It's the Little Things...

Graduation season is upon us.  This year we will have a graduate from graduate school. Funny, the more schooling one gets, the less hoopla around the accomplishment.  I think of all the kindergarten graduates with the too cute, too big caps and gowns, too expensive "professional" photographs.  For our grad school son, he doesn't even want to attend the commencement services.  One reason- their finishing up dates don't correspond to the dates of the undergraduates and he will still be having finals, etc. during the commencement exercises.  And two (the real reason), he knows how long and drawn out these events are.  The only way he would attend is if his brother would attend in the audience.  [A typical sibling tit-for-tat: the current graduate "suffered" through his brother's college graduation while his brother could not attend the current graduate's, undergraduate service.  His brother's school was small enough to read everyone's (undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates) name as he/she walked across the stage but large enough for the service to take hours in a sub-zero freezing arena.]

One of the best commencement speeches I have heard was given by Admiral William McRaven, ninth commander of the Special Operations Command to the University of Texas class of 2014. He had some simple but universals truths to impart.  His big advice to the class of 2014: 

Make your bed every morning. 

It seems like a little thing.  It seems like something an adult who is tired of seeing his children's unmade beds might say but there is more to it than that.  

Making one's bed, every day gives one a sense of accomplishment.  You start off the day with something already done and it doesn't take much effort to do.  When you feel that you have accomplished something, it is easier to continue getting things done. 

It reminds me of a friend's discussion we had long ago.  She was saying that, besides the education and information that you might learn, getting a college degree is another one of those, "Yup, whatever else happens in my life, I have accomplished something."  One might never "use" the degree per se but it still impacts a person on what they do and how they feel for the rest of their lives.  In 2016 The College Board released a comprehensive report regarding the benefits of a college education.  There are more benefits than just economic gain: life satisfaction, healthier behavior, civic involvement, and voting to name a few. 

I am reminded of stories of successful individuals who go back to college and finish their degree.  Not because they need the degree for potential income, but rather for a sense of accomplishment: Steven Spielberg- Bachelor's Cal State Long Beach in 2001, Shaquille O'Neal- Bachelor's Louisville State in 2000, Oprah Winfrey- Bachelor's Tennessee State in 1987,  Mayim Bialik- Bachelor's in 2000 and PhD in 2007, James Franco- list is too long of his educational accomplishments, Natalie Portman- Bachelor's Harvard 2003. 

It reminds me too the practice of physical discipline, i.e. regular exercise tends to help one in the realm of emotional, mental or spiritual discipline.  Actually, any discipline helps in discipline in other areas.  One can make the claim that "If I can run for a couple of miles, two times a week, I can certainly accomplish my goal of completing the house project.  And if I can accomplish the goal of the house project, I can discipline myself to not eat too many desserts each week.  And if...."  The discipline trickles down to so many other things.

It all starts with making one's bed in the morning.

What about you?  What is one thing that you accomplish each day?  How does that make you feel? Do you have unfulfilled goals?  What little discipline can you do that might trickle into another little discipline? 

Below are the take-aways from Admiral McCraven's speech: 

  • Start each day with a task completed. 
  • Find someone to help you through life. 
  • Respect everyone.
  • Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often.
  • But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.

Click here to hear the entire speech.