“Your mind creates these cages that hold on to the fear, you hold the key to unlock that cage.” —Brandon Webb
Fear can either be paralyzing or a great motivator to drive the effort needed to achieve your goals. It’s about how you respond and overcome that fear that molds the person you become.
The U.S. Navy Seals are the primary special operations force and a component of the Naval Special Warfare Command. The SEALs are trained to operate in all environments including: sea, air, and land for which they are named.
As a top US Navy Seal sniper, Brandon Webb has had a life full of coming face-to-face with fear. An accomplished pilot, CEO of men’s lifestyle brand, Hurricane Group, and New York Times best-selling author, Webb believes tackling fear head on is the best way to overcome life’s greatest challenges.
His newest book, Mastering Fear, shares his experiences and offers advice on how to harness fear to overcome life’s challenges.
Grit Daily spoke with Webb about his experience with the US Navy Seals and his latest book.
Face to Face With Fear
Grit Daily: Can you recall your earliest memory where you came face-to-face with fear?
Brandon Webb: My earliest memory was when I was 13 years old, I worked on a scuba boat just off the coast of California. We performed dives on the northern island that was inhabited with sea lions, as you know one of the favorite meals of great white sharks.
One evening, the weather was bad, and the captain of the ship woke me up in the middle of the night, telling me to pull the anchor, because he needed to move the boat. I remember having the thoughts in my head of great white sharks swimming around us, just like in the movie Jaws.
Your mind creates these cages that hold on to the fear, you hold the key to unlock that cage.
GD: What is the importance of identifying your fears and leveraging them?
BW: Purpose, it’s all about what you want to do in life and how you want to get there.
GD: What is the difference between danger and fear, in terms of when to be cautious?
BW: Fear is a great motivator that helps to keep us alive. Something the military does well is mitigate risk, when you mitigate that fear you become in control.
GD: Can you give us an example?
BW: Sure. Let me introduce you to Mike “Bear,” a great friend of mine in the SEAL Teams. We were at separate Teams, me 3 and him 5. I reached out one day after coming back from a short vacation and his platoon informed that he had passed away after a skydiving training accident. He had a rare malfunction where the main canopy was not deployed properly and when he tried to cut it away and deploy his reserve chute it went into the main and both chutes were tangled.
It’s the worst scenario and I remember thinking, “if this can happen to him, it sure as hell can happen to me.” I was about to go to HALO school to learn to sky dive and this terrified me knowing that could easily be me if it happened to Mike.
GD: How did you approach training moving forward?
BW: I was doing advanced jumps from 20,000 feet, and I had to figure out a way to get out of my own head and overcome that, I just forced myself to think positive and changed my self-talk to reinforce that I could do this.
Mastering that Fear
GD: What inspired you to write Mastering Fear?
BW: One of my very good friends is a very successful person, but he doesn’t know how to swim. The success that he has gets him invited to many places with pools or on boats. His fear of the water and not being able to swim causes him to have a lot of anxiety when faced with water. My friend has had several people try to teach him how to swim by teaching the strokes and different movements, but it never seemed to work for him.
I took a much different approach by breaking down into his head what caused the fear and how he could overcome it. In just a week he was doing cannonball’s, going down twelve feet deep and popping right back up. He’s the one that told me I needed to write a book about overcoming fear.
I tell real stories in my life both personal and such as this with my friends.
GD: What was your biggest triumph in overcoming a feat that you’ve experienced?
BW: Reinventing myself and self-transitioning from military to civilization is something that took a lot of effort and resilience. When you leave the small tight-knit community of the SEALs it’s a lot like leaving a cult in many ways and it’s a lonely place to find yourself an outcast in your own community.
Leaving a very structured environment like the military where you can 100% trust people to do what they say. It’s not like this on the outside. Plus the added pressure of being one of the first, in a small group of guys like Marcus Luttrell (Lone Survivor) and Chris Kyle (American Sniper) to write a book that created inside backlash among the SEAL community.
I lost a lot of people I thought were friends and some guys who actually were asked to leave the SEAL community for drug issues or performance problems started trolling me on my social media. It took me a while to realize that these guys were just in bad places in their lives and my friend and actor Mark Harmon told me, “Brandon, nobody who is in a good place in their life has time to tear other people down.” This really stuck with me and now I just don’t let it bother me.
GD: Talk to us about your time as a US Navy Seal sniper.
BW: At 29-years-old, I was made Chief of one of the top sniper programs in the world.
Returning as a civilian, left the shadow of fear in me for how I would learn to transition into other roles.
GD: Given your experience as a Navy Seal Sniper and Pilot, does anything scare you anymore?
BW: Fear is something that I deal with daily, I think my biggest fear is what if something happens to me? I worry this because of my kids, I don’t want them to grow up without a father.
GD: How have your kids played a part in your career as a sniper and pilot?
BW: My kids are what drives me to be a better human being, and business leader. Having kids is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs you can have. My oldest son was born when I was in Afghanistan, he’s now 17 and an amazing kid just named an Academic All American for Debate this year.
His younger brother and sister are both incredible kids as well. I’ve tried to instill in them an ethos to follow their passions in life, no matter what it is. And to not let people tell them what they can and can’t do, only they have that power.
GD: What made you want to start your own company?
BW: I come from a family of entrepreneurs, my grandmother was a single mom in the 70s and had her own collection agency, my mom Lynn recently sold her coffee and tea manufacturing business and my dad was a construction business owner turned developer and now owns rental property with passive income. So it was kind of in my blood to start a business. Once you’ve experienced working for yourself it’s hard to go back.
Making strides to start my own company was terrifying, there’s a lot that goes into that and having to think on your feet.
I’ve found people feel that they’re stuck at times and afraid to give up what they must pursue something else. Whether that is fear based or habit, it’s overcoming that to see what could be next.
GD: You love planes. When did your fascination with them begin?
BW: My earliest memory is when my father took me to see Star Wars when I was about 2 years old. From there, I became infatuated with the flying of anything with wings, spacecraft airplanes. I was obsessed with shows like Buck Rogers, Tales of the Golden Monkey, and Battlestar Galactica.
Finally, after taking a flight with my best friend Glen Doherty and taking the controls for a bit I was hooked. I had built up a lot of vacation time which was when I decided to take time off and take flying lessons. I was 29 and the course manager for the SEAL sniper program on the west coast and had been working 100-hour weeks for years and this was a much needed break. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Aviation is such an amazing community and has introduced me to some incredible people and opportunities. After flying basic planes for a few years I ended up meeting a friend who was a former USAF fighter pilot who introduced me into a small community of active and former military pilots who fly vintage and modern military aircraft. I was hooked and bought a Russian Yak 52.
Today I own a Yak 50 with a partner and an Epsilon TB30 which was an air force trainer for the French. This group took me from being a 600-hour pilot to over a thousand hours flying advanced military planes in formation, air combat and more.
GD: How do you use a social media platform like Instagram, to share your story?
BW: I like Instagram because it has a very cross generational audience. So I can share content and engage with a broad fan base. It allows me to share my business, writing projects, travel and flying with a large community. Plus, my kids are on IG and I can tag them and it’s a fun way to communicate with friends and family.