This article is an installment of The Everyday Warrior series, a recurring column by retired Navy SEAL, best-selling author, and founder/CEO of ATTA, Mike Sarraille and edited by Jack Haworth, featuring advice, key interviews, and tips to live a life of impact, growth, and continual learning.
“Every step you take has brought you to where you are today. Looking back on where I’ve come from today, and I realize that all the little successes have added up to all the big ones. There is no failure because you learn from everything, and every step leads you and teaches you.” — Nimsdai Purja (former UK SBS Operator, author of Beyond Possible: One Soldier, Fourteen Peaks—My Life in the Death Zone)
It’s no mystery how empires and dynasties are built, fortunes are accumulated, optimal health is attained, or how someone has recovered from life-altering circumstances—a whole lot of success and failure. The secret to living well is understanding that success and failure are both parts of the same process. Both require the willingness to accept risk, self-discipline, and the stark realization that victories and challenges depend on each other—they are the “yin” and “yang” of progress. You learn from both.
Having this perspective and realizing life’s achievements are attained “One Step ATTA Time”—a philosophy I call the “ATTA Way”—will quite literally change your life. The ATTA Way mindset enables you to rise above life’s everyday battles and realize the personal journey we’re all on is long and requires unwavering positivity. Sustained progress can only be achieved through balance.
Only you can determine what success and happiness look like for you. As we discussed in “The Everyday Warrior Mindset: Part I,” the social media age has pinned us against each other, highlighting a false narrative while indirectly forcing us to compare our accomplishments. But social media is often just smoke and mirrors. Real victories are achieved through incremental steps that don’t show up in your newsfeed.
I assure you that I was not as strong, intelligent, or resilient as a good majority of the SEALs I served alongside. My path was long, and nothing came easy. Yet, I found a way into the top two percent of the SEAL community by taking it one step ATTA time and one day ATTA time.
The ATTA Way: Set an Intention, Plan, Take Action, Reflect, Repeat
The ATTA Way is a proven system rooted in the foundational belief that remarkable achievements are the products of small steps and positive habits. Simply put one foot in front of the other and you will get there—one step ATTA time.
The ATTA Way encourages people to place consistent focus on three core pillars—physical, mental, and spiritual fitness—to sustain balance, progress, and optimal performance. This conflicts with how most of us work toward our goals: short, intense, and hyper-focused efforts. That flawed method may produce early success but often results in long-term failures due to the unsustainable pace.
Striking Balance in Everyday Life
Is 100 percent balance in life achievable? The answer is simple—hell no.
There is no such thing as being perfectly balanced in all areas of your life. That’s a fallacy, and don’t let any social media self-help gurus tell you otherwise. The world’s greatest business leaders, record-setting athletes, and special operations warriors have achieved exceptionally high performance levels, but are all unbalanced as a result. Michael Phelps, who won 28 Olympic medals, has demonstrated courageous vulnerability by drawing attention to his glaring lack of balance and resulting mental health struggles.
The ATTA Way exists to ensure you don’t become unbalanced—and this philosophy isn’t limited to billionaires and professional athletes. It’s about regular Everyday Warriors trying to tackle life’s challenges, while still having enough left in the tank to reach for a little extra. Life is one big collection of opportunity costs—to succeed or achieve balance in one area of life, you must accept a little instability in other areas.
The Importance of Taking Risks
I’m not advocating for you to make less ambitious goals or accept less risk, I’m actually suggesting you do the opposite. Take bold, calculated risks and don’t be afraid to dare greatly. I simply encourage you to be more deliberate about goals or aspirations in life. Set an intention, make a plan, take action, reflect on your successes and failures, and repeat. This will help you live a life of achievement and continual learning in a way that also secures longevity.
As Rich Diviney—a former SEAL teammate, good friend, and author of The Attributes—has said, “Life is not about reaching peak performance, life is about maintaining optimal performance for as long as feasibly possible.” This is the essence of the ATTA Way—it’s a stepped approach to life that will help you maintain optimal performance, balance, purpose, and fulfillment. It will ensure your life is filled with amazing feats (and your fair share of failures) along the way.
The communities we surround ourselves with—what I often refer to as our tribes—are the most powerful social influences in our lives. I would love to say I came up with the “ATTA Way” philosophy on my own, but the truth is that this mindset is the product of my community. Like most of my principles, I have constructed the ATTA Way and Everyday Warrior concepts from a long list of world-class mentors in special operations and the private sector.
Chief among these mentors is my dad. He was a fierce supporter of my young athletic endeavors. He never missed a game, match, or race—even though some days I wished he did. I am who I am because of the mentors and amazing peers who’ve cheered me on and helped me learn from my shortcomings. Win or lose, succeed or stumble, his cry from the stands was always the same—“ATTA Boy, Mike, ATTA Boy, Mike.”
Was he genuinely celebrating me, or was he disappointed in my performance? I had no clue. At the time, I didn’t fully grasp it. But as I grew into adulthood and faced challenges on my own, I started to understand the overwhelming power and positivity of what I have come to call the “ATTA Way.”
When we live by the ATTA Way principles, we don’t flaunt our victories, nor do we dwell on our defeats. Regardless, these opposing outcomes are undeniably tied to one another. As one of my mentors once said: When you learn to celebrate your victories for as long as you dwell on your failures, you have come one step closer to living a balanced life.
