Last weekend, as usual, my husband brought a pile of books from the library. Our household is an avid user of the public library.
Amongst those, one book with an interesting title caught my eye. The title was:
MAKE YOUR BED
A tiny book of mere 130 pages was written by Admiral William H. McRaven, a former Navy SEAL.
How come an admiral was writing a book on making a bed?
It is a job of a mother. A habit I have tried to install in my kids.
The introduction to the book turned out equally interesting.
On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their commencement day.
Taking the inspiration from the university’s slogan, “What starts here changes the world,” he shared ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Navy career but also throughout his life.
And the first one of those was — make your bed.
Start Your Day with a Task Completed
Admiral’s argument is to start your day with a task completed as soon as you wake up.
You may not think making a bed a task, but it is. Try leaving it unmade for a few days and you will see the untidiness it portrays. And it becomes much of a chore if you don’t do it first thing in the morning.
If you make your bed as soon as you get up, a sense of fastidiousness takes over and you already feel on top of the day.
Admiral McRaven tells the story of when he joined the basic SEAL training in his younger days. SEAL training is the hardest military training in the world. For six months, the recruits are constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.
But the training also seeks to find those who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardship.
Each morning, Admiral McRaven’s instructors, who were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in the barracks and the first thing they would inspect was recruits’ beds.
The corners needed to be square, the covers tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard, and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack.
It is a simple task, mundane at best.
But why do it to such a perfection?
It might seem ridiculous, particularly in the light of the fact that they were aspiring warriors wanting to be trained in battle tactics, but there is wisdom in this simple act.
Incidentally, it is the first requirement of nursing training as well, an equally arduous profession.
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right you will never do the big things right.— Admiral William H. McRaven
In December 2003, U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein. He was held in confinement, during which he was kept in a small room. He also slept in an Army cot but with the luxury of sheets and a blanket.
Once a day, Admiral McRaven would visit Saddam to ensure the soldiers were properly caring for him.
He couldn’t help notice, with some sense of amusement, that Saddam didn’t make his bed. The covers were always crumpled, at the foot of his cot and he rarely seemed inclined to straighten them.
Admiral McRaven’s address to graduating class of the University of Texas went viral. For years he had been stopped on the street by people telling him their own stories, how they didn’t back down from the sharks, how they didn’t quit, how making their bed every morning helped them through tough times.
If by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
So, if you want to change the world, start by making your bed.
Here is Admiral’s whole speech if you want to hear about the other lessons he learned in the basic SEAL training.