"Make Your Bed" by Admiral William H. McRaven
What lessons can we learn from a US Navy SEAL? Actually, a heck of a lot and luckily, we don’t have to go through the arduous and painful process of serving in the navy to learn some of the most important lessons as told by the author of this book. That is why we are recommending the book “Make Your Bed” by Admiral William McRaven as part of further reading for Chapter 1 “Skills for a Changing World” of the Diplomatic Planner. Before we dive into his highly inspiring book, what does a Navy SEAL actually do?
A SEAL, an acronym for the United States Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Teams, is someone who has been through the worst trials and tribulations. A SEAL is someone who has faced their worst fears and has grown stronger from overcoming such fears. A SEAL is someone who has lost friends and witnessed acts of heroism that others can only read about. It is from these experiences that we learn of the unique perspective of life lessons of a navy admiral and what we can learn from someone who has led teams in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The book identifies a wealth of soft skills that are not easily taught but picked up from our environmental awareness and agility. We can learn a lot from professionals who operate in the darkest trenches of international affairs and much of the lessons these individuals choose to share are areas that we can all work on in our very own lives.
“Make Your Bed” makes for a good introduction as part of the Diplomatic Planner because the authors stresses on doing the most basic things well. You may have seen his viral YouTube videos talking about the importance of making one’s bed first thing in the morning to set your day right. Sometimes the simplest things can be the most effective. As the Admiral says: “If you can’t do the little things right, you can’t do the big things right.”
Other things that the author stresses quite heavily is to never judge a book by its cover, in other words, do not judge someone based on how they look. This is a critical lesson we can take away when serving in an international or foreign community. You may wrongly think that a stranger is something that they are not or profile them incorrectly based on your own fears and assumptions that is otherwise very unfair to the other person. The Admiral urges that we judge them by their heart. This means looking at their intentions and understanding their point of view and action, which are critical lessons we dive into in Chapter 3 of the Diplomatic Planner.
The Admiral stresses that we shouldn’t expect life to be fairs and it's futile to resist. We need to pick ourselves up and keep marching forward. We need to learn from our failures and not be afraid to take risks. The word failure is loaded with negativity but with the right perspective, failure can be used as an advantage. Sometimes, failing is unavoidable and we shouldn’t let failure overpower us. Instead, we should use failures to make us stronger and more determined.
Through his collection of stories and experiences, he adds that part of learning from failures is a willingness to make changes. In order to win big, we have to take big risks. If you let your fears and anxieties control all of your decisions, you won’t get very far. Be courageous in order to keep pursuing your goals and when life gets tough, be the best you can be.
A final take away from the Admiral’s courageous stories is the importance of teamwork, not just professionally but personally too. The admiral says: “...it takes a team of good people to get you to your destination in life. You cannot paddle the boat alone…” During a near fatal parachute jump, McRaven tore his stomach and broke his pelvis as he collided into another jumper. While he was in long-term recovery, it was his wife who helped him through succumbing to self-pity and depression. That is quite easy to in any circumstance. You don’t have to be a navy SEAL to fall into the trap of depression. Having a support network to help with one’s mental health is sometimes more important than picking up skills in service.
We will leave you this quote he said in his book and his many talks to get a sense of some of the inspiring messages he sends, which we hope will serve you well when considering a role in international relations and diplomacy:
“There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim, you will have to deal with them. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.”
“Make Your Bed” is recommended for the purposes of the Diplomatic Planner. The Diplomatic Planner is a 12-month career development toolkit for diplomacy and internationals for professionals looking to explore or grow their expertise in the field. Both books are available for purchase via Amazon. For further recommendations, insights, case studies and practicable worksheets, please join the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy via: www.grassrootdiplomat.org/register