Admiral William H. McRaven is a respected, accomplished and a seasoned warrior and ex-commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, not to mention a U.S. Navy Seal. After serving a distinguished military career spanning 37 years with numerous accomplishments unnamed here, he retired in 2014. And that year he gave a heart-touching speech at the University of Texas at Austin, his alma mater (scroll below for the video).
One of the basic points McRaven touched upon was the apparent mundane nature of tasks which they were to do during his selection and training period at the U.S Navy S.E.A.L course, and how they had a underlying purpose of great importance. He goes on to explain that the habit of paying attention to detail, be it in the creases of a perfectly made bed, or the minute description of a mission plan, was ingrained during the grueling 6 months of training and selection. As he puts it “Start your day off with an accomplished task”, and it lights up your day ahead!
McRaven realizes that team-work is an integral part of the process, and that it makes the journey so much more productive. He uses the example of the boat-crew, and how everyone had to paddle if they were to get beyond the surf of the Pacific ocean. “Also, find a reliable coxswain (who steers the boat)”.
During his time with the training teams, McRaven explains, there was a team of 5’5″ candidates (relatively short-structured, wearing tiny swim-flippers) who would, to everyone’s surprise, out-paddle and outperform all other teams and finish first. He goes on to explain that the determination and mental tenacity of those crew members was what made them stand out, and this lesson was not lost on McRaven, who very endearingly mentions that “Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers”. He continues to give out many other inspirational examples from his experience, as seen below in the video at the commencement speech at University of Texas at Austin in 2014.
These lessons learned, and now passed on to others hold the valuable wisdom and leadership development secrets from a seasoned warrior and leader, which can very easy be extrapolated to any work-environment. Start-ups or large organization alike need quality leadership and commitment to a cause in order to succeed, and this speech ranks highly on igniting a spark of inspiration for the future leaders. As the motto of that school goes “What starts here changes the world”, Admiral W.H. McRaven is living proof of that.
For reference find the Wikipedia article on Admiral McRaven here.