A business friend recently passed along a link from Business Insider of a commencement speech given at the University of Texas, Austin by alumnus U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven. He shared 10 lessons from his Navy SEAL training that he describes as a lifetime of challenges crammed into six months. His message was extraordinary for all — especially business owners, CEOs and leaders.
McRaven’s 10 lessons if you want to change the world:
1. Start by making your bed. Make your bed every morning as the first task, and it will encourage you to complete multiple tasks throughout the day.
2. Find someone to help you paddle. For the boat to make it through rough waters, every paddle must exert equal effort and be synchronized to the stroke count of the leader. You cannot do it alone; it takes friends, colleagues, the goodwill of strangers and a strong leader.
3. Measure a person by the size of the heart, not the size of the flippers. Although chastised by taller guys, the little guys with the little flippers always outperformed them in maneuvers. Nothing matters — only the will to succeed.
4. Get over being a sugar cookie; move forward. The instructors would always find something wrong during inspection. The punishment was to spend the day in a soaking wet uniform covered in sand portraying a sugar cookie. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you prepare or perform; it’s just the way life is.
5. Don’t be afraid of circuses. Every day included multiple physical events and standards that had to be met to stay off the “circus” list — additional hours of calisthenics designed to break your spirit. Life is a circus. You will fail at times. It will be painful, discouraging and test you to your core.
6. Sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle headfirst. A seemingly unbeatable obstacle course record was broken when a student decided to make a dangerous move. He slid down the rope headfirst in half the time.
7. Don’t back down from the sharks. If a shark circled, you were taught to stand your ground. If the shark advanced, punch it in the snout, and it would retreat. If you hope to complete the swim you must deal with the sharks.
8. Be your best in the darkest moment. During a ship attack mission a SEAL must swim to the deepest part of the ship where you cannot see, the noise is deafening and it is easy to become disoriented. You must be calm and composed to engage your tactical skills, physical power and inner strength.
9. Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. The height of “Hell Week” was 15 dark hours spent trying to survive the freezing mud, howling wind and incessant encouragement to quit. Hours later despite many chattering teeth, one voice rose in song. One person can change the world by giving people hope.
10. Don’t ever, ever ring the bell. To quit SEAL training you just had to ring the bell in the center of the compound. If you want to change the world, don’t ever ring the bell.