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Why making your bed is important

We’ve all had days that are difficult to face. Things keep going wrong. There are big decisions to be made and we are unsure what direction to take. Problems seem over facing. What can we do in the circumstances? What framework can we turn to?


William McRaven was a U.S. Navy Seal for 37 years. He rose to be head of US Special Forces and ran the operation that took out Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Despite these achievements, he may well be remembered for his advice on how to deal with problems. His sage instruction is “make your bed every morning”. His argument is that it is the little things in life that matter. If you do those little things, the big things will more easily fall into line.


McRaven offered this advice as one of 10 lessons to students at the University of Texas during a graduation address in 2014. It was the bed making tip that went viral and it has been viewed 10 million times on YouTube.


This “grandma’s wisdom” seems to work. Making a bed is a physical ritual. It is one of the first things we do each morning and psychologically it sets us up for the day. The disturbed bedclothes are straightened and made orderly, preparing our mind for similar jobs and outcomes during the day.


In the same vein but at a slightly higher level doing a morning paper round can build a successful person. Making the bed is a discipline. So too is rising on a dark wet morning to deliver newspapers. It is interesting that Walt Disney says that his morning commitment, delivering the Kansas City Star, was a contributor to his subsequent business accomplishments.


Joe Biden had a noticeable stutter as a boy. In 1955 when his family relocated to Mayfield in Delaware he got himself a paper round which presented a lingual challenge. On Saturday mornings he had to collect the money for the papers and to make small talk with his customers. Overcoming this impediment and learning the importance of daily commitment is one of the early positive lessons he recalls in his autobiography. And Warren Buffett, the third richest man in the world got his start delivering the Washington Post and other newspapers. He is quoted as saying "you had to deliver every day, including Christmas Day, and the family would have to wait until I had done my paper round until the festivities could start".


So, our lesson from all this is to celebrate small wins. They may be small wins, they may be small projects, they may not in their own way seem important but when repeated they can make a huge difference.