"Pomp and Circumstance" - It's graduation season. You can't do a thing on Facebook without bumping into a post about someone's children and their graduation. College graduations, high school graduations, and even elementary school graduations are popping up everywhere. I don't recall graduating from elementary school. I'm sure I did, I'm not still attending, but I don't think we had a graduation. I do recall graduating from high school, and receiving both of my university degrees. What I don't remember, after all these years, is anything that any of the guest speakers had to say. I'm sure that it was appropriate, motivating, and probably even helpful if I had taken notes. In fact, I think William Cohen was the guest speaker when I graduated from the University of Maine.
So, why do we try to impart all this knowledge on the next generation as they complete one phase of their life, and move on to another? I think it's pretty clear they're not going to listen.
For most of the posts, and articles, that I have read, the speakers continually say "don't settle," "strive for your dreams," and "always reach for your goals." These are all well intended and important lessons. I am just not sure that these speakers are helping; as they are not giving precise directions on how to achieve their goals.
About a year ago, I came across a video of a commencement speech from Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. He was speaking to the graduating class of 2014 at his Alma Mater University of Texas, Austin.
His speech was compelling and direct. As a lifetime Navy SEAL, he cited his experience at SEAL training and used examples to tell the students just how to "succeed" and to "change the world". His speech is too long to include here, but I wanted to include one specific segment.
Adm. McRaven gave 10 examples of how the lessons he learned in SEAL training are lessons that apply to everyone. The following excerpt resonated the most with me:
"Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.
If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack-rack-that's Navy talk for bed.
It was a simple task-mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs-but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
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 it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.
If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made-that you made-and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed."
I found this advice to be so meaningful because I truly believe that the little things matter. When we are hosting events or working on projects, I encourage my staff to ensure that we pay close attention to the little things. Overlooked little things become big things very quickly.
He closed his comments with the following summary of his 10 points.
"Start each day with a task completed.
Find someone to help you through life.
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 toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up-if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and- what started here will indeed have changed the world-for the better."
So take a moment to reflect on your goals and dreams this graduation season and refocus your efforts on being the person you wanted to be when you graduated. Find that dream and get back to work. It's never too late. To see the full video of Admiral McRaven's speech, click here and enjoy.