Naval Admiral William H. McRaven recently gave a commence address a the University of Texas. He presented the 10 life lessons
that he learned as a Navy SEAL. It's worth listening to.
Excellent advice -if you want to approach life as a Navy SEAL. There are other paths, even other warrior paths, that approach life differently.
Early in his address he points out how one person can influence many lives. He gave examples of soldiers deciding to go one way rather than another and saving 10 lives. Those lives touch other lives and through the years that one action influences many many lives. This is true enough.
How about the person who does not join the military and convinces 10 other people they can do other things with their lives? Not only do they not die from an IED, they aren't at risk for PTSD, physical maiming, homelessness, alcoholism, drug abuse, and maltreatment from a VA center. Talk about an unsung hero.
How about the guy who starts a movement that prevents a war in the first place? Millions are saved. Then what are we to think of the leaders who get their countries into unnecessary wars? The waste and horror reverberates down the generations affecting millions. Are they not evil incarnate?
I am not cutting down the Admiral here, or the Navy SEALS for that matter. He and they are very good at what they do. There are lessons here valuable to anyone about endurance, cooperation, the power of hope and many other things.
Yet . . . I can't help but wonder about some of the people who ring the bell. There's a bell that a SEAL in training can ring and it's all over. He's out, just like that. No doubt many, most, almost all, ring the bell because they just can't take it any more. After all, the SEALS are some of the best of the best. The very definition of an elite unit is one that few can join.
What about that rare individual who can complete the training but decides not to? Imagine such a man who though some inner journey decides he does not want to be a SEAL after all. Perhaps he's read Beowulf and knows the fate of the ultimate warrior.
Imagine the inner strength of such a person. He voluntarily becomes a “failure.” In front of all his peers he rejects their path. Instead, he decides to find a different path in life. Now this is a man who can turn his back on all that training and teamwork. He decides to go his own way. This is a man who joined the military in the first place, completed regular training, and qualified to try out for the very best. At one time he must have bought into the whole warrior culture. Suddenly he decides to go his own way, alone.
A man like that is a dangerous man. He can do anything. Most likely he'll fail, but since he's failed before and moved on, nothing can stop him. He can be killed, but not defeated. These are rare individuals indeed, but they do exist. I've met a couple.
SEAL training is excellent for building warriors. That mind set is useful in many areas of life, but not all. How many formerly elite warriors fail miserably at civilian life? Heck, they even freak out about little things like having an unmade bed, or a bed not made to precise military standards. It can take a lifetime to unlearn some of the lessons taught. What works for the military might not work so well for the individual in the rest of his life.
It would be fun to counter his 10 lessons one by one. I've always been a fan of exceptions and loopholes. However, that would just be mean spirited. Instead, I'll leave you with this thought. Navy SEAL training is not about benefiting the individual. It's about perfecting a fighting tool. That's it.