Today we remember those who serve, have served and have died serving our country, protecting our freedoms. I will use the element of military training to convey my life message this morning.
U.S Navy admiral and University of Texas, Austin, alumnus William H. McRaven returned to his alma mater recently to deliver the commencement speech to those graduating. A 36-year veteran Navy SEAL, he chose as the foundation for his talk, 10 lessons from basic SEAL training.
All of the lessons he spoke of transcend the military and carry over into life and business. One in particular gave me pause. No matter how well you prepare and are positioned for advancement and greater responsibility, opportunities sometimes pass you by.
Several times each week in SEAL training, instructors perform a uniform inspection of the entire class. An extensive uniform inspection, I might add. No matter how immaculately prepared you are, no matter how much time, effort and pride you put into the task, it just wasn’t enough. The instructors would invariably discover something wrong, something that could have been improved.
When you failed the inspection you were required to run, fully clothed, into the sea, and once completely drenched, you had to roll around on the beach until you were covered with sand. This look became known as the “sugar cookie.” You were required to wear that cold, wet and sandy uniform for the rest of the day.
Many students could not accept that their preparation and effort wasn’t good enough. Those students did not make it through training. They did not understand that the assignment was to gauge how well you handled defeat, that no matter how well you prepared and performed you were still a sugar cookie.
I’ve seen this exercise play out on the sports field when an athlete fails to make the team (does Landon Donovan’s failure to make the recent US World Cup Soccer Team sound a familiar tune?)
I’ve witnessed readied and capable professionals passed over for less qualified performers when promotions were handed out.
Life is not always fair. There will be days when you are the sugar cookie. How you choose to deal with this adversity will speak volumes.
What’s in your control is all you are responsible for. Just do your work. When preparation meets opportunity you will oftentimes find success. And if not, you will know you were prepared and ready. Strive to improve and be even better prepared for the next time when opportunity knocks.
You can read the admiral’s complete commencement address at the following site:
Please join me in extending our thoughts and prayers to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation’s freedom. And to their families and loved ones who shared them with us.