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  • Writer's pictureWes Burwell


I was recently reading” The Wisdom of the Bullfrog” by Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired), and one of the lessons in the book is that we all have our frog floats.

For those who are not familiar with Admiral McRaven, he served as a navy seal for thirty-seven years, commanding at every level. He also shares that at the entrance to the basic underwater demolition/seal (bud/s) training facility there is a six-foot-tall statue which is half-man, half-fish with a sign around his neck that says, ‘so you want to be a frogman!”

By the way, thirty-four years after he started bud/s training he was named “the bullfrog,” which is a title given to the longest- serving navy seal on active duty.

With that as a backdrop, McRaven tells of a time during his training when his team has just finished an evolution (training session) at sea, and once his team got to land, he was told that the Skipper wanted to see him without delay. His immediate thought was that he must have been doing a great job, and that the Skipper wanted to see him to tell him that he had been chosen to head up a special mission. He thought “maybe he wants me to lead a mission to snatch some terrorists from the Balkans,” or” maybe he wants me to lead an across-the-beach mission into North Korea to take out a missile site.”

McRaven was even more confident that this was going to be a major mission when he was told that there was not even time for him to change into his khakis. He was then driven at breakneck speed to see the skipper, wearing a wet shirt and his swim trunks. To say that he was excited to learn about the mission he had been chosen for was an understatement!

When he arrived at the headquarters building, he was escorted into the Commanders office where he was told that he had been making a good impression, and that he was the best ensign. Needless to say, McRaven nodded and swelled with pride.

He was then told he had been selected to do something very important. McRaven could barely contain himself, as he was sure that he had been chosen to lead a major mission.

The skipper then told McRaven that every year the City of Coronado held a Fourth of July parade, and that the seal community had not participated in the parade for a long time. McRaven agreed but was confused. He thought for sure he must be missing something. The Skipper then told him that he wanted the seal community to have a frog float in the parade, and that McRaven had been chosen to take charge of building the float. To say the least, McRaven was less than enthusiastic, and left the meeting muttering profanities under his breath.

Soon afterwards he told his Master Chief of his frustration. His Master Chief listened for a while and gave him the following advice. Sooner or later we all must do things we don’t want to do. But if you’re going to do it, then do it right, and build the best frog float you can! McRaven never forgot that advice, and throughout the rest of his career he was often asked to do menial tasks that no one else wanted, those tasks that seemed beneath the “dignity” of his rank. But each time he remembered the words of the Master Chief, and tried to do the best he could, and to be proud of whatever job he was given.

I would suggest that each of us examine the frog floats in our lives, and how we are handling them.

From this experience McRaven points out three things he learned, which I sense could benefit each of us:

  • Be humble in your demeanor and your expectations.

  • Accept the fact that you will be asked to do jobs that are beneath your status, and do them to the best of your ability

  • Measure the strength of your employees by their willingness to do the little tasks and do them well.

By the way, during the Fourth of July parade that year, the UDT frog float was awarded top prize in its category.

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