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Lessons from Class 234


A Navy SEAL is an ordinary man with an uncommon desire to succeed. An unflinching commitment to accomplish their mission is something that cannot be taught but learned through the suffering they endure at training. Class 234 is no different from any other seal class. Students range from 17-29. They all may be very different individuals, from all walks of life, but they all share two things in common. Firstly, every man is a volunteer, and secondly, they all know that 70% of them won’t be there at the end. 


There are four classes a year at buds. Class 234 is a winter class with the highest dropout rate due to the cold. Buds is a war of attrition. A contest of luck and commitment. Each student must show dedication to training no matter the hardship. The irony is commitment alone is not enough to guarantee success. This passage highlights class 234s first day at BUDs, the first leap to becoming a member of the US military’s most elite community.


In the predawn cold of late November, seals begin their first evolution. Of the 80 students that start, only 16 will graduate 6 months from now. Their first evolution consists of intense physical training, which they will continue every day for their duration at BUDs. This consists of grueling sets of pushups, pull-ups, and squats in unimaginable quantities They immediately learn the first lesson of BUDs. Don’t give in to the pain. The sole intention of this first day of training is for each student to question their intentions of being at BUDs. The instructors know that people will start quitting once the men realize this is only the beginning. 


As Dawn breaks over the training grounds, the students meet for registration, they already realize that one student has gone, Class 234 has now experienced its first drop out. The students who drop out early are the weak ones that must be filtered out in Phase 1 of training. Navy seals are a community of overachievers who seek a challenge and success in everything they do. This is a profession that demands intelligence and aptitude, as well as dedication. 25% of the seals have a college degree, yet decades of studies have failed to uncover why some men make it through BUDs and most do not. You must apply this same analogy to your exams and in your life in general. Some people make it and some people don’t. You need to make a choice and just decide on which side of the fence you want be on. Winning at your GCSE’s, just like at BUDs, is a conscious decision. You make the choices that deem you successful or unsuccessful.


At 7:00 AM the seals must complete their baseline 4-mile run, where they either pass the BUDs minimum or fail. Before they begin the run, They are told that 60% of those that fail, don’t survive hell week. The instructors tell them that failure is a statistical destiny, they will give in. That day in class 234 nobody passed the 4-mile run. But that doesn’t matter. The instructor’s sole purpose of doing this run at such an early stage is to mentally foreground the fact that in order to succeed at BUDs the guys need to dig deep and give everything they have got. Navy seal training is not about what you came with to training but is what you give when you are there. This is parallel to your GCSEs. You must be willing to dig deep when times are the toughest and give it your all, even when the odds look against you.


The ones who fail, in this case all of them, have a punishment of getting wet and sandy. In order to do this, they run into the Pacific Ocean to get wet and then roll down into the sand. Most people would just run in and do a basic job of getting sandy. However, instructors penalize the ones that don’t get wet and sandy correctly which to their standards is from head to toe in every crevice of the guy's bodies. The lesson learned from this is non-other than attention to detail. The instructors want to hammer in the guy’s minds that they must be disciplined enough to use their heads and to get wet and sandy correctly. They may have failed the run however they still ended up benefiting in some little way, they undersrand the significance of attention to detail at BUDs. The students understand that failing opens doors. Be proud of your failures- you are growing, you are learning. You must be able to use your failures in order to craft a better version of yourself. The instructors now know that when the seals are next told to get wet and sandy, they will correctly and to the highest standard. 


Immediately after this is over the seals begin their first-ever surf passage session. It's only 9:00 AM in the morning. The purpose of surf passage is too work as a team. Paddling rafts in high surf is much more difficult and dangerous than it looks. Whilst they are getting slushed around in the Pacific Ocean, they can bang into each other and get submerged under the boats, not mentioning flying paddles. At this time of the year, when surf passage is this high, it is near to impossible to prevent this. But the instructors make it seem as if it is expected, to push the seals to their limits. They push the phrase of working together to the max. Whilst they do this the instructors watch at a distance for any sign of weak effort. One of the groups won the surf race and was allowed to take a rest whilst other groups who failed, get a "motivational timeout" for their poor performance. They are learning the fourth lesson of the day. It pays to be a winner. And trust me it does. In every aspect of your life being a winner is the ultimate goal. Others may have come second or third, but do you know what second place is? The first looser- Don’t accept defeat.


