92. Make Your Bed (Admiral William H. McRaven)

Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 10.23.26 AMA colleague lent me her copy of Make Your Bed:  Little Things that Can Change Your Life… And Maybe The World.  It is a concise, easy to read manuscript of tips that he described at a 2014 graduation address at University of Texas at Austin.  The slogan of the university is “What stars here, changes the world” which gave inspiration to his speech.  The alumnus of the University of Texas compiled 10 tips that he had learned during his gruelling Navy Seal training and subsequent career.  The recording of the speech went viral and as of this morning has had 5,588,403 views!  Here is a quick snapshot of his suggestions to the students:

  1.  Start Your Day with a Task Completed – McRaven started his speech by sharing that “if you want to change the world… start off by making your bed”.  In the military, making the bed was the first task of the day and the expectation was that it was done with precision and care starting the day with attention to detail, cleanliness and order.  It provided a sense of pride enabling the next task and reinforced the importance of the “fact that little things matter”.
  2. You Can’t Go it Alone – The importance of teamwork was described in this chapter.  As a Navy Seal “tadpole”, McRaven described how others would support the team, pick up the slack and help him get through difficult times.
  3. Only the Size of Your Heart Matters – This chapter reminded me of the Little Engine that Could, in that he shared how size and stature is not as important and determination, heart and the will to succeed!
  4. Life’s Not Fair – Drive on – In an effort to make the tadpoles strong and able to withstand adversity, they were punished by becoming “sugar cookies” for the day.  What is a sugar cookie, you might ask?  That is when, for no real reason, to demonstrate that life is not fair, the recruits would swim, roll in the sand and spend an uncomfortable day wet and covered in sand.
  5. Failure Can Make You Stronger – During training, he described how he had struggled with swimming, being last to finish and how he was “punished” by the circus (extra calisthenics and exercises).  Although the circus was punishing and he was tired out, the extra training gave him an edge and made him stronger!
  6. You Must Dare Greatly –  The last paragraph describes this chapter best:  “Life is a struggle and the potential for failure is ever present, but those who live in fear of failure, or hardship, or embarrassment will never achieve their potential without pushing your limits, without occasionally sliding down the slope headfirst, without daring greatly, you will never know what is truly possible in your life”.
  7. Stand up to Bullies – During training the tadpoles had to conquer a night swim despite the sharks that frequented the area and later, they fought Saddam Hussein. The insight in this chapter is the bullies are all the same, fighting with intimidation and fear.  the message is that “courage is within us all”.
  8. Rise to the Occasion – Being the best in dark moments is the lesson in the 8th chapter.  Despite loss, frustration and “crushed spirits” it is a time to dig deep, stay calm and be your best!
  9. Give People Hope – During “hell week” at the end of the Navy Seal training, the tadpoles had to race, neck deep in cold mud for 15 hours to see who would be the first to quit.  The group started singing, supporting each other as the group was united and dealt with adversity together.  “Hope is the most powerful force in the universe.  With hope  you can inspire nations to greatness.  with hope you an raising up the downtrodden.  With hope you can ease the pain of unbearable loss.  Sometimes all it takes is one person to make a difference”.
  10. Never, Ever Quit! is the final message in the book.  If you want to change the world, perseverance is essential and those who did quit the Navy Seals training likely regretted it for the rest of their lives.

The book is an easy to read compilation of lessons learned.  It is inspiring and whether you read one lesson a day or sit down to finish the entire book in one sitting, it gives ideas to ponder and concrete examples of the challenges and determination in both Navy Seal training and life!

“It is easy to blame  your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe fate is against you.  It is easy to think that where you were raised, how your parents treated you , or what school you went to is all that determines your future.  Nothing is further from the truth.  the common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness: Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, Malala Yousafzai and – Moki Martin”.


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