Navy SEAL's Commencement Speech Pt. 2: 'Stop Being A Sugar Cookie'
By Peter Jacobs
U.S. Navy admiral and University of Texas, Austin, alumnus William H. McRaven returned to his alma mater last week to give seniors 10 lessons from basic SEAL training when he spoke at the school's commencement.
McRaven, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command who organized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, stressed the importance of making your bed every morning, taking on obstacles headfirst, and realizing that it's OK to be a "sugar cookie."
All of his lessons were supported by personal stories from McRaven's many years as a Navy SEAL.
"While these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform," McRaven told students. "It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status."
We first saw this speech at the Military Times. Here's the video of the full speech with the transcript below:
Here are some of McRaven's lessons from his years of experience as a Navy SEAL, via University of Texas, Austin:
Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough.
Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.
But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle -- it just wasn't good enough.
The instructors would fine "something" wrong.
For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand.
The effect was known as a "sugar cookie." You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day -- cold, wet and sandy.
There were many a student who just couldn't accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right -- it was unappreciated.
Those students didn't make it through training.
Those students didn't understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.
Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.
It's just the way life is sometimes.
If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events-long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics-something designed to test your mettle.
Every event had standards -- times you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to-a "circus."
A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics -- designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit.
No one wanted a circus.
A circus meant that for that day you didn't measure up. A circus meant more fatigue -- and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult-and more circuses were likely.
But at some time during SEAL training, everyone -- everyone-made the circus list.
But an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Over time those students -- who did two hours of extra calisthenics -- got stronger and stronger.
The pain of the circuses built inner strength -- built 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.
But if you want to change the world, don't be afraid of the circuses.
At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run the obstacle course. The obstacle course contained 25 obstacles including a 10-foot high wall, a 30-foot cargo net, and a barbed wire crawl to name a few.
But the most challenging obstacle was the slide for life. It had a three level 30 foot tower at one end and a one level tower at the other. In between was a 200-foot long rope.
You had to climb the three tiered tower and once at the top, you grabbed the rope, swung underneath the rope and pulled yourself hand over hand until you got to the other end.
The record for the obstacle course had stood for years when my class began training in 1977.
The record seemed unbeatable, until one day, a student decided to go down the slide for life head first.
Instead of swinging his body underneath the rope and inching his way down, he bravely mounted the TOP of the rope and thrust himself forward.
It was a dangerous move -- seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk. Failure could mean injury and being dropped from the training.
Without hesitation the student slid down the rope perilously fast, instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course he had broken the record.
If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.
> Click here to read more of the speech
> Click here to read part one