else fades away. As you concentrate, maintain your rhythmic breathing, which will help clear your mind. The most outstanding performances emerge not from overthinking, but from being fully immersed in the present. Just exist, allowing your training (and your habits) to guide you.
Navigating the Present Moment
The Performance CAN is a versatile instrument, embodying a twofold approach. On one end, it’s a guide to consistently delivering peak performance. On the other, it equips you to rebound from mistakes without letting them tarnish your performance—because errors are inevitable. The key lies in releasing those mistakes, like clouds drifting across the sky or water sliding off a duck’s back. Cultivate immunity to errors to prevent their accumulation, sidestepping a spiral into further missteps. The opposite side of the Perform CAN is aptly named “NOT” me, a mnemonic encompassing three rules to liberate yourself from blunders and swiftly rekindle your unwavering spirit.
“N” for Not My Identity
Consider it a momentary lapse, a fleeting loss of focus leading to a mistake. No need for apprehension; recognize that it doesn’t define you. Let it evaporate, remaining anchored in the present.
“O” for One-Off Occurrence
Occasionally, a mistake emerges unannounced, unforeseen—a rare anomaly. Acknowledge it as a one-off instance, swiftly declare, “That was unique; it won’t recur,” and return your focus to the immediate task at hand.
“T” for Temporary Setback
A series of mishaps may momentarily disrupt your rhythm or that of your team. Embrace it with a smile, reorient everyone’s attention, and restore the tempo. Understand it as a fleeting blip, channeling your collective energy back to your accustomed level of performance.
A Daily Ritual for Mastery
When utilizing the Performance CAN, remember this essential truth: the value of this tool reaches well beyond significant moments, be it in the pool, classroom, or boardroom. Its purpose transcends the extraordinary, weaving seamlessly into your daily routine. Your performance thrives solely on the quality of your preparation. Echoing the sentiment of a Navy SEAL, who aptly stated:
“In chaotic situations, we do not rise to the occasion, we sink to the level of our training.”
Embrace the Performance CAN daily. Transform it into a habitual practice, synonymous with unsealing your potential and refining the art of releasing errors (the “NOT me” technique). The trajectory of individual and team performance hinges on where focus is channeled—always direct your attention towards your desired outcomes, regardless of the prevailing circumstances. Persevere in your pursuit of excellence, holding steadfast to the zenith of your abilities. Similarly, extend the same unwavering support to your teammates, ensuring that they too remain resolute in their pursuit of greatness.