Life Lesson 2
If you want to change the world
find someone to help you paddle
Somewhere around the age of two, a child’s favorite phrase shifts from “I need help!” to “Do it myself!” Many of us keep repeating this refrain into adulthood. But you know what? Any major undertaking really can’t be accomplished by yourself.
In Admiral McRaven’s Navy SEAL commencement speech, he explains how the students spent every day battling cold, 10-foot waves off the coast of San Diego in seven-person boats. No one was just along for the ride, not even the coxswain counting the strokes. “Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach,” he says. “For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.”
What this life lesson means to us
We love this life lesson because it simultaneously challenges two fallacies we unconsciously teach our kids. One is that they can do anything they want to — absolutely anything! — if they just work hard enough. And two is that it’s more important to be a leader than a collaborator.
Even the strongest SEAL can’t paddle a 7-person boat alone. And even the loudest coxswain won’t succeed if her teammates aren’t listening. To get anything done that’s worth doing, we all need to paddle as hard as we can, or the waves will overcome us.
As Admiral McRaven says: “You can’t change the world alone — you will need some help — and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.”