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A Book a Week-3

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By Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan 

Originally, “Make Your Bed” was a  speech delivered as the commencement address to the graduates of The University of Texas at Austin on May 17, 2014. It went viral. And publishers approached him to write a book with the speech as the template. 

William H. McRaven is a retired United States Navy seal. He was responsible for planning and executing a wide range of operations, including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

McRaven retired from the Navy in 2014. He then served as the chancellor of The University of Texas System from 2015 to 2018. McRaven is a role model for many people, and he is widely respected for his leadership, his commitment to service, and his dedication to education.

In the book, McRaven shares ten lessons he learned from Navy SEAL training that he believes can help people succeed in life. 

The lessons are:

  • Make your bed.
  • Never quit.
  • Never give up.
  • Find someone to help you paddle.
  • Be disciplined.
  • Be courageous.
  • Build a team of trusted advisors.
  • Never compromise your integrity.
  • Choose your battles wisely.
  • Never stop learning.
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McRaven argues that these lessons are not just for Navy SEALs, but for anyone who wants to achieve their goals in life. He writes that “the simple act of making your bed can change your attitude and start your day off on the right foot.” He also argues that “never quitting” is the key to success, and that “never giving up” is essential for overcoming challenges. Make Your Bed is an inspiring and motivating book that offers simple advice that can help people achieve their goals. 

The book is full of inspiring stories from McRaven’s own life and the lives of others. These stories help to bring the lessons to life and make them more memorable.The book is a quick and easy read, yet packed with insightful information.

Just to recount a few of the inspiring  stories- The story of the sugar cookie ritual: This story is about the importance of attention to detail and doing things right, even the small things. As a Navy SEAL trainee, McRaven was required to make his bed perfectly every morning. If he didn’t, he would be punished by having to perform the “sugar cookie ritual,” which involved diving into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean and then rolling around on the beach until he was covered in sand. McRaven says that this ritual taught him the importance of doing things right, even when they’re small and insignificant.

The story of the “unsinkable” ship: This story is about the importance of never giving up, even when things seem impossible. McRaven tells the story of the USS Indianapolis, a Navy ship that was sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War II. The ship sank in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the survivors were stranded in the water for five days. Many of the survivors died of exposure, dehydration, and shark attacks. However, some of the survivors were able to survive by never giving up hope. McRaven says that this story is a reminder that we should never give up, no matter how difficult things may seem.

The story of the “dark moment”: This story is about the importance of finding strength in the face of adversity. McRaven tells the story of a time when he was facing a difficult challenge in his life. He was feeling lost and alone, and he didn’t know what to do. However, he eventually found the strength to overcome this challenge by reaching deep inside himself and being his very best. McRaven says that this story is a reminder that we all have the strength to overcome any challenge, as long as we are willing to dig deep and find it.

The one that resonated most with me: McRaven recounts a story from his time in Navy SEAL training. During training, there is a bell that hangs in the center of the compound. If a trainee is feeling overwhelmed or unable to continue, they can ring the bell and be removed from training.

McRaven says that he never rang the bell, even when he was faced with some of the most difficult challenges of training. He says that ringing the bell would have been a sign of weakness, and he was determined to finish the training no matter what.

McRaven says that the lesson he learned from this experience is that it is important to never give up, even when things are tough. He says that if you want to achieve your goals, you have to be willing to push yourself through the pain and the challenges.

The anecdote about the bell is a powerful reminder that we should never give up on our dreams. No matter how difficult things may seem, we should always keep fighting until we reach our goals. Truly inspirational from an inspirational leader! 

If you are looking for a book to help you improve your life, ‘Make Your Bed’ is a great choice.

His latest work is Wisdom of the Bullfrog: Leadership Made Simple (But Not Easy). Watch this space for more. 

(Writer is author of several books and practicing advocate in the Madras High Court) 


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