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The Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance – an Interview with Rich Diviney

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People who prevail in even the toughest of circumstances share some special qualities. I recently interviewed retired Navy SEAL Commander Rich Diviney about his book, “The Attributes.” Rich revealed how, after years of observing the world-renown SEAL recruitment process, he learned to identify the hidden drivers of performance that explain how anyone will succeed, both as an individual and as part of a team. Here are some of the attributes shared by the world’s most elite performers: 


Optimal performers need grit! Grit allows you to carry on and push through, no matter how challenging the situation. Grit isn’t a singular trait – it’s a combination of courage, perseverance, adaptability and resilience. Having grit means having the courage to step into your fear; persevering with a balance of persistence, tenacity and fortitude; adapting when the environment changes without your control; and bouncing back when you get knocked off baseline.

Mental Acuity

Mental acuity is a measure of how sharp the mind is. It’s about how you process the world and your ability to effectively absorb and understand information as well as concentrate, focus and remember. Every second, we contend with approximately 11 million bits of information through each of our five senses. Mental acuity is about how well you’re able to focus on and prioritize the proper information, taking into account what’s relevant to your current objectives. It’s also about effectively and efficiently switching between contexts and categories in your life and learning not to make the same mistakes again. We all have each of the four attributes of mental acuity – situational awareness, compartmentalization, task switching and learnability – in varying amounts, and we can also amplify them with effort.


Drive is the behavior of pursuing and staying focused on a goal. It’s concerned with longer term objectives – aspirations that require time and diligence to achieve. Drive is composed of self-efficacy, discipline, open-mindedness, cunning and even narcissism. Self- efficacy is a mixture of confidence, initiative and optimism. Discipline means understanding the wickets you need to go through and being able to continually navigate those and not get seduced by the highs or crushed by the lows. Open-mindedness is all about being open to learning, cunning means thinking differently about problems and the right sort of narcissism is about confidence.

We all possess these attributes to a greater or lesser degree, but to really succeed no matter what challenges we encounter we must first figure out where our strengths lie. When we know that, we can start to improve and begin achieving even higher performance! To learn more, listen to the latest episode of “It’s a Good Life.” 

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