Thanking Your Boss.

“Are you thirsty?” My boss asked. “Sure?” I said… Although I was confused at the randomness of the question. “Cool, grab a beverage of your choice, and a blue Gatorade for me while you’re at it, and meet me in my office.” As I walked to the beverage cooler I started weighing the possibility of being laid off. “My God…” I thought, “drinking a Gatorade during this meeting will definitely soften the blow when laying someone off… He’s gonna take a sip, then show me my way out…” Alright alright, I’m kidding. I knew I wasn’t getting fired, but I was still confused at the random invitation for a sit-down.

As I entered his office, a video from YouTube was on queue, entitled “University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address — Admiral William H. McRaven”. “I want you to watch this”, was all he said, as he pressed the play button.

In this video, you’ll hear one of the greatest commencement speeches given by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven; the Ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations, and distinguished Alumnus at the University of Texas. After a proper introduction of giving thanks to the University and everyone involved in the success of his own graduation 37 years ago, McRaven hits us with a shocking combination of facts. 8,000 students are sitting in the audience to graduate from the class of 2014. According to, the average American will have met 10,000 people in their lifetime.

“If every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those people change the lives of another 10 people, and another 10… then in 5 generations, 125 years, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people. Think about it… Over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world. 8 billion people.”

If changing the lives of 10 (just ten) people seems impossible, you’re mistaken. Admiral McRaven tells brief stories of heroes who have done just that. For example, a young army officer makes a decision to turn left instead of right, down a road in Baghdad to save 10 soldiers from a closed in ambush. Another story is told of a female officer who makes a sacrifice to save 12 soldiers. If you really think about it, every soldier saved grants them an opportunity to return home to their family, and raise future generations. McRaven stands before the 2014 class, and ourselves as a YouTube audience, in hopes to change our lives through personal lessons he has learned through experience in the military. Before proceeding, he gives us a humble reminder that these lessons are designed to be taught to everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or experience in uniform.

Through McRaven, we can learn how to make the world a better place by following these 10 steps. We’re pulled into McRaven’s post-grad life, as he experiences Navy Seal training in California for a brutal 6 months. Training consists of long torturous runs in soft sand, midnight swims in cold San Diego waters, obstacle courses that will make you want to quit, unending calisthenics, days without sleep, and always being cold, wet, and miserable. A thorough completion of training will single out the students with the ability to hold leadership qualities in an environment filled with chaos, and stress. It was at that moment that I knew my purpose for watching this video. “Chaos” and “stress”, are spot on when it comes to describing this job… I continued to sit patiently as I heard McRaven preach his ten commandments…

McRaven tells ten different stories with a conclusion at the end of each one, saying, “If you want to change the world…” I’m going to touch briefly on each lesson, with annotations of how each relates to my working environment in the restaurant; but my hope is that you’ll watch the video, because each story is absolutely, more worth hearing verbally than reading it here. I promise!! Allow me to start this off with the first lesson…

If you want to change the world… Start off by making your bed.

Why? Because making your bed means you’ve completed the first task of the day. You’ll be proud of yourself for doing so, and this pride will linger with you to help complete further tasks throughout the day. However, let’s say you have a bad day, and your pride slowly distinguishes… You’ll return home to a bed that is made. You’ll sleep comfortably with hopes that the next day will bring you better luck!

Anyone in the restaurant business can definitely agree with me on this: a terrible work-shift can definitely result in a terrible night. When everything is done for the day, the only thing that will always call our physically and mentally-beat selves, is our bed. A made one, will always welcome us.

If you want to change the world… Find someone to help you paddle.

A story of how beneficial a strong coxswain can be to your boat full of teammates easily reflects teamwork in any environment. Without a leader, the strongest team is subject to lose.

Failure to show signs of excellent leadership on the dining floor will result in poor performance. The goal is to welcome our guests and leave each and every one of them satisfied. At times I can see fellow coworkers overwhelmed with stress on a super busy night, but when a manager works among us, side by side, we work at our best.

