Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Why you should make your bed

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If you want to change your life, and maybe the world, you need to see things through different eyes. The simple things in life—things that we don’t always see right in front of us—make all the difference.

It may seem unreasonable to focus on the little things when there are so many big issues that demand your attention. This focus on the little things sets you up for success when it comes to tackling the big things.

Change the world

Make Your BedIn his book MAKE YOUR BED: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, Admiral William H. McRaven (Ret) shares lessons that he learned in Basic SEAL Training, and applies them to leadership and life. Here are 10 things that will help you change the world:

  1. Start off by making your bed. “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” Focus on one thing at a time, do it and move on to the next.
  2. Find someone to help you paddle. “You can’t change the world alone, you will need some help.” You will need the help of friends and the goodwill of strangers to get from your starting point to your destination.
  3. Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. “SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed.” Treat people fairly, look for ways to help others and let them help you.
  4. Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. “Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.” Difficult things happen no matter how hard you work or how much you prepare. Deal with them and move forward.
  5. Don’t be afraid of the circuses. “Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.” Life comes at you in unexpected ways; don’t fret, deal with the situation and move on.
  6. Sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first. “Don’t do things the way they have always been done.” Do new things in ways that you hadn’t ever considered.
  7. Don’t back down from the sharks. “There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.” Difficult things happen; don’t feel sorry for yourself.
  8. You must be your very best in the darkest moment. “The darkest moment of the mission is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.” Be the light that shines when everything around you is dark.
  9. Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. “Hope is powerful. One person can change the world by giving people hope.” Look around for ways you can lift others and make a difference.
  10. Don’t ever, ever ring the bell. “In SEAL training, all you have to do to quit is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT—and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.” Never give up, keep pressing forward, don’t quit.

Don’t let the simplicity of these lessons diminish their importance for your work and efforts. As you apply these principles, you will see an increase in your productivity.

Questions: What lessons have changed the way you lead? How are you applying them? Please leave a comment in the space below.


The Product Management Perspective: Successful product leaders know the importance of doing the little things consistently right. Look for weaknesses in your PM processes and make changes based on the principles in this book.

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