We’ve weighed in sufficiently in recent issues on unhappy commencement activities at the nation’s universities. So here’s a change of pace: a fantastic speech, delivered by Admiral Bill McRaven. As Navy Times blogger David Larter reports, McRaven “is a bad-ass—and fount of good advice. Head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, he is a 36-year SEAL who has been at the tip of the spear in the war on terror since 2001. He has commanded a squadron in the fabled Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, and he oversaw planning and execution of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.”
Add to that list of accomplishments what may be the most memorable commencement address of the season, delivered to graduates at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, on May 17. Here are some of The Scrapbook’s favorite parts:
Every morning in SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they’d do is inspect my bed.
If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers would be pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack.
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.
And 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 the little things in life matter.
If you can’t do the little things right, you will never be able to 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.
So if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. . . .
Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough. Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.
But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle—it just wasn’t good enough.
The instructors would find “something” wrong. For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand.
The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day—cold, wet and sandy.
There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right—it was unappreciated.
Those students didn’t make it through training. Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.
Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.
It’s just the way life is sometimes.
If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.