I love these books by these Navy Seals…
Welcome to 3 Things You Can Use, where Maddi and I decode self-improvement and entrepreneurship through books, three things at a time.
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This week’s book is Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by Admiral William H. McRaven.
Along the same lines as his 2014 commencement speech that got over 10 million views, Admiral McRaven gives us this book, which lays out 10 principles he developed over 37 years of military service.
He is a retired four-star admiral and former Navy SEAL.
This book is a compact and powerful, principled book of stories and anecdotes from Admiral McRaven’s career and life. It’s simple, enjoyable and obviously, insightful.
So, what are three things we can use from this book?
3 Things You Can Use
1. Make Your Bed
Start the day with a task completed.
This is the starting philosophy of the book.
Make your bed.
You will start the day with an accomplishment, setting the tone for a productive and achievement-oriented day.
This is obviously something that is done in the military, having their bunks square and perfect is a requirement for inspection. Admiral McRaven took a lot of pride and still takes a lot of pride in making and having a made bed.
Though it’s not just a habit that has washed over into his life, this has some real psychological benefits to it.
Tim Ferriss actually cites Admiral McRaven’s advice on making the bed on his hugely popular podcast, while adding that making his bed is part of his 5 step morning routine to help him to win the day.
So, apart from the tremendous merit this idea has amassed here, let’s get into the psychology of it.
Admiral McRaven puts it this way,
“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 and another and by the end of the day, that one task completed will turn into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things in life right, you will never do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made, that you made, and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
So make your bed because it revs you up for action, it gets you used to the idea that little things matter, and it is comforting at the end of the day when you head back into your room to see proof that you are in control.
2. Lifes Not Fair
Life’s not fair, drive on.
McRaven ran down the sand bank and dove into the sand.
An onlooker might have some questions as to why a uniformed military man would dive into the sand. And more questions would arise as the scene continued, the onlooker watching as this man begins to throw sand in the air, rolls around in it and does his best to cover himself in grainy, fine… well, sand.
Then McRaven runs back to his inspector, this is back when he was in training and made sure that the inspector approved of his attempt to get sand in every crevice — ensuring a terrible experience for the rest of the day.
Yes, this was a punishment. Known as being a sugar cookie.
Mcraven had been called out earlier and been told that this was going to happen. He had no idea what he had done, but he had followed instructions. Now, standing in front of his instructor, the time had come to find out what he had done to deserve this punishment.
“You know why you are standing in front of me as a sugar cookie right now McRaven?”
“Because life isn’t fair. The sooner you understand that, the better. No move along.”
So McRaven punched him.
No, not really.
McRaven understood the lesson. Things happen, but your response is what makes the difference.
And while life is poking holes in your plans and dropping branches in you path, the actions you take are under your control.
McRaven nails it at the end of the chapter this way,
“It is easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force. To stop trying because you believe fate is against you. It’s 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 could be further from the truth. The common-people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness. Hellen Keller, Stephen Hawking, Nelson Mandela, Moki Martin, Malala Yousafzai. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, you still end up as a sugar cookie. Don’t complain, don’t blame it on your misfortune, stand tall, look to the future, and drive on.”
3. Never, Ever Quit
“All you have to do is ring the bell and you can come up with us by the fire and eat.”
These, the words of the instructor, resonated out to the men in seal training, hip deep in freezing cold mud.
These words came from the man who’s mission it was to weed out those who wouldn’t make it as seals.
Now was as good a time as ever to quit the grueling seal training, go back home and lead a leisurely civilian life.
But those who rung the bell, traded a spectacular of achievement for a moment of relief.
That’s all that quitting ever is.
When you quit, do you ever feel good about it? Looking back, are you ever proud of your decision?
This decision, by the way, can only be summed up as you couldn’t cut it, you weren’t capable enough, you weren’t strong enough, etc…
Regrets, the things we fear most for our elderly selves, are only made up of times that you quit and times that you didn’t even try in the first place.
Never ever quit.
Admiral McRaven puts it this way,
“life is full of difficult times, but someone out there always has it worse than you do. If you fill your days with pity, sorrowful for the way you have been treated, bemoaning your lot in life, blaming your circumstances on someone or something else, then life will be long and life will be hard. If on the other hand, you refuse to give up on your dreams, standing tall and strong against the odds, life will be what you make of it — and you can make it great. Never ever ring the bell.”
Make your bed and start the day with a task completed, priming yourself for a productive day.
No matter how good you are, sometimes you still end up as a sugar cookie. Life’s not fair, drive on.
Don’t ring the bell. Persist — persistence never loses.
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin took the world by storm with their book, and now Admiral McRaven is doing it. There seems to be something about these navy seals that sets them apart…
I really loved this book. Short and entertaining with stories and life lessons.
If you want to get it, you know what to do.
That’s all for this one!
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we’ll see you next week!
Want to Read it?
(These links give me a little bump if you decide to use them. Thank you!)
- Punching Sounds by: Mike Koenig
- Reading Photo at end of video by: Marketa