Learning to Accept Success Along With Failure
No matter your goals or pursuits, life is fraught with sunny days and blizzard-like storms that obscure your path forward. Achieving victories in life takes time and a whole lot of failure along the way. The ATTA Way teaches you to smile in the face of adversity and failure so you remain resolute and self-disciplined. Put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.
Sure, there are times you’ll take four steps forward one day, only to take five steps back the next. However, once you accept this is the nature of the path itself, you can begin to learn from failure and take the necessary steps to sharpen your mind, strengthen your resolve, and summon the discipline to gain momentum toward achieving your aspirations.
How do you climb a mountain? One step ATTA time.
How do you get stronger? One workout ATTA time.
How do you accumulate wealth? One dollar ATTA time.
How do you impact others? One relationship ATTA time.
How do you teach your children? One lesson ATTA time.
How do you attain mastery in any skill? One practice ATTA time.
There is no greater path to self-discipline than embracing the power of incremental change and understanding that win or lose, you learn from both.
The ATTA Way Pillars—The Pursuit of Optimal Performance Through Balance
The ATTA Way mindset is bolstered by those three aforementioned pillars. They help us strive for optimal performance through balance so we can appreciate the journey along the way.
Setting ambitious goals, then taking action to achieve them is important. But how you win is just as important as winning itself. When searching for balance, it helps to ask yourself rhetorical questions: What joy does wealth provide if you’ve sacrificed your health and relationships to attain it? Can you truly appreciate wealth if you didn’t have to work to achieve it?
If you arrive at your desired end state with poor mental, spiritual, and physical health—having ruined relationships in the process, or worse, destroyed your character and integrity—then you’ve lost. You’ve merely achieved what the Greeks call a “Pyrrhic victory”—one that comes at great expense. In layman’s terms, you’ve won the battle only to lose the war.
In my late 30s, I was in my peak physical condition. I was training so hard and was so focused on my mission in Special Operations that I reached a dangerous level of instability in my mental and spiritual fitness. It was what literally ended my career as a SEAL. I hit a wall and had nothing left in the tank to recover.
In many ways, my SEAL career ended in a Pyrrhic victory while my peers went on to have longer careers. I had won many battles—and I had worked hard to build my reputation—but I was entirely spiritually and mentally unbalanced when it was over. It took over three years of brutally honest self-reflection and focus to return to a semblance of health in all three pillars of my life.
The core pillars exist to help you maintain a disciplined approach to life. All three embody a specific type of “fitness” because they’re all like muscles. If you take steps to test and exercise your mental and spiritual fitness, they will grow stronger, just like your physical fitness. But if you ignore and neglect these pillars, atrophy will take hold.
I see physical fitness as the core pillar. It’s based on the “Whole Man Concept” from Greek philosophy, which describes a fit mind in a fit body. Physical fitness is the foundation upon which you can layer mental and spiritual fitness—it’s fundamental to achieving balance.
Achieving physical fitness doesn’t mean you have to be a world-class athlete or a bodybuilder with seven percent body fat. Neither target is sustainable. Instead, you should titrate your physical fitness to reach an optimal state of health so you’re prepared to deal with the stresses of life. Ditch the alcohol, or at least scale back your consumption. Rotate between strength training and cardio training a couple times a week. Stop letting food control you and start controlling what you put into your body.
It may be cliché to say, but your body is truly a temple and you only get one. Push your body, but also allow yourself to fully recover.
Simply put: Treat your body with love and respect.
Pillar Two: Mental Fitness
Top performers make time to maintain their mental fitness in the same way they maintain their physical fitness. The ATTA Way provides a means to help people think positively about how they feel, think, and act while managing stress, anxiety, and depression. Seek to cultivate a sound mind and emotional intelligence through psychological exploration, continual learning, and emotional balance.
Simple daily mental exercises like five minutes of breathing work or meditation can result in a completely different outlook. Establishing habits like reading or journaling 10 minutes each morning and evening is one of the greatest tools to maintaining a fit mind.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and honest about your mental health is the strongest thing a human can do. When you put in the work to achieve mental stability and take action to rest and reset, you’re better prepared to maintain optimal performance.
Pillar Three: Spiritual Fitness
When I say “spiritual fitness,” people naturally assume I’m referring to theology or religion. These frameworks may work for some, but not all—and this is coming from a Roman Catholic who wears three-finger rosaries around his neck. Despite my religious faith and love, my spirituality more often comes from self-connection, self-reflection, gratitude, nature, personal relationships, and my tribe.
Spiritual fitness is probably the most ignored pillar, and that might be because it’s difficult to know how to flex this muscle. When I left the SEAL teams, I felt spiritually bereft and realized I needed to find individual spirituality. I leaned on my tribes, and the amazing sense of homecoming and belonging they provided me quite literally fueled my spirit.
For many Everyday Warriors, a healthy spiritual life includes volunteerism, social contributions, community participation, fellowship, optimism, forgiveness, and expressions of compassion. Personally, my greatest spiritual rewards come from service to others—doing work without expecting a reward.
The ATTA Way – The Bottom Line
Empires, companies, and careers are all built one brick ATTA time. Life is meant to be lived in the same way. If you are looking for shortcuts—you’re wasting precious time. Take the self-disciplined approach to life and you’ll find it is more rewarding and meaningful.
Be mindful of each pillar and work to find your own balance. Not only will you learn more about yourself and how to best optimize your life, but you’ll build immense pride from achieving your accomplishments in a deliberate way—one step ATTA time.