Michael Zapata is general partner of Sententia Capital. He received his B.S. from Texas A&M University and was commissioned as a Naval Officer in May 2001. Throughout his time in the Navy, Mike served as a Navy SEAL with multiple deployments during the Global War on Terrorism. Following his last command at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Mike transitioned out of the military to attend Columbia Business School in 2011. Mike subsequently formed Sententia Capital Management.

The following address was delivered to the Advanced Investment Research (AIR) Class in the Columbia MBA Program. It is reprinted here with Mike’s permission.


When Ken approached me about speaking to the Advanced Investment Research (AIR) class through lessons I’d learned in my former life as a Navy SEAL, I paused a bit. I have written white papers to myself about the investment parallels but had not broken it out to specific lessons learned, as these tend to be more personal in nature. With such nuanced takeaways, I can only address my experiences and hope they are helpful.

I was fortunate to serve in the SEAL community for nearly 10 years, through multiple combat tours in various locations. I had the opportunity to lead and work among the best teams in the U.S. military. My time started in May of 2001. After graduating from Texas A&M and commissioning as an officer in the Navy, I checked in to Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUD/s) and was assigned to Class 237. BUD/s is a 6-month school that tests your will, intellect and abilities to the extreme. The reason I joined was to be part of something special. As events would have it, this desire immediately crystalized on 9-11, which happened in the middle of our training. We were headed to do a 2-mile ocean swim that morning. I remember seeing footage of a plane hitting the first tower as we left the chow hall after breakfast. We didn’t know the extent of the events when we started the swim, but as we finished the swim, the towers had fallen. That day ensured that the years ahead would be well spent, as we were soon to join a special community that would make its mark in the Global War on Terrorism.

Looking back, here are some lessons that I aim to bring forward with me. I hope they are helpful.

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