Whitney Tilson had a busy August, but that did not stopping him from attending his annual Navy SEALs program which in the past he attended with long-time friend, Bill Ackman. Below, see an excerpt from a letter which Tilson sent to investors earlier today. Note, for copyright reasons we cannot repost Julia La Roche’s awesome article but readers can find a link here and at the bottom.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Whitney Tilson <[email protected]>
Date: Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 5:56 PM
Subject: Upcoming SEAL weekends
You may recall that last September (with fellow YPOers) and again in January (with Bill Ackman and 22 of our friends) I went out to San Diego and let a bunch of current and former Navy SEALs kick my butt for three days as part of a program called Leadership Under Fire, which is run by my friend Rob Roy, who was a legendary Navy SEAL for 26 years.
For the first time, he is now doing the program for anyone who wishes to sign up – the next three are Oct. 8-11 (next month), Jan. 14-17, and May 14-17. It’s not cheap ($5,800, which includes everything but airfare to San Diego – ~$400 rt from NYC), but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
So why would any sane person volunteer (much less pay a lot of money) to do this? Here is what I wrote after my first weekend in September, and I wouldn’t change a word today:
Well, as midlife crises go, this is a lot cheaper than a Ferrari or a divorce! ;-) But seriously:
1) In preparation, you will get more fit than you’ve ever been. Right now, only two months after signing up for this, I’m doing as many sit-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, and running and swimming as far and as fast as I was at my absolute physical peak in the late teens and early 20s. I’ve lost an inch around my waist (and I was already skinny), but haven’t lost any weight because I’ve added muscle. I feel GREAT!
2) You will learn that you are capable of doing much more physically than you ever thought possible, which also feels great! Had you asked me whether I could lead a team on a 2.5 mile ocean swim, paddle an inflatable boat 11 miles (both in the middle of the night), etc., I wouldn’t have believed it.
The net result of 1) and 2) is that I don’t feel old and in decline anymore (which I was really starting to feel before this).
3) It’s intense bonding with the people you’re with. You get to know them (and they get to know you) very, very well.
4) You will learn directly from real SEALs (both active duty and retired) really cool things like self-defense techniques, how to carry an injured person, plan a mission, use cover and concealment, organize a patrol in hostile territory, and assault a room and an entire house (with realistic-looking guns that shoot BB’s). More broadly, seeing how the SEALs operate really raises the bar for me, both personally and professionally, in terms of careful planning, attention to detail, contingency plans, etc.
5) You will get a lot of personal exposure to the SEALs, who are most amazing group of people I’ve ever encountered. I meant it when I wrote this:
I have never met a more impressive group of people than the dozen or so SEALs I spent the weekend with. In every word and action, they exuded every trait that we all aspire to: patriotism, courage, honor, duty, integrity, teamwork, attention to detail, humility, sacrifice, strength, intelligence… There wasn’t one false note from even one SEAL.
I just hope a little bit of what they’re all about rubs off on me…
Below is the email I sent around in January describing the weekend as well as a Business Insider article that has a few pictures (I can send you a bunch more pictures and a video if you’re interested).
To get more information, watch two short videos about it, and/or sign up, go to www.sot-g.com/leadership-under-fire-2015 and enter the password “XXXXXX”.
PS— Don’t let the physical aspect of this discourage you: unlike when these guys train real SEAL candidates, they’re not actually trying to break you and cause you to ring the bell and quit – that would be bad for business! Rather, they push each person to whatever his/her limits are – and then a bit beyond. So if you can get yourself in decent shape before you go (fear is a great motivator for your training!), you’ll be fine.
PPS—I may join you on one or more of these weekends, as I’m a glutton for punishment (at least this kind)!
From: Whitney Tilson
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 3:05 PM
Subject: SEAL weekend (version 2)
I just got back this morning from my SEAL weekend in San Diego with 23 other guys – all friends of Bill Ackman’s and mine (unlike when I last did this four months ago, when the other 26 people were fellow YPO members, but I didn’t know any of them beforehand).
