Nick Norris — Navy SEAL and Athlete on Training, Post-Traumatic Growth, and Healing (#378)

“I’ve shared that a lot more openly, and it’s been one of the best medicines that I’ve found. It’s liberating. Talking about grief has been something that’s unlocked a lot of happiness for me.”

— Nick Norris

Nick Norris (@nick_norris1981) is a graduate of both the United States Naval Academy and Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL (BUD/S) Class 247. Upon completion of SEAL training in 2004, Nick assumed progressively higher positions of leadership within Naval Special Warfare. His deployed roles included combat advisor to Iraqi and Afghan military units, Cross Functional Team Leader, and Ground Force Commander during combat operation in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nick was most recently assigned to Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command — SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) as Officer in Charge prior to transitioning off Active Duty. Originally from Chicago, Nick received his Bachelor in Science from the United States Naval Academy in 2003 and his Masters of Science in Real Estate from The University of San Diego in 2013. He is on the board of directors of the C4 Foundation, which provides support and resources through science-based programs to active duty Navy SEALs and their families. Nick is the Co-Founder and CEO of Amavara, a sunscreen company that has invented a new mineral sunscreen technology to protect both consumer health and the environment.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

#378: Nick Norris — Navy SEAL and Athlete on Training, Post-Traumatic Growth, and Healing
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Want to hear an episode with someone who served with Nick on SEAL Team Three? — Listen to the most recent episode featuring Jocko Willink in which he discusses how to stop laziness and procrastination, behaviors that lead to failure, and much more. (Stream below or right-click here to download):


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Nick Norris:

Amavara Skincare | Instagram

Organizations to Highlight: 


SHOW NOTES

  • What is dynamic four-way, and how was it responsible for Nick’s first trip to Tokyo? [07:23]
  • What on Earth is a MoonBoard, how long does it take to build one, and where’s the strangest place Nick has used one? [10:23]
  • In climbing and wind tunnel flying, what separates the good from the great? [14:03]
  • In wind tunnel flying, what constitutes “high-speed?” [16:26]
  • Nick describes proximity flying — a sport too extreme even for him. [17:49]
  • What are some of the differentiators Nick has observed in exceptional climbers versus people who (like me) are just permanent blue belts, and can these differentiators be developed? [18:58]
  • What is bouldering, and how is Nick’s physique equipped for it? [21:45]
  • How does Nick prepare — mentally and physically — for particularly challenging climbs? [24:17]
  • How Nick uses visualization for optimal performance. [26:00]
  • Of what past physical feats is Nick most proud? [28:48]
  • What prompted Nick’s interest in becoming a Navy SEAL, how did he conceptualize the structure of the small goals it would take to achieve this particularly big goal, and when did it start to become a reality? [31:25]
  • What aspect of BUD/S or the SEAL training/vetting process did Nick expect to be the most difficult? [36:27]
  • What is stress inoculation, and where do people sometimes get it wrong? [37:14]
  • How does Nick know (former guest and fellow SEAL) Jocko Willink? [40:00]
  • What internal conflicts did Nick experience when he returned to civilian life in 2013, and how long did he search for a remedy before he found something that actually helped? [41:16]
  • How quickly did Nick respond to PR TMS (personalized repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) once it was applied? [49:54]
  • Nick’s tips for better sleep. [54:58]
  • An interesting aside: Why does Nick climb with headlamps in the middle of the night? [57:26]
  • The rules Nick has established for himself around coffee consumption, and what I’ve observed about my own caffeination habits over the years. [59:01]
  • One of the biggest bang-for-your-buck supplements we’ve found for coping with the “tired and wired” phenomenon. [1:02:27]
  • Has PR TMS been a cure-all remedy, or does Nick still experience bouts of apathy, depression, or other internal conflicts that drove him to seek it in the first place? What was it about his initial visits that seemed to help as much as — or perhaps even more than — the therapy itself? [1:05:29]
  • To understand the perspective of someone close to a returning veteran and issues they may have in common, what has the adjustment been like for Nick’s wife during this time? [1:07:54]
  • Why do so many veterans — including Nick — struggle to recognize their own internal conflicts? [1:10:15]
  • What telltale signs and symptoms alert Nick that he may be in for an emotional rough patch, and how might having a designated confidante in the room who can spot these signs help keep things relatively smooth? [1:13:15]
  • The variables that magnify these symptoms are often simple — but so are their remedies. [1:19:07]
  • The importance of being part of a strong community. [1:21:12]
  • One trick I use to interrupt periods of self-isolation. [1:21:41]
  • What factors contributed to Nick’s feelings of isolation, apathy, and depression when he left the military and entered the world of commercial real estate, and what has helped since? [1:23:38]
  • Developing countermeasures to the abnormality of the modern condition can sometimes be as easy as reaching out to an old friend. [1:29:01]
  • What would Nick say to someone who’s struggling right now with their own inner turmoil — especially to people whose professions traditionally frown on displays of vulnerability? [1:33:44]
  • Could mental illness do with a rebranding, and could time prove it to be the rule rather than the exception? [1:36:57]
  • How Nick sees his own issues as a currency for post-traumatic growth, and why many who have had similar experiences would never trade them back even if they could. [1:39:38]
  • How expressing grief — rather than suppressing it — can give you access to greater joy, and the epiphany that prompted this realization for Nick. [1:44:32]
  • A book many have recommended for coping with grief. [1:53:06]
  • On the therapeutic benefits of finding something outside of family and work that really gets you excited on a visceral level. [1:54:08]
  • A shoutout to the brave men and women with whom Nick has had the honor of serving. [1:58:33]
  • Organizations that support returning veterans and their families. [2:00:52]
  • Resources for people dealing with treatment resistant depression — including my new documentary, Trip of Compassion. [2:02:01]
  • What makes Amavara’s patent-pending sunscreen so unique? [2:03:34]
  • Closing thoughts. [2:05:00]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

