One of the biggest challenges we can face when we’re trying to be positive, lift people up, and do all the right things in life is how to act around others when they’re not at their best. Imagine being around others who are in the heat of an argument. All you want is for things to calm down, but each person in the argument is revving up and the argument is getting worse. You are trying to calm things down, but before you know it, you’re in it and yelling to.
How did you go from being calm to yelling to? Easy…the frustration of not calming down the situation has put you in a bad mood too. Now you’re at risk of hurting feelings and making some bad choices. You’re frustrated because you’re trying to change your world and you want others to look to change their’s too. But how do you change the world?
One of the best answers I’ve found to changing the world was given in a commencement address by Admiral William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, at the University of Texas at Austin on May 17th, 2014.
The Commencement Address
The ninth week of SEAL training is referred to as Hell Week. It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and one special day at the Mud Flats. The Mud Flats are an area between San Diego and Tijuana where the water runs off and creates the Tijuana slues—a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you.
It is on Wednesday of Hell Week that you paddle down to the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive the freezing-cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure from the instructors to quit. As the sun began to set that Wednesday evening, my training class, having committed some “egregious infraction of the rules” was ordered into the mud. The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit—just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold.
Looking around the mud flat, it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours till the sun came up—eight more hours of bone-chilling cold. The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything. And then, one voice began to echo through the night—one voice raised in song. The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two, and two became three, and before long everyone in the class was singing. We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well. The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing—but the singing persisted. And somehow, the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.
If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person—Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan named Malala—can change the world by giving people hope.
So, if you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
When situations are tough, and you want things to be better, you’ll try to do the right thing. You’ll try to calm things down, make things right, and help people see a better way. Sometimes it will work, most of the times it won’t. When it doesn’t work, it can be extremely frustrating. To the point where you can become part of the problem too.
But negativity and yelling rarely solves any problem fully. I believe the best answer to helping people see a different way, and improving your relationships along the way, is to be the positive example. Like the soldiers in Admiral McRaven’s commencement address, it only takes one person to persist and be that positive influence. So, instead of joining into the negativity, and hurting your relationships, why not be that positive person who makes things better?
It’s funny how, while being around others who are arguing, we become challenged. We’re challenged with finding a way to deal with the situations and keep our relationships intact. We can choose to help calm things down, walk away, or join in. I’ve been involved with many arguments that I wanted to calm down, only to join in when my attempts to make things better fell on deaf ears. I’m just shocked that it happens quicker sometimes than I like. But now I’m inspired and given hope. Because if one soldier can be positive and lift the others up for during 8 hours of that training, surely I can remain calm during a 15 minute argument.
Give people hope. Give them your love. Give them your understanding. Start singing when you’re up to your head in mud. Why didn’t I think of that?