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If You Want to Change the World, This is How You Do It

If You Want to Change the World, This is How You Do It

If I told you making your bed every morning was a good way to change the world, would you believe me?

Early summer always seems to produce an influx of inspirational content on the Internet. There are commencement speeches being given at universities all over the world, and the Internet always seems to find the best ones. This one in particular has garnered a lot of attention and for good reason:

Here are the 10 lessons McRaven learned from basic seal training that will help anyone who wants to change the world.

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

Every morning the seals are required to make their bed to perfection. Why is this important? ”

“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 encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.

Though it’s a seemingly small task, it has big implications.

“If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.”

Plus, if your day sucks, you still come home to a made bed.

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

In basic seal training, students are broken down into boat crews of seven people. Every day they gather on the beach and are instructed to paddle through the surf zone and then several miles down the coast. Each paddle must be synchronized and exert equal effort or the boat will turn and be thrown back by the eight to ten foot waves of the surf. If you try to make it through life on your own, you’ll never make it. Be grateful for those who help and help others in turn.

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

The best boat crew in McRaven’s class wasn’t the one with the biggest, tallest men. It was a group of diverse men who were no taller tan 5′ 5′. The crew was nicknamed the “Munchkin Crew”. The other students would often make fun of the “teeny tiny” flippers they would put on. However, they always out-paddled, out-ran and out-swam the other boat crews.

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“Nothing matters but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education, not your social status.”

4. If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

Uniform inspection happened often in seal training. Students would put excessive effort into starching their hat, pressing their uniform and shining their belt. However, no matter how much effort they put in, the instructors would find something wrong. If you failed inspection, you had to run fully clothed and submerge yourself in the surf zone. Then you had to run onto the beach and roll around in the sand until you were completely covered. The result was appropriately deemed a “sugar cookie”. You had to stay in that uniform the rest of the day. Many of the students couldn’t accept the fact that no matter how hard they tried, they would fail. They didn’t understand the purpose of the drill.

“You were never going to succeed; you were never going to have a perfect uniform – the instructors weren’t going to allow it. Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or preform, you still end up as a sugar cookie. It’s just the way life is sometimes.”

5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

There are certain time requirements students are expected to reach in their daily training. If you fail to reach a time requirement, you are invited to “the circus”. The circus was two extra hours of calisthenics designed to break you down and force you to quit. It meant you would be more tired and have less energy the next day to meet the time requirements – meaning another invite to the circus. However, over time, those students who were in the circus got stronger and stronger. The pain built inner strength and physical resiliency.

“Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.”

6. If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacles head first.

Twice a week trainees are required to run the obstacle course. The most challenging of the 25 obstacles was the “slide for life”. It was a 30 foot tower at one end and a 10 foot tower at the other. in between was a 200 foot rope. You had to climb the 30 foot tower, grab the rope, swing underneath and pull yourself hand over hand to the other end. The record for the course had stood for years and seemed unbeatable. One day a determined student decided to go down the slide for life head first. Instead of swinging underneath, he bravely mounted the top. It was a risky move. Failure could mean a fall to the ground below and injury. He didn’t let that possibility stop him from trying. Instead of several minutes, it only took half that time. He broke the course record that day.

7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

One of the required swims the seals had to do was a night swim off the coast of San Clemente. The waters there are filled with all kinds of sharks. Though the students were told no student had been eaten by a shark – that they knew of – they were also taught that if a shark began to circle, to stand their ground. They were not to swim away. If the shark did swim toward them, they had to summon all their strength and punch the shark in the snout, and it would swim away.

8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moments.

Underwater attacks on enemy ships is practiced often in training. You are dropped outside an enemy harbor and required to swim over two miles, under water, using no more than a depth gauge and a compass. During the approaching swim, there is some visibility from light that shines through the water. However, as you approach the ship, all light becomes blocked by it. To be successful, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel. At that point, it becomes so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face and the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening.

“Under the keel, at that darkest moment of the mission, is a time when you need to be calm. When you must be calm. When you must be composed. When all your tactical skills, your physical power, and your inner strength must be brought to bear.”

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

Hell week is 6 days of no sleep. You are under constant physical and mental harassment. On Wednesday of hell week, they went to the mud flats, an area between San Diego and Tijuana. The mud flats was a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf your whole body. You have to paddle down and spend 15 hours surviving the freezing cold, howling wind and incessant pressure from instructors to quit.

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On this day, as the sun was setting, McRaven’s training class had committed some infraction of the rules and was ordered into the freezing mud up to their necks. They still had eight hours of until the sun came up. Instructors told them if only five men quit – just five – they could get out. It was obvious some students were about to quit. At that time, one of the students started singing with great enthusiasm. One voice turned to two and two into three until everyone was singing. That one voice of song brought hope to the group and a renewed strength to endure.

“If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person. A Washington, a Lincoln, King, Mandela, and even a young girl from Pakistan, Malala. One person can change the world by giving people hope.”

10. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

There is a brass bell hanging in the middle of the training compound for everyone to see. If you didn’t want to wake up at five every day, swim in the freezing cold, run for miles, complete the obstacle course or endure any of the hardships of training, all you had to do to quit was ring the bell. It was that easy.

Featured photo credit: Texas Exes YouTube via youtu.be

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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