Retired Adm. William H. McRaven delivered a passionate Opening Session Monday morning at the 2018 National Safety Council Congress & Expo. He detailed his time as a Navy SEAL trainee with compelling stories and a slideshow.
He said trainees had to ring a bell if they wanted to quit and that showed him how easy it is to give up, but, he said, to be successful, you should never ring that bell.
“Follow your dreams,” he told a packed ballroom at the Houston convention center. “Give it everything you’ve got. Just don’t quit.”
He was the commander of the U.S. Special Operations team that helped organize the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden and explained how managing risk was crucial to the mission.
“At the end of the day, safety is paramount if this mission is going to succeed,” McRaven said. “You’ve got to get them there safely. I can’t tell you how many of the pilots have come back after that and said that is the first time we had that sort of guidance.”
He offered other lessons from his time as a trainee. He told the story of wondering why trainees were required to make their beds with such precision every morning. He learned this was because the small things mattered, leading to bigger accomplishments. If you start the day with a completed task, it sets the tone for the rest of the day.
He ended his speech with some wise words.
“Respect everyone. Know that you will fail. Take some risks. Lift up the downtrodden. Face down the bullies. And never, ever quit.”