Speaker takes chamber crowd into secret world of SEALs

When it comes to motivational speakers, Navy Chief Warrant Officer 3 Don Devereaux Mann would be a hard act to follow. The former Navy SEAL Team Leader and a trainer of the SEAL team that assassinated terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden was keynote speaker during Monday’s annual Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Dyson-Baudo Recreation Center.

“When I saw his credentials, I was pretty intimidated at first,” said Charlotte Keim, chamber president and CEO.

“With all that he’s done, I expected someone with a big ego, but I just got to talk with him tonight, and he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” she said.

Mann, 55, grew up in the New England area, in Maine and Rhode Island, but as a Navy SEAL team member has traveled throughout the world on some of the military’s most dangerous missions.

During that time he was captured twice by enemy forces, but lived to tell the story, thanks to his specialized training and perseverance.

“You have to develop a ‘combat mentality’ which is really just a philosophy that you can push through anything,” he said.

Mann told Monday’s chamber dinner crowd about some of the many rigors and brutal training exercises Navy SEALs must endure, but noted the experience is designed to force the trainees out of their comfort zone and push them past their limits.

“You can be uncomfortable, but don’t give up,” he said. “By far the most powerful weapon we have is setting souls on fire who won’t quit, no matter what the circumstances.”

Mann said he had a chance to talk with members of SEAL Team Six shortly after their mission to assassinate Bin Laden. They basically told him compared to SEAL training it was a walk in the park.

“They said this couldn’t have been easier. It was no problem at all,” Mann said.

He said the same combat mentality developed by the SEALS works for everyone.

“As a SEAL training officer I always tried to motivate the team members to push beyond their limits,” Mann said. “And now as a motivational speaker I like to push people to do the same. They’re capable of so much more than they think if they are just willing to push themselves.”

He encouraged those attending Monday’s dinner to set “micro goals,” taking smaller, achievable steps to eventually reach their “macro goals” in life.

“Step out of your comfort zone, whatever your endeavor may be,” Mann said. “Set goals. Pain is good, and the temporary pain from discipline is better than a permanent lifetime pain of regret because you didn’t push through.”

In addition to his SEAL training, Mann enjoys participating in endurance competitions like the Boston Marathon and the intensive Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.

He says the ability to complete the Hawaii Ironman twice came from his philosophy of setting smaller goals in order to reach the ultimate larger goal.

“Anyone in this room could run a marathon, although some might take longer to complete it,” he said.

Mann said simply setting a goal and completing the course can be more important than winning.