October 29, 2020
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed,” Admiral William McRaven famously told University of Texas graduates in a 2014 commencement speech that went viral. “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
The retired U.S. Special Operations commander, who directed the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden and now teaches national security at the University of Texas, stressed the fundamentals of teamwork, character-building and leadership during Wednesday’s one-on-one discussion with Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker.
On the latest in the Walker Webcast series, the former Navy SEAL recounted the life lessons that were instilled by the six months of training he received in that special ops force. In life, “It’s hard to truly recognize talent and who is going to be successful,” McRaven said Wednesday, noting that some of the most unremarkable-looking SEAL trainees in his class endured and excelled while more physically-imposing men dropped out.
“The only thing that really matters is what’s in here,” he added, gesturing toward his heart.
McRaven stressed the importance of “courage, hard work, compassion and humility” in both teamwork and a leadership role. “You have to be a learning leader in order to continue” leading at all, he said.
In the run-up to the raid into Pakistan that culminated in the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist, McRaven used the motto of the British Special Air Services—“who dares wins”—to inspire SEAL Team Six. With that daring, though, comes preparation, to include devising not only a Plan B, but Plans C and D as well.
“I do believe you need to swing for the fence,” McRaven said Wednesday. ”But in swinging for the fence, you have to have a plan.” It helps, too, to seek out the advice of those who have been in comparable circumstances.
The career of a Navy SEAL frequently entails situations that are immediately life-threatening, and McRaven acknowledged that fear arises when you’re, say, jumping from a plane into nighttime ocean waters for the first time. While having no fear under such circumstances is both unnatural and unproductive, potentially leading to reckless mistakes, McRaven said the way to move forward is to “face your fears, head-on” and face them repeatedly.
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