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Graduates show gratitude for those who ‘help paddle’


Last updated 5/10/2018 at Noon

In reflecting success and accomplishment, the question arises, “How did it happen?”

And from there: “Who helped it happen?”

According to Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired), the answer to “who” should be miles long. In his book, “Make Your Bed”, in which he addresses ten lessons learned in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) training that can lead anyone to change the world, he acknowledges that success requires help from others.

In presenting his lesson, McRaven employs a metaphor: “If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.”

He alludes to a rubber boat that is used to build grit and teamwork among trainees.

He explained, “I learned early on in SEAL training the value of teamwork, the need to rely on someone else to help you through the difficult tasks. For those of us who were ‘tadpoles’ hoping to become Navy frogmen, a ten-foot rubber raft was used to teach us this vital lesson.”

The trainees were divided into teams, each responsible for carrying (and paddling) a raft everywhere with them throughout the first phase of training.

When one team member was worn or weakened, other members would carry extra weight or paddle harder. After, the roles would reverse and members would reciprocate the favor.

“The small rubber boat made us realize that no man could make it through training alone,” McRaven reflected, adding, “No SEAL could make it through combat alone and by extension you needed people in your life to help you through the difficult times.”

It is in times of success, such as graduation for the Class of 2018, that gratitude emerges for all of the mentors that helped paddle.

These friends and mentors that provide help along the way can come from anywhere.

Camden Smith explained, “I think a mentor could be anyone. In my eyes, a mentor is someone who you look up to and who is a leader to you.”

Similarly, Cameron Weber said, “When I think of a mentor I think of someone who guides another person on the right path, whether it be personal life or work.”

Reflecting on who has ‘helped him paddle,’ Smith reflected, “I’ve had a lot of mentors throughout my life. Most of them include my teachers, coaches, and family.”

“However,” he continued, “the most important would have to be my brother, Bridger. I’ve always looked up to him and have always wanted to be like him.”

Rachel Schell acknowledges the role of her parents have played in her success: “[T]hey have taught me to grow into the young adult I am. They constantly show me how to be a respectful human,” she said.

“My mom has been my biggest mentor because I feel like I can talk to her about anything and she always gives me the right advice to make the right decision,” Weber stated.

She admitted, “I don’t know where I’d be without her right now, quite honestly!”

Evidently, McRaven’s lesson, “You can’t go it alone,” is well understood by each member of the Class of 2018.

As a result, there are many people this year’s graduates have to thank.

Smith began, “I just want to thank my mentors for making me earn everything that I have done. I learned from them that there are no easy routes.”

“To my parents and my many other mentors, I want to say thank you for never giving up on me, as well as thank you for being the way you are so that I can look up to you,” added Schell.

For upcoming graduates to carry their success into their future endeavors, McRaven’s message will remain vital.

He advised, “None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. Like the small rubber boat we had in basic SEAL training, it takes a team of good people to get you to your destination in life.”

He concluded, “You cannot paddle the boat alone. Find someone to share your life with. Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.”


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