It’s Graduation season and as a student of the art of rhetoric that means one thing: commencement speeches. Over the past few weeks you’ve probably seen a number of great examples from this years line up of orators. I was fortunate to come across a few that absolutely crushed it for the Class of 2014. One of my favorites came from Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, who gave an incredible speech at the University of Texas.
Adm. McRaven, a UT grad, left school 36 years ago to become a Navy SEAL and to the good fortune of UT’s 2014 grads, he came back to let them in on some of the most important lessons he learned from basic SEAL training.
For those of you unfamiliar, basic SEAL training is six months of long, torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacle courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep, and always being cold, wet, and miserable. Bottom-line is it’s pure hell, but if you can survive it, there are huge life lessons to be learned.
For his commencement address Adm. McRaven, marked by wisdom and sage advice, laid out his top ten lessons. My favorite was probably his simplest; if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
McRaven said, 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, 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.
This lesson, as simple as it is, stood out for me. I work with young people all the time that often feel frustrated by the mundane tasks of their early entry level positions. They want to get to the exciting fun stuff and they want it now. I understand. I worked those same mundane positions. I know how mind numbing they can be.
Here’s the thing: you’re going to have jobs that you feel are beneath you, that maybe don’t challenge you, aren’t sexy – might even feel like they don’t matter. Let me tell you this, everything we do matters. Whether it’s answering phones, emptying the trash, or entering data, everything is an opportunity to show and do and be your very best.
How do you get that next job, next promotion, a seat at the table? By attacking the job directly in front of you, right now, in this very moment. Do the work and do it right. So when you wake up tomorrow, remember, if you want to change the world, make your bed!!