It was a most unexpected answer. When former Admiral William McRaven — a Navy SEAL, leader of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, part of the Saddam Hussein capture and the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips — was asked what he worries him most about what’s going on in the world, he didn’t list China, Russia, Iraq or Iran – in fact, he didn’t list a country at all.

McRaven said that he has long seen K-12 education as the “number one national security issue” facing the U.S.

Unless we are giving opportunity and a quality education to the young men and women in the United States, then we won’t have the right people to be able to make the right decisions about our national security. They won’t have an understanding of different cultures, they won’t have ideas, they won’t be critical thinkers. So, we have got to have an education system within the United States that really does teach and educate men and women to think critically to look outside their small microcosm, because if we don’t develop those great folks, then our national security, in the long run, may be in jeopardy.”

McRaven illustrates a perspective that more leaders should have. It’s not just about the issues that are facing you today; it requires thinking about the challenges that you could have many tomorrows from now. It’s also about considering the inputs that will make your work possible instead of just focusing on the outputs that you hope to have.

Enjoy one of these beautiful summer days and escape somewhere to do some real reflection. What is the #1 issue that you should be worried about? Then go about five layers deeper to uncover the real answer – and craft a plan to do something about it. Your true issues probably aren’t in some faraway land, rather in your own backyard.

Listen to his conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival here.

 

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