Flashback 10 years – How the recession made us stronger

I have several printouts on the back of my wardrobe door that I try to read on a regular basis, first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I started this routine during the recession when I was looking for inspiration and motivation during some dark days of the business. While I replace some from time to time there is one that will never be touched. It is one that I will always draw inspiration, motivation, strength and lots of other states of mind from. This is just one lesson I’ve learnt from it and applied to my business.

If we are to believe everything we see and read or hear from the media the boom is back. For the ones that have survived the dark years it was an extremely tough journey and one which has thought us many lessons and left some scars.

We have all had our own ways of dealing with the recession and surviving it. For me, it was not just about survival, even though at times that’s exactly what it was. It was about looking to the future and believing when we managed to navigate this horrendous storm that we would be best placed to grow and expand and become a better business than what we were before the recession hit.

Putting those last few words down on paper makes it sound like it was easy. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It took, and still takes, a lot of work to stay positive and focused. But a certain Navy Seal, Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S.Special Operations Command, has helped me along the way. He now plays a big part in my state of mind, especially when it comes to business.

Not so long ago McRaven gave a speech to a group of graduates at the University of Texas – 10 life lessons from Navy Seal training. His speech was inspirational, and I have applied his lessons to my business. I have the top 10 list stuck on the back of my wardrobe door and read the full manuscript of the speech on a regular basis.

This is just one of the ten I want to share. I suspect I will share more in the future. I think we can all agree that the recession has certainly been one big circus!

How we became stronger

“Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events – long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics – something designed to test your mettle. Every event had standards – times you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to – a “circus.”

A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics – designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit. No one wanted a circus. A circus meant that for that day you didn’t measure up. A circus meant more fatigue – and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult – and more circuses were likely.


But at some time during SEAL training, everyone – everyone- made the circus list. But an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Overtime those students – who did two hours of extra calisthenics – got stronger and stronger. The pain of the circuses built inner strength-built physical resiliency.


Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core. But if you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.”


William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S.Special Operations Command