Monday, May 29, 2017

Book Review: Make Your Bed

My husband was raised in an environment where productivity was God and personal worth and value derived from what you accomplished. In the end, the stress and pressure of that mentality was quite crippling for him. When I married, I had no idea that I would be evaluated from such a standard. Held up in that light, I'm fairly worthless. After all, my primary occupation right now (since my little ones are more independent and no longer little) involves sitting at a desk, writing and revising and scouring books and websites on marketing. When nothing tangible comes of that, I'm viewed as lazy and unproductive. It is hard not to let those assessments alter my own view and self-esteem. There are days when I question my worth and value because my pursuits provide negligible profits for our family. Despite aspirations of accomplishment, my hands come up empty.

Yet, there is a simple act that can set each day in motion toward greater productivity ... making one's bed. As the subtitle of this book proclaims: "Little Things That Can Change Your Life ... And Maybe the World." In Make Your Bed, Admiral William H. McRaven outlines ten simple principles to live by, the first being a simple chore as mundane as straightening the sheets, aligning the comforter, and placing the pillows in order. Admiral McRaven is a retired Navy SEAL who gave the commencement speech to graduates in 2014 at the University of Texas. He outlined ten basic life lessons he gleaned from his time in training. Despite their simplicity, they have the potential to ripple out into significant life-changing ramifications.

As he mentioned in the beginning of his actual speech, the actions of one individual can alter the outcome for a whole host of people. After mentioning several key moments, he argues, "not only were these soldiers saved by the decisions of one person, but their children yet unborn were also saved. And their children's children were saved. Generations were saved by one decision, by one person." Never underestimate the value of your life and the simple things you can do to begin to change the world.

His prescription sounds almost too easy. Begin the day with a simple task completed, so that it will kick off a chain of events, making you more productive. Acknowledge ahead of time that things will not always be fair, life will sometimes be dark, bullies will beat you down, and hope will seem distant. Determine to learn from your failures, take risks, look difficulty in the eye and provide hope to others. Such basic determinations can reap astounding results. Like Churchill's famous admonition, McRaven encourages his audience to "never give up."

I made my bed today. I plan to continue to plow away at my writing dreams. Despite failure and seeming futility, I will press on. I need not question my worth and value. Hopefully, someone will one day benefit from the neatly tucked sheets and the words I set down, because every life holds the promise of making things better. Who knows, even little things can change the world!

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