Summary: The Hero Code By Admiral William H. McRaven
Summary: The Hero Code By Admiral William H. McRaven

Summary: The Hero Code By Admiral William H. McRaven

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Legend has it that during the battle for Texas independence, Colonel William B. Travis pulled out his saber and drew a line in the sand at the feet of the men defending the Alamo. He told the men that their death at the hands of Mexican general Santa Anna’s army was almost certain. Any man wishing to leave the fort could do so. But those who wanted to stay and fight should take one step forward: one step over the line in the sand. While politicians, historians, and well-meaning people on both sides may debate the righteousness of the battle, no one can dispute the courage of the men who stayed and their impact on the future of America.

We all have our lines in the sand, those fears that keep us from being courageous. But all you have to do to overcome those fears, those obstacles, those challenges in your life is to take one step forward. Just one. Take one step forward and get on the helicopter. Take one step forward and talk to a doctor. Take one step forward and fight injustice. Take one step forward and challenge the bullies. Take one step forward and face your inner demons. And if you take that one step forward you will find the courage you seek, the courage necessary to overcome your fears and be the hero you long to be.

I will always strive to be courageous; to take one step forward as I confront my fears.



In Matthew 23:12, Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

But it is not just Christianity that extols the virtues of humility. The Quran tells us that “the servants of the most merciful are those who walk upon the Earth in humility.” In the Old Testament, Proverbs 11:2 says, “… with humility comes wisdom.” Confucius offers that “humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” Hindus believe that “only the humble know how to appreciate and admire the good qualities of others,” and the Buddha says, “You learn nothing from life if you think you are right all the time.” Even the Greek philosopher Socrates boldly exclaimed that he was the wisest man in Greece, because he knew that compared to God, “the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing.

Humility is born of respect. Respect for what we do not know. Respect for what we cannot readily see. But out of this humble approach to life, we are more likely to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us, more likely to gaze into a microscope or peer at the stars and be awed, more likely to be inspired by little acts of kindness. And we are much more likely to treat others as we would have them treat us.

The power of humility is that it brings us closer together, and the role of every hero is to unite people, not divide them. Be humble. It will serve you well

I will work to be humble; to recognize the limits of my intellect, my understanding, and my power.



Ralph Johnson was willing to sacrifice his life for a noble cause: not the Vietnam War, but the love and friendship of the men who served with him. That one brief act of heroism on a hill far, far away changed forever the lives of his fellow Marines and left a legacy that will last an eternity.

For most of us, however, our sacrifices do not come in one shining moment of extraordinary valor. For most of us, our sacrifices are little acts of giving that build upon themselves and over time become something worthwhile, something remarkable: the single mother who works two jobs to care for her children; the teacher who labors over a struggling student; the cop who coaches youth basketball; the child who nurses their ailing parent. What makes these sacrifices so heroic is that there are no adoring crowds to thank you, no awards to receive, and no gilded words about your bravery. Nothing accrues to you but the knowledge that your actions were noble—an act of grace with no expectation of gratitude.

Learning to sacrifice is easy. Start by giving a little of yourself, every day. Give a little time to your friends. Give a little of your treasure to a worthy cause. Give a little love to your family. Every day—without fail—give a little of yourself. The giving will become a habit, a part of your character.

I will learn to sacrifice by giving a little of my time, my talent, and my treasure to those in need. Every day. Without fail.



Being men and women of integrity—following the rules, following the law, and following what you know to be right—is hard. It is hard because you have to fight against your natural herd tendencies: the desire to go along, to get along, to be well liked among the herd.

It is hard because unlike the comic book heroes, you are not men and women of steel, you are not cloaked in suits of armor, and you do not have unearthly powers.

It is hard because you are human, because life often forces you into seemingly untenable positions, because good and evil are always in conflict.

It is hard—and you will fail occasionally. And when you fail to uphold your integrity, it should make you sick to your stomach. It should give you sleepless nights. You should be so tortured that you promise yourself never to do it again

But no matter how mightily you might struggle, the world will believe in you, follow you, and allow themselves to be saved—if they know you to be honest, trustworthy, of good character and good faith. Never fear the path that is rocky, steep, and treacherous: There you will find men and women of integrity. There you will find heroes.

I will be a person of integrity; every decision I make and every action I take will be moral, legal, and ethical.



For some the desire to give is strong. They feel the pain of others. They have empathy for the lost and unfortunate. They are naturally caring people. We all know someone like that. But most of us must search for the desire to be kind. Life can make us selfish, skew our priorities toward work, wealth, and image. Our character, the qualities that make us most human, most able to fit well into society, can be diminished by the trappings of modernity. Fortunately, the fix is easy: one dollar for the homeless, one hour at a soup kitchen, one dinner for the church bazaar, one thank-you for the returning soldiers, one small act of kindness to forge your character, strengthen your soul, and keep you connected to the rest of the world.