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24 Replies to “Nick Norris — Navy SEAL and Athlete on Training, Post-Traumatic Growth, and Healing (#378)”

  1. What an amazing episode! I love how you not only introduced me to a new sport, but how you discussed depression. Truly a beautiful episode 🙂

    P.s. I got the unexpected refund. Gotta admit, I missed the ads 😂 (I’m surprised you managed to make us love the ads lol) but it felt good to be a subscriber to your content. Good luck on your next experiment 👍🏽

  2. HelloTim,

    Not sure how else yo reach you or even if you’ll get this. Can you please do a podcast on The Carnivore Diet? This is a real thing. I am very curious and believe many other health conscious and Health and Wellness individuals are interested. You, with your thorough, all aspects style of interviewing style I feel would do the topic justice regarding the benefits as well as the downside.

    Thank you for your great content.

    Steve K

  3. What a thought provoking episode to include a deep dive into the essence of the soul and the interconnectedness we have with each other. I stopped to carefully listen to the section at around 1:40. The story of the Black Hawk down. It commanded full attention. it was so eloquently recalled and the intangible was well-articulated. It helped to answer some of my own questions and perhaps some of my own grief. Thank you for sharing. Also, need to incorporate this sunshine first thing in the morning. I may need a garden to tend to in order to make best of use of time. Tim Ferriss and Friends, great notes and highlights. I came back to look for a book name and so glad it was captured in notes. Best to you always, Linda

  4. I have been listening to your podcast and reading your blog for many years. Your podcast with Nick Norris brought me to tears. This is the first time I have listened to a podcast and cried. Thanks so much for sharing, for being honest and bringing attention to this issue. I’m going through a dip right now and it was just so refreshing to hear someone talk through their experiences. It makes me hopeful and feel not so broken. Thank you.

  5. Tim,

    Thank you soo much for everything! Please continue following and reaching for greatness.

    Every podcast from 1 to 378 has made my life much better.

    My framework for life is great, and I love your the power to ask powerful questions.

    You are a king and helping out the type of brain connections.

    Thank You,

    Dallas Greene

    Calgary AB, 07.20.2019

  6. Love this! Couldn’t have been happier to listen to an episode featuring one of my favourite sports, bouldering is awesome 😍

    Tim, thanks so much for all the time you put into your podcast! Great job.

  7. Tim, first thing: When I searched for this post, Google told me it was your birthday, so Happy Birthday!

    Thanks to you and Nick Norris for this discussion. It is so important to share personal accounts of depression and other mental health struggles to chip away at the stigma. I hope more people will seek help after hearing this.

    Re: your question of the day… I have to pick two.

    1) Sleep. Everyone go read Matthew Walker’s book. Sleep more and live a longer, healthier life.

    2) The importance of having a community of support. Most people will need to put in some work to find or create one. I am starting small but I am taking action in my neighborhood to connect with people living around me.

    What would I put on a billboard?

    “Invite someone over for coffee this week.”

  8. Hi Tim, I follow you recently and I really enjoyed your post. keep it up, you’re really unique

    [Moderator: link removed.]

  9. Tim,

    I believe very strongly in serendipity when it comes to life. I have been dealing with depression my whole life. I have not had an opportunity to listen to your podcast for 8 months since I switched to a new position at work. Last week though I had some time and I re-subscribed to you podcast but didn’t get to listen that day. Today, I had some time, so I pulled up #378 Nick Norris.

    I have never been able to articulate my depression to my wife in a way that made sense to us both. This podcast changed that. Nick and you explained what I have dealt with in a way that was honest, empathetic and extremely relatable. You both articulate what its like to have a sprained brain but still have commitments that push you and others around us to a lonely place just to hold the fort down, if you will. I couldn’t agree more, we aren’t broken, but we need some work to run optimally.

    With this limitation of our mind though it is very difficult to find others that are dealing with similar issue in an environment that is open for the discussion. We don’t talk about mental health in the oil and gas industry, like so many other performance-based industries. For a long time, I took the pills and suffered with side effects and very little symptom control. Until, I went on my own and went down the Ketamine path.

