Have you seen the YouTube broadcast of Admiral William McRaven’s May 2014 Commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin? It’s 20 minutes long, but if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. The full transcript is here. Also from that page is a sentence about Admiral McRaven: “McRaven, BJ ’77, Life Member and Distinguished Alumnus, is the commander of U.S. Special Operations and led Operation Neptune Spear, which resulted to the killing of Osama bin Laden.”
I loved the whole speech, but this is the part that truly resonated with me:
Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam 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.
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.
When I was in Boot Camp in the Navy we slept in bunk beds, separated by lockers from the next set of bunk beds.
At the crack of dawn
Every morning at 4:30 AM we had to make our beds. Not only did my bottom sheet (and these weren’t fitted sheets, by the way) have to be pulled tight with square corners, but the top sheet did as well. Then, my blanket, a rough brown thing I hated to touch, had to be folded just so on the end of the bed. My pillow had to be fluffed and the corner of the pillow had to be pulled into the corner of the pillow case. We had inspection every morning and the big wig inspection once a week. One momentous inspection I decided to take a cotton ball and fill in the space between the pillow and the case. That little act resulted in five demerits which I had to walk off one rainy Sunday dawn. One demerit equaled one mile. No, I was not a happy camper but I learned never to do it again.
You might think the bed making was done once the sheet was tight, the corners square, the pillow fluffed, and the blanket folded just so. Nope, now came the hardest part. I had to get on my back and slide as far beneath the bed as I could to the springs underneath. I had to pull all the edges of the sheets so there wasn’t one uneven piece of cloth or wrinkle. The girl who had the upper bunk didn’t have that much of a problem. But I was the poor sap with the bottom bunk. When I got up, I had to make sure there wasn’t any dust on me and that I was ready for inspection.
I grew to loathe making my bed (especially after the pillow inspection).
When I heard Admiral McRaven’s speech, it brought back those twelve weeks in Bainbridge, Maryland. I’m truly grateful for all the lessons I learned in the Navy. Plus, I’m a mean bed making machine. (But I don’t get under the bed any more.)