By former Special Forces operator Anthony ‘Staz’ Stazicker
We are all driven by a desire to achieve. We know that staying still and stagnating is bad, so we are always looking for the next thing on the horizon, the next goal. This is a perfectly normal instinct and if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t have got very far as a species.
Problems can arise when the things we want are so far in the distance that they seem impossible to obtain. And if your goal is to get really, really good at something, of course it is going to take a long time to get there and there will definitely be setbacks along the way.
This is why humour is an essential part of it. You don’t get far in the military if you can’t laugh at yourself. The best operator in the world is not somebody who never makes mistakes, it is someone who knows how to dust themselves down and get on with it after things go tits up.
To succeed in the military, you need to tread a fine line between confidence and arrogance. On the one hand you need to be confident in your abilities and your training. But at the same time, you need to accept that you will come across situations you are not prepared for. You have to expect the unexpected and be willing to think quickly and learn on the job.
Leaving the military and co-founding my clothing brand ThruDark has brought a whole new set of challenges. Building a brand is very different to being in the military, but we are so passionate about it that at times it feels like it is taking over my life.
You need to keep that balance in your life, though, that’s why I have to keep challenging myself physically. I am a fairly recent convert to Brazilian jiu-jitsu but absolutely love it. I had done a lot of other martial arts before, and I have always been used to pushing myself. But until a couple of years ago jiu-jitsu was new to me so I knew it was going to be tough starting from ground zero.
This is exactly the point. I spent years honing my skills with weapons, and becoming the very best soldier possible. And I know that to learn something new properly I have to go in with a completely open mind and just absorb as much as I can.
Please do not confuse having an open mind with taking it easy. Just because I am new to it, doesn’t mean I am dipping my toe in the water. It is a tough sport, and I am getting properly stuck in, having really hard rolls and pushing myself as far as possible every time I train.
I recently got my blue belt, which is the first grade you are awarded after you start off as a white belt. So this is the first proper step on the journey. But although it feels good to get this recognition of my training, to be honest the belts are not what it is all about for me.
Would I like to get to black belt one day? Sure I would, as I have totally been bitten by the bug and want to keep training for life. But I would train just as hard if the belts didn’t exist.
It isn’t easy, and it is not supposed to be. Most of the time when people struggle, it is not because life is hard, it is because of a lack of challenges.
The military is tough, and so is jiu-jitsu. We need that toughness to keep us sharp and keep us fighting. If we manage to achieve goals along the way, that is great. Milestones are nice, but it is the daily battle that counts.
Staz won the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his actions in Afghanistan in 2013. He co-founded apparel company ThruDark with fellow former Special Forces operator Louis Tinsley. Staz was talking to Richard Holt.