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How to Change the World: Advice from a Navy SEAL

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April 24, 2017
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Retired Admiral William H. McRaven knows a few things about changing the world. He helped orchestrate the mission that ultimately led to the death of Osama Bin Ladin, he served as the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre (NSCC), and he was a member of SEAL Team SIX for a number of years. William is no stranger to hard work, tough questions, and complex decisions that have a very real life-or-death impact on the lives of others.In an address that he gave at the University of Texas, McRaven outlined ten lessons that would help graduates change the world for the better. These were all lessons that he learned while undergoing the intense, backbreaking training that all Navy SEALs must pass. While some of them may seem rudimentary, they have a lasting impact on those who practice them regularly.

1.) Start each day with a task completed

Every day during Navy Seal training, McRaven's instructors came to check that his bed was squared away. Making your bed is a simple task, one that many people overlook, but study after study has shown that high-achieving, organized, successful people often share this very same habit.According to William, making your bed not only gives you a sense of small accomplishment for the day (encouraging you to do another task, and then another), but it also teaches you that the small details in life are important."If you can't do the little things right, you'll never be able to do the big things right," he says.

2.) Get someone that will help you through life

Navy Seal training is all about teamwork. In the military, you are instructed to function as a team at all times, helping each other and accomplishing large tasks as a unit. If you don't recieve an equal effort from every member of your team, you are much more likely to fail in your mission.In life, few things are accomplished without relying on others. So find people who have your back no matter what; friends, family, spouse, whomever. They will keep you on task and on point, even when there is chaos all around you.


3.) Respect everyone

"Nothing matters but your will to succeed," McRaven said, after describing how one of the teams of potential SEALs, comprised of the smallest members of the class, constantly outperformed every other team out there.Drive and persistence will trump anything over time. The will to succeed will outshine talent, ability, charisma, connections, upbringing; you name it. So respect everyone around you, even if they don't "look" successful now. You may be surprised by what drive can accomplish.

4.) Know that Life is not fair, and that you will fail often

At boot camp, inspections are designed to teach this lesson. No matter what you do, inspectors will find something amiss, and you'll be punished for it. Those that can't accept that reality often drop out of the running. McRaven described the daily standards from physical tests that were expected to be met, and the "circuses" that followed if you failed to meet those standards: 2 additional hours of calisthenics, more exhaustion, and the knowledge that you will be more likely to fail tomorrow because of it.Sometimes, you will find that, no matter how much you prepare, how in control you feel, or how hard you have worked, you will still fail. You might feel lost, discouraged; sometimes these moments even drive people to anger. But the true nature of a person comes in exactly those moments; if you can accept that life is not always fair, and that failure is a natural part of the journey to success, then you are much more likely to achieve what you want. You'll eventually see that the sum of these failures will prepare you to succeed later.

5.) Take risks

Since life comes hand in hand with failure, there will be risks everywhere. Some may result in massive gains, others may just have some life lessons to give you. The point is to take them, but take them wisely where possible. Rely on what you have learned, and move forward.

6.) Face obstacles head-first

You know you might fail, you've prepped for the risk, so why not dive in? McRaven told a story of how one of his fellow recruits managed to break the world record for an obstacle course they were required to run by taking the last obstacle head on... literally.Worry and doubt tend to hold us back from making a larger impact. So go head-first, and you might just do better than you had thought.


7.) Don't back down from sharks

SEALs are trained to deal with a shark if they encounter one. Rather than run, they're instructed to hit them square in the nose, and they'll back down.Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They could be a boss, a co-worker, a family member, a "friend," or some other person who has set out to make either your life or other lives miserable.Toxic relationships help no one. It's important to know what you will and will not tolerate and set boundaries right away. Deal with the sharks, so that you can move on to more important matters.

8.) Be your very best in the darkest moments

SEALS are trained extensively on how to find and attack enemy vessels. They are first tasked with finding the keel, the backbone of the vessel, in order to orient themselves. Especially at night, that area under the water becomes totally black; you cannot see at all. In that situation, you're trained to remain calm and orient yourself with the ship.Life will give you situations where you are completely trapped in darkness. You won't be sure where you are, where you're going, or if you'll get out. Remain calm, and perform your best. You'll get to the next stage of the mission in no time.

9.) Give others hope

Hope is probably the most powerful motivating force on earth. It can come in any number of forms, and can arise in the most dismal of places. Hope keeps you going when you've reached the limit of what you can handle. Hope helps you overcome the crushing weight of doubt and anxiety that come with taking on life. And, when you can't give it to yourself, hope from someone else is like a life raft in the middle of a hurricane.Don't wait for hope to come your way - give it to others. You may find that your perspective on your own situation changes in the process.

10.) Don't ever ring the bell.

[caption id="attachment_11252" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]

161105-N-PJ969-1515 FORT PIERCE, Fla. (Nov. 5, 2016) Multiple Central Florida area U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps divisions participate in beach physical training on the same beach that is recognized as the birth place of the U.S. Navy SEALs. From 1943 to 1946, thousands of volunteers were trained here as members of Naval Combat Demolition Units and Underwater Demolition Teams, the precursors to the SEALs. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Abe McNatt)[/caption]Ringing the bell is the signal to any SEAL instructor that you have chosen to give up. The bell sits in plain view, is easy to access, and offers an easy path. Want the pain to end? Want the struggle to stop? All you have to do is ring that bell, and it stops immediately.But if you DON'T ring the bell, you will become something much bigger than your current self. It's your choice to make, so choose not to give in.Like what you just read? Hear it from the man himself. You can watch the entirety of McRaven's address below:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBQLFLei70

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