Admiral William McRaven delivered the 2014 commencement address at his alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin. He shared that after he graduated, he went straight to be commissioned in the Navy and on to SEAL training.
Although McRaven retired as a Navy SEAL after 37 years of service, his accomplishments were not easy. He recounted six months of grueling exercise, sleepless nights and harassment by professionally-trained warriors seeking to weed out those incapable of leading in an environment of constant stress, chaos and hardships.
McRaven challenged the graduates, reminding them of their school slogan: What starts here changes the world.
“According to Ask.com, the average person meets 10,000 people throughout their lifetime,” said McRaven. “If the 8,000 plus graduates here tonight changed the lives of 10 people, and those people changed the lives of 10 people and another 10, in five generations, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800,000,000 people in 125 years. If that kept going for another generation, you could change the entire population of the world.”
Additionally, McRaven highlighted 10 lessons from SEAL training he believes are relevant to changing the world:
- Start off by making your bed. By doing this, you have accomplished the first task of the day.
- Find someone to help you paddle. You can’t change the world alone. Getting to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide you.
- Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. SEAL training is the great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed.
- Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or perform, you will still end up as a sugar cookie.
- Don’t be afraid of the circuses. The circus was a form of SEAL punishment which consisted of two extra hours of calisthenics for those who failed to meet physical standards. Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful and discouraging. At times, it will test you to the very core.
- Slide down the obstacle head first. One SEAL went head first during an exercise. It was risky, dangerous and seemed foolish, but he finished in record time.
- Don’t back down from the sharks. There are sharks in the world. If you want to complete your swim, you will have to deal with them.
- You must be your very best in the darkest moment. Every SEAL knows that the darkest moment of the mission is the time to be calm and composed, and when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.
- Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. During Hell Week, SEALS spent 15 hours up to their neck in bone-chilling, cold mud. One student started singing and they all joined in, which helped them survive. The power of one person can change the world by giving people hope.
- Don’t ever, ever ring the bell. In other words, never ever give up.
These are powerful words for us all. Are you up to the challenge?