Rob O’Neill is the man who killed Osama Bin Laden. This article could end right here, with you knowing that O’Neill pulled the trigger ending the life of America’s most menacing terrorist. That story — the planning, training, uncertainty, suspense, and eventual pride and worthiness — is enough to sell out stadiums time and time again. But O’Neill’s story goes far beyond that.
As one of the United States’ most recognizable and influential military veterans, he served as a highly decorated, combat Navy SEAL where he was awarded two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars with Valor, a Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor, Joint Service Achievement Medal with Valor and three Presidential Unit citations, among his 53 total decorations. His military experience made him the man he is today, but part of his story goes beyond valor.
O’Neill’s keynote speaking, along with his latest book The Way Forward: Master Life’s Toughest Battles and Create Your Lasting Legacy, dives into the impact of war and the emotional resonance of what happens when the men and women of the military return home from battle. He is one of the few decorated military veterans who is willing to let down his walls and allow a vulnerable look into his life post-war. He talks about the struggles he faced upon his homecoming — issues that include PTSD, finding purpose, and perseverance through some of their darkest moments.
His military background is artfully translated into lessons for businesses, entrepreneurs, leaders, and anyone needing motivation and perspective. Here are some of the lessons he learned throughout his time in the military, as well as the battles he fought afterward:
While our blind spots in the boardroom may revolve around biases or areas of expertise or leadership we simply don’t have, O’Neill says to treat it like his blind spot of serving in a foreign country he knew nothing about. Once he saw and addressed the blind spot, he was able to seek out help and knowledge that would properly prepare him.
During his time in the military, it became clear that his leaders taught him how to kill, but failed to teach him how to cope with the trauma of killing. In The Way Forward, O’Neill fervently hopes Osama bin Laden’s son doesn’t remember witnessing his father’s death by gunfire. As a leader of an organization, your actions always have consequences, and learning how to cope with those and understanding your impact is necessary to be a compassionate leader people can trust.
Respectful and deferential about the military, its rules, and its organizational structure, O’Neill is nonetheless open and honest about the occasional pedanticism and the rules he has broken. This is a lesson in learning to pick your battles and speaking up when your values demand it.
O’Neill’s time in the military and the friends he made showed him that refusing help is not a heroic act, but actually a self-detrimental one. Part of healing and becoming stronger is asking for help when you need it and accepting the help that is offered.
O’Neill debunks the myth around military brotherhood as an abstract concept that left him feeling alone when he got out of the military. He learned that to be successful you must build trusted relationships and create your own close circle that you can rely on.
While Rob O’Neill can entertain any event with an in-depth look at the hunting of Osama Bin Laden, he can also teach his audience about the more insular enemy — your thoughts, your doubts, and your regrets. He can help your team tear down walls and develop a vulnerable and accountable relationship that will lead to success not just for the individual, but for the whole team. Bring Rob O’Neill to your next event to help push your organization into new territory and learn new skills beyond the glory of winning.
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