The line out of the front doors of the Coronado Performing Arts Center stretched the length of D Avenue on Aug. 3, as hundreds of people waited to meet Admiral William H. McRaven, USN, (Ret.).
McRaven is a retired, decorated four-star admiral who served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command and developed plans for the operation to eliminate 9/11 terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Book signing line stretched length of D Ave.
Prior to McRaven’s speech, attendees had the opportunity to get their books signed from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m.; however, due to the mass numbers of people, the event started before much of the line had a chance to shake his hand.
McRaven is the author of “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life …” and “Maybe the World,” “The Wisdom of the Bullfrog: Leadership Made Simple (But not Easy),” The Hero Code: Lessons Learned From Lives Well Lived, Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations,” and the children’s book “Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal.”
A wide combination of McRaven’s books could be found in the hands of audience members, and even young attendee Sophie Hovorka got her children’s book, “Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal” signed.
As a general admission event open to the public, every single seat in the auditorium was filled.
Library Director Shaun Briley said that miraculously, every person lining the length of D Avenue got a seat.
Wisdom of the Bullfrog
When McRaven took the stage, every audience member was standing in applause—a gesture showing immense respect for McRaven and his illustrious accomplishments.
In addition to authoring many books, McRaven had a successful career as a Navy SEAL and was given the title of the Bullfrog in 2011, which is a name reserved for the longest serving Navy SEAL in active duty.
McRaven is a seasoned expert on all leadership tactics.
His advice is outlined in his book, “The Wisdom of the Bullfrog: Leadership Made Simple (But not Easy),” which is the book he specifically talked about for the event.
McRaven said that while the lessons apply to high ranking leadership positions like being a commander of the USSOC, they equally apply to every leadership position in the workforce and everyday life.
“Can you stand before the long green table?”
With so much to say about leadership, McRaven said he needed to pinpoint a framework for the book, a framework that he ended up using himself when he faced difficult decisions.
He remembers being asked by a commanding officer: “Can you stand before the long green table?”
“The idea was if you’re about to make a decision, if you’re about to take an action, sooner or later, you’re going to have to go before reasonable men and women and justify your decision.”-Admiral William H. McRaven
“The idea was if you’re about to make a decision, if you’re about to take an action, sooner or later, you’re going to have to go before reasonable men and women and justify your decision,” McRaven said. “You’re going to have to stand before the long green table, which is where naval officers had official proceedings, and make your case.”
McRaven said that question shaped the way he thought about leadership.
Everytime he was about to take action, he would pause to consider if reasonable men and women sitting at that table would think he made the right decision.
He proceeded to explain a few mottos and lessons about leadership that helped him make the right decisions.
All 18 lessons are outlined in his book.
“Just build the best damn frog float you can”
As an ensign assigned to Underwater Demolition Team 11, McRaven said his commanding officer wanted to see him.
Thinking he was about to get his big break and complete a mission to save the world, McRaven was disappointed to instead receive orders to build a frog float for the Coronado Fourth of July Parade.
Master Chief Hershel Davis later found McRaven sitting on a bench, disappointed.
McRaven remembers Davis saying to him:
“Well let me tell you something, Ensign …if a skipper wants you to build a frog float, then you just go build the best damn frog float you can.”
That was the lesson—the idea that executing the small things will pay off with the big things.
“Run to the sound of the gun”
McRaven said that with the pressure of leadership, the only way to succeed is to “run to the sound of the gun.”
No reluctance when a problem is dirty, just pure execution.
“You cannot sit back when the problem is difficult, when the problem is almost existential. You can’t sit back and hope someone else solves it if you’re the leader and you are supposed to be solving it.”-Admiral William H. McRaven
“That’s leadership. That’s what you have to do,” McRaven said. “You cannot sit back when the problem is difficult, when the problem is almost existential. You can’t sit back and hope somebody else solves it if you’re the leader and you are supposed to be solving it. You have to get up and run to the sound of a gun.”
McRaven detailed many other sayings in his speech: “When in command, command;” “The only easy day was yesterday;” “The only thing you’re entitled to as a leader is more hard work” and “Be the first to lift the heaviest burden and the last to put it down.”