Understanding the Virtues of Humility, Trust, and Fear with Veterans Dakota Meyer and Rob O’Neill

Veterans Dakota Meyer and Rob O’Neill are both known for their unparalleled heroism – Meyer for his time in the Marines and O’Neill for serving as a Navy SEAL.

Meyer is a veteran of the War on Terror and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2011 for his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on September 8, 2009. He is credited with saving the lives of 36 U.S. and Afghan troops that day. O’Neill, meanwhile, is one of the most decorated combat veterans of all time. He was a member of SEAL Team Two, SEAL Team Four, and SEAL Team Six, taking part in and leading over 400 combat missions – including serving as team leader for Operation Neptune’s Spear, the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. 

The two men have become good friends and co-authored the book The Way Forward as a guide for how to master life’s toughest battles and create a legacy. On Tuesday’s show, they joined Megyn to talk more about their personal journeys, lessons in humility, and how to draw the line between fear and panic.

What Dakota Meyer Learned About Humility From Cheer

When you think about the upbringing of a future Marine, cheerleading might not be the first sport that comes to mind. “I was a football player, unlike Rob,” Meyer quipped. “I wasn’t getting beat up, unlike Rob.” But Meyer – who was a multi-sport athlete – did join the cheer squad in high school, which proved to be a lesson in humility.

As a member of the football, track, and basketball teams, Meyer got to know the cheerleaders well. “We had the brother-sister lingo… picking on each other,” he shared. That included him telling them that cheer “was not a real sport.” The girls encouraged him to join a practice to see just how wrong he was. “I got over there, and we did their gymnastics,” he said. The cheerleaders had him practice back tucks and stunts, including a complicated basket toss. “I had to show off – I had all these girls watching,” he recalled. “[The cheerleader] went up in the basket toss and had to lay flat so she didn’t slam into the ceiling.” 

Meyer found the experience “really humbling,” which is why he “obviously” had to join the team. “Understanding and seeing the athleticism that it took for those girls to do that and be part of it and to be humble about it was something that I got taught,” he said. “[And] I’m not going to lie, hanging out with a bunch of girls was not so bad.”

There is also a team-first mentality in cheerleading that is not unlike the military. “Nothing’s going to happen unless you trust each other to have each other’s back,” Megyn noted. “You go up in the air or go out first in the mission, it doesn’t happen unless you have this brotherhood or sisterhood.” Ultimately, Meyer believes that “life is a team sport.”

Rob O’Neill’s Take on Panic and Fear

While our servicemen and women seem to run fearlessly toward danger, O’Neill admitted that it can be difficult to learn how to overcome panic and fear. “That’s a tough one to teach,” he said. “It needs to be learned through observation.” He said he observed it during combat. “Even the first time I went to war, I was assuming the worst,” he recalled. When he looked at those in command, however, there was a sense of calmness. “He was calm, and I remember thinking I want to be like that,” he shared.

The lesson is that how you present yourself to the outside world has an effect on those around you. “What I learned was that calm could be contiguous,” O’Neill explained. “No one can know what you’re feeling on the inside, but if you portray calm everyone around you will be calm.” Even so, fear is not always something to be, well, feared. “It’s when you start to freak out that it’s dangerous,” he noted. “Panic is very very contagious.” His evidence? The great toilet paper shortage of 2020. “One person panicked, so we all started to panic,” he pointed out.

Another example? Commercial flying. “People are generally nervous in airports – that’s why there’s no such thing as drinking too early in airports,” O’Neill joked. “As soon as they announce, ‘We will be boarding this flight in 15 minutes’… it’s like watching a herd of cattle.” Things are generally orderly – until they aren’t. “God forbid someone from zone five tries to board with zone one,” he said. “A fight breaks out.”

One of the keys to overcoming panic is preparation. “Panic can overtake you,” O’Neill admitted. But it will have much less of a chance of taking hold “if you’ve done everything in your life to get to that point,” he added. It’s where “muscle memory” comes into play and takes over. “Hopefully, you shot the free throws like you should’ve,” he concluded. “Hopefully, you did everything every single time and you’re good or great at it.”

You can check out Megyn’s entire interview with Meyer and O’Neill by tuning in to episode 270 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.