I’m a little late to the game on college commencement ceremony speakers, but I recently came across the University of Texas’ class of 2014 speech by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and a UT graduate. McRaven’s speech was one the best I’ve heard. It made me want to get off the couch and change the world (and not much makes me want to get off the couch except to get another cookie).

“What starts here changes the world” – UT’s motto – was the center of McRaven’s speech. He began by pointing out that if every student in the room could change the lives of 10 people, and those 10 people could change the lives of another 10 people, etc.,  UT’s 2014 graduates will have changed the lives of 800 million people over the course of 5 generations.

In his address, McRaven focused on 10 lessons that he learned through his basic SEAL training (which he described as “six months of long torturous runs in soft sand, midnight swims in cold water off San Diego, obstacle courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable”) that graduates could use in everyday life. As you read through McRaven’s lessons below, I highly encourage you to take a few minutes of your time to figure out how these lessons may apply to you. As I read through them, I realized each one could change how I go about my daily life. Every suggestion McRaven made motivated me want to be a better wife, friend, citizen, colleague, and vendor/partner.

  1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. As simple a task as making the bed is, it will give you a small sense of pride, which will drive you to complete other tasks.
  2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle. You can’t do it all alone. It takes a support system, so surround yourself with great friends, mentors, colleagues, etc.
  3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. Material items do not make you or others successful – it is the will in your heart that will make you a success.
  4. If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, your efforts will go unappreciated. That is the way life is – tough – get over it.
  5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the ramifications of failure. Failure will happen and it will hurt, but it will make you stronger.
  6. If you want to change the world, occasionally you have to slide down the obstacle head first. Sometimes, the largest risk has the biggest reward.
  7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks. There will be a lot of obstacles that come your way. Don’t back down – deal with them head on.
  8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment. During the hardest times, you will need to step up and your strengths will need to shine through.
  9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. Hope is a very powerful source, and one person’s hope can change the mindset of others.
  10. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell. Don’t let yourself take the easy way out – endure the hardships and keep moving forward.

As McRaven summarized at the end:

“Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up.”

I highly encourage you to watch McRaven’s speech. It will make you want to change the world (or, at the very least, make your bed).

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