Recently, I saw an article where the headline referenced a former U.S. Navy SEAL offering the graduates from the University of Texas his advice on how to change the world. Delivering the 2014 commencement address, the Texas alum offered ten life lessons that they could take with them throughout life. While all ten are excellent and the speech in its entirety is powerful (you can see the full speech here [link]), life lesson number one resonated with me and has stuck with me in the weeks since I heard it.
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” – Admiral William McRaven, U.S. Navy SEAL Team 3
This seems like such a trivial task if our vision is to change the world. One would think we should aspire to loftier aspirations such as volunteering our time to charity or disadvantaged youth, conceptualizing a revolutionary design, or even, delivering an inspirational commencement address to thousands of graduates. How will making our bed lead us to making a positive impact on the entire world?
Well, here is how, in his words:
“The wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. 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 by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
As I have read and researched leadership, success, and excellence over the past couple of years, one of the most valuable pieces of knowledge I have gained is that the best leaders and performers do the little things better than everyone else. They take a great deal of pride in accomplishing every single task that is placed before them. In that context, they take nothing for granted and perform even the simplest and most mundane task to the best of their ability.
How many times have you woken up in the morning and thought, “Why do I need to make my bed?” For me, I think this all the time. I live by myself so no one is even going to see it. No one will ever know whether I make my bed in the morning or not. Even if I do have someone over, I can simply close my bedroom door, and they will be none the wiser.
But, I will know. I will know that I skipped out on the easiest task of the day—my first task. If it becomes that easy for me to skip such a quick and simple task, what else am I glossing over and ignoring?
We do not want to get ourselves into a mentality of no one will know. This mindset will allow us to find ways to cheat the system, take the easy way out, or blow things off. We will justify that it is ok because no one will know.
Take pride in doing the little things to the best of your ability. Hang your jacket up when you get home. Put your shoes away when you take them off. Place your dirty laundry in its appropriate place (not the floor) when you change. Turn off a light when you leave the room. Clean up your desk before you leave for the day.
Added together, doing these little things better than anyone else may not be the things that allow us to change the world. But, they give us the mindset that no task is too small, no job is too unimportant, and no opportunity is too invaluable. Everything matters if we want to be the best version of ourselves and reach our maximum potential.
So, get up. Make your bed. And, go change the world!
Bring your best today!