In this season of graduation ceremonies and speeches, I decided to share some of the encouragement I heard given to students as they move on to their next phase of life. At the University of Texas combined graduation ceremony on May 17, Admiral William H McRaven, Commander U. S. Special Operations Command and Navy Seal, gave the commencement address. His theme was what he had learned in Seal training that students should take into their career after college.
The U of Texas has the motto: What starts here changes the world. My niece, who was graduating last weekend, actually had “What starts here” on top of her cap so we could find her among the thousands of graduates. Admiral McRaven framed the points of his speech with the phrase, “If you want to change the world…” and one of the examples was, “don’t be afraid of the circus”.
He explained that in Seal training, the soldiers are driven through extreme mental and physical conditioning tests each day, and they are designed such that some of them will fail. Those who fail to pass all of the exams of the day are then invited to the circus, which is an additional two hours of intense physical conditioning that same evening.
If you get invited to the circus, the odds increase that you will fail more of the daily exams the following day(s), because your body will not have had enough time to rest and recover, and you will get invited to even more circuses. But what they have learned is that soldiers who got invited to multiple circuses built up additional stamina, and by the end of Seal training they were often the most fit graduates of the program.
So when your job is tough, and you think nothing is going well, or you are having to work harder than your peers, think what it may be preparing you for. “If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circus.”