Overall, it was EPIC! Over 2½ days (~4pm Thursday to ~6am Sunday), we swam nearly two miles in the ocean in the middle of the night in 59-degree water (with wetsuits, thankfully!), paddled 6-person inflatable dinghies through the surf again and again during one day and for many miles during another night, crept (stumbled?) around in the dark for an hour preparing to assault a “terrorist camp”, lifted, carried, curled and ran with nearly 200-lb. logs for a couple of hours, slept for two night in cots in tents on a beach, did more running, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, bear-crawls, crab-walks, wheelbarrow races, fireman’s carries, etc. than we’d ever done before, crawled in the sand until our knees and elbows looked like a belt sander had worked on them, learned self-defense techniques, how to walk patrol, respond as a team to being shot at, raid a room and building, etc.
Every one of us pushed ourselves harder physically and perhaps also mentally than we ever had before, learned a lot about leadership and teamwork – and about ourselves and each other. It was an intense bonding experience. It was an outside-the-box, once-in-a-lifetime, even life-changing experience. And it was just really cool hanging out with the SEALs and seeing how they operate.
And there were some priceless moments, many of them associated with one particularly sadistic drill instructor, who screamed things at us like: “I HATE YOU!” and “If you don’t get those clothes on and get out of this tent in the next 30 seconds, I’m going to put my boot so far up you’re a**” and my personal favorite: “I’m going to cut your head off and put it in my freezer and take it out when I’m bored and want some entertainment!”
The worst drill was called the “whistle drill”: on one whistle, you dropped down onto your belly in the sand; when you heard two whistles, you started crawling toward the instructor; and three meant you leapt to your feet. After the first whistle, he mostly just kept blowing two whistles over and over – and moving backwards to keep just out of reach, up the beach, down the beach, around in circles, etc. Just when the fast guys had reached the front, he liked to walk around in a circle and go in the other direction, so the slow guys were now in front and the fast guys were stuck in the back of a scrum of sweating, miserable humanity. (Have you ever seen lots of baby turtles crawling out of the ocean, up the beach, leaving tracks? It was sort of like that.) If you lifted your butt or tried to crawl on your hands and knees, they screamed “you cheater”! Within a minute or two, your elbows and knees started to chafe badly – and then got worse from there.
And don’t get me started on the cold. Thank goodness we didn’t have any rain and during the days it was sunny and nearly 80, but at night (we slept only a few hours over three nights), it was 50 and windy – and the water (which we were in a lot) was 59. Even though I had a full-length wetsuit, about halfway through the long swim I was shivering and my teeth were chattering uncontrollably. All I could do was lie on my back, keep my head out of the water, cross my arms across my chest, and kick for nearly two hours. On the second night, when they gave us maybe 4-6 hours to sleep, I was fully dressed in dry clothes, wearing a fleece hat, in a sleeping bag (we were in cots in two tents on the beach) – and I was STILL cold! Combine this with guys who were snoring and coughing…suffice it to say that few of us got much sleep…
It was so intense that three guys had to go to the hospital (and that doesn’t count one guy who severely bruised a rib being carried on another guy’s shoulders in the first hour of the program). You get the idea – this was no joke.
I started training hard six months ago when I signed up for the first program in September (and never stopped), so I’m in the best shape of my life – but the physical beat-down was much worse than last time, resulting in soreness I’ve never felt before. I could barely walk on Sunday, as I was feeling acute pain in muscles I never knew I had! (My primary muscles (pecs, abs, calves, shoulders, etc.), which I focused on in training, are fine; it’s the little ones like hip flexors that are killing me.) And I was one of the more fit guys there, so you can imagine how much some of the others were suffering…
Hedge fund and finance gods are spending their weekends doing an intense Navy SEAL training program
- Jan. 30, 2015, 8:45 AM