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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!