How to be a leader in an environment of constant stress, chaos, setbacks and difficulties? Here are the lessons I've learned that will be helpful for everyone to move forward.
On May 17, Admiral William McRaven, head of the US Special Operations Command, delivered a parting address to 8,000 graduates of the University of Texas at Austin, and this speech will not be forgotten by either the graduates or their parents, assures the readers of The Wall Street Journal.
The motto of the University of Texas is: “What starts here will change the world,” McRaven recalled.
“But the question is: what will the world be like after you change it? I'm sure it will be much, much better, but if you do honor to the old sailor and listen for a couple of minutes, I’ll outline a few considerations that may help you on your journey to a better world. And although these are the lessons I learned while serving in the military, I assure you that it doesn't matter if you wore a uniform for at least one day. It doesn't matter your gender or your nationality, as well as religion, social status or sexual orientation. Our battles in this world are similar to each other, and the lessons that help us to win and move forward - to change ourselves and the world around us - apply equally to everyone,”the admiral said.
“I've been a SEAL for 36 years. But it all started when I left Utah and arrived at the SEAL training camp in Coronado, California,”McRaven says. - Seal basic training lasts 6 months and includes excruciating runs on soft sand, night swims in cold water off the coast of San Diego, overcoming an obstacle course, endless gymnastic exercises, days spent without sleep, in the cold, in the water, in suffering. In these six months, you are constantly being pressured by seasoned warriors who are eager to find the weak in spirit and body and forever expel them from the community of "fur seals". However, these trainings also identify those cadets who are able to lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, setbacks and difficulties. For me, SEAL basic training has become a whole life packed in 6 months. And here are the lessons that I learned then and which I hope will be useful for you to move forward."
Life lessons from the SEAL training camp
1. “Every morning during basic training, my instructors (at that time all were veterans of the Vietnam War) came to the barracks and the first thing they paid attention to was how the bed was filled,” the admiral said.
"It seemed a little strange then: we were going to become real warriors, battle-hardened" Navy seals "- but I was repeatedly convinced of the wisdom of this simple action."
“Making your bed in the morning will do the first thing of the day. It will give you a bit of pride and push you to do more, and more, and more. By the end of the day, one job done will turn into a multitude. Making your bed perfectly also reinforces the idea that even the smallest things in life matter. Otherwise, you can never do big things right. So if you want to change the world, start with your own bed,”McRaven advises.
2. In the course of training, future "seals" are divided into boat crews of seven people - six rowers and one helmsman. In winter, the height of the waves near San Diego, where the training camp is located, reaches 2.5-3 meters: in order for the boat to swim where it is necessary, each member of the crew must lean on the oars.
“You cannot change the world alone,” the admiral concludes. “You need help. Getting there accurately from point of departure to destination requires friends, colleagues, the goodwill of strangers, and an experienced helmsman to guide them. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you row."
3. McRaven himself was included in the crew of tall guys, but the best crew of his recruitment consisted of employees of short stature. It included an Indian, an African American, a Pole, a Greek, an Italian, and two guys from the American Midwest. The giants from the other crews made fun of their "tiny" flippers, but the last were always the laughs of their undersized comrades.
“If you want to change the world, judge people by the size of their hearts, not their last,” urges the veteran of special forces.
4. Several times a week, the cadets were inspected their uniforms. The instructors always found something to find fault with, and forced the guilty "to plunge into the ocean in full uniform and then roll in the sand." Those who went through this execution were called "sugar cookies". Many fighters could not come to terms with the fact that all their efforts were wasted and broke. They simply did not understand the meaning of this exercise, the admiral believes. “Sometimes, even if you are well prepared and do your job well, you still end up in the role of a cookie. Yes, sometimes life is like that. But if you want to turn the world around, accept that you are a sugar cookie and keep moving forward,”McRaven says.
5. Future SEALs did a lot of physical exercise every day. Those who did not fit into the standard were invited to the "circus" in the evening - for two additional hours of exercise. For six months each of the cadets visited the "circus" at least once. Over time, those who often found themselves among the "circus performers" only became stronger. Physical activity strengthened their morale and physical endurance.
“Life is full of circus,” McRaven summarizes. - You will have failures. And they will be very often. There will be pain. There will be disappointments. At times it will chill you to the core. But, if you intend to change the world, do not be afraid to fall into the "circus".
6. At least twice a week, the cadets had to overcome the obstacle course. The most difficult thing was sliding between two towers, one 9 m high, the other 3 m high, along a 60-meter rope stretched between them. No one managed to break the record set by someone many years ago, until one of the cadets in McRaven's set decided not to twist his hands on the rope, but to slide down it head first. “If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to move headfirst,” the admiral teaches graduates.
7. The next phase of training takes place on the island of San Clement near San Diego, around which great white sharks swarm. The preparation course includes several long heats in the open ocean, including at night.
On the eve of the swim, the instructors happily inform the cadets about all types of sharks in the surrounding waters. They are assured that not a single cadet has been eaten - at least not in recent years - and explain: if a shark starts circling around you, stay where you are. You can't try to swim away. Don't panic. And if the shark is hungry and rushes at you, gather all your strength and kick it in the face, and then it will swim away."
“There are many sharks in the world. If you intend to swim to the end, you have to deal with them. So, if you want to change the world, don't back down in front of the sharks,”says the admiral.
8. One of the tasks of the "SEALs" - underwater attacks on enemy ships. Two saboteurs disembark a few kilometers from the enemy harbor and get to it under water. While they are sailing towards the target, even at a very great depth, a little light breaks through to them, but near the keel of the ship "it is impossible to make out even your own hands," says McRaven. But every "cat" knows that under the keel, in the darkest place, he must be calm and collected. “If you want to change the world, you have to be on top even in pitch darkness,” the special forces veteran urges.
9. The ninth week of combat training "seals" is called "hellish": six days without sleep, under constant physical and mental pressure, and one special day in Mud Flats - 15 hours in the icy mud muddy shoals between San Diego and Tijuana. On this very day, just hours before sunset, McRaven's training squad committed "flagrant violation of the charter," and the boys were ordered to plunge into the mud up to their necks. The instructors announced that the torment would be over if five of them agreed to leave the course. And then someone's voice began to sing along. “We knew that if one of us can rise above the plight, then the rest can do it,” the admiral recalls and concludes: “If you have already decided to change the world, start singing when you are up to your ears in mud.”
10. In the center of the training base of "fur seals" a small bell is installed in full view. “All you have to do to interrupt your training is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to get up at five in the morning. Call - and swimming in ice water will be over. Call - and you will not need to run, overcome the obstacle course, go to exercise and endure other hardships of preparation. Just hit the bell."
“If you want to change the world, never, under any circumstances, ring the bell,” the admiral gives his last advice.
“So start your day with a job well done. Find someone to help you in life. Respect everyone. Know that life is unfair and you will often fail, but if you take risks, resist when you are completely unbearable, repulse bullies, help those who stumbled, and never give up, then the next generation and the generations that will come after him, will live in a much better world than the one in which we live today. And what began within these walls will truly change the world for the better,”the admiral concluded his speech.