I’m a sucker for a great commencement speech and was delighted when I stumbled across this speech given by U.S. Navy Admiral Bill McRaven to his alma mater, the University of Texas.

He spoke about a range of great principles, including the necessity of making your bed each day (I’ll be sharing this with my kids), judging others by the size of their heart, the value of  hard work and never giving up, but it was this story from his Navy SEAL training many years ago that I wanted to share with you.

The ninth week of 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 area between San Diego and Tijuana where the water runs off and creates the Tijuana slue’s — 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 to quit from the instructors.

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 travelling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person — Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan — Malala — one person 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.

What a great story from a remarkable man and a terrific example of the power of hope.

So, if you feel as though you’re stuck in mud up to your neck, start singing.

Look for the light in the midst of the darkness.

Be joyful, not because of your circumstances, but in spite of them.

Be the person who influences others and gives them hope.

And in a world where so many people feel trapped, afflicted, depressed and devoid of hope, be the person who changes perspectives and attitudes.

Be the one who changes the world!

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