To former Navy SEAL and Virginia General Assembly Delegate Scott Taylor, life is like a chess game.
“It’s not very linear,” he told attendees of Regent University’s Executive Leadership Series (ELS) luncheon on Tuesday, November 10. “Big things can happen from little decisions.”
In fact, within the first two moves of a game, there can be 200,000 tiny decisions to lead to a victory. Taylor witnessed this phenomenon he calls “clarity in the chaos” as a child, when he made his very first move on the board.
He had been raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland by his single mother, and was working on a nearby farm when a man in a dark suit – a local detective – took him to the police station. There, Taylor was charged with malicious destruction of property, and breaking and entering.
“My mom must’ve been so proud when she learned that her 11-year-old son was on probation,” said Taylor.
Checkmate: a mentor walks in. Taylor was enrolled in the Big Brother Big Sisters program and was introduced to the man who’d change the trajectory of his life, Andrew Jones.
“He taught me to put a napkin in my lap and how to maneuver stock options and everything in between,” said Taylor. “We don’t have to navigate through the chaos of life on our own.”
Jones became an ever-present mentor in Taylor’s life; and was the first person he called when he was injured during a mission as a SEAL sniper in Ramadi, Iraq. Without his encouragement, Taylor said he may not have had the tenacity to get through the training and the infamous “hell week” SEALs undergo.
“It’s a lesson in free will,” said Taylor. “You can quit at any time.”
And many do. Out of the nearly 160 people who began training alongside Taylor, only 25 completed the six-day intensive training. And for good reason, Taylor explained, as he described shivering in ice-cold temperatures, enduring lack of food and performing with little rest.
“That’s why some of the fastest guys and the best swimmers don’t make it,” said Taylor. “You have to have a strong will and a mental toughness. There’s power in removing failure from your list of options. You find a way to make it happen.”
Taylor is careful not to say that failure can be removed entirely. He’ll be the first to admit that he’s failed at nearly everything he’s been successful at; having lost elections and failed physical endurance tests due to injury.
To Taylor, this is a key leadership trait as he continues to serve in a political office: to study the perspective of others and to encourage them and give them clarity through the chaos.
“I think Virginia, America and the world needs a leader to serve with care,” said Taylor.
Following the talk, an Honor and Remember Flag was given by Mark Stets, president of the Honor and Remember Hampton Roads Chapter. Stets presented the flag to the family of Sergeant James Michael Ciccone.
The next ELS will feature former NFL player and coach, Steve Wisniewski on Monday, December 7. Learn more about Regent University’s Executive Leadership Series.