10 life lessons from a Navy SEAL that relate to every day life

I was listening to an audio book by ex Navy SEAL Admiral William H McRaven called “Make Your Bed” (get it for free on YouTube) last week, and his important learnings from his training relate to all of us if we want to be our best selves.

I was listening to an audio book by ex Navy SEAL Admiral William H McRaven called “Make Your Bed” (get it for free on YouTube) last week, and his important learnings from his training relate to all of us if we want to be our best selves.

The Admiral gave this wisdom in a 2014 speech to graduating from the University of Texas, encouraging them to help change the world 10 people at a time.

If each of us helps 10 people to change for the better, then it will only take 5 generations to change 800 million people’s lives.

That’s pretty cool!

But let’s start with you – take his lessons on board to become a better version of yourself.


“If you want to change the world, start by making your bed”

It’s a simple lesson, but if we start the day by making our bed we’ve already achieved something.

And if the rest of your day goes to shit, at least you come home to a made bed! 🙂


“If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle”

He describes the gruelling training days and moments where during group training, some days you’d have to paddle harder when others were too tired, and they’d do the same for you when needed.

We all need companionship, people we can lean on when times are tough.

No man is an island.


“If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers”

He talks about how the “midget crew” who were under 5ft5” would be better than the taller, stronger peeps; because they put more effort in.

They had a bigger heart inside of their smaller body.

I’m just shy of 5ft5” so I guess that makes me part of the midget crew!


“If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and move forward”

In all of Navy SEAL training, nothing is worse than being a sugar cookie.

At random and for no particular reason, trainees will be ordered to roll around in the sand and put sand down their clothes, spending the rest of the day training like that.

This is designed to test patience and determination as well as sending a message that sometimes life just isn’t fair; get used to it.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, you still end up as a sugar cookie.

Don’t complain, don’t blame, just get on with it and fail forward.


“If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circus”

When SEALS fail a daily physical training event, their punishment is 2 extra hours of calisthenics known as the “circus” – which is brutal when you’re already fucked.

It’s designed to wear you down, break your spirit, and force you to quit.

But if you hang in there, that extra training will make you stronger and have greater stamina.

We all live through our own circus sometimes that wears us down, makes us feel lost and in limbo.

But there is always an opportunity for growth IF we choose to gain the insights and learnings from our circus.

Doing the minimum isn’t enough, sometimes we need to go the extra mile!


“If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first”

One of the most feared obstacles in the obstacle course is called “slide for life” and it’s really dangerous.

The fastest way is headfirst which is also the most risky.

Life is a struggle and the potential to fail is always there, but if we don’t take risks and push our limits, without daring greatly we will never know what’s truly possible.


“If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks”

SEALs have long swims in shark infested waters and are taught not to back down, not to show fear, just punch that mo fo in the nose if it attacks you.

We all go swimming with metaphorical sharks and if we live in fear, we diminish our capacity to deal with the shark.

Don’t back down from the bullies.


“If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment”

Navy SEALs practice underwater attacks in the darkest of the dark, when they can’t see their hand in front of their faces.

We may not have SEAL training, but we do have access to tools and techniques, friends, spirituality, our relationships etc to help pull us through our darkest moments.

Be your very best, even if your best in your darkest moment is different from your best in your better moments.


“If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud”

The 9th week of SEAL training is known as Hell Week, and involves 6 days of no sleep, non-stop mental and physical harassment, and a day of hell on mud flats where they’re up to their neck in mud.

Many SEALs quit during this week.

One SEAL in McRaven’s group started singing when they were up to their neck in mud, and others joined him.

It gave them hope; an affirmation of what can be, not what is. Use your voice in music, no matter how badly you sound, to transform a bad moment into a hopeful one.


“If you want to change the world, don’t ring the bell”

When SEALs start their training they’re introduced to a bell.

To give up, all they need to do is ring the bell 3 times.

They’re also told that if they do that they’ll regret it for the rest of their lives.

Don’t ever ring the bell.

Life puts you in situations where quitting seems so much easier than carrying on.

Where the odds are so stacked against you that giving up seems the rational thing to do.

Life is hard, it’s full of difficult times.

But there are people out there who have it a lot worse than you do and aren’t complaining about it.

They would trade their life for yours in a heartbeat if they had the chance.

If you fill your days with pity, playing the victim for the way you have been treated, bemoaning your lot in life, blaming your circumstances on someone or something else, then life will be long and hard.

If instead you refuse to give up on your dreams, stand tall and strong against the odds, you can create an amazing life.

Never, ever, ring the bell!

I’d love to hear if you enjoyed McRaven’s lessons as much as I did.

Catcha on the flip side,

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