Saturday, August 09, 2014

Success Starts With Making Your Bed

If you want to read something good--really good--about the mindset needed for success, read the commencement speech given by Admiral William McRaven at the University of Texas, Austin earlier this year, recounting the lessons of his Navy SEAL training.  

One of the lessons contained in that speech concerned the importance of making your bed.  Here is the relevant excerpt from Admiral McRaven's talk:

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but 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.

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 little things in life matter.

As the Admiral notes, "If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right."

When you start your day with a meticulous small act, you start the day on a note of excellence, with an achievement already under your belt.  If you can train yourself to make a perfect bed when you've just woken up, exhausted from the previous day's regimen, you will be just a little more able to summon your best efforts when life grinds you down.

Everyone talks about discipline and the importance of being process-driven.  But who will have the discipline to faithfully follow a sound, rigorous process if they can't make their bed, can't follow a healthy diet, can't keep themselves in shape, can't organize their day, can't maintain a simple trading journal?  

We don't rise to the challenging occasion; we revert to the level of our training.  As SEAL training exemplifies, every act can be one of training.

If we're unplanned and undisciplined in our small acts, will we really stay planned and disciplined for the big occasions?

Further Reading:  Why Can't We Trade Our Plans?