Behind all of this, surf passage teaches another harsh lesson. Individuals cannot survive together in wartime. Class 234 must develop teamwork, no matter how high the surf is or how wet they become. Trust in each other is the essential seal trait for survival in buds or war. When you are undertaking your GCSE’s remember, stick together with your friends, have faith in your teachers- most of them know what they are doing. When I began to stick to my close friends my vision got stronger, we all were after the same thing.


Still in the first day, the seals undertake their first inspection, that of their room and themselves. Attention to detail can never be taken for granted. The difference between living and dying often depends on how a seal platoon prepares before the battle is even fought. A seal must anticipate problems and solve them before it kills him and his teammates. The first three weeks of seal training is called the “gut check”, the third week called hell week. An ultimate test for a student’s endurance. But hell week is not the concern at the moment, passing room inspection is. Survival at buds is taken one minute one hour one evolution at a time. Instructors teach students to break down tasks into smaller pieces and repeating this until they get to minute-by-minute pieces. That's the kind of planning that allowed Navy SEALs to capture and kill bin Laden--and also the same kind of strategy that can help you achieve your goals. Admiral William McRaven, a Navy SEAL commander who was in charge of the raid that killed bin Laden gave a speech in Texas last year with his first commandment-a fairly famous one, in fact, is that you should make your bed in the morning. Why? Because if you do that, "it will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter." If you apply this same analogy to your GCSE’s and take things one step at a time you will see that tasks that often look very tough have become much easier to handle. For an exam don’t just start studying for it immediately. Plan what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. First, make the notes then make the flashcards. Then do the exam questions. Take it all step by step. By the time your exam comes around you would have completed all your tasks and have all the knowledge to ace the exam.  


For those who fail room inspection the reward is time on the grinder, pain. Put out or get out. The pain of BUDs is not personal. Each man must prove they want to be there. One of the main things that separate the strong from the weak is a student’s ability to control their emotions. The instructor’s main purpose is to get students to quit, and in order to do that, they are trying to get into the heads of the students. The training itself is designed to push you mentally to the brink, over and over again, until you are hard enough to take on any task with confidence, regardless of the odds — or until you break. You will experience the same kinds of mental battles when completing your GCSEs. People will tell you that you can’t do it. Block them out. Don’t compromise your mission. 


After 9 hours of pushups surf passage running and more pushups, the only thought in each student’s mind is too make it through the final two hours of the first day. The only thing standing in their way is Log PT. A strengthening and conditioning exercise made to break every man. Stress and exhaustion can destroy self-confidence and motivation. When people start underperforming and aren’t holding up their weight on the log, body language tells the story. Instructors watch but don’t do anything. They know when students get a reputation for weakness, the class will find out and put peer pressure on the students to either perform or quiet.


This may be the end of the beginning, but tomorrow morning people start to quit. Their knees, shoulders, and legs start hurting, their whole bodies start taking a beating. Every week things only get harder. I guess that’s why they say the only easy day was yesterday. 


Even if you don't plan to jump out of an airplane and into battle, or burst through the doors of an enemy compound anytime soon, there's a lot you can learn from these elite warriors. Their dedication to their craft is remarkable and I hope you can see how the principles that they learn in training are almost identical to those you must bear when completing your GCSEs and executing any goal you have in mind. 


Execute your mission. 




"It Pays to be a winner"


"Keep     Going"


"Take all the shaking and all the pain and turn it into aggression"


"Hurry Up"


"You guys just proved

to your body

through your mind that you can push yourself further than you ever thoought possible"

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