The graduation address given by Admiral William H. McRaven given to the University of Texas at Austin in 2014 was so impactful and resonant that it went viral on the internet with tens of thousands of views.
The subsequent volume expands upon the themes presented with very engaging examples of how the successful performance of tasks, understanding how dependence upon others is a strength rather than a weakness, and conquering one’s apprehensions and fears can result to better leading oneself in the future for personal success.
The book is easily readable with engaging stories of McRaven’s time and experiences as a United States Navy SEAL. The title of the Book, Make Your Bed, introduces the reader to the concept that a task performed successfully every day can be a place from which further successes and dealing with adversity can be approached.
McRaven overcame many obstacles, life-threatening and potentially career ending situations in his time in the Navy. While these stories are both engaging and interesting to the reader, it is the lessons that each chapter explains, in detail, that allows one to reflect.
Many of the challenges that we face in our daily life are mirrored with the pages of the book. Understanding that we all require help from time to time. Accepting help and how you can be of help to others is explained in the context of what makes a successful team. McRaven eloquently explains that not judging people by appearance is vital. Seeing unassuming people perform amazing feats of stamina, strength and courage taught him to look for the potential in his boatmates.
The lesson that life is unfair is humorously related in analogy of being a “sugar cookie”. Being cold, wet and exhausted, and covered with sand brings many to the edge of their endurance. The author explains the power of perseverance in the face of “unfair” situations. The benefits of learning from failure and being willing to take risks even when it pushes you beyond your comfort zone are two chapters of the book that are easily relatable to most readers. He places these in context through vignettes that will leave the reader with personal connection to the concept.
The book concludes with chapters focusing on courage in the face of life’s challenges, bringing your greatest spirit to the challenge you face, giving hope to others, and a reminder that pain and hardship are temporary, and quitting is simply not an option.
Leading oneself is for success is not always as straight forward as many would imagine. The lessons of the book speak to being our best self when we are learning, growing, striving and persevering. McRaven provides many examples where he learned from and relied on others to help him succeed.
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