A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


May 27, 2014

Best Commencement Speech Ever!

   
     As a proud University of Texas graduate, I was thrilled that the 2014 commencement speech by Admiral William McCraven (Class of 1977) was covered by various media.  Admiral McCraven is Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and has commanded at every level within the special operations community, including assignments as deputy commander for operations at JSOC, Commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 1, Commander of SEAL Team 3, task group commander in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, task unit commander during the Persian Gulf War, squadron commander at Naval Special Warfare Development Group, and SEAL platoon commander at Underwater Demolition Team 21/SEAL Team 4.  But it was the common sense advice that he gave the college graduates in Austin, TX that should rank high on his list of achievements.
     He equipped the graduates with 10 life lessons that, if followed, could "change the world."  Although you may already have read them, they deserve to be reiterated.  The lessons are based on his experiences while training to become a Navy SEAL but they pertain to success in any walk of life.  Here is his sage advice along with my humble comments.
1.  Start off by making your bed.   McRaven said. “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 tasks completed.”
     I have never understood how anyone could begin their day with a rumpled bed, and climb into the disheveled pile of sheets at the end of the day.  That is one task that was mandatory in our household when I was growing up, and that made-up bed represented order and discipline, and set the tone for my whole day.  Good advice, Admiral!
2.  Find someone to help you paddle.  No one achieves success alone.  It will take hard work, long hours, and cooperation among the team.  I have always found it important to find someone who has achieved the goal you would like to accomplish and ask them for advice or assistance.  Success comes easier and is more sweet when you are pulling on the rope with someone who sees eye to eye with you.  That includes fellow workers, spouses, and teammates.
3.  Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.  McRaven told the grads about the “munchkin crew” in his SEAL training group. “The big men in the other boat crews would always make fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim,” McRaven recalled. But he added that those munchkins “out paddled, outran, and outswam all the other boat crews.”
     It is always wise to judge your associates by what's on the inside, instead of what is presented on the outside.  It takes some work to get know a person and evaluate their true worth.  By the time you've made that effort, you'll know whether they are "all show" or made of the right stuff.  Don't be too quick to judge.  As McCraven pointed out, "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."  The same will hold true throughout your life.
4.  Get over being a sugar cookie, and keep moving forward.  There were many a student who failed the uniform inspection, and were ordered to roll around in the wet surf in that same uniform.  That was known as being "a sugar cookie."  They 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 understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.  It's just the way life is sometimes.  You fail, you keep getting up, keep trying, and realize that no matter how well you perform, you still might end up as a sugar cookie.
5.  Don't be afraid of the circuses.  Every Navy Seal has to meet standards of multiple physical events; times that must be met.  If you failed to meet 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.”  No one wanted to go the circus.  The circus was two hours of additional calisthenics—designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit.  Although the circus meant you didn't measure up that day, a curious effect came from those who continually went to the circus … they became stronger mentally and physically.
    We all fail; it happens sooner or later to everyone.  And life is full of those circuses.  It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.  But you must not be afraid of the circuses… they only make you stronger, if you let them.
6.  Sometimes you have to slide down the obstacles head-first.  This is a very simple life lesson.  If you are smart, you will find unconventional and original ways to overcome the obstacle course; ways that will befuddle your competition, but will ultimately bring you success.  Don't be afraid to be different or innovative.
7.  Don't back down from the sharks.  The Seal trainees spend a lot of time in the waters off San Clemente, California.  They are 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.
8.  You must be your very best in the darkest moments.  During the ship attack mission, every Navy SEAL knows that they must swim under the keel of the ship; 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.  But it is also the time when they must be calm, composed—when all their tactical skills, their physical power and all their inner strength must be brought to bare.  The same is true in the mission of life.
9.  Start singing when you are 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.  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.  One voice became two, then three, and before long a whole chorus of voices made that mud seem a little warmer; it was the power of hope.  And one person gave them all that little spark of hope that carried them through.
10.  Don't ever, ever ring the bell.  That's what a SEAL trainee does when he's ready to give up and exit the program.  It's simple … never, ever give up!
     Now, I have given you just the highlights of Admiral McCraven's commencement address.  I would urge you to read it in is entirety.  It is straightforward, direct and wise advice for anyone.  But it is perhaps the most brilliant counsel these 2014 graduates will ever receive.  They are going to need it!

Philippians 4:12-13    "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

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