In life you will face a lot of Circuses. You will pay for your failures. But, if you persevere, if you let those failures teach you and strengthen you, then you will be prepared to handle life’s toughest moments. July 1983 was one of those tough moments. As I stood before the commanding officer, I thought my career as a Navy SEAL was over. I had just been relieved of my SEAL squadron, fired for trying to change the way my squadron was organized, trained, and conducted missions. There were some magnificent officers and enlisted men in the organization, some of the most professional warriors I had ever been around. However, much of the culture was still rooted in the Vietnam era, and I thought it was time for a change. As I was to find out, change is never easy, particularly for the person in charge. Fortunately, even though I was fired, my commanding officer allowed me to transfer to another SEAL Team, but my reputation as a SEAL officer was severely damaged. Everywhere I went, other officers and enlisted men knew I had failed, and every day there were whispers and subtle reminders that maybe I wasn’t up to the task of being a SEAL. At that point in my career I had two options: quit and move on to civilian life, which seemed like the logical choice in light of my recent Officer Fitness Report, or weather the storm and prove to others and myself that I was a good SEAL officer. I chose the latter. Soon after being fired, I was given a second chance, an opportunity to deploy overseas as the Officer in Charge of a SEAL platoon. Most of the time on that overseas deployment we were in remote locations, isolated and on our own. I took advantage of the opportunity to show that I could still lead. When you live in close quarters with twelve SEALs there isn’t anywhere to hide. They know if you are giving 100 percent on the morning workout. They see when you are first in line to jump out of the airplane and last in line to get the chow. They watch you clean your weapon, check your radio, read the intelligence, and prepare your mission briefs. They know when you have worked all night preparing for tomorrow’s training. As month after month of the overseas deployment wore on, I used my previous failure as motivation to outwork, outhustle, and outperform everyone in the platoon. I sometimes fell short of being the best, but I never fell short of giving it my best. In time, I regained the respect of my men. Several years later I was selected to command a SEAL Team of my own. Eventually I would go on to command all the SEALs on the West Coast.
William H. McRaven (Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World)