I recently read a great book called, Make Your Bed, by William H McCraven, where he shares his experience as a US Navy Seal and how they were trained to become mentally stronger so they are prepared to overcome adversity.
In this week’s blog, I share 6 of the BEST TIPS from his book and the details of his amazing story to help inspire you to persevere through tough times and be the best version of yourselves when it matters most!
- Start the day right by making your bed!
If you’ve ever seen a war movie where young soldiers were struggling through boot camp, you would have noticed how orderly and neat they keep their bunk beds. It seems like a small and insignificant detail but a ‘made bed’ gets your day started on the right foot.
McCraven and his fellow cadets were taught the proper way to make a bed as part of the basic training for NAVY SEALS And they also learned when to make their bed: first thing after waking up.
If someone failed to follow the bed-making code, they would perform the “sugar cookie” ritual, which involved diving into the Pacific Ocean and then immediately rolling in the hot sand on the beach.
Now, you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal about making your bed?” Well, it may be an easy task, but accomplishing any task first thing in the morning is the best and most productive way to start your day. It gets the ball rolling, so to speak: by finishing one job, you’ll find it easier to begin checking off the other tasks on your list. And before you know it, you will be crushing your ‘to list’ and finishing early each day.
- Never underestimate the Importance of a teammate!
McCraven learned this the hard way, after a near-fatal parachute jump. Falling through the air, McRaven was struck by another jumper’s parachute, causing his own parachute to become entangled with his leg. The force of his parachute broke his pelvis and tore his stomach muscles from the bone.
During his recovery, he learned how important it was to have someone to help you carry on. If not for his wife, he would likely have succumbed to depression and self-pity.
Everyone experiences a time in life when he needs the support of someone who believes in him. You can’t make it through life on your own. It takes a TEAM of good people to get you to your destination in life. You cannot paddle the boat alone.
- Don’t expect life to be Fair!
McRaven faced a fair amount of “sugar cookies” during his SEAL training. This punishment was inflicted even if he hadn’t gone against the SEAL training rules, which made life seem unfair and unreasonable. He also went without food and sleep for long periods of time as a Seal during combat and lost many good friends in battle
“you come to accept that life is unfair and that it’s futile to resist this fact…The ridiculous thing to do is waste time refusing to accept life’s challenges. Instead, you need to pick yourself up and march forward.”
- Learn from failures and be prepared to take risks!
No one likes to hear the word “failure.” It’s loaded with negativity – But failure can be used as an advantage.
Sometimes, failing is unavoidable. And though it can cause pain and suffering, that doesn’t mean we should allow it to overpower us. Instead, we can use it to make us stronger and more determined.
While training with the Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL Teams, McCraven was part of a swim team that was constantly finishing in last place. This meant they were subject to another dreaded Navy SEAL ritual: The Circus.
Legendary among SEAL members, The Circus is a strenuous endurance test that has been known to make many cadets give up and quit SEAL training.
The Circus was an exhausting trial for McRaven, but it worked – improving the results of his swim team. And when it came time for the graduation test, which featured a swim that was more challenging than any they’d faced before, they ended up finishing first. Their previous failure had made them stronger than any of the other cadets.
Part of learning from failure is a willingness to take chances. Because, in order to win big, you have to take big risks.
While comfort has its pleasures, there’s a certain thrill in taking risks as well. And if you let your anxieties and fears control all your decisions, you won’t get very far.
In 2004, McRaven was faced with a tricky situation. There was an enemy compound in Iraq that was holding three hostages and the intel was that the enemy and their captives would soon be on the move. His best chance of freeing the hostages required a risky daytime raid on the compound.
Of course it wasn’t ideal. They’d be out in the daylight, and the compound was barely big enough to accommodate the three helicopters the team required. It was risky, but McRaven gave the orders to execute the mission. They had to push aside their fears of failure and death, but it was a success and the hostages were rescued.
- Keep pursuing your goals even when life gets tough & be the best you can be!
Life can throw a lot of challenges your way — you may be confronted by bullies or false friends, or, if you’re a Navy SEAL, maybe shark-infested waters are between you and what you want to accomplish.
The time may come when it feels easier to shy away rather than rise to the challenge, but this would be a mistake. Everyone has fears. You can’t let them stand in your way. Be courageous and stay determined to reach your goals.
There are countless fears to overcome in order to join the ranks of the Navy SEALs. One night, McRaven and his swim partner had to swim four miles in the dark, which can be unnerving enough on its own. But this night, there were reports that they’d be swimming with hammerhead sharks, leopard sharks and great whites.
McRaven couldn’t let a fear of sharks prevent him from completing his SEAL training, and so he used this goal to boost his courage and continue.
Courage is also what it takes to persevere in the face of tragedy and life’s grimmest moments. It’s during such moments that we need to put our best selves forward. Times of darkness are sure to befall each and every one of us at one time or another. A friend, family member, or loved one may die, or you may need to fight an illness that takes every bit of your strength. Though terribly trying, these times require that you rise to the challenge.
McRaven has seen far too many people die in battle. These are always the toughest and bleakest of times, but they’re also the times when he’s been most impressed with the endurance and resilience that people have shown.
- Be strong for others and don’t quit!
Does this sound familiar? You’re at the end of your rope, ready to call it quits, and then you talk to a friend who offers a fresh perspective and gives you that second wind.
These are moments that show how much difference one person can make. We should all strive to be someone who can instill hope in others and lead them forward in life.
Even if you know very little about the Navy SEALs, you may have heard of Hell Week, a 7-day endurance test that often serves as the point where cadets either make it or call it quits. At one point, trainees have to spend a night sitting, covered in cold mud.
During McRaven’s Hell Week, one of the cadets got up and walked away, ready to quit. But then one of the other men began to sing, and then a second and third joined in. Soon, they were all singing. It began with one man, but it was enough to get that cadet to turn around and rejoin the group with renewed hope.
This brings us to the final lesson: Don’t give up!
Life is beautiful, even in the times when it’s a painful mess. Remember, those blissful moments are impossible without the bad ones.
So when times get tough, don’t feel sorry for yourself or blame others. Life is what you make of it, and it will only be as good as the effort you put into it. And if you give it nothing, you’ll only feel regret.
A SEAL learns to never give up.