The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

10 Lessons on Life from a Navy SEAL

Posted on: November 28, 2017


Navy SEAL training is among the most challenging military training in the world, involving six months of long, torturous runs in soft seashore sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, brutal obstacle courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.

It also includes constant harassment by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.

Admiral William McRaven of the U.S. Special Operations Command gave a commencement address to the 2014 graduating class of the University of Texas, his alma mater. In it he gave ten lessons learned as a Navy SEAL that can be applied to life. Below is an abbreviated version of his speech. If you want to read even more about these insights, you can read his New York Times #1 bestseller, Make Your Bed.

  1. Start Your Day With a Completed Task

Every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, but 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.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. If you want to change the world, start by making your bed.

  1. You Can’t Go It Alone

During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy. Every day, your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surf zone and paddle several miles down the coast.

For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle. You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help—so find others to help you paddle.

  1. Only the Size of Your Heart Matters

During my training, there was a crew of smaller men, not over 5’5” that out-paddled, out-ran and out-swam all the other boat crews. If you want to change the world, measure people by their heart, not their height.

  1. Life’s Not Fair – Move On!

Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough. Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.

But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle, it just wasn’t good enough. The instructors would find “something” wrong, and there would be a miserable price to pay.

If you want to change the world, get over the fact that life isn’t fair and keep moving forward.

  1. Failure Can Make You Stronger

Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events. Long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics—something designed to test your mettle.

Every event had standards, times that you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards, your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day you had to do two hours of extra physical work.

Over time those students who did two hours of extra calisthenics got stronger and stronger. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of failure. Use it to make yourself stronger.

  1. You Must Dare Greatly

At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run an obstacle course containing 25 obstacles including a 10-foot-high wall, a 30-foot cargo net, a “slide for life” and a barbed-wire crawl, to name a few.

One day a student risked completing the obstacle course using dangerous and unorthodox tactics, but in doing so, broke the course record. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to dare greatly.

  1. Stand Up To the Bullies

During the land-warfare phase of training, the students must swim in shark-infested waters. Students are taught that if a shark begins to circle your position, stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid. And if the shark darts towards you, punch it in the snout and it will turn and swim away.

So, if you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

  1. Rise to the Occasion

As Navy SEALs, one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against enemy shipping. To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel—the centerline and the deepest part of the ship. Every SEAL knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission, is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

  1. Give People Hope

In the ninth week of SEAL training, students must endure six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and one special day at the Mud Flats, a place of freezing-cold mud and howling wind laced with incessant pressure from the instructors to quit.

One night during our training, caked with mud and at the height of misery, a student began singing, out of tune but with great enthusiasm. One voice became two, and two became three, and before long everyone in the class was singing. Somehow, the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.

So, if you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

  1. Never, Ever Quit

Finally, in SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see.

All you have to do to quit is ring the bell. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.


As I pondered these 10 Lessons from Admiral William McRaven, there seemed to me to be clear parallels to the Christian life.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The Lord often takes us beyond our comfort zone in preparing us for service in His spiritual army.

The purpose of the suffering, however, is not to defeat us, but to prepare us for elite service for Him.

As we fix our mind on the benefits of, and lesson in, suffering, it can help us endure the pain.

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