The Book That Changed My Outlook Towards Life
Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven
How many times have you had the feeling where everything felt pointless and you could find no reason to get out of bed?
Admiral William H. McRaven, a high ranked SEAL found himself in the same place when the twin towers fell and he was stuck in bed due to an parachuting accident. In those trying times, the only thing which made him not lose hope, not give up, not lose his drive were ten rules…
He shared these ten rules in his ‘make your bed’ commencement address at the University of Texas. He believed these ten lessons could help one transform their life… and perhaps the world. He expanded on the ten lessons in his book, Make Your Bed.
Here are my insights and commentary on the book, “Make Your Bed” by Admiral William H. McRaven.
Rule 1: Make Your Bed
The first thing a navy SEAL is asked to do after waking up is to make their bed to perfection. While this may seem like a pointless ritual at first, its true beauty lies in the psychological fact it plays.
“The first thing you do in the morning sets your rhythm for the rest of the day” is a common saying in Urdu and Hindi texts. By making your bed perfectly as soon as you wake up, you set a rhythm for test of the day. A rhythm of completion. A rhythm of perfection.
This can be a powerful catalyst in the good days and a ray of light when the tunnel is dark.
Rule 2: Find Someone to Help you Paddle
My mother commonly repeats a saying, “Success is never found alone. An entire group receives success all at once.”
None of us are immune from misfortunes and tragedies. Like a small rubber paddle, it takes a team of good people to get to your destination in life. You cannot paddle your boat alone. Find someone to share your life with. Make as many friends as possible, and never forget success is always a group project; not an individual assignment.
Rule 3: Only The Size of Your Heart Matters
Physical ability will fail you in times of injury. Mental ability will fail you in times of disturbance. However, your ability to keep going, your heart will never, ever fail you.
Tom Norris, one of three seals to receive medal of honor for his actions in the Vietnam War, was almost booted from the SEALS for not being physically capable. Tom Norris. The man who crossed enemy lines on two consecutive nights to rescue a downed plane was deemed not physically fit. The man who took a shot to the face during a mission and still survived was deemed not fit. The man who despite of gunshot injuries to back and head recovered and passed the FBI test was deemed not physically fit. How more wrong could physical judgement be?
Whenever someone deems you physically unfit or mentally incapable of something, remember Tom Norris was physically unfit for the SEALS and Einstain was deemed mentally incapable of high school. It is not physical or mental ability that matters, it is the size of heart that matters.
Lesson 4: Life is not fair… Drive on!
We can either complain that X was born rich or Y was helped on by nepotism; or we make our own path.
No one has a perfect life. No one can have everything. Unfortunately, the society celebrates victimhood. Everyone likes to play the blame game, no one wants to increase their efforts. Instead it is easier to point blame the ‘unfair advantages’ some XYZ had.
Dumbledore had said, “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”
It is mighty easy to complain and look like the victim, but remember that the most successful athletes, the most successful businessmen don’t focus on victimhood; they focus on variables. Life is not fair, so stop focusing on things beyond your control and start focusing on things you can change.
Lesson 5: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Failure is a part of every journey. Every time you try something new, you will hit road blocks. You will face failures. The question is whether we let the failures get us down or will we learn from the falls and let that guide us to success.
Lesson 6: You Must Dare Greatly
Life is a struggle and the shadow for failure is omnipresent. But those who live in the fear of failure, the fear of hardship, the fear of embarrassment seldom achieve anything. Without pushing ones limits, without occasionally taking calculated risks, without daring, one can never fully know of their potential; let alone achieve it.
Lesson 7: Stand Up To Bullies
Bullies: the school-yard kind, the terrorist kind or the tragedies of life kind, are all the same. They thrive on fear. They thrive on intimidation. If you don’t have the courage to stand your ground, they will strike. In life, to achieve your goals, whatever they are, you will have to cultivate the courage to stand our ground. That courage is within one and all. Dig deep, and you will find it in abundance.
Lesson 8: Rise to the occasion
Advice from one of McRaven’s commanding officers, at the day of a big mission,: “Tonight, you will have to be your very best. You must rise above your fears, your doubts, and your fatigue. No matter how dark it gets, you must complete the mission. This is what separates you from everyone else.”
At some point, we will all confront a dark moment in life. If not the passing of a loved one, then something else that crushes your spirit and leaves you wondering about your future. In that dark moment, reach deep inside yourself and be your very best.
Lesson 9: Give People Hope
During their training, McRaven and his fellows had to spend a whole night sitting, covered in cold mud. In the middle of the test, some of them seemed ready to give up. Then one man began to sing. One by one the others followed him. Suddenly the mud felt less cold and the dawn closer.
Hope has a powerful ability to heal, to motivate and above all to make all pain feel less. Hope can move nations and hope can change lives. We will all find ourselves neck deep in mud at some point of time, at that time, we need to look at the small things, smile and hope for better tomorrow.
Lesson 10: Never, Ever Ring The Bell
During the SEAL training, McRaven and his fellows had to withstand uncountable challenges of strength and courage. Giving up at any time was very easy: they just had to ring a bell hanging in the center of the compound and they would be free, immediately.
Never ring the bell if you want to achieve big goals in life. Quitting is easy but easy is not always right. Keep going, maybe you are closer than you think.
In the end, the core message of the speech as well as the book, “Make Your Bed” can be summarized by this beautiful line by the late Taarak Mehta.
प्रोब्लेम्स तो है सबके साथ, बस नजरिए की है बात
Problems are with everyone, it's just a matter of attitude
Change your lookout towards life. Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face the bullies, spread hope and never, ever give up — if you do these things, you can change your life… and probably even the world.