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Research Triangle Business Advisors
June 2014 Newsletter
Naval Admiral William H. McRaven returned to his alma mater May 2014 and spoke to the graduates with lessons he learned from his basic SEAL training. His amazing Commencement Address at University of Texas at Austin from Business Insider has many insights that apply to business success. This month I will use his address as the basis to show what it takes to be a business leader and find business success. A link to a video of the entire speech is at the end of this summary of the talk.
Bob De Contreras
AP Photo/The University of Texas at Austin, Marsha Miller
10 Life Lessons From A Navy Seal.
“…Here are the ten lessons I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.” [RTBA – as you move forward in your business]
#1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
“To the graduating class of 2014, you are moments away from graduating. Moments away from beginning your journey through life. Moments away from starting to change the world—for the better.
It will not be easy.
But, YOU are the class of 2014—the class that can affect the lives of 800 million people in the next century.
Start each day with a task completed.
Find someone to help you through life.
Make your bed every day and you will have that one task completed every day. And, when you return after an exhausting day, that bed will look very inviting and satisfying.”
#2. If you want to
change the world, find someone to help you paddle.
Every day your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surf zone and paddle several miles down the coast. For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.
You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help— and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.” [RTBA – Finding business success also takes friends, colleagues, strangers and strong leadership.]
#3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.
“Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class which started with 150 men was down to just 35. There were now six boat crews of seven men each.
I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the little guys—the munchkin crew we called them—no one was over about 5-foot five. The munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African American, one Polish American, one Greek American, one Italian American, and two tough kids from the mid-west.
They out paddled, out-ran, and out swam all the other boat crews.
The big men in the other boat crews would always make good natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim. But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the Nation and the world, always had the last laugh— swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us.
SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.” [RTBA – In business diversity is also a great equalizer and powerful path to success.]
#4. If you want to
change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
The instructors would find “something” wrong.
For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surf zone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of his body was covered with sand. The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day—cold, wet and sandy.
There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right—it was unappreciated. Those students didn’t make it through training. Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.
Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie. It’s just the way life is sometimes.” [RTBA – In business too, there are some things that just can’t be done. That does not mean you can hang out the “closed” sign and go home. Keep trying to find a way.]
#5. But if you want to change the world, don’t
be afraid of the circuses.
A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics—designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit. No one wanted a circus. A circus meant that for that day you didn’t measure up. A circus meant more fatigue—and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult—and more circuses were likely.
But at some time during SEAL training, everyone—everyone—made the circus list.
But an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Over time those students-—who did two hours of extra calisthenics—got stronger and stronger. The pain of the circuses built inner strength-built physical resiliency. Life is filled with circuses.
You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.” [RTBA – Many days just dealing with your customers is a “circus.”]
#6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.
“At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run the obstacle course. The obstacle course contained 25 obstacles including a 10-foot high wall, a 30-foot cargo net, and a barbed wire crawl to name a few.
But the most challenging obstacle was the slide for life. It had a three level 30 foot tower at one end and a one level tower at the other. In between was a 200-foot long rope. You had to climb the three tiered tower and once at the top, you grabbed the rope, swung underneath the rope and pulled yourself hand over hand until you got to the other end.
The record for the obstacle course had stood for years when my class began training in 1977. The record seemed unbeatable, until one day, a student decided to go down the slide for life—head first. Instead of swinging his body underneath the rope and inching his way down, he bravely mounted the TOP of the rope and thrust himself forward. It was a dangerous move—seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk. Failure could mean injury and being dropped from the training.
Without hesitation—the student slid down the rope—perilously fast, instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course he had broken the record.” [RTBA – Likewise in business – taking risks will provide rewards.]
#7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.
During the land warfare phase of training, the students are flown out to San Clemente Island which lies off the coast of San Diego. The waters off San Clemente are a breeding ground for the great white sharks. To pass SEAL training there are a series of long swims that must be completed. One—is the night swim. Before the swim the instructors joyfully brief the trainees on all the species of sharks that inhabit the waters off San Clemente.
They assure you, however, that no student has ever been eaten by a shark—at least not recently.
But, you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position—stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid. And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you—then summons up all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away.
There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.” [RTBA - All your competitors are “sharks.”]
#8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.
“As Navy SEALs one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against enemy shipping. We practiced this technique extensively during basic training. The ship attack mission is where a pair of SEAL divers are dropped off outside an enemy harbor and then swim well over two miles—underwater—using nothing but a depth gauge and a compass to get to their target.
During the entire swim, even well below the surface there is some light that comes through. It is comforting to know that there is open water above you. But as you approach the ship, which is tied to a pier, the light begins to fade. The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight—it blocks the surrounding street lamps—it blocks all ambient light.
To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel—the center line and the deepest part of the ship. This is your objective. But the keel is also the darkest part of the ship—where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, where the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening and where it is easy to get disoriented and fail.
Every SEAL knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission—is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.” [RTBA – It’s “dark” in business when revenues are down, the bank account is low, you lose a big client, or a competitor comes out with a new/better product. These are times to redouble your efforts.]
#9. So, if you want to change the world, start
singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
It is on Wednesday of Hell Week that you paddle down to the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive the freezing cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure to quit from the instructors.
As the sun began to set that Wednesday evening, my training class, having committed some “egregious infraction of the rules” was ordered into the mud. The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit—just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold.
Looking around the mud flat it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours till the sun came up—eight more hours of bone chilling cold. The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything and then, one voice began to echo through the night—one voice raised in song. The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two and two became three and before long everyone in the class was singing. We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well.
The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing—but the singing persisted. And somehow—the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.
If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person—Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan—Malala—one person can change the world by giving people hope.”
#10. If you want to change the world don’t
ever, ever ring the bell.
Cary | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park |
Greensboro | North Carolina