I will be kind and compassionate to at least one person every single day and expect nothing in return.



We have a saying in SEAL training: “Take it one evolution at a time.” As prospective “frogmen,” we start off as “tadpoles” in training and must evolve to reach our goal. These evolutions are individual events: long runs, open-ocean swims, hours of physical training, each accompanied by pain, exhaustion, and frequent failure. The student who looks too far into the future often fears that he will have to endure more than he is able. If he sees the future as a never-ending series of obstacles, then the challenges sometimes seem too daunting to overcome. However, if you take each hurdle as it comes, not worrying about the next event, the next day, the next month, or the next year, then before long one hurdle cleared becomes two, and two becomes three, and just like that, the task is finished

Life can be complicated at times. But the challenges you face are the same ones that billions of people have encountered throughout history. Those who have conquered the obstacles before them, whether personal or professional, have one thing in common. They never gave up. Neither should you!

I will never give up on matters that are important to me, my family, my country, or my faith. I will persevere.



There is an old proverb, “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the knight was lost. For want of the knight, the battle was lost. For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost. The kingdom was lost for the want of a nail.” There are many interpretations of this old saying, but

it epitomizes doing your duty. If the blacksmith had done his duty and placed the nail in the horseshoe correctly, the kingdom would not have been lost. If the clerk doesn’t do the paperwork, or the sergeant doesn’t deliver the chow, or the nurse, the pilot, or the Marines don’t do their duty, the kingdom is always at risk.

The idea of duty is a simple one. We all have a job to do in life. Whether that job is serving customers in a restaurant, taking care of our family, teaching our children, policing our cities, caring for the ill and infirm, protecting our gate, following the military Code of Conduct, or leading the country, we must do our job to the best of our ability. We must do our job well, not because it serves our interests, but because it serves the interests of others. We do not live in this world alone. Duty is a recognition that you have a responsibility to your fellow man and woman. It is an unselfish act, whether great or small, that contributes to the welfare of humanity. That is what makes it so very powerful. If you want to be a hero, it’s easy. Just do your duty!

Whatever job I am given, whatever duty I am bound by, I will do it to the best of my ability.



What is hope but a belief that tomorrow will be better: that tomorrow your children will be happier; that tomorrow your cancer will be in remission; that tomorrow your rescuers will try again; that tomorrow your country will not be at war; that tomorrow the nation will be united and the world will be safer? But hope is more than just a fanciful wish. If you want to bring hope to the world, you will have to find what you’re good at and give it to others. People believe in the hope-givers

The good news is, each of us has something that we are good at—something we can give to others that makes them hopeful. A talent that someone else in the world is lacking. We are faster, stronger, smarter, kinder, gentler, richer, more courageous, more forgiving, more gracious, more trustworthy, more honest, more of something. All heroes have something that makes them unique. Find that talent and use it to inspire others—to give hope, to make tomorrow a better day.

I will use my unique talents to inspire others and give them hope that tomorrow will be a better day.



A reporter from the New York Herald once wrote, “I think it would be hard to find one who tells better jokes, enjoys them better and laughs more often than Abraham Lincoln.” Lincoln so valued a good joke that he reportedly believed that young children should be taught humor in school right along with reading, writing, and arithmetic. In times of upheaval, crisis, and turmoil, great leaders turn to humor as a source of strength for themselves and those that they lead

Humor is one of the most important qualities for any hero. If you want to show courage, laugh in the face of danger. If you want to show humility, laugh at yourself. If you want to sacrifice, sacrifice your vanity for a joke. If you want to be compassionate, let humor soften the blow of the pain. If you want to be honest, chuckle at your shortcomings. If you want to give hope, use humor to lighten the darkness. If you want to persevere through tough times, you had better learn to laugh. Find your comedic voice and use your wit to save those around you, to free them from their sorrow, to give them joy, and to help them see the humor in the darkest of times. This is what real heroes do.

I will use humor to comfort others, and never be afraid to laugh at myself.



When Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, stood before the court, the families of the victims each took a turn forgiving Roof for his heinous and incomprehensible crime.

“I forgive you and have mercy on your soul,” they said. They refused to let Roof’s anger be their burden.

K. Chesterton, the great English writer, philosopher and theologian, once wrote that, “To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.” Dylann Roof’s actions were unpardonable, but the families would not become Roof’s accomplices in this vile act of hatred. They were the victors, not the victims.

Forgiveness will never be easy. It was not meant to be. It takes a strong person to forgive. But the act of forgiving will strengthen your character immeasurably and it will rid you of hatred that is the demise of so many good men and women.

Be the victor, not the victim. Learn to forgive.

No matter how great or small the offense against me, I will try to forgive. I will be the victor, not the victim.

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