If you want to change the world… Measure a person by the size of their heart, not by the size of their flippers.

There was a team called the “munchkin crew” during McRaven’s training, which consisted of a significantly smaller crew than the others. The “munchkins” however, always out-swam the other teams, regardless of the size difference.

It’s obvious that size doesn’t matter in most cases. People will show and prove if enough effort is brought to the ‘table’ (literally). The server, bartender, or busser that a guest is assigned for the evening may get more service than expected. But this depends on a variety of factors of course. My point being though, is to take this cliché statement seriously: don’t judge a book by its cover.

If you want to change the world… Get over being a sugar cookie, and keep moving forward.

If a uniform wasn’t on point, the student would receive the “sugar cookie” punishment. Failure to pass inspection, means the student would have to run into the ocean fully-clothed, then proceed to roll around in the sand while still wet, allowing sand to cover his body completely; turning the student into a human “sugar cookie”. After transforming into a “sugar cookie” the punishment involves remaining that way until the end of the day; cold, wet and sandy.

Hefe, if you’re reading this, please don’t hate me for speaking for the whole team by admitting that our uniform hasn’t been up to par on a daily basis. There’s plenty of things wrong with the team’s swagger, but I’m sure that the mystery of disappearing nametags will forever remains to be your biggest pet peeve… Haha! But in all seriousness, we know when you’re disappointed at us and sometimes it throws us off our game a bit. We also know that shaking your head at us is the least you can do. We work just a few steps from the beach, and with that being said, thank you for being generous and not making us become sugar cookies. That’s real.

If you want to change the world… Don’t be afraid of the circuses.

Obstacle courses which took place at least twice a week, had time completion requirements. If the time wasn’t reached, students were invited to a “circus” — an extra two hours of calisthenics. McRaven tells us that a circus is the last thing you want to do, but however, something about the circus students proved a boost in their inner strengths. There was a willpower to continue to push themselves, with the reward being an incredible amount of physical and mental growth.

It isn’t easy sometimes, I must say, but nothing’s supposed to come that way. There’s days we host large events which cause an incredible amount of stress and disgust towards guests, yet we continue to work. Our largest annual event, last year, truly tested my endurance. A 22 hour shift isn’t common in the restaurant business, but we all get through it. We work as a team to get (even the optional) tasks thoroughly completed. At the end of the day, we leave with a better understanding of what we can prove through our work ethic.

If you want to change the world… Sometimes you have to slide down the obstacles head first.

A student took an incredible risk to complete an obstacle course’s standing record. The risk was flying head-first (which was incredibly dangerous) past a specific obstacle to cut the normal time in half completely. Failure, however, could mean injury, and being dropped from the course.

Sometimes, when things don’t go our way, or the way they should be, we do what it takes (to some extent) to satisfy our guests. We run out of an item; we offer an alternative. We screw up a plate; we do it again. We receive a personal complaint; we work things out. Any job doesn’t some simply. There will always be complications, and goals to be met. I’d like to specify, and consider them to be “calculated risks”. We always push through and handle our business.

If you want to change the world… Don’t back down from the sharks.

During training, long swims must be completed within great-white shark infested waters in San Diego. At a midnight swim, students are taught to stand ground, is a shark is circling you as prey.

I remember minding my business and taking care of my section of the restaurant, when a guest from another section walks up to me, casually, with a beer in his right hand. At first I expected small-talk, when he said something like, “So… Do you think… it’s cool, if another table gets their food first when you’ve been sitting there waiting before them?” I knew the guy was pissed, and I understood the situation, but what he didn’t understand, was the chaos within a busy Friday night. And by busy, I mean busy. He continued to repeat himself with that same question, and my answer continued to stand with agreeing with him, sympathetically. The only problem was, he wasn’t sitting at one of my tables… I had four fellow employees watching the entire situation, and a good friend of ours enjoying his dinner, nearby, watching the whole thing unravel as well. I asked him, politely, if he wanted to continue complaining to me, or if he wanted to see my manager, cause I was on my own schedule for the night. Getting complained to wasn’t on my agenda. My point being: having this as my first job in the hospitality business, if it weren’t for my “instructor”, I wouldn’t know how to handle the situation properly. The gentleman returned the next day, apologizing for the night before.

