May is an ideal time to focus on leadership, given all the graduations and accompanying speeches. One of the most stirring commencement talks I’ve come across is by the Admiral in charge of U.S. Special Operations Command, William H. McRaven. This link will take you to the speech he delivered at his own alma mater two weeks ago, The University of Texas at Austin. “Life Lessons from Navy SEAL Training” may seem a stretch from the Bible, but in fact his life lessons are so similar to many in the Scriptures, that the comparison seems obvious.
Here are three of his ten ‘life lessons.’ You might enjoy finding the Biblical analogies to the others and if you do, please share your insights.
Lesson #2: “If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.”
Think of the pairings throughout the Scriptures: Moses had Aaron, Elijah had Elisha, David and Absalom, Daniel and the three Hebrew boys, Ruth and Naomi, Paul and Barnabas, and of course, Jesus and his disciples—all helping each other ‘paddle’. What are you doing to cultivate the friendships that will ‘paddle’ with you during both rough and smooth waters you’ll inevitably encounter?
Lesson #7: “If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.” Everyone faces those gut-wrenching moments when your conscience demands you don’t back down from the aggression of others – the colleague, the manager, the neighborhood kid intent on making others’ lives miserable, the person who has never believed in your ability? There will be ‘sharks’, and are we ready to summon the moral courage to move past them, to not let the ‘sharks’ stop us from fulfilling higher missions. Think of Jesus’ life and how, daily, he had to face the sharks called Pharisees who only wanted him to fail, to disprove he could be the prophesied Messiah. Mark’s gospel makes it clear by chapter 3 they were out to destroy him, yet nothing anyone else did or said persuaded him off course from his God-inspired mission.
Lesson #9: “If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.” This curious tip came after the oppressive ‘Hell week’ training in which SEAL recruits were literally up to their necks in mud, shivering and miserable with hours to go. Suddenly one began to sing above the moans, launching a cascade of ill-tuned but brave musical bursts. What an extension of Peter singing Psalms of praise to God from a jail cell, only to find the shackles could no longer hold him and out he walked, free.
So the next time you hear life lessons from a commencement speaker, why not reach to the Scriptures to see if the gems of wisdom haven’t been with us for centuries. Oh–then the kicker is to live them. That’s leadership.