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“American Sniper”, Shooting between Heartbeats – and the Corporate Boardroom



For all its controversy around the depiction of America’s involvement in the Iraq war, American Sniper is a movie that triumphs in the account of what kind of training and sacrifice it takes to become the best sniper in US history.

In the movie, we get to see how the challenging Navy Seal training is meant to teach the trainees to override their survival instinct. The scene where the whole team, arms intertwined and wearing full armor, sits at the shoreline at night, while choppy waves hit them in face over and over again, shows how these men have to learn to overcome their primal fear of dying.

It’s no surprise then, that a key element in the management of the natural human flight or fight response is breathing regulation. Chris Kyle’s first lesson as a sniper is not about shooting, but about finding his “sweet spot”: that combination of correct breathing, heartbeat, trigger control and lastly, rifle handling.
Kyle was instructed to take deep breaths and pay attention to his heartbeat. Elite marksmen know that the best time to fire is between heartbeats, a place known as “the bottom” of the breath, where the body has the least amount of movement. For the long shot, any uncontrolled muscle twitch throws off the target. This “sweet spot” is accompanied by a clear sense of presence, a “tuning out” of all extraneous input. The focus is the breath, the heartbeat and the rifle.

It seems like we are talking about mindfulness right? YES Right! That part of the sniper’s job (minus the body count) was incredible to watch and beautifully depicted. No shot was impulsive or improvised. For each one of them, there was thorough preparation, a clear synchronization of mind and body through the breath. Chris Kyle was so lethal, because he was a natural at this.

We joke with our clients that the Axeos Performance Institute is not in the sniper business. We remind them though, that they can count on getting the exact same sense of control and efficacy as a trained army marksman, when they go through our trainings. They laugh, because they know all too well that sustaining a C level position sometimes feel like going to war every single day.


Photo of Chris Kyle: