Everything I Know I Learned in Kindergarten (and SEAL Training) | Kevin Williams | TEDxSaintThomas

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mrs. Packard was the name of my kindergarten teacher and I adored this woman as I hope most kindergartners do she had short blonde hair she was tall and she had round rimmed glasses to be honest with you I only remember one other thing about mrs. Packard and it was during recess one day it was wintertime there was snow on the ground and I spied the girl that I had a crush on her name was Laura block now I don't know how the little kindergartners Antilles do it but back in my day the way to push that relationship forward was to hit her in the back of the head with a snowball so I proceeded to make said snowball and I drifted back into her blind spot and I closed the distance and I let it loose now I'd like to think that I was proficient at many things as a kindergartner but throwing snowballs was not one of them so it sailed over her head fortunately for Laura unfortunately for the little girl just beyond Lourdes it augered itself into her ear so you had freezing water rushing to her eardrum she runs off to tell mrs. Packard and I find myself in whatever it is the kindergarten attention right no more recess for keV and I'm sitting there waiting for mrs. Packard to to lecture me to punish me and to my surprise she just asked me a question she says what who do you want to be when you grow up so that's an easy question to answer this is circa 1977 and the answers rhyme with I want to be a Jedi Knight and I want to be a fire fighter and she said no no that's not what I asked you I didn't ask you what you wanted to do I asked you who you wanted to be don't ever confuse those two questions because who you are is the mean little boy that just hurt that girl the snowball now that's pretty edgy so i sat there ashamed and sad and confused because the gravity of what she pointed out to me wasn't clear at the time it wouldn't be clear for years but mrs. Packard see she got it right she knew it she knew is premium on on character and she knew that it's formed in early age and she knew that it's probably cost us a lot more than were willing to pay she knew that it's a lot tougher to recover it than it is to keep it so fast-forward 28 years I'm in the military and I slide into this role as the the basic training officer of basic underwater demolition SEAL school and that's a lot of words that just describe the guy who runs the 25 week SEAL training program so when a kid raises his hand and says I want to join the SEAL Teams whether he's actually in the military is not in the military he'll go to boot camp and then he'll go straight to the schoolhouse this 25 week schoolhouse and it didn't take me long in that position to realize that SEAL training was the proving ground for mrs. Packard's lesson on character so the Secretary of Defense right P has a series of lists for all of the teams and units under his command and the seals have their own list and on that list it might say I need the seals to do these things right I need them to kill bad guys in dark places in the world and and rescue hostages and dark places in the world I need them to to capture bad guys take down ships etc etc etc and for each one of those missions the seals have individual skills right that they need to be able to do they need to be able to handle weapons and explosives and they need to jump out of planes they need to dive under the water and the list would go on and on and that's what the list looks like today well 50 years ago say during Vietnam that list looked a lot different 25 years ago during the Persian Gulf or that list looked a lot different right and that makes sense because warfare changes Special Warfare changes the techniques the tactics right the technology it evolves exponentially so you adopt on the fly but guess what hasn't changed a whole heck of a lot is basic SEAL training so if I took all of you on a tour of the SEAL training center you would be disappointed it's a blast from the past it is not a peek into the future right you walk through and you'd see 300 pound telephone poles lined up on the beach you'd see pull-up bars right you'd see rope climbs you'd see rubber boats that weigh 300 pounds that that look like they're 50 years old you'd see dive rigs that look like they're 150 years old and the kids that walk through the door they come from all walks of life they come from Georgia they come from West Virginia California they come right off the ships in the Navy they're tall they're skinny they're short they're wide some of them are ex bankers some of them are XT Jers some of them were X grand pianists some of them have never set foot in the ocean some of them though I've never even seen a gun and so if I lined up a class that was just about to start trading it would number about probably in this room here about the same image so what do we have in here 150 ish Smith let's say 160 so you're a training class just about to start training I line you up and I post somebody from the audience and we have a competition between me and you to predict the 30 because only 30 of you are going to make it with that number give or take 30 will make it 25 weeks later you're going to graduate everyone else goes away you would have as good a chance as meat or any seal instructor for that matter of picking who's going to make it right why is that because seal instructors know what mrs. Packard knows is that making that 3-meter headshot with the snowball doesn't matter making a 50-meter headshot with snowball doesn't matter you can be an expert in a ton of things and it doesn't matter they're not looking for experts and despite what you may read about or despite what you may see on the big screen it's not about survival of fittest not even by a stretch so what you're looking for is the kid who knows it's a bad idea to throw that snowball bad idea wrong place wrong time wrong target wrong weapon of choice the intent versus the expected outcome it's not going to work out in my favor it's not going to work out in my favor right yeah and even if it was a good idea to throw the snowball you're going to look at the risk and say nope I'm walking away so who you are what you value how committed you are what are you prepared to do to preserve this value system that you have alright what's the true nature of your character that is going to be tested and that place is absolutely going to find the answer to those questions because the truth is is that that lets sexy sophisticated list the Secretary of Defense has of all the things that they need to be able to do that can be taught we can teach those things you can be taught how to take a 500 meter sniper shot you can be taught how to jump out of an airplane at 30,000 feet you can be taught how to become a combat diver Li Li can be taught how to bad example by example alright so but but what you can't teach what you cannot teach is this character right the instructors in the three short weeks that they have these kids before the fourth week which is Darwin's big cut it's called hell we will touch on it they've got it for three weeks you