Set the Bar High, You Deserve Nothing Less

It may seem an odd connection – a Navy Seal’s commencement speech and a no-nonsense, no-excuses, kick-in-the-butt column by an acclaimed fitness expert – but, on this Memorial Day, I am making that connection.

First, the Navy Seal.  Adm. William McRaven gave the commencement speech at the University of Texas (Austin) last week.  He passed along the 10 Life Lessons he learned during his grueling SEAL training program that have helped him in all aspects of his life.  He believes these lessons are universal and he encouraged the 2014 graduates to always keep these 10 points in mind to achieve, succeed, lead and serve throughout their lives.  On this Memorial Day, it is 20 minutes well-spent to hear him deliver this inspirational speech:

Ultimately, his life lessons are about taking responsibility and being responsible.  They’re about expecting more from ourselves, striving to be more no matter the odds and leading others to do the same.  They’re about pride tempered with humility.  And they’re about understanding what matters most in life.

Now, to the fitness expert.  Chris Freytag’s recent column on fitness mirrors many of the values highlighted in Adm McRaven’s speech.  Instead of preaching about all the things we should do to be fit and healthy, Ms Freytag focuses on 7 things we should stop doing.  In other words, the 7 things that keep us from becoming the fit and healthy people we could be.  I recommend taking 5 minutes to read her column here.

This is my take on how Adm. McRaven’s speech and Ms Freytag’s column are undeniably connected:

  • Taking responsibility and being responsible: There are no good excuses for not working out.  Unless one is seriously ill or caring for someone else who is, skipping workouts is being irresponsible.  Otherwise, we can’t have the stamina to care for an ailing parent or keep up with work or household responsibilities, the emotional and mental energy to comfort a friend in need or a partner going through a rough patch, nor can we model healthy behavior for our children.  We have a responsibility to all the people in our lives and we aren’t meeting that responsibility if we aren’t making our health a priority.
  • Expecting more from ourselves, striving to be more no matter the odds and leading others to do the same: Giving up isn’t an option.  On any given day we might eat the wrong things, fail to exercise or not get enough sleep.  But, tomorrow we need to get back up and try to eat the right things, get in a workout and get to bed in time to get enough sleep.  We owe that to ourselves and the people we love.
  • Pride tempered with humility: We are, none of us, perfect.  Fit people fail all the time.  We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for every mistake and failure.  We should pat ourselves on the back for every success.  And we shouldn’t judge those who aren’t where we are yet but, rather, be an example and a mentor for those who are struggling.
  • Understanding what matters most in life: Health is the goal.  That is what matters.  What our bodies look like compared to others is not what matters.  Behind many air-brushed, computer edited celebrity photos lie bodies that are either “enhanced” by plastic surgery or beaten into submission by fad diets or both.  They aren’t fit and they are as far, or further, from healthy as you and me are.  If we are eating right, exercising and sleeping enough more days than we aren’t, we shouldn’t give a rip about the size of our jeans.

This Memorial Day, let’s remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.  And, perhaps, one way we can honor them is to set the bar high for ourselves.  They, and you, deserve nothing less.


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