#1659 Wisdom of the Bullfrog

Leadership Made Simple (but Not Easy)

As we’ve discussed many times, Admiral William H. McRaven is one of my (few) living heroes.

We have Philosopher’s Notes on ALL FOUR of his great books.

We started with Make Your Bed, then we featured his memoir, Sea Stories, then we featured The Hero Code. They’re all FANTASTIC. So, of course, when I saw Admiral McRaven had published his latest book, The Wisdom of the Bullfrog, I immediately got it.

As we discussed in the previous Notes, as a four-star admiral, McRaven’s final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces.

He served as a Navy SEAL for 37 years. By the time he hit 34 years of service, he was officially anointed as the “Bull Frog”—the longest serving frogman and Navy SEAL on active duty.

His book, as per the title, is wisdom from this legendary bullfrog in which McRaven distills leadership into its most fundamental components, delivering on the subtitle: “Leadership Made Simple (But Not Easy).”

The book is organized around eighteen military aphorisms that guided his extraordinary career. Each of those aphorisms gets a chapter.

Here’s a super quick look at each…


McRaven tells us: “Leadership is difficult, and after forty years of being in leadership positions, I am still learning how to be a better leader. I learn from my students in class, from my colleagues at work, from fellow board members, from my family and my friends. But like the advice from the old general, the one thing I know about leadership is that you must keep doing your best every single day and let them see what you’ve got. And always remember that while leadership is difficult it’s not complicated. I hope you will find the wisdom of this old bullfrog of some value on your road to being a better leader.”

Those are actually the final words of the book.

They precede a quick distillation of the 18 aphorisms that form the chapters of the book.

Here are the 18 aphorisms…

  1. DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR (Be a person of integrity)
  2. YOU CAN’T SURGE TRUST (Be trustworthy)
  3. WHEN IN COMMAND, COMMAND (Be confident in yourself)
  4. WE ALL HAVE FROG FLOATS (Have a little humility)
  5. THE ONLY EASY DAY WAS YESTERDAY (Demonstrate that you have stamina)
  6. RUN TO THE SOUND OF THE GUNS (Be aggressive in solving problems)
  7. SUA SPONTE (Encourage your team to take the initiative)
  8. WHO DARES WINS (Be prepared to take risks)
  9. HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY (Do the detailed planning necessary for success)
  11. IT PAYS TO BE A WINNER (Establish standards of conduct and performance)
  12. A SHEPHERD SHOULD SMELL LIKE HIS SHEEP (Spend time on the “factory floor”)
  13. TROOP THE LINE (Listen to your employees)
  14. EXPECT WHAT YOU INSPECT (The quality of your work will depend on the quality of your oversight)
  15. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE (Communicate your actions)
  16. WHEN IN DOUBT, OVERLOAD (Work hard to overcome your shortfalls)
  17. CAN YOU STAND BEFORE THE LONG GREEN TABLE? (Be accountable for your actions)
  18. ALWAYS HAVE A SWIM BUDDY (Have a partner in your leadership journey)

That’s our +1 for the day.

Check out the Notes and book for more.

For now…

What’s ONE thing YOU know you could be doing to show up as a better leader in YOUR life?


It’s simple.

Keep it that way.


It’s not easy.

We’ve gotta do the work as we move from theory to practice to mastery…


+1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1.

P.S. Go here for a printable version of the 18 aphorisms that form the foundation of The Wisdom of the Bullfrog.

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