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If You Want To Change The World, Do What The Navy Seals Do Each Day

If You Want To Change The World, Do What The Navy Seals Do Each Day

Do you think you can change the world? One person can make an impact on how the rest of the world lives. What if that person is you?

The list of world-changers is endless. From Marie Curie to J.K. Rowling, and our favorite life-changer of all, the great Steve Jobs.

It’s hard to believe it’s only been since 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee kick-started the World Wide Web. It was 1977 when Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield’s (MRI) Magnetic Resonance Imaging invention enabled surgeons to see inside the body’s soft organs without invasive surgery or X-rays.

Filmmaker George Lucas founded Industrial Light and Magic in 1975 to bring his vision of Star Wars to life. ILM went on to revolutionize special effects in the movies, changing the economics of the movie industry. And just imagine how different life would be without the invention of the birth control pill by Gregory Pincus, M.C. Chang, and John Rock, which the FDA approved in 1960.

These are the contemporary world-changers, but think of all those who came before them. How do you think they were able to achieve such remarkable results?

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According to Admiral William McRaven, a Navy SEAL for thirty-six years, these world-changers have the same skills that he learned in SEAL training.

SEAL training is six tortuous months of long runs in soft sand, midnight swims in cold water, obstacle courses, never-ending calisthenics, days without sleep and always feeling cold, wet, and miserable.

The purpose of this training is to seek out those who can become leaders in an environment of constant stress chaos, failure, and hardships.

This is what it takes:

1. Make your bed.

Every morning at bed inspection, instructors check to see if the covers are tight, the pillow centered right under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the bed.

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As ridiculous as it seems, this simple mundane task gives you a sense of pride and encourages you to do another task, and many more. Making your bed proves that little things matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. Success requires discipline, no matter how small the task may seem. Start every day with a small act of self-discipline.

2. Find someone to help you paddle.

Every day the boat crew is instructed to paddle several miles down the coast. No matter how high the seas (10 feet!), every paddle must be synchronized perfectly with the count of the guide. Following the guide, every member must exert equal effort or the boat will be tossed back on the beach.

Everyone must paddle. If you want to get from the starting point to the destination, you need a strong, in sync, support system and a guide to lead the way. No one achieves success alone. Find a mentor, support system, and create a team that moves you towards your destination.

3. Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

Boat crews are determined by the size of the men in them. One crew was named the “munchkin crew,” all under 5-foot-five. They ran faster, paddler harder, and out swam all the other boat crews, always reaching the shore before the big guys. Size doesn’t matter, only your will to succeed. If you want to change the world, don’t judge people.

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

Uniform inspection is exceptionally thorough. Every piece of cloth has to be perfectly pressed, polished, and starched. The instructors always finds something wrong. When they do, the student has to run into the surf with his clothes on, and then roll in the sand until every part of his body is covered in sand. He becomes a “sugar cookie.”

The lesson learned is that no matter how well you perform or prepare, you would always end up as a sugar cookie. That’s just the way life is sometimes. Acknowledge and accept that even when you put your best effort forward, unfortunate circumstances might arise. When you get knocked down, get up, brush off, and keep on moving in the direction of your goal.

5. Don’t be afraid of the circus.

Every day there are long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, and hours of calisthenics. Each event has a time limit. Failing means an invitation to “the circus”- two extra hours of calisthenics. The sole purpose: to wear you down, break your spirit, and force you to quit.

Life is filled with circuses. You will fall, fail, and it will be painful and discouraging, testing you to the very core of your being. Expect failure; don’t fear it.

6. Sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle course headfirst.

The most challenging obstacle is the slide for life- a three level 30-foot tower with a long 200-foot rope in between. The goal is to climb the tower, grab the rope, swing underneath it hand over hand until you reach the other side. The record time remained the same since 1977. Until one day, a student slid down headfirst. It was dangerous, but he plunged forward and beat the record by half the time. If you want to change the world; you have to go against the grain. Fall out of the herd. Be the first one who is brave enough to do something different.

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7. Don’t back down from the sharks.

Before the night swim, after a brief training session on all species of sharks, SEALs are taught about how to deal with sharks in the open ocean. They are taught that if a shark encircles you, you must stand your ground. Do not swim away and do not act afraid. And if by chance the shark is darting towards you hungry for a midnight snack, punch him in the snout. If you want to compete the swim, you must learn how to deal with the sharks. The dark waters in the river of success are filled with sharks. There are the people vying for your position or product. Business ventures can get nasty. Stand your ground. Do’t run away and do not afraid, even when you are.

8. Be your very best in your darkest moment.

Training to conduct underwater attacks against enemy ships, Navy SEALs swim underwater for over two miles with only a depth gauge and a compass to reach their target. As they approach the ship, they go under the keel where the engine is deafening and it’s pitch black. Every SEAL knows that in the darkest moment, you must remain calm, composed, using your tactical skills, physical power, and all of your inner strength to carry out the mission. There are many dark moments in life. You may not be able to see where you’re going or how to get there. The only thing you have to depend on is yourself: your skills, power, and inner strength. Stay calm in the darkness.

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

The ninth week is “Hell Week.” Six days without sleep, under constant physical and mental harassment and one day in the Mud Flats. Imagine fifteen hours in the freezing cold, mud, howling wind, and instructors pressuring you to quit. Admiral McRaven relates a story about that week. He said that, like a scene from the Titanic, after eight hours of chattering teeth and shivering moans, with only heads visible in the mud, one voice started singing. Before long, one voice became two until everyone was singing. Just one person’s voice, enthusiastically singing was enough to spread hope and maintain the entire team until morning. One person can change the world by giving others hope.

10. Don’t ever ring the bell.

A SEAL candidate can quit at any time. All he has to do is ring the bell in the center of the compound. Simply ringing the bell frees you from waking up at 5:00 a.m., sharks, mud, and freezing waters. No one wants to ring the bell.

Changing the world, like Navy SEAL training, is not easy. You will be tested, discouraged, and pushed to your physical limits in the worst conditions imaginable.

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If you think you’ve got what it takes to change the world, then know that life is not fair and you will fail often. Take risks. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Face the bullies. Stand up when times are the toughest. Stay calm in the darkest moments. Lift the downtrodden. Start the day with a task completed… and never, ever give up!

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June Silny

ADHD Coach, Writer, ADDitude Magazine featured contributor

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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