    Yesterday, I had my 2nd tune up treatment of inter-muscular injection of Ketamine. It has been a life saver for me. When I decided to try out of the box treatment is when my life changed February the 14th. I did three treatments in about a week period and since then I have done one treatment every two months or so depending on schedule. I no longer take any prescriptions for anything and have never felt better, for me (baseline is different than people who haven’t had to deal with depression). I still have ups and downs, but the duration’s are so short that I am better able to monitor them. When I made this decision, I included my wife as well and she has seen a very positive change. She also now is able to tell me when I’m off as quick if not quicker than I can.

    Anyway, I would love to discuss Ketamine further if you ever want to chat with someone that has used it successfully to help in treatment.

    I would like to say I appreciate you opening up yourself about this topic and Nick’s courage outside of battle may be more impact than he will ever realize.

    Thank you for your podcast and books.

    -Will Southerland

  10. Hello Tim – What was the brand of the teeth whitening solution that sponsored one of your podcasts a couple of years ago? If it did not sponsor one of your podcasts, then you had mentioned it as a product you were trying. I believe its use was similar to mouthwash and the product was made in the UK. Thanks.

  11. Tim,

    This episode was so timely! I am going through a hell of a year. I need therapy but can’t afford it but I am following what you said about reaching out to several people I lost contact with and it really does help. I wish I could repay you for all you have done to change my life by so many orders of magnitude (100X)

    Blessings to you always

  12. Hi Tim,

    Thank you for the Amazon gift card and the refund on my purchase to you for your Tim Ferris Entry!

    Much appreciated 🙂

    Brad VanderHeide

  13. One of the heaviest Tim Ferriss episodes I have listened to. I have been dealing with depression for the first time in my life, I think its the first time. This episode made me feel okay about that. I had dinner with my wife a few nights later and tearfully came clean about what I am dealing with. I was terrified of having that conversation before, with anyone. It was so relieving. She was supportive and we are figuring out how to tackle it. Sitting in the sunshine first thing in the morning has been a great start. Finding my thing is next!

  14. I’m 42 and have been throttled by my first major depression episode. I did not see this coming. This episode was helpful. I have so much gratitude, and at the end Tim you nailed it when you say “I could’ve used hearing you when I struggled in college and other times.” Listening to this has created a crack in the dam so to speak, in the “concrete” darkness and is easier to know I’m not alone

  15. Inspired by Nick’s journey, and a reminder as to the extraordinary characters that America has bringing themselves to life-risking service (thank you). I’ll be buying Trip of Compassion, and On Grief and Grieving (a hard time ahead in our family), getting back to bouldering every now, trying Amara (a surfer…).

    P.S. the episode had me repeatedly thinking to Sebastian Junger’s “Tribe”, on community and the struggle of veterans in returning to homelands.

  16. Thank you very much for this conversation, and both your openness to speak on these issues. It actually helped me so much more than I expected.

    Tim I’ve been meaning to write to you somehow for a few months, ever since I did a meditation course called Vipassna – a 10 day silent course taught through recordings of a Burmese man named Goenka. You may have mentioned it with a guest on your show, I’m not sure. Rich Roll speaks about it occasionally although I don’t think he’s done one, but he interviewed Jack Dorsey of Twitter who does them each year.

    I thought of you, as it was the most reality shattering learning I have done in my life, and I wanted you to do it, so you could tell the world. I literally came to understand where depression, anxiety, craving and aversion comes from. Experienced how these things work at their fundamental level in our mind body interactions, and learnt the skills to start to change the habit patterns of my mind, at the root level. [root level should be bolded here]. Through the 10 days you are taught how to observe the mind body connection through the Vipassna meditation technique. By the end, you understand why hallucinogenics and other reality altering drugs work the way they do on our minds, and you achieve the same states with out drugs, except you are in control of the experience through the skills you learn. It was mind boggling. Like being in a fantasy novel and finding out the magic is real. It’s completely changed how I understand myself and the world. I’ve been listening to your podcast for a few years now, and I’ve noticed your trajectory from self efficiency and productivity towards an understanding of self. I’ve been on a similar journey at the same time really. I really think you’d get a lot out of Vipassna, and think you already understand the principles on the surface level, as I did. This technique takes you to the experiential level where you can change the old patterns in a similar way to Iowoska, but in a controlled manner at your own pace. I remember you saying after an Iowaska ceremony that a relationship in your life had changed afterwards, and you’d completely let go of something subconsciously. Vipassna is exactly that, changing the deep root of pattern that is entrenched in your mind. I had the same experience where I would reach for old thoughts of fear and anxiety, and my reactions are just completely gone.

    In saying that, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s not a quick or easy fix, you get out what you put in – and it is very hard work. Confronting your inner demons can be extreme and I nearly left a couple of times which wouldn’t have been good for me in the long run. It is something to do when you feel ready to confront your inner self, and are truely committed to the 10 days of work, come what may.

    Apologies for the essay, really wanted to try to explain myself clearly and give you the best shot of understanding what I’m trying to say. This technique is already helping hundreds of thousands of people, and I think has the possibility to make the world a much better place. Google Dhamma Vipassna meditation and there’ll be some centres in the US [im in Australia]. If you do it, I’m sure I’ll hear about it on the podcast. With meta.