William H. McRaven
To give advice on leadership who could be better qualified than someone who has occupied the highest grades of command within the US special naval force, or Navy SEAL as it is popularly known. In the book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe the World, Admiral William H. McRaven (retired), who served for 37 years as a Navy SEAL and became the US Commander of All Special Operations Forces, offers 10 important leadership lessons based on his experience as an officer in the US Navy. Admiral McRaven presents lessons that were mostly acquired when he undertook SEAL’ basic training –an intense six-month program that decides who will be part of the naval special forces‒, exposed during his speech at the graduation ceremony of students at the University of Texas at Austin in the summer of 2014, with the aim of giving young graduates a range of tools to help them achieve their goals and impact the environment that awaits them. These lessons, in spite of being derived from situations linked to moments of preparation, stress and combat within the navy, are related by the author to the daily life so that they can be applied by a large audience.
When you take a book written by an admiral with almost four decades of experience in the special forces, who was in charge of the capture of dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and you think about what this person could advise us to change our life and do things that have impact on the world, it is strange to expect the first and perhaps most important advice to be: “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed”. What makes us ask: how important is it to make the bed and how could this change our life? (And even the world!).
Making the bed is the first assignment of a sailor when the day begins. This task, despite its simplicity, is inspected and subjected to rigorous testing. As Admiral McRaven tells us, the bed must be so perfectly laid out that if the inspectors throw a coin on the mattress it must bounce up to a certain height. This task teaches the marines that no matter how insignificant the work may seem, it must be executed with the utmost dedication and perfection. No work is irrelevant, especially when there are lives at risk, and knowing that we can complete something with the highest excellence helps us as individuals, with our self-esteem, and even attracts the attention of others.
After all, the life of someone who hopes to lead and generate change in others must be focused on completing small tasks, step by step, with dedication and perfection. If we daily try to complete something with dedication, no matter how small it may seem, we can change our lives and “maybe even the world”.
I will not comment on the other counsels offered by Admiral William McRaven, for I do not want to ruin the surprise. The book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe the World is written in a very plain language and can be read in one or two reading evenings. I think that Admiral McRaven makes a good contribution, especially to the youngest and all those who aspire to make the world something different.
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