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Admiral McRaven: Advice From A Navy Seal Who Became An Admiral

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Make Your Bed: Life Lessons from a Navy SEAL Admiral

Inspiring Advice for Success, Resilience, and Making a Positive Impact

“Admiral McRaven: Advice From A Navy SEAL Who Became An Admiral” is a renowned commencement speech delivered by Admiral William H. McRaven to the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. The speech quickly gained widespread attention after it was posted on YouTube, capturing the hearts and minds of millions of viewers around the world.

Admiral William H. McRaven: Admiral William H. McRaven is a retired United States Navy four-star admiral who served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Throughout his distinguished military career, Admiral McRaven played a pivotal role in numerous high-profile operations, including the capture of Saddam Hussein and the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.

The Speech: In his commencement address, Admiral McRaven shares invaluable life lessons and insights gained from his experiences as a Navy SEAL and military leader. Drawing from his extensive training and missions, he offers practical advice on how to overcome challenges, achieve success, and make a positive impact on the world.

The speech is structured around ten key principles for life and success, each illustrated with compelling anecdotes and stories from Admiral McRaven’s own journey:

  1. Start Your Day with a Task Completed: Emphasizing the importance of discipline and productivity in achieving goals.
  2. You Can’t Go It Alone: Highlighting the significance of teamwork, collaboration, and mutual support in accomplishing missions.
  3. Only the Size of Your Heart Matters: Encouraging compassion, empathy, and kindness towards others, regardless of their background or circumstances.
  4. Get Over Being a Sugar Cookie: Acknowledging that failure is inevitable but emphasizing the importance of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity.
  5. Don’t Be Afraid of the Circus: Encouraging individuals to embrace challenges, take calculated risks, and step out of their comfort zones.
  6. Slide Down the Obstacle Head First: Advocating for courage, determination, and a willingness to confront obstacles and difficulties head-on.
  7. Don’t Back Down from the Sharks: Encouraging individuals to stand up for their beliefs, values, and principles, even in the face of opposition or criticism.
  8. Be Your Very Best in Your Darkest Moments: Highlighting the importance of maintaining integrity, character, and moral courage, especially during times of adversity.
  9. Start Singing When You’re Up to Your Neck in Mud: Encouraging optimism, resilience, and a positive attitude, even in the most challenging circumstances.
  10. Don’t Ever, Ever Ring the Bell: Urging individuals to never give up, no matter how difficult the journey may become, and to persevere until they achieve their goals.

Impact and Legacy: Admiral McRaven’s commencement speech resonated deeply with audiences worldwide, inspiring countless individuals to embrace the principles of courage, resilience, and service in their own lives. The video of the speech went viral on YouTube, garnering millions of views and sparking widespread discussion and reflection on its timeless wisdom.

Admiral McRaven’s words continue to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for people from all walks of life, from students and professionals to military personnel and leaders. His message of perseverance, teamwork, and integrity has left an indelible mark on those who have had the privilege of hearing it, reminding us all of the power of courage and determination in the face of adversity.


