William McRaven's Ten Navy Seal Training Life Lessons - Summarized

May 27, 2014 -

Admiral William H McRaven has been a Navy Seal for 36 years. He recently spoke at the University of Texas at Austin about life lessons he learned years ago from six months of basic SEAL training. Training that involved "long, torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacle courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable."

navy seal admiral mcraven

"It matters not your gender, ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or social status. Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward - changing ourselves and the world around us- will apply equally to all." - Admiral McRaven

1) Start your day off by making your bed.

Completing the first task of the day will give you a small sense of pride that will carry on to your second task. Eventually, that task will lead to you completing another task. The little things matter in life and making your bed reminds you of that. If you can't make your bed, then how can you expect to do the big things. If by chance you have a terrible day, at least you'll come back to a bed that has already been made.

2) Find someone to help you paddle.

Nobody does anything alone. We need our friends, family, colleagues, and the goodwill of strangers to get through life. When Adm. McRaven was in SEAL training, every day he and his boat crew paddled through high waves. If he and his crew were not synchronized in their paddle strokes, they would end up going nowhere in the water.

3) Measure people by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

The boat crew that finished first and beat out everyone else was not the boat with the biggest guys. They were actually all less than 5 feet 5 inches and were all of different ethnicity.

4) Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

Just because you do everything you are suppose to do doesn't always mean it will turn out the way you expect. Part of SEAL training was uniform inspection. No matter what you did, the instructors would always find something wrong. When they did, they asked you to run into the water with your clothes on and then roll around on the beach until you became a "sugar cookie".

5) Don't be afraid of circuses.

Nobody wanted to be put on the circus list. The circus list is where you have to do an additional two hours of calisthenics (sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.) designed to wear you down and break you down. But, those who went through that extra training over time became stronger, faster, and more resilient.

6) Sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head-first.

Dare to do something different or take a path less traveled. The obstacle course record had stood for many years until someone in Adm. McRaven's SEAL training course decided to slide head first down the slide, which was seemingly foolish. That and a combination of other time saving techniques broke the obstacle course record.

7) Don't back down from the sharks.

Midnight swims were not uncommon in SEAL training. Of course sharks infested the waters. Should a shark swim up to you, punch him in the snout and he will swim away. There are a lot of sharks in the world that will try and push you off your path. You'll have to deal with them if you want to succeed.

8) You must be your very best in the darkest moments.

Underwater ship attacks against enemy ships was one of the jobs of a Navy SEAL. It required you to swim underneath the ship to the deepest part of the ship. It is so dark that you can not see your hands and the deafening ship machinery can easily disorient you.

"Every SEAL knows that under the kneel (deepest part of ship), 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." - Admiral McRaven

9) Start singing when you're up to your neck in mud.

Hope is a powerful thing. When you are standing in mud and up to your neck in freezing cold water for what seems like forever, the idea that it will all end soon can keep you going. When you can see the light and believe there is still hope, that will keep you going.

10) Don't ever, ever ring the bell.

At SEAL training, if you rang the bell you didn't have to endure any of the circus training, uniform inspection, obstacle courses, or anything else. All you had to do was ring the bell. But, it also meant that you quit.

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