If you want to change the world… You must be at your very best, in your darkest moments.

Extreme underwater training involves nothing but a death-gage, and a compass to guide you to a target, two miles away. To succeed in this mission, you must swim under the ship to find the keel, or the centerline, in the deepest part of the ship. It’s so dark down there, waving a hand in front of your face is near impossible to see. “Every Seal knows” McRaven says, “that at that keel, at the darkest part of your mission, is a time where you need to be calm. You must be calm [and] composed.”

This can be perfectly applied to our everyday lives. In the midst of a bad shift, or bad day in general, it’s important to catch yourself before the “break-down”. Taking time to evaluate the situation at hand, and take the right steps to move past and move on, is finessing the game of self-improvement.

If you want to change the world… Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

The 9th week of training is considered “Hell Week”. Six days of no sleep, with constant physical and mental harassment. Training takes place in mudflats, where students are engulfed in mud up to their heads. Instructors announce that all it takes, for this mud-exercise to conclude, is five students to quit. Hours pass by, and one student begins singing, and another, and another… The instructors are offended, and press more time on the exercise, if singing persisted, but more students joined in until every voice was heard. McRaven recalls that the mud began to feel warmer, and less cold, and uncomfortable.

Getting through the worst part of it takes teamwork. One person running the entire task at hand seems difficult; sometimes impossible. It may feel like you’re going through hell, but when your coworkers experience the same stress you’re going through, the best way to combat the negativity is to pierce it through the heart with positivity. Singing through the mud is what makes our team unique — we may have a hard time every now and then, but the day always ends with jokes and smiles.

If you want to change the world… Don’t ever, ever, ring the bell.

A large brass bell hangs in the middle of the compound for all students to see. If a student wants to quit, they’ll ring the bell. Quitting means: no more waking up at 5am, no more freezing-cold swims, no more obstacle courses, and no more enduring hardships of training. But quitting, means quitting.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard us all talk about quitting. I’ve definitely thought about it too. But, there’s something about quitting that makes it okay to do so. If there’s something better out there, take it and leave. If you’re still figuring out the escape route, quitting is the worst thing you can do. Quitting based on the disability to comply with your specific tasks at hand, proves cowardice. But quitting with a better road to take on your way out, is the best decision you can make.

A heavy, well-expressed speech like Admiral McRaven’s, is a lot to take in. With that being said, I had a hard time concentrating on my next task at hand as I exited his office. I came home that night and replayed the speech again, realizing there’s always more to comprehend than we think. I realized that he wasn’t just showing me a hell of a speech. He was introducing me to an entirely different way of thinking — a different way of approaching our lives — to make an impact to those around me. As I realized that I became thankful; thankful for someone to open my eyes further.

My boss, Yunus, showed me this video at a time of confusion in my life. I’ve told him about my curiosity in exploring several avenues for future career goals. I told him my strengths, weaknesses, passions, and hobbies. Before concluding, I must say a humble reminder to all of us; it’s never too late to figure out what you want to do with your life. In past thoughts, I’ve mentioned that the twenties may be the most complicated part of our lives, as we handle the biggest obstacles and decisions we’ll ever make. However, seeing this video, gave me a slight push to better myself, as I hope to better those around me in return.

Yunus, thank you for being more than a boss to all of us. My introduction to the hospitality business has rewarded me with gifts I never would have expected to gain. If you know this man, I’d like permission to speak on behalf of us by saying, Thank You. Yunus’ last day working was on February 29th 2016. He’s currently in Florida with his family doing what he does best, changing lives of those around him!

Yunus Yilmaz, Half Moon Bay Golf Links

Take care brother!


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