The story opens at Coronado, California. William McRaven and his swim buddy are training to become US Navy Seals.
They finish their swim and emerge from the cold water, happy with their progress.
The SEAL instructor comes over and yells at them and orders them to, "Drop down!"
The SEAL instructor tells them they made the Circus list. The Circus is a series of additional training that is typically used as a punishment.
They were very nervous for the Circus since it was the last thing they wanted and it made them extremely exhausted.
They completed the Circus and they actually ended up having the fastest time. In the circus McRaven realizes that in your life you will face a lot of circuses, but the failures will help you become a better, stronger person.