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Former Navy Seal Chad Williams delivers the keynote to attendees at the WWETT Show in Indianapolis.

Navy SEAL Chad Williams Delivers Keynote at WWETT Show 2023

Feb. 22, 2023
Former SEAL drew on his experience in the military to talk about goal setting, servant leadership, and finding the "uncommon desire" to succeed.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — After a welcome from Marc Acampora, Director of the Water and Wastewater Equipment, Treatment and Transport (WWETT) Show, former Navy SEAL Chad Williams took the stage to deliver his keynote speech.

Williams opened with a story about his time serving in Iraq training the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF). His SEAL team and a group of ISOF soldiers had set out to clear a house. It was a "graduation" mission for the team he'd helped train, and was set to be one of the last operations he was scheduled to be part of during his time in the country. Little did he know it at the time, but Iraqi insurgents had set up an ambush that quickly turned into a deadly firefight.

Aim Small, Miss Small

Williams began his journey to the military one day in a community college parking lot. He realized he didn't like the trajectory his life was on, and decided to set his goals high, and—importantly—to make them very specific. It was a principle he later found reflected in target practice: aim small, miss small. The more specific you make your goal, the better your chances of achieving it.

That day, Williams told his father we was going to enlist with the intention of becoming a Navy SEAL. His father was, at first, skeptical, and decided the best thing to do would be to test his son's resolve. He got in touch with a Navy Seal, Scott Helvenston, who was currently serving.

Helvenston agreed to meet up with the younger Williams and put him through some of the most grueling workouts of his life. Helvenston would go on to become a friend and mentor to Williams as he embarked on his Navy career.

Common People - Uncommon Desire

Throughout his speech, Williams emphasized that Navy SEALs are just normal people with high levels of motivation. He recalled people in his BUDs (Basic Underwater Demolition) class who looked to be perfect physical specimens, but who ended up quitting the program. Out of Williams class of 173 only 13 made it to graduation.

"DNA does not determine destiny," Williams said. "Instead, where are you going to place your desire? Where are you going to put your mindset?"

Having Helvenston as a teacher and trainer helped Williams get that mindset. Helvenston also taught Williams the principles of servant leadership: to lead by example; to make your success based on your team's success; to win real loyalty through respect and humility.

Just before Williams was accepted into the Navy, Helvenston went back to serve in Iraq, where he was killed. His dead body was then dragged through the streets of Fallujah.

Earn Your Trident

"Hatred," Williams said, "is a fuel that burns bright, but is very toxic." Williams decided to channel his anger into his SEAL training. Helvenston became his inspiration and motivation during the toughest parts of Hell Week—a week when recruits can run as much as 200 miles, get as little as four hours of sleep, and face near constant physical and psychological challenges. His graduation he recalls as one of the happiest and most fulfilling moments of his life.

But graduation, difficult as it had been to achieve, was only a beginning. The symbol of the Navy Seals is a trident, and with it goes the saying, "You earn your trident every day." There is no resting on past successes. Because the enemy in a war is constantly evolving and refining their methods, Navy SEALs are always looking for ways to perform better. Continuous improvement, he said, is essential in combat, in life and in business.

The Things You Can Control

When the firefight broke out on Williams last mission, the SEALs had just exited their vehicles. They were at their most vulnerable, with bullets flying. But SEALs are taught that, regardless of the circumstances, you have the ability to control your emotions and your actions.

Williams' assault leader called for them to "push left"—move into fire to flank the enemy. They ended up winning the engagement, and one of the last things Williams did in Iraq was escort a wounded prisoner to medical attention.

Williams closed by talking again about the uncommon drive that is so important to becoming a Navy SEAL—or achieving high levels of success in any endeavor. During training, SEALs are allowed to write a few motivational words inside the bill of their hat, something they can see at any time just by looking a little bit up. Williams wrote the name of his mentor, and the name of the girl he would eventually marry.

He looked through the hats of his graduating class and saw a common theme: family, friends, faith. And then he asked his audience, "What are you writing inside your hat?"

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