Teamwork and Cooperation: The Pillars of Success

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Make Your Bed" by William H. McRaven. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How important are teamwork and cooperation when it comes to success? What lessons can we learn about teamwork by looking at the SEALs?

While training for the Navy SEALs, Admiral McRaven, author of Make Your Bed, learned valuable lessons about teamwork and cooperation. Later in life, he was able to apply those lessons to his personal life and says he wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for the support of those around him.

Keep reading to learn how teamwork and cooperation led Navy SEAL Admiral McRaven to personal and professional success.

Success Requires Teamwork and Cooperation

No one is guaranteed a life without pain. You will eventually experience painful and tragic moments, and you may have already. Going through these hard times alone is much more difficult than relying on the help of others to get you through. You need teamwork and cooperation to help navigate life’s difficult moments. 

The same is true for achieving success in life. If you try to navigate the choppy waters toward your goals or dreams alone, you expend more energy than is necessary. You may also find yourself off course without another person to help you paddle. Find people to love and who love you back. Your ability to have a positive life depends on teamwork and cooperation. 

Admiral McRaven’s Story

As told in the book Make Your Bed, Admiral McRaven and the other SEAL candidates were required to carry a ten-foot rubber raft everywhere they went. Seven men carried it to the chow hall and up and down sand dunes during training drills. They paddled it through rough waters along the coast for miles at a time. 

It took all seven men to make sure the boat stayed aloft or afloat at all times. But sometimes, all seven men weren’t up to the task. One of the men might be sick or too exhausted to pull their weight. At those times, the other six candidates pitched in with extra effort. McRaven sometimes needed this support, and throughout training, he found plenty of opportunities to repay the favor. The raft taught McRaven a valuable lesson about teamwork and cooperation and supporting those who require assistance that never left him. 

This lesson was important after a fellow soldier drifted underneath him during a routine training jump from an airplane 12,000 feet in the air. McRaven had reached the altitude when he was meant to deploy his parachute, but before he could, the other soldier deployed his. It hit McRaven like an airbag traveling at 120 miles per hour. 

McRaven was sent into a spin and continued to plummet toward the ground. He tried to deploy his parachute to straighten out, but the ropes were tangled around both legs. The parachute caught air and ballooned above him, pulling his legs rapidly in different directions. His pelvis detached and damaged the muscles in his stomach and back. 

After surgery, in which he received a titanium plate in his pelvis and a stabilizing screw in his spine, he was confined to the hospital bed at home for two months. He became depressed and wallowed in self-pity. He’d always believed he was physically fit enough to be impervious to injury. He’d proven as much several times during dangerous situations in combat, such as prematurely detonated bombs or sinking submarines. 

Fortunately, his wife took care of him and reminded him who he was. She refused to let him wallow or complain, and he slowly started to feel like himself again. Still, the likelihood that the Navy would reinstate him after his recovery was small because of his physical alterations. But his boss worked around the system and helped him get reinstated into the SEALs. 

McRaven knows that the only reason he made it through that difficult time was the love of his wife, once again proving to him how important teamwork and cooperation are. He attributes all professional successes following his recovery to the support he received from those inside the Navy. 

Teamwork and Cooperation: The Pillars of Success

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of William H. McRaven's "Make Your Bed" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Make Your Bed summary:

  • Why making your bed each morning gives you a small victory to start your day right
  • The 10 lessons Admiral William H. McRaven learned during his time as a Navy SEAL
  • Why quitting is easy, but regrettable

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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