Look like a scruff. Play like a scruff.
I doubt any of you will know who William H. McRaven is, and I am even more confident you won’t have ever heard of the late Keith Williams. Although they couldn’t be from more different backgrounds they share some very common values that we should all pay more attention to.
The former is a US Navy Admiral whose graduation speech at the University of Texas went viral on social media recently:
The latter was my first ever coach, who I played under from 8 years old to around 13.
I was football mad as a youngster and as soon as I entered a team environment I absolutely loved it. At such a young age there was no other reason to play than to have fun with all my mates. We developed skills over the years, some quicker than others, but we played first and foremost for fun.
Within a few years it turned out we were pretty good and the Wisbech St Mary U11s – U14s (1991 – 1994) were a bit of a force to be reckoned with. We started playing for fun but now we had a taste of winning – which made it even more enjoyable.
As we left the changing rooms for every single match, there was ‘Big Keith’ ordering us to pull our socks up and tuck our shirts in. What difference could that possibly make? Why was it such a big deal if our shirts weren’t tucked in neatly? If you watch the graduation speech I mentioned all becomes clear.
You see, as an Admiral of the US Navy, a former Commander of the US Special Operations and the man who organised the raid that killed Bin Laden, William H. McRaven explains that potentially the single most important thing that a Navy Seal can do (or anyone else from any background for that matter) is to make their own bed each morning.
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. But even the smallest of actions can have huge consequences.
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride. It will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. By the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day you will come back home to a bed that is made – that you made…and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. So if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”.
If that quote is not eloquent enough for you then try picturing all 20 stone of ‘Big Keith’ bellowing at the top of his voice to some over excited 8 year olds that “IF YOU LOOK LIKE A SCRUFF THEN YOU WILL PLAY LIKE A SCRUFF!!!”. At the time it seemed like nonsense but the older I got the more I remembered it. More importantly I started to understand the importance of it.
Fast forward to today and one of the most important lessons I try to teach is that you can never be too good at the basics. Many people try to bypass them, with varying degrees of short term success, but inevitably they are doomed to failure in the long run.
The message from this article is one of self-reflection. Take a step back and look at all aspects of your career. Have you overlooked any of the basics? If so, go back and master them. Most importantly, have you made your bed today? If not, go back and do it. Pull your socks up and tuck your shirt in while you are at it! It is never too late to start appreciating and mastering the little things in life. You may not realise it now but they can make today, and all of your tomorrow’s more productive.