can't rewire someone's values they they're already braised they've been raised right whether it was by their parents or their grandparents or a pack of lemurs they bring that value system with them in the front door so the instructors find themselves in the position of trying to discover diamonds right not create them so how will these kids think and act and decide when they are emotionally and physically and psychologically bankrupt how are they going to measure the risk to themselves the risk to to their teammates the risk to the mission when they're placed in very dangerous or or uncertain environments well there's a lot of ways you can probably get to those answers but SEAL training elects for efficiency sake to manufacture stress and fear right it might be fear of heights it might be fear of a water cold water deep water might be fear of quitting fear of failure fear that my girlfriend's going to break up with me if I get punted out of seal training right but the question are are you afraid no nobody cares about that that's not even the right question to ask all right the right question to ask is why are you afraid and what are you going to do about it well SEAL training provides students with with daily opportunities to answer that question so that 25 weeks is divided up into three phases right the first phase is seven weeks long and it's that physical fitness is the intensive physical fitness space seven weeks and 120 of you 130 of you that aren't going to make it they're not going to graduate 25 weeks later you we lose you in the first seven weeks more specifically we lose you in the first four weeks and most of that happens in that fourth week all right which is hell week the second phase is eight weeks long it's called dive phase where the students learn how to become proficient combat divers and swimmers and the third phase is land warfare where the kids get to shoot they get to learn how to use applied explosive techniques they learn small unit tactics and mission specific skills but Darwin's big cut that fourth week is is where is the litmus test for that character and all those questions and much has been written about how awake much has been said but the best advice I've ever heard that would apply to students entering hell week was said by Winston Churchill I love that he said you know if you wake up and you find yourself going through hell keep going right and that's simple and that's a secret so he'll Week starts on a Sunday night and it ends on a Friday night five days straight students are divided up into seven man boat crews they get the three hip 300 pound rubber boat they carry that boat with them everywhere they go and it's nonstop you get two hours of sleep in five days you are constantly cold and you are constantly wet and you're moved from one physical event to another to another to another for five days whether it's a run or swim or an obstacle course or you're paddling out through the surf zone or you're just sitting in the surf zone that that's that's what happens for five days and what you find what we really the purpose of hell week is to to simulate an environment to simulate the stressors that these kids if they graduate may or will experience in combat so you can't plug these kids into combat and understand how they'll act and decide so you use hell week is a proxy for that you peel away all the emotions and all the psychology and all their physical defenses to get to the answer to those important questions why are you here what's your what are your what's your value system and so you see things that you wouldn't even be able to wrap your mind around the students or take to a place in their mind where they've never been before and they're pushing up against this what they think are their left and right limits right and if they do that long enough most of them quit but the ones take Winston Churchill's advice and they keep pushing and they push that left limit out and they push the right limit out and they keep going those are the ones that make and they learn a very critical skill during hell week because you're going to be in that situation once you graduate once you're overseas and once you're in the middle of the melee you're giving a place in your mind where you've never been before and you're going to know what to do you're going to keep pushing and you're going to keep pushing and you're going to push left you're going to push right because that's the only thing you know how to do and in many cases that's the only option a funny story help you appreciate helping so as a student my boat crew and I was Thursday night and the event was called around the world and what the students do is they get in the water with their boats on the ocean side of San Diego they paddle up the coast they paddle into the bay and then they make their way south towards the south end of the bay and it's a race and you periodically paddle ashore to compete in some other shenanigans or some event and then and then you race back into the ocean to continue paddling well about by about two o'clock in the morning you find yourself in the bay and the lights from San Diego were kind of cascading off the water and a place funny tricks on your mind and so I was the third man back on the starboard side paddling the kid in front of me pounces on the kid in front of him and explicably and starts to chew on his shoulder and he starts screaming and so we grab this guy and we have to dunk him in the water and pull him out and as we pull him out he's screaming at the top of his lungs sir sir you got to let me go there's a brownie on his shoulder you can't make that up it's good stuff and so these these kids make it this 30 or 40 make these diamonds they they get discovered they make their way through and now you've got a kid that he just doesn't know how to quit I mean I have to kill him now before he would quit and these kids after hella week they only know two speeds right they know stop and they know destroy and in the rest of training for the instructors becomes a an exercise in helping them build out a toolkit that includes a lot more than just stop and destroying right where there's a lot of elegant solutions to very complicated problems that include faint left faint right back off move forward and a tale for another time but it all starts whether we knew it or not whether we liked it or not it all started in kindergarten this identifying character and building and developing character and leveraging fear leveraging failure in an effort to to build this character so a big shout out to kindergarten teachers all over the globe you have a great responsibility and we are we are indebted to you and in a super shout-out to mrs. Packard wherever you may be you would have made a fine seal instructor thank you for your kind you
Channel: TEDx Talks
Views: 293,285
Rating: 4.9161987 out of 5
Keywords: TEDxTalks, English, Virgin Islands, Life, Behavior, Childhood, Early education, Education, Leadership, Society, Teaching
Id: TXh1r0vOX0I
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Length: 14min 35sec (875 seconds)
Published: Thu Jul 09 2015
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