The book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe The World by U.S. Navy retired Admiral William H. McRaven is based off of his 2014 University of Texas at Austin commencement speech. The YouTube video of his speech is embedded at the bottom of the post.
I was given this text to read as part of the leadership development program at work. They call it Read to Lead. I greatly enjoyed Make Your Bed and would recommend it to anyone and everyone!
McRaven put together ten lessons he’s learned over his career going from college student to decorated Navy Seal. In the text, he expands on the lessons he mentioned in the commencement speech and gives stories directly tied to them. As he says, these words of advice are “equally important in dealing with the challenges of life – no matter who you are.”
I won’t share my thoughts on all ten of the lessons (because I highly encourage everyone to read his mini memoir). I picked the top three lessons that inspired me the most.
- Start your day with a task completed
- Failure can make you stronger
- Rise to the occasion
As the title suggests, McRaven believes it is very important to start your day with a completed task, like making your bed. Just completing one task, one simple task, reinforces the truth that little things matter. Plus, when you’ve had a rough day, who wants to face plant on a sheet crumpled bed? Growing up, my parents always had my brother and I make our beds on a daily basis. I never thought this could be part of the method to their madness.
The lesson from McRaven I needed to hear the most is that failure can make you stronger. Literally everyone makes mistakes. You shouldn’t be afraid of failure or how it reflects on you. Instead, take those moments to pause, reflect, learn, and grow. One of my favorite lines from this chapter is…
If you persevere, if you let those failures teach you and strengthen you, then you will be prepared to handle life’s toughest moments.”
As a child, my parents instilled the drive for success and set the bar high. I still have to remind myself that you must fall a couple times before you can spread your wings and soar.
Finally, if you want to be a great leader, you must rise to the occasion. Even if you don’t think you are a leader, you are stronger than you think and can jump any hurdle in your path. When I was in college, I was an engineering ambassador. I was known as a gopher because I would do whatever tasks was needed. Luckily for me, all that experience has made me well-rounded in terms of interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence on top of my technical skills.
Listen to the speech below or give the book a read. What lessons resonated the most with you? Which of these had you already come across in your life experience?
I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from McRaven’s book:
If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moments.