Crazy! Who would ever dream this advice would be given to university graduates at their commencement?! May 17, 2014, Naval Admiral Bill McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, delivered to the nearly 8,000 graduates at the University of Texas the 10 lessons he learned during his SEAL training. His very first lesson was:
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
“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.
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 we 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. If you can't do the little things 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.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed."
Wow. Coming from a Navy Admiral, a SEAL commander, this advice bears unusual credibility. I am not a SEAL; I am not a Student. But you and I still face fierce challenges on a daily basis. The Admiral’s advice will serve us well.
Here’s why I think it matters.
• You are not in the bed.
To make a bed means that you and I are not in the bed. Instead, we are up, we are moving; we are not wallowing under the covers. We have at least made an initial attempt to face the day.
A Dallas Theological Seminary professor said, “If you are depressed, make your bed.” When I first heard that decades ago, I mulched the thought over and over in my mind wondering if I agreed. In the end, I concluded that it makes quite good sense. It is not sophisticated advice, but it is certainly sound advice. To make a bed is to make an attempt to live life.
• You at least have a bed.
Seeing in Brazil the hordes of humanity hovered under pieces of plastic they call “home” has given me a new appreciation for having a bed. In the course of making the bed you and I have the opportunity to give thanks that we are not homeless and sleeping on the street or under a bridge or under a piece of plastic. A bed is a blessing.
• You actually possess the ability to make the bed.
This seemingly mundane chore is transformed into a privilege when we realize that millions would give anything to be able to do what we are doing-walking, tugging, tossing, bending-all the motions easily taken for granted to those of us with healthy bodies. The physical ability to make our bed is a gift.
So, in the morning, yawn, stretch, and yes, make your bed. Truth be told, it matters.
The entire address from Adm. McRaven can be found at
Adm. McRaven Urges Graduates to Find Courage to Change the World