What starts here changes the world
I have a few suggestions that may help you on your way to a better world
and while these lessons were learned during my time in the military,
I can assure you that it matters not, whether you ever served a day in uniform, it matters
not your gender your ethnic or religious background, your orientation or your social status.
Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward
Changing ourselves and changing the world around us will apply equally to all
So 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
Every morning in seal training my instructors who at the time were all Vietnam veterans
Would show up in my barracks room. And the first thing they’d do is inspect my bed if you did it right,
the corners would be square, the covers would be pulled tight,
the pillows centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack.
It was a simple task
mundane at best but every morning we were required to
Make our bed to perfection
It seemed a little ridiculous at the time particularly light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors tough battle-hardened seals
But the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning
You will have accomplished the first task of the day
it will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and
Another and another and by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many task completed
Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter
If you can’t do the little things, right
You’ll never be able to do the big things right and if by chance you have a miserable day
You will come home to a bed that is made
That you made
And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better
So if you want to change the world
Start off by making your bed
During seal training the students
During training the students are all broken down into boat crews
Each crew is seven students three on each side of a small rubber boat and one Coxon to help guide the dinghy
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 in the winter
The surf off San Diego can get to be eight to ten feet high and it is exceedingly difficult
The paddle hook through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in
Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the Coxon
Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously dumped back on the beach
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 Coxen to guide you if you want to change the world
Find someone to help you paddle over
A few weeks of difficult training my seal class which started with 150 men
Was down to just 42 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 little guys the Munchkin crew. We called them. No one was over five 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 Midwest
They out paddled out ran and out swam all the other boat crews the big men and the other boat crews
will 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 in 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, not your social status
If you want to change the world
measure a person by the size of their heart
not by the size of their flippers
Several times a week
The instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection
It was exceptionally thorough
Your hat had to be perfectly starched your uniform immaculately pressed your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges
But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle
It just wasn’t good enough
The instructors would find something wrong
For failing the uniform inspection the student had to run fully clothed into the surf zone
Then wet from head to toe roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand
the effect was known as
You stayed in the 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 efforts were in vain that no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right,
It went 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 the instructors weren’t going to allow it
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
If you want to change the world
Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward
Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events long runs long swims obstacle courses hours of calisthenics
Something designed to test your mettle every event had standards times you had to meet if you fail to meet those times
Those standards your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day
Those on the list
were invited to a circus 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 and 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
but if you want to change the world
Don’t be afraid of the circuses
At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run the obstacle course
the obstacle course contained 25 obstacles including the 10-foot wall a
30-foot cargo net 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 in 1977. The record seemed unbeatable
Until one day a student decided to go down the slide for life
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 be an injury and being dropped from the course without hesitation
the students 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
If you want to change the world
Sometimes you have to slide down the obstacles headfirst
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. They’re a series of long swims that must be completed
One is the night swim
Before the swim the instructors. Joyfully brief the students 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 that they can remember
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
So if you want to change the world
Don’t back down from the sharpest
As Navy SEALS, one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against the enemy’s shipping
we practice this technique extensively during training the
Ship attack mission is where a pair of SEAL divers is dropped off outside an enemy harbor and then swims well over two miles
Underwater using nothing, but a depth gauge and a compass to get to the 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 appear the light begins to fade
The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight. It blocks the surrounding streetlamps. It blocks all
ambient light
to be successful in your mission
You have to swim under the ship and find the keel the centerline and the deepest part of the ship. This is your objective
But the keel is also the darkest part of the show
where you cannot see your hand in front of your face where the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening and
Where it gets to be easily disoriented and you can fail
every SEAL knows
that under the keel at that darkest moment of the mission is a time when you need to be calm when
You must be called when you must be composed when all your tactical skills your physical power and your inner strength
Must be brought to bear
If you want to change the world
You must be your very best in the darkest moments
The ninth week of training is referred to as hell week
It is six days of no sleep
Constant physical and mental harassment and one special day at the mud flats
the mud flats are an area between San Diego and Tijuana where the rough water runs off and creates the Tijuana sloughs a
Swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you
It is on Wednesday of hell week
that you paddle down in the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive this freezing cold 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
Only five minutes 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 a chattering teeth and the 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
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 and 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
the power of one person
The Washington a Lincoln King Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan Malala one person can change the world
By giving people hope so if you want to change the world
Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud
Finally a SEAL training there’s a bell a
brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see
All you have to do quit. All you have to do to quit is ring the bell
ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock ring the bell and you
No longer have to be in the freezing cold swims
Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs the obstacle course the PT and you no longer have to endure
the hardships of training
All you have to do is ring the bell to get out
If you want to change the world don’t ever ever
Ring the bell
It will not be easy
Start each day with a task completed
Find someone to help you through life
Respect everyone know the life is not fair that you will fail often
but if you take some risks
Step up on the time through the toughest
Face down the bullies lift up the downtrodden and never ever give up. If you do these things the next generation and the
Generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today
And what started here will indeed have changed the world for the better?
Thank you very much

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