With so much trash and junk floating around in this space we call the internet, it is a rarity these days to stumble upon anything which strikes a chord. But sometimes, if we look hard enough, hidden amongst the trolls, the cat videos and the relentless memes which flood our feeds, we’ll find something that speaks wisdom and truth, and offers us the encouragement we need to make our world a better place.
Naval Admiral William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, did just that when he gave his commencement speech for the graduating class of University of Texas whose motto, ‘What starts here changes the world’, was his inspiration.
Despite the fact his speech was given back in 2014 matters not, described as ‘superb, smart, and succinct’, it is still prevalent online. The speech was such a success in fact that Admiral William H. McRaven has written a book, which published this April, soon found itself on the best seller list. The Wall Street Journal claimed the book entitled ‘Make Your Bed’ “should be read by every leader in America” Calling it “a book to inspire your children and grandchildren to become everything that they can”. While USA Today simply summed it up as “Powerful”.
The message of his speech, and of his book, is simple. 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 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 the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.
It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status. Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward—changing ourselves and the world around us—will apply equally to all. Changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.
So in celebration of finding gems amongst the rubble, here are just some poignant extracts from his amazing speech…
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.
“You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help— and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.”
If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.
“SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your colour, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.”
If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.
“There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.”
If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
“If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person—Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan, Malala—one person can change the world by giving people hope.”
See the speech in its glorious entirety here…