Admiral William H. McRaven | That’s So McRaven (Episode 654)

Admiral William H. McRaven (@billmcraven) masterminded and executed the mission that brought down Osama bin Laden and is the author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World.

“Opportunities, to me, are always the jobs that nobody else wants.” -Admiral William H. McRaven

The Cheat Sheet:

  • What are the benefits to taking every day, as a Navy SEAL might say, “one evolution at a time?”
  • What are the potential downfalls of having a 20-year plan?
  • Why is taking advantage of opportunities more important than charting a course — and how can we spot them?
  • What are you proving when you’re willing to take professional risks — even when you don’t succeed?
  • What is the most important thing to understand about leadership?
  • And so much more…


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(Download Transcript Here)

If you don’t want to take a 5:30 a.m. call, don’t interview a Navy SEAL. That goes doubly so if you don’t want to interview Admiral William H. McRaven, the man who masterminded and executed the mission that brought down Osama bin Laden in 2011. Good news: we happily did it so you don’t have to. In fact, we’d do it again!

Admiral McRaven joins us to talk about much more than waking up way too early, though we do touch on his book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World and his 2014 University of Texas at Austin commencement speech. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

More About This Show

If we had a dime for every wannabe life coach who pitches “make your bed in the morning” as if it were their own unique idea for getting a handle on things, we’d be retired on our own island by now. To set the record straight, we figured we should talk to the guy who literally wrote the book on this concept, though he’d be the first to admit that somebody’s mom (maybe everybody’s mom) came up with it first.

Admiral William H. McRaven, author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, has plenty of his own accomplishments for which he’ll be remembered — one of them being the man behind Operation Neptune Spear, the special ops raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011.

But painting any big picture can be overwhelming for anyone — no matter how many accomplishments they have under their belt. That’s why Admiral McRaven has always believed in taking care of business immediately rather than allowing little problems to pile up into giant, unmanageable ones. When he began training with the Navy SEALs, this philosophy fit well with a saying that was already a motto of sorts: ‘You take it one evolution at a time.’

“If you started looking too far down the road,” explains Admiral McRaven, “If you looked at your day and said, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’ve got a hard physical training to start with, then we’ve got a short break, then we’ve got a four-and-a-half mile run in the soft sand, then we’ve got a short break, then we’ve got a five-mile swim, then we’ve got a short break, then we’ve got another calisthenics session…’ If you started to look too far, you weren’t going to make it. Guys would get tired just looking down the schedule.

“Wherever I was, I just tried to do the very best I could and work as hard as I could and things just kind of took care of themselves after that.”

This isn’t to say neglecting the road ahead is wise, either. Admiral McRaven concedes there’s importance in finding balance between having an overall strategy and investing in the many small steps it takes to achieve results — with the understanding that the journey you expect isn’t the journey you’ll end up taking. It’s important to be flexible and know how to adapt.

“Life is going to take you on a lot of twists and turns, and you have to adjust to life when it does that.” he says. “Take advantage of the opportunities — that’s probably more important than charting your path.”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about what inspired Admiral Raven to take up SCUBA diving at age 13, how a Navy SEAL evolves from a tadpole to a frogman, what’s wrong with the famous but flawed 20-year plan, what it takes to spot opportunities, what it takes to stand out in a group of other high performers, the most important thing to understand about leadership, how the fundamentals of leadership in business and the military are essentially the same even if their bottom lines differ, why Admiral McRaven is a fan of the oft-maligned millennials (and believes time will prove them to be this century’s greatest generation), and lots more.


If you enjoyed this session with Admiral William H. McRaven, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:

Click here to thank Admiral William H. McRaven at Twitter!

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Resources from This Episode:

AJ Harbinger - author of 1111 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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